Kerry O’Brien refuses Order of Australia medal after Margaret Court receives Australia Day honour


Kerry O’Brien has rejected the Australia Day honour he was due to receive today in protest at the ″⁣deeply insensitive and divisive decision″⁣ to give the country’s highest award to former tennis great Margaret Court.

“I believe the decision to award Australia’s highest honour to Margaret Court may serve to erode the hard-fought gains made over decades in reducing the impact of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community,” the veteran journalist and former ABC current affairs host wrote in a letter to the office of the Governor-General, David Hurley.

Kerry O’Brien said giving Margaret Court an Australia Day medal “eroded the hard fought gains made over decades” to stop discrimination against the LGBTQI community.Credit:Ben Rushton

He added that such discrimination “has caused immense pain to untold people and destroyed lives”.

Mr O’Brien had earlier agreed to accept his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in Tuesday’s official honours. But on Saturday, he wrote to reverse his decision in protest against Mrs Court’s elevation in an awards system that had already recognised her achievements as the winner of 24 Grand Slam singles tennis titles, and her charity work, with an Order of Australia in 2007.

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Coronavirus NSW: Sydney Cumberland mayor Steve Christou refuses to cancel Australia Day events despite COVID-19 concerns


Councils are using COVID as a “cheap” excuse to ditch Australia Day celebrations, one mayor claims, saying cancel culture is the true reason.

Councils are using the coronavirus pandemic as a “cheap” excuse to cancel Australia Day celebrations this year, one Sydney mayor claims, blaming ‘cancel culture’ instead.

A string of festivities have been canned, including the Ferrython, Harbour Parade, Tug and Yacht Ballet and Tall Ships Race.

Local councils say COVID-19 is behind the decision, but Cumberland City mayor Steve Christou has labelled that a “lazy” and “unAustralian” excuse.

Mr Christou has vowed to push ahead with celebrations in his area, including a citizenship ceremony in Granville followed by an Australia Day party at Holroyd Gardens.

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Mr Christou said that cancelling Australia Day events was “completely unacceptable and quite frankly unAustralian”.

“Any cancellation of an Australia Day event is unAustralian and a cheap and lazy excuse to not conduct a COVID-safe event,” Mr Christou told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It‘s very sad that the bed-wetters and cancel-culture philosophers are dictating our agendas before a health directive has been issued,” he added. “I feel this is taking the easy way out.”

He said events could easily go ahead with basic safety procedures like QR codes, masks, social distancing, and sanitisation stations.

This is despite Mr Christou’s council including the suburb of Berala, which is at the centre of the western Sydney COVID-19 outbreak.

A BWS staff member worked for days while unknowingly infected with coronavirus.

Other councillors aren’t impressed and said said the mayor had “gone off on his own tangent”.

Cumberland City Labor councillor George Campbell told The Sydney Morning Herald: “The mayor has typically gone off on his own tangent and his intemperate views have not been endorsed by council.”

The Northern Beaches Council also has no plans to let COVID-19 get in the way of Australia Day celebrations — despite the recent outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

It will hold a food truck party at Forestville on January 23, a market at Dee Why on January 24, an open-air cinema at Brookvale Oval on January 25, and pool parties at Warringah and Manly on January 26.

But most Sydney councils are cancelling events to keep communities safe.

Cumberland’s neighbouring local council area, Canterbury-Bankstown, have canned pool parties and concerts on Australia Day, deeming them “non-essential”.

Another neighbour, Parramatta Council, has postponed its Summer Nights Live concerts on January 25 and 26 indefinitely, and has moved it citizenship ceremonies online.

Liverpool, North Sydney, Inner West, and the Hills Councils in NSW have all cancelled events.

The Inner West Council decided not to go ahead with Australia Day Celebrations in November, before the latest spat of COVID-19 outbreaks. Its mayor Darcy Byrne said Australia Day was to be commemorated not celebrated.

January 26 is considered as “Invasion Day” by some and believe celebrations should not be held in respect of Indigenous people.

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Pence refuses to renew Trump for another season


In their defence, we don’t have a shared concept of truth anymore and I accept it’s hard to know whom to believe. Has an election been stolen in an elaborate scheme perpetrated by the mainstream media, the Democrats and Republican officials in states won by Joe Biden, or is that all just a lie by the lying liar who lies all the time? A real conundrum.

Just as Mike Pence and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell demonstrated that they still had at least one vertebra remaining, I commend those within the Trump administration who had the courage to resign … after it was clear the coup attempt had failed and the electoral vote count had been certified and they only had two weeks left of work anyway. Heroes, one and all. And while they’re now being compared to rats fleeing a sinking ship I think that’s an unfair comparison, when they’ve actually spent most of the time staying afloat by being like Kate Winslet on that Titanic door – taking up valuable space and failing to help others.

Citizens rising up and storming Congress just to make Trump feel better would be like Australians storming Parliament House to protect the ego of ‘The Block’ host Scott Cam.

As a result of this week’s events, the social media giants finally stepped in, with Twitter and Facebook suspending his accounts indefinitely, like parents confiscating a child’s phone.

Personally, I have my own theory for what should be done to prevent Trump from spouting any more lies and causing chaos. It’s been well-documented that Trump likes to keep those around him quiet by requiring them to sign non-disclosure agreements. If only Congress could pay Trump to sign one himself, he might finally shut up for good.

Whatever else Trump is, to me he will always be just some reality TV show host. Which is what makes this week’s events especially ludicrous. Citizens rising up and storming Congress just to make Trump feel better would be like Australians storming Parliament House to protect the ego of The Block host Scott Cam.

But anyone concerned that such a phenomenon could develop here should take comfort from the words of Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week. When asked about whether he would condemn conspiracy theories being promoted by members of his own government such as George Christensen and Craig Kelly, the PM reassured all Australians by responding: “Y’know, Australia’s a free country, there’s such a thing as freedom of speech in this country, and that will continue.” So that’s nipped that in the bud, then.

If I ruled the world

I’m pleased to be able to report on a follow-up to one of my previous gripes detailed in this column. Last year I wrote about how buttons at pedestrian crossings were the bane of my existence since people were either not pressing them when they should have, or insultingly leaning over to press a button that you’d already pressed.

Since my impassioned plea on this page, the majority of major pedestrian crossings in Sydney have had automated systems installed whereby you no longer need to press the button at all. Some people will tell you it was due to the pandemic. I’ll let you be the judge.

Anecdotal recall

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Credit to Benedict Brook from news.com.au who, for reasons best known to himself, decided to listen to Hillsong co-founder Bobbi Houston’s sex advice CD and report back on the contents. I had it next on my list after the audiobook of Obama’s memoir, but Benedict has generously saved me the effort.

Houston says: “If I carry weight I feel like a retard, how are you going to do anything to surprise your man when you need a hydraulic crane just to turn over in bed?” I believe she paraphrased that from the Bible but I could be wrong. I myself was invited along to a Hillsong conference 16 years ago and I recall one pastor explaining that, to establish a relationship with God, you had to make a commitment not just with your heart, but with your wallet. I made a commitment to the exit.

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US election: Donald Trump turns on Mike Pence as he refuses to intervene in election result | US News


US President Donald Trump has turned on his deputy, accusing him of lacking courage after Mike Pence said he would not intervene in the election result.

In a tweet, the president wrote: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Earlier, Mr Trump repeated his claim that the election was stolen from him and called on Mr Pence to “do the right thing” and block the formal confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

Live updates from Washington DC and the rest of the US here

But shortly afterwards, the vice president released a letter confirming he did not have such powers and did not believe those powers should be afforded to anyone in his role.

The president’s tweet came as thousands of protesters swarmed around the Capitol building, with some reports of demonstrators breaching security and entering the building.

Washington DC’s mayor has since ordered a curfew in the city.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have been suspended following the unrest.

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President Donald Trump speaking in Washington DC before unrest took hold

Shortly after his criticism of Mr Pence was posted and people stormed the Capitol building, the outgoing president sent a second tweet asking his supporters to support law enforcement.

The post said: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

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Image:
Mike Pence said he did not have the power to block the formal confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win

Mr Trump sent a further tweet shortly after, repeating his call for peace.

“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!,” he wrote.

Congress had been affirming Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 US general election. There was opposition from parts of the Republican Party, but it was expected for proceedings to conclude with a confirmation of the result.



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India farmers’ protests: Anger grows over controversial laws as Narendra Modi refuses to back down | UK News


Protests are continuing to grow over controversial new farming laws in India – but the country’s prime minister is refusing to back down.

Demonstrations have been taking place across India and have now spread to other cities around the world, including the UK, the Netherlands and Canada.

Farmers say the three federal laws, which deregulate crop pricing, will reduce their earnings by dismantling the system that guarantees them an income and leave them vulnerable to large private companies.

Image:
The farmers are backed by all of India’s major opposition political parties

Key roads around the capital New Delhi have been shut off in recent weeks as thousands of farmers camp out, and more from around India are descending on the city to try to force a U-turn.

Police have put up barricades to stop farmers entering the city in large numbers and earlier this week there was a nationwide strike over the issue.

At least 30 farmers’ unions are protesting against the changes but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is holding firm.

The government argues the laws will abolish middlemen and improve farmers’ incomes as they will have a wider market to sell to.

Police stopped farmers and union leaders on the Haryana-Rajasthan border on Sunday as they headed to Delhi
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Police stopped farmers and union leaders on the Haryana-Rajasthan border on Sunday as they headed to Delhi

Mr Modi said on Saturday that the changes would help “draw investment in agriculture and benefit farmers”.

“The aim of the all government reforms is to make farmers’ prosperous,” he told the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Police and security forces are standing guard on key roads where barricades have been put up
Image:
Police and security forces are standing guard on key roads where barricades have been put up

Piyush Goyal, the trade minister, said the government was committed to doubling farmers’ income and claimed the protests had been “infiltrated by leftists and Maoists.”

Talks between the government and unions have so far failed to find a solution and opposition groups say demonstrations will intensify.

“Hundreds of farmers will launch a tractor trolley march to New Delhi to voice our grievances against the new laws,” said Kamal Preet Singh Pannu, a leader of the Sanyukta Kisan Andolan group.

In the UK, cars headed from across the country to Birmingham to protest on Saturday. Pic: Rajan Jagait
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In the UK, cars headed from across the country to Birmingham to protest on Saturday. Pic: Rajan Jagait

“[The] government wants to discredit and crush our movement, but we will continue to protest peacefully,” he said.

In the UK on Saturday, thousands gathered in convoy from many northern and Midlands cities and headed to the Indian High Commission in Birmingham.

The Kisaan rally caused serious congestion in an around England’s second city, with police warning people to stick to social distancing and complaining that some had illegally set off “smoke devices”.

Last weekend, London also saw large numbers protest in the centre of the capital, displaying signs saying “No Farmers No Food” and others criticising Prime Minister Modi.

London also saw large protests last weekend outside the Indian High Commission
Image:
London also saw large protests last weekend outside the Indian High Commission

All major Indian opposition political parties have come out in support of the strike.

Dozens of UK MPs, led by the Labour Party’s Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, are also backing the farmers, asking Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to raise the matter with Delhi.

Canadian leader Justin Trudeau has also spoken out, calling the situation “concerning” and defending the farmers’ right to protest.



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Ethiopian forces shoot at UN as Government refuses independent inquiry into civil conflict


Ethiopia’s Government has confirmed security forces shot at and detained United Nations workers trying to reach part of the embattled Tigray region.

It comes as the Government is rejecting calls for independent investigations into the deadly conflict in the region, saying it “doesn’t need a babysitter”.

Senior official Redwan Hussein told reporters the UN staffers “broke” two checkpoints to go to areas where “they were not supposed to go”.

He said the staffers had since been released.

Humanitarian organisations are becoming increasingly frustrated aid is still not freely reaching the Tigray region more than a week after the UN and Ethiopia’s Government signed a deal for access.

Ethiopia’s Government is making it clear it intends to manage the process, but the UN has sought unfettered and neutral access.

The month-long bout of fighting between Ethiopian forces and those of the fugitive Tigray regional government is thought to have killed thousands, including civilians.

Thousands of refugees fled to neighbouring Sudan.

At least one large-scale massacre has been documented by human rights groups, and others are feared to have occurred.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, declared victory at the end of November, but the Tigray People’s Liberation Front says fighting continues.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for ending a long-running stand-off with Eritrea.(Reuters: Tiksa Negeri)

Lack of transparency

The region remains largely cut off from the outside world, with food and medicines desperately needed by the population of 6 million — some 1 million of them now thought to be displaced.

The lack of transparency, as most communications and transport links remain severed, has complicated efforts to verify the warring sides’ claims.

It also hurts efforts to understand the extent of atrocities that have been committed.

The Government has pushed back against what it calls outside “interference” — efforts at dialogue for delivering aid.

Mr Hussein told reporters Ethiopia would invite assistance with investigations only if it felt “it failed to investigate”.

To assume the Government could not carry out such probes was “belittling the Government”, he said.

Sporadic shooting continues in Tigray and humanitarian assistance must be escorted by defence forces, Mr Redwan said.

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The Ethiopian Government declared victory after saying it had taken “full control” of the Tigray region’s capital.

Allegations of massacres

The UN said it was “engaging at the highest level with the Federal Government to express our concerns”.

The deal for access made more than a week ago allows aid only in areas under government control.

There are allegations of massacres and attacks on refugee camps inside Tigray.

However, the UN human rights office has not responded to questions about whether it has begun investigating possible war crimes.

Medical supplies running out

Tigray’s capital, Mekele, was “basically today without medical care”, the director-general of the International Committee for the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, told reporters.

The city’s Ayder Referral Hospital had run out of supplies, including fuel to power generators, he said.

“Doctors and nurses have been forced to make horrible life and death decisions,” Mr Mardini said.

A joint ICRC-Ethiopian Red Cross convoy with supplies for hundreds of injured people was ready to go to Mekele, pending approval, he said.

It would be the first international convoy to reach the city since the fighting began.

While Tigray capital’s remained insecure, there was no active fighting, Mr Mardini said.

“People in Tigray have been cut off from services for nearly a month,” he said.

“They have had no phone, no internet, no electricity and no fuel. Cash is running out. This of course adds to the tension.”

AP



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Shirbit Refuses to Pay Black Shadow Hack Ransom Demand – Jewish Business News


Shirbit Refuses to Pay Black Shadow Hack Ransom Demand

Israeli insurance company Shribit has been extorted for $1 million in Bitcoin.

Stolen Shirbit Personal Info Example (From Hudson Rock Twitter Post)

The Shirbit Insurance Company of Israel has taken a stand against ransomware and hackers. The company announced that it will not pay the $1 million in Bitcoin demanded of it by Black Shadow Hackers who stole the private personal information belonging to countless Shribit customers and threatened to release publicly.

At this time the Shribit website is down.

As a result, the hackers have begun to release stolen information. They had set 9.AM. Local time in Israel on Friday as the deadline.

Shirbit issued a statement declaring its refusal to give in to extortion saying, “We will not give in to this type of terrorism. During overnight negotiations, all the professional bodies came to the sweeping conclusion that cyber terrorism has an interest in strategic harm – and is not backed by any financial motive.”

When its demands were not met by the deadline the hackers began to release some of the stolen private information. They also released their own statement saying, “Shirbit has not paid the money so far. It seems that leaking the details of customers, employees and civil servants is not important to them. If so, we will do what we promised at 9 o’clock.”

BlackShadow has as of now published some of Shirbit’s correspondence with customers as well as certain documents containing clients’ personal information. The hackers have also release pictures from private events held by Shirbit.

Shirbit CEO Zvika Leiboshor said Friday morning, “Shirbit is facing a hostile cyber-attack that is being backed by an entity seeking to carry out a strategic strike. The company will not succumb to this type of terrorism and will act in the ways available to it to protect the company’s customers and the information in the company, in coordination with all the state authorities that closely monitor the management of the event. “


Read more about: Black Shadow, Shribit




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SC refuses to entertain plea against publication of Hathras victim’s photograph


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a plea questioning the publication of a photograph of the Hathras victim in the media, saying the court cannot legislate on it and the petitioner can make a representation on the matter to the government. A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped by four men in Hathras on September 14. She died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment. Her cremation at night by the authorities, allegedly without the consent of her parents, triggered widespread outrage.

The plea, which also raised the issue of delays in the trial of cases of sexual violence, came up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana.

“These issues have nothing to do with law,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose.

“Right to freedom of expression is there. There is enough law for this. It is unfortunate that such incidents happen,” the bench observed.

The apex court further said, “We cannot legislate law after law”

It said the petitioner can make a representation to the government.

On October 27, the top court had said the CBI investigation in the Hathras case is to be monitored by the Allahabad High Court and the CRPF would provide security to the victim’s family and witnesses in the case.

The apex court had delivered the verdict in October on a batch of pleas raising concerns on the incident and also the manner in which the teen was cremated.





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China refuses to apologise for graphic image of Australian soldier tweeted by government official


China has refused to apologise for one of its officials posting a graphic image Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled as “repugnant”, demanding instead that Australia do some “soul searching” in the wake of a damning war crimes investigation.

On Monday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted the picture created by a Chinese artist, depicting an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

The post was in response to the findings of the long-running Brereton inquiry, which recommended 19 current and serving special forces soldiers face criminal investigation for the murder of at least 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.

Shortly after the post, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described it as “outrageous”, demanding it be removed and an apology be issued by the Chinese Government.

Such a response was not forthcoming.

This image was tweeted by Chinese Government spokesman Zhao Lijian. It has been blurred by the ABC.(Twitter: Lijian Zhao)

“The Australian Government should do some soul searching and bring the culprits to justice, and offer an official apology to the Afghan people and make the solemn pledge that they will never repeat such crimes,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

“Shouldn’t the Australian Government feel ashamed? Shouldn’t they feel ashamed for their soldiers killing innocent Afghan civilians?”

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Scott Morrison says the tweet from a Chinese Government spokesman was “repugnant”.

In releasing the findings of the war crimes investigation earlier this month, Australian Defence Force (ADF) Chief Angus Campbell “sincerely and unreservedly” apologised to the Afghan people for the “wrongdoing” of special forces.

“The Australian side is reacting so strongly to my colleague’s Twitter — does that mean that they think the cold-blooded murder of Afghan innocent civilians is justified while other people’s condemnation of such crimes are not justified?” Ms Hua said.

“Afghan lives matter.”

The criticism of Mr Zhao’s post came quickly, with allegations of hypocrisy by Beijing for seizing upon the findings of the Brereton inquiry.

China has been accused of gross human rights violations against the ethnic Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province, characterised as “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”.

The irony of a senior official using Twitter to launch such a political attack was also raised, given the censorship of the social media platform by the Chinese Government.



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Stephen Crichton refuses to commit to Penrith beyond 2021 with club set to meet new manager


“I’ll see what’s best for my family,” Crichton told The Sun-Herald. “I have a new manager and when I get home [from Blues camp] I’ll start chatting with them and see what happens.”

When pressed if he could guarantee he would remain at the foot of the mountains once his deal expired at the end of next season, Crichton said: “I’m not sure”.

In demand … Stephen CrichtonCredit:Janie Barrett

“I spoke to Ivan, the handshake … I told him I’ll see what’s best for my family and things like that. I didn’t have a manager at the time. Now I’ve got one, so I’ve left it with them to look after.

“I was committed [to Penrith], but I’m seeing what’s best for my family as well.”

Penrith fans will be sweating on Crichton recommitting to the club after his breakout season in the centres outside Viliame Kikau. He was rewarded for his form by being selected in the NSW Origin squad and while he never played against Queensland, was grateful for the experience and chance to rub shoulders with some of the game’s biggest names.

Penrith also have a battle on their hands to retain Matt Burton, who has attracted serious interest from Canterbury, while Isaah Yeo and Jarome Luai are both off contract at the end of next year.

The Panthers believe their current offer for Crichton is perfect for a player entering just the second year of his NRL career. They are loathe to pay their local talent too much too soon for fear the financial reward will put them on an unwanted pedestal.

Crichton did not want the negotiations to drag on and simply said “hopefully really soon” when it came to reaching an outcome.

The Sydney Roosters have been linked to Crichton, and are in need of a centre once Josh Morris moves on at the end of next year.

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Crichton said none of the Roosters had tried to sell him the Bondi dream while in Blues camp.

The Mt Druitt local knows rival teams will know how to handle him a lot better next year, and it will be up to him to overcome the second-year syndrome. Latrell Mitchell even referenced the challenges Crichton would face next year when speaking from personal experience on the Bloke In A Bar podcast recently.

Daine Laurie signed with the Wests Tigers this week, but is on a development contract with Penrith next season and will not be granted an early release.

Burton will also be kept at the foot of the mountains next year, even if he signs elsewhere for 2022.

Meanwhile, another Crichton, Angus, has been taken off the market by the Roosters, especially with uncertainty about the future of skipper Boyd Cordner.

Several clubs had expressed interest in Crichton, including the Wests Tigers, but rivals had since been told the gun forward would be going nowhere.

Crichton, one of NSW’s best players during the Origin series, told the Herald during Origin camp how he loved the Roosters and wanted to commit to a new long-term deal.

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