Last pieces in Murray-Darling Basin Plan puzzle shows how NSW will manage its water resources


Nine critical water resource plans for managing NSW surface water have been published for the first time.

The plans show how New South Wales will regulate the amount of water flowing into the Murray-Darling Basin and achieve a balance between community, environmental, economic and cultural needs.

They still have to be assessed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and accredited by the Federal water minister Keith Pitt.

Other states are concerned about how they will impact on the flow of water down the system. At the same time, irrigators are worried about having enough water to grow food and run profitable businesses.

Protections in place

The chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Phillip Glyde said this was a significant moment for Basin communities.

Environment groups have highlighted several concerns, but Mr Glyde said there were protection mechanisms in place.

“There are 50-odd different requirements that each of these plans has to meet in the Water Act and the Basin Plan.”

He acknowledged the willingness of farming communities throughout the Basin to reduce consumption while still managing to increase the production of food and fibre.

Flood plain harvesting concerns

Environment groups, southern irrigators and communities downstream have expressed concern about the move to licence flood plain harvesting in the Northern Basin as part of this process.

They says there have been catastrophic fish kills and a shortage of water for towns and irrigators during the last three years of drought, but the Namoi Water Resource Plan includes a proposal to increase the take of “supplementary” water in a flood.

It would rise from 10 per cent to 50 per cent, which environment group Inland Rivers describes as a “massive wealth shift”.

Mr Glyde said there was “no going backwards for protection of environment water”, and confirmed the MDBA would be looking at Namoi plan closely, but he also noted a significant improvement in the state’s monitoring and compliance of flood plain harvesting.

Historical record

The NSW Water Resource Plans do not incorporate the millennium drought or the current drought rainfall records to calculate the sustainable water diversion limits.(Supplied:)

Environment groups are concerned about the baseline rainfall figures that have been used to calculate sustainable diversion limits in the NSW plans.

The low rainfall years of the millennium drought and the current drought have been left out which has effectively increased the amount of water that can be extracted for irrigation.

The NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey defended the policy but conceded her department would continue to review the figures used to determine the “historical record”.

She said she would be putting up a fight to protect the communities along the river that “provide jobs, opportunities and export income for this nation”.

“Let’s acknowledge the sacrifices a lot of people have made in NSW, giving up just over a 1,000 gigalitres under the MDB plan.”

Mr Glyde said the MDBA would use a 100 years of historical records, even if NSW had not.

“We’re the umpire. It’s the Commonwealth’s law, the Water Act and the Basin Plan that has to be adhered to,” he said.



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Maine Poll Shows Biden Leading Trump, GOP Senator Collins Race Close



A poll released on Monday by left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows presumptive Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden leading President Trump by 11 points, 53 percent to 42 percent, in Maine.

Notably, that same poll shows the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, Sara Gideon with just a four-point lead over incumbent Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), 46 percent to 42 percent. Taking Collins’s Maine Senate seat out of the Republican column and putting it into the Democratic column is considered one of the lynchpins of the Democratic Party’s 2020 election efforts to retake the majority in the U.S. Senate.

Democrats supported Gideon by a 79 percent to 13 percent margin. Republicans supported Collins by a 76 percent to eight percent margin. Independents were evenly split, with 44 percent backing each candidate.

Women supported Gideon by a 49 percent to 39 percent margin. Men supported Collins by a 46 percent to 43 percent margin.

PPP has a reputation of framing the questions in polls and organizing the respondent samples to advance a narrative supporting a progressive political agenda. Given that reputation, the fact that Gideon is running 11 points behind Biden and Collins is running four points ahead of Trump in the PPP poll released on Monday suggests that Gideon will have a much tougher time unseating Collins than Democratic Party officials had hoped.

The only other poll of the Maine 2020 Senate race match up in the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls was conducted by Colby College in February. That poll gave Gideon a one-point lead over Collins, which was within that poll’s 3.2 percent margin of error.

First elected to the Senate in 1996, Collins was reelected in 2014 by a margin of 37 percentage points.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in Maine by a margin of three points, 48 percent to 45 percent, but took only three of the state’s four electoral college votes. Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that do not award all of their electoral college votes to the overall popular vote winner in the state.

Maine awards two electoral college votes to the statewide popular vote winner of the presidential contest, one electoral college vote to the winner of the popular vote in the state’s First Congressional District and one electoral college vote to the winner of the popular vote in the state’s Second Congressional District. Due to its small population, Maine only has two congressional districts.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Maine’s First Congressional District in 2016 by 14 percentage points and received that district’s one electoral college vote, giving her three of the state’s four electoral college votes. Donald Trump won the popular vote in Maine’s Second Congressional District that year by ten percentage points and received that district’s one electoral college vote, giving him one of the state’s four electoral college votes.

PPP is the only firm in the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls that has polled the presidential matchup in Maine over the past year. The poll results released on Monday are virtually the same as two earlier PPP polls. One conducted in March 2020 gave Biden a ten-point lead over Trump, another conducted in October 2019 gave Biden a 12-point lead over Trump.

The questions in the poll released on Monday are consistent with PPP’s reputation for using polling as a way to establish a political narrative for the progressive agenda.

Among those questions and responses were the following:

When asked, “Do you think Donald Trump should have been impeached and removed from office, or not?” 51 percent of respondents said yes, while 44 percent said no.

Eighty-four percent of Democrats said yes, while 11 percent said no. Ten percent of Republicans said yes, while 88 percent said no. Among independents, 50 percent said yes while 42 percent said no.

The poll also asked a question framed negatively around Collins but included no such question about Gideon.

When asked, “Do you think Susan Collins is more an independent voice for Maine or a partisan voice for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell?” 46 percent of respondents said she was a partisan voice for Trump and McConnell, while 42 percent said she was an independent voice for Maine.

The survey of 1,022 registered voters in Maine was conducted between July 2 and July 3 and has a 3.1 percent margin of error. Thirty-eight percent of poll respondents self-identified as Republican, 30 percent as Democrats, and 28 percent as independents.



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Coronavirus can stay in your system for weeks, but research shows you’re probably not contagious


When a Sydney supermarket worker tested positive for coronavirus, after spending time in quarantine and seemingly recovering, it had many people asking the same question: is 14 days in quarantine enough?

Cases like these, where people are cleared of the virus only to then test positive, are unsettling — but major research has shown there’s no cause for alarm.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The South Korean study showed a large proportion of people tested positive for COVID-19 after they’d seemingly recovered from it
  • Scientists believe the positive results were caused by remnants of the virus remaining in the cells
  • There was no evidence that those people were still infectious despite their positive tests
  • There was no evidence of anyone being newly infected by the virus for a second time
  • The study showed the majority of people who had remnants of the virus also had antibodies that could kill it

Does a positive coronavirus test mean a person is infectious?

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a major study looking at this question, after they found hundreds of people were still testing positive weeks and months after seemingly recovering from the disease.

The study investigated 285 “re-positive cases” and followed 790 friends and family those people had been in contact with after their second positive test.

After monitoring those 790 contacts for at least 14 days, the study found 27 were positive.

Of those 27 people, 24 had already contracted the virus before coming into contact with the case studies.

The remaining three were found to have other likely sources of infections.

Two men stand at door to shop. On offers the other hand sanitiser.
Researchers in South Korea monitored the friends and family of more than 200 people who had tested positive for COVID-19.(Reuters:/Daewoung Kim)

Professor Collignon said the epidemiological study showed that people testing positive, after seeming to have cleared the virus, did not appear to be infectious.

“But just to see if there was any chance that maybe they’d missed something, they said, ‘let’s look at this in the laboratory’,” he said.

To back up their findings, the researchers took samples from 108 of those re-positive cases and tried to grow them in cell culture.

“They took a special cell line called Vero, and they put material from the people’s throats to see if it would grow up and grow in bigger numbers in those cell lines — and it didn’t,” Professor Collignon said.

Similar findings have been reported in smaller studies in France and the United States.

Why are people testing negative, and then positive?

University of New South Wales virologist Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid said swab tests being used in Australia were extremely sensitive and would pick up the virus even when it was no longer infectious.

“It picks up really small parts of the viral genome, so it’s not picking up the whole virus,” she said.

Professor Collignon said “re-positive” cases with symptoms, quite likely simply had a common cold causing those symptoms — and just happen to have some inactive coronavirus in their body too.

Professor Peter Collignon sits and looks into the camera with a bookcase behind him.
Professor Peter Collignon says he would feel less nervous going to the Balmain supermarket than he would living in a Melbourne hotspot.(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

“It’s more likely they’re sick from the other virus and if it’s really late after they’ve been quarantined and after we’ve known they’ve recovered … that it’s non-viable virus in low numbers that are there, rather than an active infection.

“It may be the cold virus, for whatever reason, causes a few more cells to die and more [remnants of coronavirus] to be released.”

Can you catch COVID-19 twice?

Professor Collignon said so far it appears people are not getting re-infected with the virus once they’ve already had it.

“There’s been no evidence that anybody who’s had any infection and recovered from it has been infected a second time with a new virus,” he said.

“It’s still early days, we’ve only got six months of data after initial infections. But so far that does look like people with an infection only get it once.”

The South Korean study found that 96 per cent of those who did still have remnants of the virus also had antibodies.

“That makes it less likely they are infectious to others because whatever virus they had in their body should have been killed by the antibodies they found.

“It also means that they appear to be immune.”

So 14 days in isolation should be enough?

Dr Stelzer-Braid said two weeks of isolation was enough.

“There’s really good evidence that is enough time for people’s symptoms to resolve and for their viral load to go to a very low level, which is either undetectable or very close to the limit of detection,” she said.

“That means that they’re not able to infect anyone else and that’s consistent with the World Health Organization guidelines for the release of people from hospital and from quarantine.”

Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid says 14 days is long enough for COVID-19 symptoms to resolve.
Sacha Stelzer-Braid is a virologist at the University of Western Sydney.(ABC News: Michael Slezak)

Professor Collignon said based on the research there was no reason to question the policy of 14 days in isolation for returned travellers or anyone who may have come into contact with the virus.

But he did suggest everyone should be tested after those 14 days, particularly if they had not registered a positive test to begin with.

“The advantage of testing people before they leave [quarantine] is in case there’s any asymptomatic people there,” he said.

“You will want to isolate them for longer because they may have only developed the infection at day 10 and they could be infectious for another week or so at that point in time.”



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Former Manchester United star Luis Nani shows off ripped physique in incredible body transformation


Former Manchester United star Luis Nani has shown off his ripped physique in an incredible body transformation, aged 33.

The Orlando City star has clearly been hitting the weights during lockdown, with the MLS season not set to return until July 8th.

But ahead of the condensed mini-tournament, Nani enjoyed a relaxing day off in Orlando, showing off his ridiculous six-pack.

The Portuguese star — who has also played for Sporting Lisbon, Valencia and Lazio during his career — left fans’ jaws on the floor on Monday evening.

Nani posted a picture of himself standing on a rock wearing just a pair of shorts.

As well as his rock-hard abs, the formerly slender Manchester United winger — who spent eight years at Old Trafford — flexed his arms to reveal his bulging biceps.

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Nani shared the snap on Instagram, captioned: “Day off vibes #MLSisBack #OrlandoCity #dayoff #relax”.

And supporters couldn’t get over the remarkable transformation.

Singer Nelson Freitas replied: “Give me some of those abs man.”

Former Portugal teammate Yannick Djalo said: “Pooowwww! The man with the most muscle since he was a kid and with the most ABS in the world.”

Another follower even joked: “Stomach looking photoshopped but it ain’t smh.”

Nani has just over a week to keep working on his new body before the MLS season returns at Disney World — conveniently for him, in Orlando.

The 2020 campaign is set to return with a 54-game tournament having got through just two rounds of fixtures before lockdown was enforced.

And now Disney World has been deemed the best location to keep players safe, despite it already being agreed the NBA would finish their season at the Florida resort.

All 26 teams from both the Eastern and Western Conference will descend on Orlando for the shortened competition.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission



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Senior Liberal Terry Stephens has paid no land tax on Adelaide property, document shows


The ABC can reveal senior South Australian Liberal MP Terry Stephens has been levied no land tax on his Adelaide property, raising fresh questions about where he really lives.

The President of the state’s Upper House has been under scrutiny after an ABC investigation raised questions about whether he was using an apartment in the town of Victor Harbor to claim tens of thousands of dollars in Country Members Accommodation Allowance while the property was rented out.

Until now, Mr Stephens has insisted his second property, a million-dollar-plus townhouse in Norwood, is not his primary residence.

But the ABC has obtained a land tax certificate for the Norwood property, showing no land tax was levied on the property this financial year, despite the site value for the property being above the taxable threshold.

Under South Australian law, land tax is not paid on properties deemed primary places of residence.

Mr Stephens has not responded to the ABC’s question as to whether he has claimed a tax exemption on the Norwood property by describing it as his primary residence.

Terry Stephens’ land tax certificate.(Supplied)

Other MPs use Norwood property

Mr Stephens also confirmed he had provided accommodation at the Norwood house to fellow Liberal MP Fraser Ellis, and Liberal-turned-independent Troy Bell.

South Australian Liberal MP Terry Stephens drops off election material in a letterbox.
South Australian Liberal MP Terry Stephens seen here letterboxing election material in 2016.(Facebook)

“Members Bell and Ellis sometimes stay with me,” Mr Stephens said.

“They don’t pay rent.”

The Norwood home is little more than half a kilometre from the electorate office of the local lower house MP, Premier Steven Marshall.

Mr Marshall today confirmed he was aware Mr Stephens spent time there, but could not say whether it was a home.

“I’ve not been inside but we’ve travelled to events together,” Mr Marshall said.

“I picked him up so I know approximately where it is. Don’t ask me the address.”

The front of a house in suburban Adelaide.
The Norwood property of SA Liberal MP Terry Stephens.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

Allowance details released

The Country Members Allowance provides payments of up to $31,590 a year for any country MP who “incurs actual expenditure” staying in Adelaide on parliamentary or electorate business.

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After repeatedly rejecting the ABC’s requests to make details of the allowance public, the Parliament today agreed to release payments for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years.

“While it has never been the practice of previous presiding officers of either house to release this level of information, we feel it is now incumbent on the Parliament to release this level of detail to provide full transparency and to remove any confusion,” Mr Stephens said in a joint statement with House of Assembly Speaker Vincent Tarzia.

The documents confirm Mr Stephens collected $31,050 in 2018-19 and a further $29,484 this financial year to date.

Mr Ellis claimed $56,390 across the same two-year period, while Mr Bell collected $57,060, in accordance with their entitlements.

Mr Ellis indicated to the ABC he had claimed the nightly allowance while staying with Mr Stephens, something he insisted he was allowed to do because he had incurred an expense.

“I have stayed at Norwood in the past, yeah,” he said.

“I’ve incurred costs down here. And I’ve claimed the allowance in accordance with the rules.”

Stephens offers further explanation

Earlier in the day, Mr Stephens offered a fresh explanation of his living arrangements, repeating his earlier declaration that his principal place of residence was in Victor Harbor.

In a written statement, he insisted he had complied with the rules in accessing the Country Members Allowance.

“Since 2011, I have lived in an apartment in Victor Harbor,” the statement said.

The ABC has confirmed Mr Stephens remained enrolled to vote at the first apartment until its sale in April 2019.

The ABC has obtained video, dating back as far as 2017, suggesting the apartment had been offered as a holiday rental.

When sold, it was advertised as “currently rented … for more than $500 a week.”

The apartment’s new owners have confirmed it was sold tenanted and fully furnished.

While Mr Stephens claims to have resided in Victor Harbor since 2010 or 2011, his official declaration of interests lists a property at Stonyfell, in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs, as his residence.

That Stonyfell property was sold in 2012, on the same day Mr Stephens purchased the Norwood property.

‘Not a matter for the Government’

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the Premier must order the release of all Country Members Accommodation payments dating back to 2010.

“Steven Marshall has the authority to simply pick up the phone, instruct the President and the Speaker to publicly release all of the information regarding the Country Members Allowance,” Mr Malinauskas said.

Asked whether the matters raised warranted an independent review, Mr Marshall said it was not up to him.

“Just to be clear, the Country Members Allowances are governed by the Parliament, it’s not a matter for the Government,” he said.



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Kylie Jenner moans about her ‘quarantine pounds’ as she shows off ridiculously toned body


Kylie Jenner has baffled fans by moaning about the “quarantine pounds” she has to lose while showing off her ridiculously toned body in a bikini.

The reality TV star, 22, took to Instagram to complain about all the weight she has put on during lockdown.

She shared a video of herself modelling a bikini in front of a mirror and wrote: “Ok cutting off these quarantine pounds starting tomorrow.”

However, the post left fans baffled as Kylie looked to slimand toned in the video.

Kylie Jenner shared a video in which she moaned about her quarantine pounds

One shared her comments on Twitter, adding wide-eyed emojis in shock.

Kylie has previously admitted she’s been treating herself during lockdown by feasting on sugary and carb-heavy foods.

She’s shared pictures of naughty breakfasts including waffles drenched with syrup and dusted with sugar.

She has vowed to go on a diet

Fans were baffled as Kylie appears to look slim and toned

The make-up mogul has also been indulging in cake, pizza and ice cream over the last few months.

However, despite her indulgences, Kylie looks like she’s managed to stay trim.

Her lockdown treats are in stark contrast to her sister Kourtney, who seems to have maintained her strict diet over the last few months.

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Kourtney been sharing regular updates on her food intake, telling fans she’s been snacking on vegan cheese and sourdough bread with butter and honey.

While she also showed her kids tucking into watermelon and mango sprinkled with special chilli powder, and celery with almond butter.

Kylie  has been staying at home at her multi-million dollar mansion in California with her daughter Stormi, on/off boyfriend Travis Scott and best friend Stassie Karanikolaou.

Despite lockdown in California, she has managed to enjoy several nights out during lockdown, and was recently pictured hitting the town with her pal Fai Khadra.

The pair enjoyed a meal at Nobu in Malibu before heading to LA hotspot Bootsy Bellows, which is said to have opened just for Kylie’s group.

She was also pictured attending Stassie’s birthday party at her home recently along with a group of friends.





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Giants’ narrow win over Collingwood shows potential for changes in momentum for both teams


When the siren went at Giants Stadium on Friday night, there was more to the players’ reactions than with a usual tight finish.

It was the first meeting between GWS and Collingwood since a preliminary final thriller at the MCG last September.

The result was the same — the Giants won — and the margin was almost identical (four points instead of two).

But while it was a regular-season game rather than a sudden-death encounter, that’s not to say that there was nothing big on the line.

In this shortened season, every match takes on added significance, particularly against a potential rival for the flag.

At 1-2, the Giants were already showing danger signs after poor efforts against the North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

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They came up against the team that was the consensus choice as the early form team of the comp in Collingwood.

The challenge was two-fold — first, avoid going 1-3 in a 17-game season which could blow their season out of the water before it began.

And second, show to the league — and themselves — that they had the game to match it with the Magpies.

The first thing they did right was send tagger Matt de Boer to midfielder Steele Sidebottom rather than skipper Scott Pendlebury.

Sidebottom has been getting off the chain in the early rounds, racking up possessions even in shortened games, as sides seemed leery of trying to shut him down.

Against the Giants, Sidebottom had just 12 disposals (against an average of 28 touches for the first three rounds), 6 tackles and one clearance.

No doubt other sides scouting this game will have noted what happened, and Sidebottom may have to cope with close attention more often from now on.

The other big plus for the Giants was the return of Toby Greene from injury.

Every goal is vital in 16-minute quarters, and Toby Greene made most of his chances count against Collingwood.(AAP: Mark Nolan)

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The mercurial forward was typically fierce on the field, putting his body in and being aggressive — sometimes overly so — in trying to bump opposition players.

But just as with Tom Papley for the Swans, Greene is critical for the Giants as a dangerous small forward.

He kicked four for GWS in their opening round win over Geelong, then was ineffective against the Kangaroos, and missed the Bulldogs loss through knee soreness.

Last night, however, Greene reminded everyone why the Giants are so much better when he is there.

He was in the action everywhere, his marking and positioning was excellent and he showed his goal sense with a brilliant snap around the corner from a stoppage near half-time.

There has been an early season phenomenon of taller key forwards struggling to have as much scoreboard impact.

Players like Papley, Greene, Charlie Cameron, Isaac Heeney, Liam Ryan, Chad Wingard and others are kicking the goals.

The exceptions in the top 10 for the Coleman were both playing last night — Collingwood’s Brody Mihocek and the Giants’ Jeremy Cameron.

Both had relatively quiet nights but still ended up with two goals each.

At one stage, Greene marked then handballed off to Cameron less than 25m out to get him into the game, only for the spearhead to kick an ugly point.

But when it counted in the last quarter, Cameron took a big mark near the 50m and his booming set shot just held its line inside the post for what proved to be the vital goal.

Just like last year’s prelim, the Magpies dominated the inside 50s in the final term, and just like last year they could not convert enough chances.

The Giants threw their bodies on the line in the frantic final minutes, and they held on to level their record at 2-2 — and take their recent record against Collingwood to five wins in their last six encounters.

Their reactions at the end showed what the win meant.

GWS is by no means back on track yet — they have to face Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Richmond in the next few weeks.

They may also have to go without defenders Phil Davis and Zac Williams who both failed to finish the game.

But while it could have been all but season over if they lost, now they have the potential to win most or all of their next three if they bring the same level of performance.

Howe a huge loss for the Pies 

An AFL team staffer tests out an injured player as he lies on the ground, grimacing in pain.
It was an unfortunate accident, but Jeremy Howe’s nasty knee injury could have a big impact on the Magpies’s season.(AAP: Mark Nolan)

For the Magpies the result was a painful one for more reasons than one.

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High-flying defender Jeremy Howe had already racked up 23 possessions and six marks when he went down in distress after a horrible second-half collision with the Giants’ Jacob Hopper.

If the early calls are right and Howe has injured his medial cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament — while not as bad as an ACL tear — is likely to need extended time to recover.

We are already four games into a shortened season.

While we won’t know anything definitive until the scans come back, the visible reaction of coach Nathan Buckley at last night’s press conference — and his description of a “shattered” Howe in the rooms — suggests the high flyer is no guarantee to return in 2020.

Teams can and do make the argument that it’s all about the system and that the next person will come in and do the role.

The problem is that Howe is rated by some as the league’s top defender, and by most as one of the best.

Not everyone can offer the intercept marking and run off half-back that he does.

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Brayden Maynard’s raw numbers are similar, and although he had a tough night on Toby Greene, the Pies defender has had a strong start to the season.

The problem for Collingwood is that Maynard is already in the backline for the Pies — where are they going to get someone else to do the job that Howe has done?

The question is now whether Buckley will have to tweak the Magpies’ game style to cope with the loss.

Another issue is clearances. The Magpies have arguably the best ruckman around in Brodie Grundy, and he won 47 hitouts to the Giants 21 (55-21 overall).

However, Collingwood lost the overall clearances, particularly at stoppages.

The Magpies will want to rebound with a win against Essendon next week, before another tough game against Brisbane, and then a trip to the WA hub to face Geelong first-up.

From one perspective, it’s been a single close loss, and the Pies were less than a kick away from remaining unbeaten.

But depending on results, they could now drop out of the top four by the end of this round.

Then, if they struggle to replace Howe, a couple of losses in a row and a trip west could see us looking back at this match as a turning point in Collingwood’s season.

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Putin ignores virus, shows off military might ahead of crucial vote – POLITICO


MOSCOW — Russia held a massive World War II victory parade on Wednesday despite the coronavirus pandemic, setting a patriotic tone ahead of a national vote that could keep Vladimir Putin in power until 2036.

The annual May 9 parade of troops and tanks across Red Square — this year celebrating 75 years since the USSR’s defeat of Nazi Germany — was postponed as Russia’s corona caseload skyrocketed. But at the end of last month, Putin announced it would be rescheduled for June 24, the day that returning Soviet troops cast down Nazi standards outside the Kremlin walls.

The new celebration was also the day before an “all people’s vote” on constitutional changes passed by parliament this spring, which paves the way for Putin, who has already been in power for two decades, to remain president. Putin’s presidential term, his last under the current rules, is supposed to end in 2024. But if the constitutional changes are approved, it would reset Putin’s presidential term count back to zero, meaning he could stand in the next two elections, in 2024 and 2030.

While many Russians celebrate their relatives who died in the war, the parade this year appeared designed to also fire up Putin’s electorate and shore up his flagging ratings before the largely symbolic vote. Mass events are still officially banned in Moscow.

“It was our people who defeated the terrible, total evil, crushed more than 600 divisions, destroyed 75 percent of the total number of Nazi aircraft, tanks, artillery units, and walked their righteous and infinitely sacrificial path to the end, to their victorious destination,” Putin told veterans and leaders of former Soviet republics, few of whom were wearing face masks.

Critics have accused Putin of offering bread and circuses at the expense of the population’s well-being.

“This is the main truth about the war, honest and clear. We must protect and defend it, and pass it on to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Today’s military parade is a tribute to this sacred truth.”

The elderly veterans were reportedly quarantined for two weeks outside Moscow before watching the parade with Putin, and the officials in attendance were screened for COVID-19.

Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbay Jeenbekov flew home without attending the parade after two members of his delegation tested positive for the virus.

The Russian defense ministry previously claimed the 14,000 soldiers taking part were being monitored and were immune or hadn’t shown symptoms of COVID-19.

There were few masks and no social distancing, however, among the onlookers who crowded along the barricades on central Moscow streets. People in the crowd told POLITICO that the peak of the pandemic had already passed, and noted that the authorities have promised a vaccine by the fall.

But Russia, the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil, reported 7,176 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing its total to above 600,000. At least 8,513 have died of COVID-19, a number that is widely believed to be under-reported.

At least 25 other cities have further postponed their victory parades. Although major military towns were required to hold the parades, 10 did so without spectators.

Critics have accused Putin of offering bread and circuses at the expense of the population’s well-being.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in a blog post that the state had spent almost 1 billion rubles (€13 million) on the parade, not including military budget expenditure.

“You could buy medicine for pensioners for this money,” he said. “Two and a half months people at home, half of them without work or salaries. A parade is the last thing on their minds. But this bunker grandpa wants a parade, he needs to show himself off on the reviewing stand.”

Wednesday’s parade caps off a week of pageantry meant to salve the hardships that have followed the oil price collapse and coronavirus economic downturn.

While Putin’s popularity has fallen slightly, there is little doubt he will be able to achieve a satisfactory result in the vote | Alexey Nokolsky/AFP via Getty Images

On Monday, Putin addressed hundreds of soldiers and prayed with the Russian Orthodox patriarch at a new cathedral outside Moscow, the steps of which are reportedly made from melted Nazi tanks.

On Tuesday, he raised the income tax rate for rich Russians by 2 percent during a televised speech and promised additional benefits for families with young children.

Also in the package of measures to be voted on are populist moves such index-linking pensions to match inflation and banning presidential candidates with foreign residency. So far advertising has focused on such messaging — “We won’t give up an inch of our native lands,” read billboards showing pictures of Crimea and the date of the vote — without mentioning that the vote could mean Putin remaining in office until he’s 84.

While the president’s popularity has fallen slightly, there is little doubt he will be able to achieve a satisfactory result. A survey by the independent Levada Center in late May found that 59 percent of Russians approved of Putin’s job performance, down from 69 percent in February. However, only 25 percent said they trust their president.

Opposition activists have complained that the e-voting will take place without independent monitoring, as will much of the socially distanced polling station voting.

The vote will begin with online balloting starting Thursday before polling stations open on July 1. Opposition activists have complained that the e-voting will take place without independent monitoring, as will much of the socially distanced polling station voting.

On the day of the vote, scanning devices will allow state companies to keep track of which employees vote. Restaurant vouchers, movie tickets and “pharmaceutical supplies” will be given out to participants to boost turnout.





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Brits back Boris Johnson easing lockdown, new poll shows



Nearly two-thirds of British people think the Government’s plan to reopen pubs, restaurants and hairdressers in England from July 4 is a good idea, a new poll has found.

A snap poll by YouGov found that 64 per cent of Brits support the easing of lockdown rules for the venues which have remained shut during lockdown.

A poll of 2,264 adults found 40 per cent somewhat supported the rules easing for restaurants, pubs and other venues, while 24 per cent strongly supported it.


Meanwhile, 19 per cent somewhat opposed it, while 10 per cent strongly opposed it.

Asked if generally speaking they supported all the lockdown rule changes, which also mean that people in England can meet up indoors and stay overnight at other people’s houses, more than half of the people said yes.

Seven per cent of people surveyed even said that Boris Johnson hadn’t gone far enough.

But around 40 per cent of people think that the restrictions are being eased too soon.

And respondents’ views on the new lockdown freedoms were split along party lines.

Nearly 60 per cent of Conservative voters back the easing of restrictions in England compared to around 40 per cent of both Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters.

Nearly half of Labour and Lib Dem voters think the new freedoms Mr Johnson announced went too far, while around a quarter of Tory supporters polled said the same.

Chris Curtis, Political Research Manager at YouGov, said: “After a tough few months, these numbers will be encouraging for the government, as they finally seem to be striking the right tone with the public.

“The results show that support falls down party lines, with 60% of Conservatives thinking the new package gets the balance about right, compared to just 38% of Labour voters.

“This is not surprising considering that Tory voters are likely to have greater enthusiasm for an announcement coming from a Tory Prime Minister.

People shopping in Oxford Street, London (PA)

“But overall these announcements seem to have been well received amongst the public at large.

“This is a noticeable shift from when the government started loosening restrictions in mid-May, when more thought the government was moving too fast.”

Mr Johnson announced sweeping new changes to the lockdown from July 4, including allowing English hospitality businesses, hairdressers, galleries, museums and cinemas to reopen provided they follow safety rules.

Brits will also be allowed to have dinner parties inside, and stay overnight at other people’s houses among a range of other new freedoms, the Prime Minister said.



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New OANN/Gravis poll shows President Trump leading Biden in N.C.


FILE – In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, left, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020. (AP Photo, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 5:50 PM PT — Friday, June 19, 2020

A new poll conducted by One America News and Gravis Marketing showed President Trump leading the way in the key battleground state of North Carolina. The survey, which was conducted on June 17th, 2020, polled 631 registered voters from the state.

The results showed President Trump with a 46% to 43% lead over former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee, in the state.

When it came down to who voters trusted to run the economy better, the president held a big lead over Biden, 49% to 43%. In total, President Trump received a 52% approval rating from respondents.

North Carolina voters also responded to questions on local elections, national unrest, funding for law enforcement, travel restrictions and more. Results were weighted by demographics.

See more results from the poll here.

RELATED: President Trump Holds 6-Point Lead Over Biden In Fla.





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