Army commanders to review situation in Ladakh at 4-day conference

In a four-day conference, top commanders of the Army will carry out a comprehensive assessment of India’s combat readiness in eastern Ladakh as well as other sensitive areas along the Line of Actual Control with China.

The commanders will also talk about long-pending reform measures like cutting down on ceremonial practices and non-military activities to ensure a rational distribution of resources, they said.

Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane will chair the Army Commanders’ Conference (ACC). It will be attended by all Army Commanders, Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) of the Army headquarters and other senior officers.

According to sources, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria will address the commanders on Tuesday.

“The Army Commanders will carry out a comprehensive review of the security challenges facing the nation including the situation in eastern Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir,” said a source.

The commanders will exclusively deliberate on matters relating to human resource management in the Army and carry out an in-depth discussion on on various agenda points highlighted by the top Army Commandersduring the conference.

There will be a discussion on issues flagged by the Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, which is India’s only tri-services command.

Besides reviewing the security challenges facing the nation, the Army commanders will attempt to finalise various reform measures recommended by separate internal committees in utilisation of limited resources while at the same time focusing on enhancing operational capability of the 1.3-million strong force, the sources said.

Some of the proposals to be on the table at the conference include discontinuing or at least bringing down the scale of the Army Day and Territorial Army Day parades, cutting down on various ceremonial practices and reducing the number of officers’ mess within individual peace stations, the sources said.

Similarly, the top Army brass will also examine a proposal to bring down the number of guards at official residences of senior officials and another one on reducing the number of CSD canteens if several such facilities are operating within one station, they said.

Another proposal on the table for discussion would be to asking various units to cut costs on celebrating Raising Day and Battle Honour Day.

The sources said the last day’s agenda of the conference will include a briefing by the Director-General of Border Roads on the various infrastructure development projects being undertaken by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and allied formations.

They said “automation initiatives” to optimise utilisation of manpower at various levels of the Army will also be discussed.

“The conference will end with the presentation of sports trophy and flight safety trophy, followed by the closing address by the Chief of Army Staff,” said a source.

Also read: Army Commanders conference to be held next week with China, reforms on agenda

Also read: Eighth round of India, China military talks likely this week

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2020 grand final review, Richmond Tigers v Geelong Cats

One of the best finals players ever, the unsung heroes and the critical six minutes of the game.

This week on the Real Footy podcast, Michael Gleeson, Caroline Wilson and Jake Niall review the grand final.

Is Dustin Martin the best Richmond player ever? How have the Tigers shaped him? Would he be the same player had he ended up at another club? And how did the performances of one star and a role player reflect the Tigers’ story?

We look at what turned the game around, after Geelong dominated early. Would Jeremy Cameron have made any difference, had he been a Cat?

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Baby deaths ‘cluster’ at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital prompts official review

Health authorities have launched a review into a “cluster” of baby deaths at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital after a parliamentary committee heard a lack of infant heart and life support services was to blame.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor John Svigos on Tuesday gave evidence that the deaths of three babies over the past month could have been prevented.

Doctors’ union official Bernadette Mulholland told the committee a fourth baby had died last week, also due to the lack of services.

Professor Svigos said the infants could have been saved if the right treatment were available at Adelaide’s central hospital for children.

He said Adelaide was the only mainland state capital city that does not offer heart surgery or external oxygenation machines (ECMOs) for babies and children, and the usual process of referring infants to a Melbourne cardiac unit was “no longer tenable” because of the COVID-19 situation.

SASMOA officer Bernadette Mulholland gave evidence to the committee.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Health Minister Stephen Wade announced this morning that SA Health would launch a review into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

“There has been a cluster of paediatric cardiac incidents in recent weeks, the deaths of children,” Mr Wade said.

“We’re very sad, our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

“I’ve asked the Chief Medical Officer [Dr Mike Cusack] … to work with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital to review these cases, to see what we can learn.”

Dr Cusack said between six and 10 babies with significant heart abnormalities were usually born in SA each year, and that the deaths needed to be investigated.

“As a parent, whenever you read about adverse events in children, it’s always hard to read, and so my heart really does go out to each of the parents.

“Had we provided the very best available care for those children and their families? And what are the lessons learnt?”

But Dr Cusack said, from the information he had at this stage, there was no evidence of any “lapses in care or things that should have been done”.

He said the review would take between two and four weeks and would have a particular focus on the impact of COVID-19 on usual practice.

Business case warned of avoidable death

The State Opposition claims a leaked document shows the Government was advised to introduce cardiac surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for more than a year before the four babies died.

Labor spokesperson Chris Picton said a business case, prepared by doctors last year, also claimed the lack of cardiac surgery had contributed to at least one avoidable death and several near misses at the time.

The July 2019 business case, which the ABC has seen, stated that a heart surgery service at the hospital “is feasible, safe and cost-effective”.

The document warns of “avoidable mortality” as a result of the lack of an ECMO machine service there, and that “at least one avoidable death has occurred”.

The business case advises the hospital would have to recruit an experienced heart surgeon to establish the service.

It also lists “skill maintenance” as a potential problem, but argues that could be mitigated by having one surgeon perform all procedures and collaborate with adult and interstate surgical services.

Report found service ‘not viable’: Minister

But speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide earlier this morning, Mr Wade said an earlier review had rejected paediatric heart services for the hospital.

Stephen Wade wears a suit and tie
Mr Wade said an earlier review found a paediatric heart service would result in worse outcomes.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

However he said the review had recommended an ECMO machine at the hospital.

The Minister said there was a “diversity of views” among doctors at the hospital about how best to manage the issue and that the hospital’s board was capable of coming to the right solution.

He added that the board had respectfully engaged with the doctors who wrote the July 2019 business case.

He said the board was working to get “the best possible service for babies and children in South Australia”.

Mother joins call for services

Kylie Baker, who has travelled to Melbourne several times since her daughter Abby was born so she could receive life-saving heart surgery, joined the call for paediatric cardiac services to be set up in Adelaide.

A woman hugging a girl in front of playground swings
Kylie Baker and her daughter Abby.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Ms Baker said the trips took a heavy emotional and financial toll.

“If it was in Adelaide, you’ve got family, you’ve got your friends, you’ve got a support network,” she said.

She said she was devastated to learn of the four babies’ deaths.

“It’s heartbreaking and it shouldn’t be happening. These are little babies,” she said.

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Covid-19: Possible changes to quarantine and a review of Wales’ shopping rules

Ministers are considering

reducing the 14-day quarantine period for contacts of those who test positive for Covid-19 amid criticism of NHS Test and Trace. Sources told the BBC the period could be cut to 10 or seven days. It comes after concerns were raised over compliance and amid intense criticism of the agency’s leadership from a senior Conservative MP.

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Kia Sorento diesel review: Seven-seat SUV looks and drives like a European car

Many car makers are now deleting the diesel option from their local model line-ups. Hyundai, for example, has no diesel variant in its new 2021 i30 range and Toyota’s RAV4 now offers petrol/electric hybrid power instead of diesel for buyers who prioritise fuel economy.

Diesel still makes sense in big, heavy SUVs, though, for exactly the same reason it’s still used in 99.99 per cent of trucks. As a fuel for shifting a substantial mass with maximum efficiency, it works.

This week we’re testing Kia’s new Sorento, a large seven-seater SUV, powered by a 2.2-litre four cylinder turbodiesel that’s being asked to move more than two tonnes fully laden, yet can do it while returning single-figure fuel use and close to 1000km on a tankful. Range anxiety? What’s that?

media_cameraKia’s new Sorento brings style and luxury in an affordable package.


Kia’s fourth generation Sorento kicks off at $46,990 drive away for the 200kW 3.5-litre V6 petrol/eight-speed auto/front-wheel drive S model. Sport is $49,990, Sport+ is $54,390 and GT Line is $61,990.

The 148kW 2.2-litre four cylinder turbodiesel is paired with a dual-clutch eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive in the same models grades: S, at $49,990; Sport at $52,990; Sport+ at $57,390 (tested here) and GT Line at $64,990.


Sport + is the value sweet spot in the Sorento range, with partial leather upholstery, luxuriously comfortable, power-adjustable heated front seats, tinted glass, a power tailgate, keyless entry/push-button start and 19-inch alloys as standard. Fit, finish and material quality is excellent.

Diesel power means you can drive for about 1000km without having to refuel.
media_cameraDiesel power means you can drive for about 1000km without having to refuel.

Infotainment is via a hi-res 12.3-inch screen atop the dash. The left side of the screen is too far away to reach easily, the menu layout is complex and stand-alone voice control is not provided (you need to connect with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to use voice commands) so it requires too much eyes off the road time to use safely on the move. Wireless phone charging is not included.

All seats in Sport+ get USB connectors, cupholders and storage and Sorento is one of more spacious, practical seven seaters around.

There’s lots of (adjustable) legroom in the 60/40 split-fold second row, plus adjustable backrest angle, and all you have to do to access row three is push a button, though the gap for access is still tight. Vents are provided for each row, and row three in Sport+ also has fan speed control.

There are plenty of tech and luxury features.
media_cameraThere are plenty of tech and luxury features.

Row-three seats are fine for kids up to teen age. They are manually raised from the floor with a strap.


Rear passengers (which in most cases would be kids) can’t open a door if a cyclist is approaching from behind. An airbag between the front seats is a first for the class, but curtain airbags do not extend to the end of row three – a potential deal breaker for many parents.


Kia’s new turbodiesel is an all-alloy engine that weighs 19kg less than the iron block engine of the same capacity in the previous model.

It goes nicely, too, with big grunt off idle and through the mid-range that makes for completely effortless progress in the higher gears, even when fully loaded. Power drops off a cliff at about 4000rpm, but it doesn’t matter because you never have to go there. It responds strongly and immediately whenever you put your foot down, and can hold its own with Europe’s best diesels.

There is plenty of grunt from the diesel engine, even when fully loaded.
media_cameraThere is plenty of grunt from the diesel engine, even when fully loaded.

Eco/Comfort/Sport/Smart (adaptive) drive modes are provided, but Sport is not at all sporty, just a touch busier. Sand/Mud/Snow traction control/torque distribution modes can also be selected on unsealed surfaces. The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission works almost — but not quite — as smoothly as a torque converter automatic, and is employed to maximise fuel efficiency.

Which it does. The test car used 6.5-7.0L/100km on the highway; expect 8-10L/100km in town.

Kia puts considerable effort into tuning its suspension for Australia’s rugged roads, and it really shows in Sorento Sport+, which has one of the best ride/handling compromises of any seven-seater SUV, regardless of price.

Handling is remarkably taut and tidy for nearly two tonnes, with disciplined body control and secure roadholding from the firm, fixed rate suspension, complemented by adhesive Continental tyres. The ride is controlled, compliant and comfortable, especially at speed on country roads, where many seven-seaters get pretty nautical and, for the kids in the back, nauseous. Steering is typical big SUV, though, in that it feels remote and imprecise.

As with all big SUVs the steering is a but remote and imprecise.
media_cameraAs with all big SUVs the steering is a but remote and imprecise.


I know I need a seven-seater to transport the tribe, but I would really, really like one that doesn’t drive like a bus.


It looks European, and drives European, but the price tag is South Korean.


As a drive, Sorento diesel is one of the best seven-seaters on the market, however no curtain airbag coverage for row three, and user unfriendly infotainment, hurt it.


Hyundai Santa Fe, from $47,020

A twin under the skin with the just superseded Sorento. Runs a 147kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive. A new model is imminent, so deals should be doable.

Mazda CX-8, from $46,910

A direct seven-seater rival, though slightly smaller. The 140kW 2.2-litre diesel/six-speed auto is available in front or all-wheel drive.


Price: $57,390 drive away

Warranty/servicing: 7yr w’ty; $3463 for 7yrs

Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbodiesel, 148kW/440Nm

Safety: Not yet tested, 7 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane keeping, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert

Thirst: 6.1L/100km

Spare: Full size alloy

Boot: 616L (five-seater mode)

Originally published as Cheap alternative to European luxury

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Product Review: Top-Tier Mass Gainers

Throughout the fitness world, few supplements fulfill a variety of nutritional needs like mass gainers. A mass gainer isn’t just protein, despite often utilizing a protein canister as a vehicle.

Whether you’re trying to bulk up for looks, size up your next challenge, meet personal health needs, or simply want to gain a little weight, calorie-dense products aren’t just an effective option: They’re the golden standard.

Best Mass Gainers In The Market

Weight-Bound for Muscle Goals

Weight-Bound for Muscle Goals

A mass gainer can serve multiple purposes. For some, it’s a solid gap-closer when the daily schedule squeezes out midday mealtimes. For others, weight gain shakes can assist in health-related recovery issues via a healthy dose of glutamine. And, for some, a reliable mass gainer can be the key needed to unlock the door of introductory fitness.

In any regard, mass gainers tend to primarily be used for fitness. They offer a sizable dose of protein, certainly, but their ability to boost one’s overall weight is far more comprehensive: They also boost the body’s fat content, simultaneously fueling it with a large serving of both simple and complex carbohydrates.

Despite the common understanding of fitness-related diets—that fat is bad, and lean muscle is good—bulking up isn’t always about gaining clean-cut, and only clean-cut, muscle incrementally.

Many bodybuilders undergo different ‘phases’ when approaching the weight room. In most cases, they ‘bulk’ for as long as an entire season—then ‘cutting’ for another. In essence: They commit months to eat over their caloric limit, utilizing as much nutrition as possible, to boost their overall power.

Because more power means lifting more weight, and lifting more weight achieves progressive overload, gaining a little fat around the waist can be a small price to pay for a higher level of fitness.

The ‘cutting’ phase, here, simply means the ‘fat-burning’ phase. It’s mostly self-explanatory: Once a lifter has bulked up, they might choose to slim down a little—melting off excess fat to reveal the muscle density gains beneath.

Finding the Best Mass Gainer Available

Even though mass gainers are often cited to be the most effective, natural supplements for increasing muscle mass, they’re pretty straightforward in design.  Sometimes, the answer to fitness goal struggles really is the simplest.

In this case, a mass gainer is simply a high-calorie protein shake. Unlike most protein shakes, however, a mass gainer doubled down on carbohydrates to fuel power-packed gym sessions. Most mass gainers also contain extra fat, too, so as to create long-term energy fuel needed for extra tough lifting sessions.

It should be noted that while mass gainers live up to their word, in terms of increasing one’s weight, the added pounds won’t consist of muscle, completely. Like we’ve mentioned above, a mass gainer is all about gaining weight in general. As such, browsing products for the right mass gainer can be difficult.

So, what’s up with mass gainer products, these days?

Well, as always, no product is perfect. But this is okay because one person’s flawed mass gainer ingredient mix is great for another’s. This is because mass gainer blends vary greatly: Some are promoted for packing on as much weight as possible, while others approach mass gaining from a leaner angle.

Some mass gainers contain fat, protein, and carbohydrates alone—but other mass gainers include supplements like creatine, glutamine, and even citrulline to aid a workout session.

Let’s cover the best mass gainers out there. The top contenders all hold up to the rule of variety, so there’s a high-quality option to meet most fitness goals—whichever yours might happen to be. Let’s check them out.

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

Our first stop is to visit the fitness world’s ‘ole’ reliable’ mass gainer: Serious Mass by Optimum Nutrition.

It’s an all-around fantastic product for all fitness experience levels: Newcomers can use it for rapid weightlifting gains, intermediates can use it during a bulking phase and professionals can utilize its complex essential mineral mix to gain an edge.

Serious Mass has a protein-carbohydrate ratio of 1:5, so it’s definitely one of the ‘bulkier’ mass gainers out there. This said, it brings a lot of nutritional resources to the table—and each resource, itself, directly enhances one’s fitness performance.

One serving of Serious Mass, two protein powder scoops, contains a whopping 1,250 calories. These calories are distributed across approximately 50 grams of protein, 250 grams of carbohydrates, and assorted, additional ingredients.

Make no mistake, though, because the gap-fillers are anything but empty caloric shells:

They’re packed with over 25 essential vitamins and minerals, as well as glutamine, glutamic acid, and creatine. Sourcing its protein provisions from eggs—its carbs from wheat, respectively—Optimum Nutrition’s Serious Mass, seriously, is one of the best in class.

Gym Junkies Flex Muscle Builder

Gym Junkies Flex Muscle Builder

It’s rare to see a mass gainer which goes above and beyond the regular post-workout blend addition—let alone an intra-workout blend. Gym Junkies is one brand to crack the code, however, as their Flex Muscle Builder mass gainer outpaces relative alternatives while bringing its own, unique touch to the mix.

Firstly, it double-serves as a Nitric Oxide supplement, promoting bigger pumps in the weight room and promoting circulation throughout the day. The product achieves this with a solid balance of citrulline and arginine—two ingredients commonly found in pre-workout blends.

In doing so, Flex Muscle Builder has created a solid hybrid ingredient profile without becoming a pre-workout drink, itself.

This is certainly for the best, as top-tier mass gainers shouldn’t be time-conditional. The Gym Junkies blend focuses on the circulation of nutrients, in this case, effectively increasing their delivery across the body via healthier blood flow.

It offers a solid herb mesh, as well, so as to keep it aligned with the need for strong feeling, but health-minded workouts.

Universal Real Gains Weight Gainer

Universal Real Gains Weight Gainer

You’ve probably seen Universal Nutrition’s Animal Pak product line, at some point. It’s one of the better vitamin pack supplement canisters around—and it’s a continuous brand mainstay due to its massive popularity.

Universal Nutrition isn’t a one-hit-wonder by any means, however, as its other products are just as solid. If we’re talking solid mass gains, its Real Gains Weight Gainer instantly comes to mind.

You’ll find 50 grams of power-packed, high-quality protein in each serving. You’ll also notice its lower caloric count right off the bat, which might seem a little odd: Universal Real Gains Weight Gainer only contains 600 calories per serving.

So, what makes this mass gainer good?

Primarily, it’s Universal’s success in creating a mass gainer for those leaning towards leaner bulking phases.

Remember: ‘Dirty bulking’—or bulking with a focus on overall calories, rather than their contents—isn’t for everyone.

Cholesterol, blood sugar and weight loss needs are always to be considered, and having a lightweight mass gainer out there is great.

Aligned with its fewer calories is the product’s lower carbohydrate content—as there are only 100 grams per serving. While this might not be ideal for quick-punch, explosive heavyweight lifting sessions, it still achieves weight gain goals through consumption alone.

Vegan Naked Mass

Vegan Naked Mass

Mass gainers aren’t for omnivores, exclusively. Vegans and vegetarians have good product options, too, and these options are just as effective as regular protein blends containing animal-sourced nutrients.

The Vegan Naked Mass ingredient profile consists of rice protein, pea protein, and organic tapioca maltodextrin: simple, sweet, and effective.

Naturally, the first thing most consider when it comes to vegan protein shakes is an amino acid concern: To effectively gain muscle, one needs to get each of the 21 amino acids into their diet—and as often as possible.

While most amino acids can be found in supplements, it can be tough to find products that source a robust amino acid mix that’s animal-free.

This is where Vegan Naked Mass succeeds, as it targets this particular hurdle and leaps over it with grace. You’ll find a pea-to-rice protein ratio of roughly 2:1, which keeps vitamins prioritized.

At 1,230 calories per serving—definitely mass-minded—the product achieves the 50-grams protein mark. Similar to other ‘bulkier’ mass gainers, Vegan Naked Mass also contains a high carbohydrate count: standing in at around 250 grams.

It’s an interesting mix, but it’s an absolutely necessary one. Vegan supplements are notoriously difficult to shop for, in terms of fulfilling one’s nutritional needs with restrictions. In these scenarios, Vegan Naked Mass is one of the few products which can serve as, and remain, a go-to product to fulfill a very particular need: muscle growth.

Everything Essential: The Importance and Safety of Mass Gainers

Mass gainers have gained both praise and criticism, over the years. By and large, they do follow through in definition. Still, some aren’t keen on these products due to their potential to add a few pounds around the waist. This brings most mass-minded lifters to an understandable question:

Are they actually nutritious?

Here’s the quick answer: Yes.

To expound upon this, we point to macronutrients—the undeniable essentials of any healthy diet. There are seven, each of which is immediately recognizable as a dietary cornerstone:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Water

Most mass gainers contain each of these—and the best achieve so in spades. We must remember, of course, that mass gainers aren’t all about proteins and carbs. A majority contain supplements that support not only weight gain—but healthy and athletically minded weight gain.

Vegetarian diet bodybuilder


If you’re considering taking a mass gainer yourself, it’s still a good idea to speak with your current physician. Mass gainers aren’t for everyone, and preexisting health concerns can arise if one isn’t careful. All the same, there’s enough product variety out there to work alongside your current nutritional needs—rather than against them.

For every nutritional, fitness, and general health goal, there is a tool to achieve it. At the end of the day, it’s simply a question of which toolkit you’d like to use.

-Terry Asher

Terry Asher

After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!

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Product Review: Top-Tier Mass Gainers


A mass gainer isn’t just protein, a reliable mass gainer can be the key needed to unlock the door of introductory fitness.


Terry Asher

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Gym Junkies

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Hotel quarantine review recommends new options as Australia opens to travellers amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Since Australia’s mandatory hotel quarantine system started at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 130,000 travellers have been loaded onto buses and shuttled to their isolation destinations.

The Federal Government is holding out hope that a vaccine will be widely available next year, but there are no guarantees.

That means for the foreseeable future, Australia will need to have some form of quarantine in place for travellers who pose a risk of bringing the virus into the country.

Currently, anyone flying into Australia (excluding those coming from New Zealand) has to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days.

But a national review of the system has recommended states and territories reconsider this one-size-fits-all approach.

Why has there been a review into hotel quarantine?

The National Cabinet (that’s the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers) agreed to a national review of hotel quarantine arrangements back in July.

The nation’s leaders wanted to look into how staff were handling infection prevention and control, testing compliance, management of confirmed cases, and a whole range of other factors.

So how well has hotel quarantine been working?

Failures in Victoria’s hotel quarantine system have been widely reported — particularly the decision to use private security contractors, which is still being scrutinised by a separate state inquiry.

Outside of Victoria, the national review (conducted by former health department secretary Jane Halton) describes hotel quarantine as a “first line of defence” that has “undoubtedly slowed the passage of COVID-19 through the Australian community”.

The review has suggested making the hotel quarantine experience better for people going through it.(Four Corners)

Between March and August this year, 96,000 international and 34,000 domestic travellers spent 14 days locked up in hotels, ranging from budget to luxury, across the country.

Only 851 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 during their quarantine period — less than 1 per cent.

What has the review recommended?

While the review found hotel quarantine had been mostly successful to date, it called on states and territories to consider more sustainable models going forward.

As pressure mounts on governments to increase travel to and from Australia, the review found the current model may not be the best solution:

“This type of suppression measure has been effective and has saved lives, but the hotel quarantine system is vulnerable to breaches and these are hard to eliminate.

“It is also an expensive resource and comes at a high cost to individual, social and economic wellbeing.”

It floats several suggestions for alternative models, with a few key overarching strategies to adapt the current quarantine model to work in a COVID-normal world. Essentially:

  • Make the hotel quarantine experience better for people going through it
  • Develop different options for travellers based on an assessment of risk
  • Exclude people who are coming from very low-risk places from the need to quarantine
  • Consider a national quarantine facility to provide surge capacity

At-home quarantine, shorter timeframes and monitoring devices are all on the cards

The review suggests using a mix of hotel and at-home quarantine as well as exemptions for travellers arriving from “low risk” locations (as is already in place for New Zealanders) to free up capacity.

Other options suggested included reducing the quarantine period to seven days as well as using apps and “wearable monitoring devices”.

It’s still not clear how this proposal would work in practice, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he wanted experts to work on “innovative” solutions.

Other forms of quarantine such as “on-farm, at a mining camp or on campus” will also be trialled in preparation for reopening Australia to international students and other migration “down the track”.


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Lexus LC500 review: Old school V8 is a winner

The new LC500 Convertible isn’t your average Lexus.

It’s the most expensive, exclusive and seductive car built by the brand. As with many great cars, it’s also something of a throwback.

Evocative proportions and arresting design elements are lifted directly from the Lexus LF-LC concept car that stopped traffic at the Sydney motor show eight years ago — the last time a proper motor show was held on local soil.

The teardrop headlights, infinity-mirror tail-lamps and shapely silhouette are pure concept-car theatre.

media_cameraThe LC’s bold styling goes against Lexus’ usual conservative approach.

Power comes from a classic free-breathing V8 mounted up front, driving the rear wheels through a conventional automatic transmission as opposed to the dual-clutch units favoured by some rivals. The seats are trimmed in rich leather in a lavish cabin that combines decadent, flawlessly-finished materials with a modern take on conventional dials.

A tricky touchpad for the infotainment unit afflicting just about every model in the Lexus showroom is the only flaw in the interior.

An old school V8 oozes charm … and grunt.
media_cameraAn old school V8 oozes charm … and grunt.

Priced from about $228,000 drive-away, the LC500 Convertible certainly isn’t cheap.

But it undercuts the equivalent Porsche 911 by about $100,000 and starts to look like strong value when standard equipment is taken into account because there are no options.

It has top-grade paint and leather, a full suite of driver aids and forged 21-inch wheels as standard. You don’t pay extra for a bimodal sports exhaust, limited-slip differential or multi-mode suspension.

The brilliant Mark Levinson stereo, LED headlights and powered memory seats with heating and cooling are all included, as is a heated steering wheel, neck warmer, parking sensors and reversing camera. That is refreshing, as most European sports cars charge outrageous sums for many of those features.

The interior is plush.
media_cameraThe interior is plush.

The best bit is that the Lexus gives away little in terms of drama.

The 5.0-litre V8 fires to life with a hearty flare before settling into a melodious idle.

Packing 351kW of power and 540Nm of torque, the roadster’s sub-five-second 0-100km/h time and 12.7L/100km fuel economy aren’t particularly impressive. But the LC500 sounds positively operatic when let loose, its Yamaha-tuned motor singing with a free-breathing voice rarely heard these days.

Lexus didn’t bother adapting its unloved LC500h hybrid driveline for the convertible. Its slower, flat-sounding V6 and overcomplicated gearbox weren’t worthy of the top-down treatment. A facelifted model bringing turbo performance in the near future should be quicker and less sonorous in equal measure.

Putting the top down gives you a front row seat to the impressive V8 soundtrack.
media_cameraPutting the top down gives you a front row seat to the impressive V8 soundtrack.

For now, this V8 truly does sound sensational. And the 15 seconds needed to lower the roof pays dividends with open access to its eight-cylinder symphony.

Forgive the 48 litres of lost boot space, the extra 100 kilos of weight or the circa-$20,000 premium over the coupe. The soundtrack is worth it.

Better still, a crisp 10-speed auto delivers a delicious crack from the exhaust pipes when plucking the next gear, or enthusiastic bursts of throttle when dropping a ratio.

Weighty steering lends confidence when tipping into corners, and clever multi-mode suspension does a great job masking the car’s doubleton mass. The LC500’s composed ride and reassuring reactions are more suited to a weekend away with someone special than a qualifying lap of a Grand Prix circuit.

The LC isn’t a track day weapon, but a throughly enjoyable luxury cruiser.
media_cameraThe LC isn’t a track day weapon, but a throughly enjoyable luxury cruiser.

It’s not the sort of sports car that makes you set an alarm for zero-dark-thirty to set off in pursuit of superbikes. But it is the sort of machine to make you savour the long way home. The LC500 is also more playful than you might expect, occasionally wagging its tail under power, even with the traction control in its most sensible setting. It’s hard to drive it without a smile.


Lexus is too demure to describe its flagship as Japan’s answer to Aston Martin or Maserati, but we’re happy to say it. The LC500 is a rare gem.


Price: About $228,000 drive-away

Engine: 5.0-litre V8, 351kW/540Nm

Warranty/servicing: 4-year/100,000km, $2380 for 4 years

Safety: Not rated, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise, lane-keep assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert

Thirst: 12.7L/100km

Cargo: 149L

Spare: Repair kit

Originally published as Tested: Lexus’ answer to Aston Martin

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US set to resume Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trials after illness review

A J&J spokesman on Tuesday said the study remains on pause as the company continues its review of medical information before deciding to restart the trial. J&J noted that its “study pause” was voluntary, in contrast to AstraZeneca’s “regulatory hold,” which is imposed by health authorities.

Vaccines are seen as essential to helping end the pandemic that has battered economies around the world and claimed more than 1 million lives – over 220,000 of them in the United States.

Responding to a request about the AstraZeneca trial, British regulators shared with Reuters a draft of a form letter to UK vaccine trial participants, dated Oct. 14 and signed by the Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Team. It says the US FDA had “completed their analysis” and said vaccination in the United States would resume shortly.

FDA “has come to the same conclusion as the other drug regulators including the MHRA,” the letter states.

The Health Research Authority, which helps oversee UK medical research, said in an email to Reuters that it vetted the communication to make sure it was suitable to ensure informed consent among study volunteers. It could not confirm that the letter had been issued.

An AstraZeneca spokeswoman said the communication is not from the company and it “cannot verify the content”, referring to the draft letter to study participants.

“We also cannot comment on a pending FDA decision,” she said. The Oxford study team has not responded to requests for comment.

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Supreme Court to Review 2 of Trump’s Major Immigration Policies

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review two major Trump administration immigration initiatives: a program that has forced at least 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their requests are heard and the diversion of $2.5 billion in Pentagon money to build a barrier on the southwestern border.

Lower courts blocked both measures. But the Supreme Court, in earlier orders, allowed them to remain in effect while appeals moved forward.

The arguments in the two cases will not be heard until after the November election. Should President Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., win, his administration could take steps to make the cases moot.

In the case on asylum seekers, an appeals court in February blocked the program, known as Remain in Mexico, saying it was at odds with both federal law and international treaties and was causing “extreme and irreversible harm.”

The program applies to people who leave a third country and travel through Mexico to reach the United States border. Since the policy was put in place at the beginning of last year, tens of thousands of people have waited for immigration hearings in unsanitary tent encampments exposed to the elements. There have been widespread reports of sexual assault, kidnapping and torture.

The coronavirus pandemic has also complicated matters. In its brief seeking Supreme Court review, filed in April, the administration acknowledged that “the public health emergency caused by the Covid-19 virus” prompted it to take additional measures making it even harder to seek asylum. “The government’s response to the emergency is fluid,” the brief said, “and measures attributable to the emergency are not at issue in this case.”

The brief said the program, formally called the Migrant Protection Protocols and administered by the Department of Homeland Security, has been successful.

“During the 14 months that M.P.P. has been in operation, it has been enormously effective: It has enabled D.H.S. to avoid detaining or releasing into the interior more than 60,000 migrants during removal proceedings, and has dramatically curtailed the number of aliens approaching or attempting to cross the Southwest border,” the brief said. “The program has been an indispensable tool in the United States’ efforts, working cooperatively with the governments of Mexico and other countries, to address the migration crisis by diminishing incentives for illegal immigration, weakening cartels and human smugglers, and enabling D.H.S. to better focus its resources on legitimate asylum claims.”

Asylum seekers and legal groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, responded in July that the dispute is for now academic, as the administration, citing the pandemic, has in effect closed the border to asylum seekers. They urged the court to deny review in the case, Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, No. 19-1212.

In a second brief, the administration said the pandemic did not make the case less urgent.

“The current suspension on introducing certain aliens is a temporary response to the pandemic,” the brief said. “The decisions below impose severe constraints” on the government, the brief said, “and those constraints will endure long past the present emergency.”

After the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U., said she hoped the justices would protect her clients.

“Asylum seekers face grave danger every day this illegal and depraved policy is in effect,” she said. “The courts have repeatedly ruled against it, and the Supreme Court should as well.”

In the border-wall case, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled against the administration in June, saying Congress had not authorized the spending. But the Supreme Court, in a pair of interim orders decided by 5-to-4 votes, had allowed construction to continue until it either denies the administration’s petition seeking review or agrees to hear the administration’s appeal and rules on it.

One of those orders, though it was unsigned and only a paragraph long, indicated that the groups challenging the administration may not have a legal right to do so. That suggested that the court’s conservative majority was likely to side with the administration in the end.

The case arose from Mr. Trump’s efforts to make good on a campaign promise to build the barrier. In early 2019, he declared a national emergency along the Mexican border. The declaration followed a two-month impasse with Congress over funding to build the wall, a standoff that gave rise to the longest partial government shutdown in the nation’s history.

After Congress appropriated only a fraction of what Mr. Trump had sought, he announced that he would act unilaterally to spend billions more.

Soon after, environmental groups sued to stop the president’s plan to use money meant for military programs to build barriers along the border in what he said was an effort to combat drug trafficking. California and New Mexico filed a similar suit.

Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, blocked the construction in a pair of decisions that said the statute the administration had relied on to justify the transfer did not authorize it.

“The case is not about whether the challenged border barrier construction plan is wise or unwise,” Judge Gilliam wrote. “It is not about whether the plan is the right or wrong policy response to existing conditions at the southern border of the United States. Instead, this case presents strictly legal questions regarding whether the proposed plan for funding border barrier construction exceeds the Executive Branch’s lawful authority.”

The Ninth Circuit affirmed Judge Gilliam’s injunction, saying that “the Constitution delegates exclusively to Congress the power of the purse.”

“The Executive Branch lacked independent constitutional authority to authorize the transfer of funds,” Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote for the majority, concluding: “Therefore, the transfer of funds here was unlawful.”

In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Trump v. Sierra Club, No. 20-138, lawyers for the administration wrote that “the decisions below concern a matter of exceptional national importance.” The court routinely grants review in cases concerning judicial interference with the executive branch’s efforts to protect the nation’s security, the brief said.

“That standard is plainly met,” the brief said, “by this injunction against the transfer of military funds to assist in the construction of fences on the southern border to stanch the flow of illegal drugs.”

The environmental groups, represented by the A.C.L.U., responded that Mr. Trump should not be permitted to defy Congress.

It could not be plainer that Congress rejected President Trump’s funding request for the wall construction in dispute here,” the brief said. “The President himself conceded that Congress turned him down.”

On Monday, after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Dror Ladin, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U., said his group would prevail before the justices.

“Everyone knows that Trump failed to get Congress to fund his xenophobic wall obsession, and every lower court that has considered the case has found that the president has no authority to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on construction,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to making the same case before the Supreme Court and finally putting a stop to the administration’s unconstitutional power grab.”

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