Where bullets fly – America is experiencing the worst recorded increase in its national murder rate | United States


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States eye further easing of restrictions after Australia recorded no new local coronavirus cases



NSW is considering loosening virus restrictions on Sydney residents as it takes aim at other states imposing border limitations.

Australia is eyeing its first day of no local coronavirus cases since mid-December after just one case was reported on Friday.

Queensland authorities say that case was a returned traveller recently released from quarantine who is shedding the virus and is not infectious.

NSW, which is aiming for its third-straight day of no local cases on Saturday, will monitor testing numbers over the weekend before announcing whether it will lift some of the restrictions currently in force across Greater Sydney.

“Relief is on its way so long as we maintain low or zero number of cases and have those testing rates high,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.

Ms Berejiklian also fired a shot at states enforcing travel restrictions on those currently in Greater Sydney or regional NSW.

Victorians who have visited Sydney in the past fortnight face a $5000 fine and 14 days of quarantine if they try to return home without a government exemption.

The entire city is still considered a “red zone” by Victoria.

“There’s nowhere in NSW that is currently a hot spot by anyone’s definition – well, I should say, by any medical definition,” the NSW premier told reporters on Friday.

“So I don’t see why any state is precluding … people in NSW from moving freely back home.”

Victoria’s health minister Martin Foley said the government was constantly reviewing the red zones, taking into account the number of active cases and mystery cases in both states.

“Let’s be clear, there are almost 200 cases circulating in the Greater Sydney community since December the 16th, not just on the northern beaches,” Mr Foley said.

“We’re more than confident that our colleagues in New South Wales are mopping this up, but there have been chains of unknown transmission for many weeks now in Sydney.”

Travellers from Greater Brisbane arriving in South Australia from Sunday will not have to go into quarantine, the SA government announced on Friday.

Meanwhile, Western Australia late on Friday assigned a “low risk” status to Victoria, which has now recorded nine days of no local transmission.

Victorians still need to self-quarantine for 14 days but, unlike residents from “medium risk” Queensland and NSW, will be able to enter WA without an exemption from Monday.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.

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Lexington – The conscience of some conservatives | United States


TO PARAPHRASE Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged. And so it has proved inside the Republican leadership. A week after Donald Trump’s MAGA mob erected a gallows besides the Capitol reflecting pool then invaded the building, the president’s party is for the first time seriously reviewing its loyalty to him. Liz Cheney—the number three Republican in the House—was among ten in her party to vote to impeach Mr Trump. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, has let it be known he might be supportive. In that case Mr Trump—the first president to have been impeached twice—could become the first to be convicted and disbarred from office.

It is hard to exaggerate how dramatic a turnaround this already is. Although inciting the attack itself was worse than anything Mr Trump has done, it revealed nothing fundamentally new about his character. And his newly emboldened Republican critics did not merely stomach his earlier abuses—of ethics rules, migrant children, and so on—but vociferously defended them. Mr McConnell has had more power to check Mr Trump than anyone and has barely tried. Ms Cheney dismissed the leaked recording that led to his first impeachment—in which he coerced his Ukrainian counterpart to invent a corruption case against Joe Biden—as a “political set-up”. Up until the riot, and perhaps still, most Republican politicians expected him to be their presidential nominee in 2024. This history of supplication makes the nascent effort to purge Mr Trump and his destructive politics as astonishing as it is welcome. It also suggests how hard it will be.

To start with the obvious barrier to Republican reform, most of the party’s voters appear to be against it, which is why Mr Trump’s critics enabled him for so long. After the insurrection, almost half of Trump voters said they stood with the rioters. Even if the president is ousted, his main means of keeping his party in line—the threat of a primary challenge—may therefore endure. America has a history of rabble-rousers, but none has previously come close to achieving Mr Trump’s personal grip on millions of voters.

If his grasp does weaken, however, as he becomes less visible or ineligible, there is little to suggest the Republican base could easily be turned back to a more constructive conservatism. Mr Trump has defined himself against his party’s conventionally conservative leaders—apparently the lynch mob’s first target—almost as much as against Democrats. Below the level of Ms Cheney and Mr McConnell, he has also changed the Republican establishment—such that 147 Republican House and Senate members voted to overturn the election even after the attack on the Capitol.

He has promoted its most anti-democratic elements, in particular the Tea Party faction, whose bigotry and demonising of their leftist opponents presaged his own. One of its members, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, recently told Lexington that what distinguished Trump voters from the left was that while the former “love America with all their hearts” Mr Biden and many Democrats “don’t really care for this country”. After your columnist suggested this was untrue, Mr Johnson, a staunch proponent of Mr Trump’s election-fraud conspiracy theory, insisted, also falsely, that: “Biden rallies were protests which turned to riots in the streets.”

This was absurd even before the attempted MAGA coup. More recent additions to the Republican bench can sound positively deranged: especially the two QAnon admirers, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, in the House. With their divided base and divided elite the Republicans are splitting into two coalitions. One is large, Trumpist and incompatible with democracy; the other anti-Trumpist, anxious, and of uncertain size.

This is a crisis with deep roots. The modern conservative movement always contained contradictions: its love of limited government was belied by its support for supersized defence; the religious right was often illiberal. Such tensions were nonetheless harmonised by the fuzzier values Ronald Reagan imbued the movement with: realism, patriotism and prudence. Yet that settlement had eroded long before Mr Trump; the right’s policy agenda had become captured by vested interests and its values by pessimists. Over the past four years it has collapsed. The ideological contradictions have ballooned, as Mr Trump has slashed taxes, splurged on defence and lionised religious crackpots. Meanwhile he has substituted for Reagan’s harmonising values an ever-increasing animosity to the other side, personified by his own behaviour, and leading to the January 6th eruption.

This history suggests a necessary condition for renewal on the right may be failure. The Reagan revolution was fomented in the wilderness. Its ingredients included political space and a slow-witted Democratic opponent, grown complacent with power. Therefore the right’s most astute critics, Never Trump Republicans, mostly wanted to see it hammered in November. Yet it seems that path to creative destruction has been blocked. Extreme polarisation limits the potential losses of either party. And the Republicans are additionally sustained by the advantage their heavy rural vote gives them in the Senate and electoral college. This anomaly—which Daniel Ziblatt, a political scientist, calls “constitutional welfare”—means they have cause to think they are winning even when they are losing. It also amplifies the party’s most remote, culturally aggrieved and therefore MAGA voices. It is undemocratic, the ultimate barrier to reform on the right and presently insoluble.

Out, out damn spot

This is cause for realism; but not despair. Expunging Mr Trump from Reagan’s party is a more basic condition for progress. And thanks to the belated bravery of ten Republican House members and perhaps Mr McConnell it is imaginable. If they succeed, it will be their life’s work; Republicans and Democrats alike should back them. Mr Biden liked to say the general election was a battle for the soul of America. It is now being waged in the Republican Party.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Conscience of some conservatives”

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Australia to kill pigeon that crossed the Pacific Ocean from the United States


Celli-Bird said quarantine authorities called him on Thursday to ask him to catch the bird.

“They say if it is from America, then they’re concerned about bird diseases,” he said. “They wanted to know if I could help them out. I said, ’To be honest, I can’t catch it. I can get within 500 mil (millimetres) of it and then it moves.’”

He said quarantine authorities were now considering contracting a professional bird catcher.

The Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, said the pigeon was “not permitted to remain in Australia” because it “could compromise Australia’s food security and our wild bird populations.”

“It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry,” a department statement said.

Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe, after the US President-elect, hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific.Credit:AP

In 2015, the government threatened to euthanise two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet.

Pigeons are an unusual sight in Celli-Bird’s backyard in suburban Officer, where Australian native doves are far more common.

“It rocked up at our place on Boxing Day. I’ve got a fountain in the backyard and it was having a drink and a wash. He was pretty emaciated so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him,” Celli-Bird said.

“Next day, he rocked back up at our water feature, so I wandered out to have a look at him because he was fairly weak and he didn’t seem that afraid of me and I saw he had a blue band on his leg. Obviously he belongs to someone, so I managed to catch him,” he added.

Celli-Bird, who says he has no interest in birds “apart from my last name,” said he could no longer catch the pigeon with his bare hands since it had regained its strength.

He said the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union had confirmed that Joe was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.

Celli-Bird said he had attempted to contact the owner, but had so far been unable to get through.

The bird spends every day in the backyard, sometimes sitting side-by-side with a native dove on a pergola. Celli-Bird has been feeding it pigeon food from within days of its arrival.

“I think that he just decided that since I’ve given him some food and he’s got a spot to drink, that’s home,” he said.

Australian National Pigeon Association secretary Brad Turner said he had heard of cases of Chinese racing pigeons reaching the Australian west coast aboard cargo ships, a far shorter voyage.

Turner said there were genuine fears pigeons from the United States could carry exotic diseases and he agreed Joe should be destroyed.

“While it sounds harsh to the normal person – they’d hear that and go: ‘this is cruel,’ and everything else – I’d think you’d find that A.Q.I.S. and those sort of people would give their wholehearted support for the idea,” Turner said, referring to the quarantine service.

It is claimed that the greatest long-distance flight recorded by a pigeon is one that started at Arras in France and ended in Saigon, Vietnam, back in 1931, according to pigeonpedia.com. The distance was 11,600 kilometres and took 24 days.

There are some known instances of long-distance flights but whether these are one-offs performed by the marathon runners of the pigeon world or they are feats that could be achieved by the average pigeon is not known.

AP

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No local cases, but states wary of UK spread



Welcome to live coverage of Australia’s response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

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Coronavirus Australia news: COVID-19 deaths in the United States hit another one-day high as infections near 23 million



Coronavirus deaths in the US have hit another one-day high at more than 4,300.

The nation’s overall death toll has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II.

The US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday (local time), with Arizona and California among the hardest-hit states.

Deaths have been rising sharply in the past two-and-a-half months, and the country is in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is rolled out.

New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average. More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine.

AP

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AOC: Country will heal with the ‘actual liberation of southern states’ from GOP control


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., took to Instagram on Tuesday night and suggested that the states in the south need to be “liberated.”

During an over hour-long livestream about the Capitol Hill riots and the ongoing efforts to impeach President Trump, the progressive lawmaker reiterated her call for GOP Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to resign or be ousted by Democratic challengers for leading the opposition in the certification of President-elect Biden’s victory.

She then pointed to “multi-racial” and “multi-cultural” grassroots organization in Georgia that led to Democrats taking control of the Senate as a sign that “southern states are not red states, they are suppressed states.”

AOC: ‘WE CAME CLOSE TO HALF OF THE HOUSE NEARLY DYING’ DURING RIOTS 

“Which means the only way that our country’s going to heal is through the actual liberation of southern states, Ocasio-Cortez explained to her 8.3 million Instagram followers, “the actual liberation of the poor, the actual liberation of working people from economic, social, and racial oppression. That’s the only way.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. 

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Ocasio-Cortez has been in a heated war of words with Cruz since the pro-Trump mob raided the Capitol building, accusing him of attempting to fundraise off his election challenge as the riot was ongoing. 

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Coronavirus Australia live news: United States releases millions of vaccine doses, urges states to broaden access



The Trump administration says it is releasing millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it had been holding back for second shots and has urged states to offer them to all Americans over age 65 or with chronic health conditions.

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a news briefing that the pace of inoculations had risen to 700,000 shots per day and is expected to rise to 1 million per day within a week to 10 days.

Releasing doses that have been held back should bring the total number of doses that have been made available for use in the United States to roughly 38 million, Mr Azar said.

States have already received about 25.5 million doses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Here are the coronavirus border closure rules across all states and territories in Australia


Since the pandemic began, state border closures have been a moveable feast as COVID-19 outbreaks have heated up and simmered down across the country.

Monday saw three local cases recorded in Greater Sydney, while Greater Brisbane’s three-day snap lockdown to stop the spread of the UK COVID-19 variant will be lifted at 6:00pm local time.

Following this, several states and territories have changed their border measures, with some downgrading Greater Brisbane from a COVID-19 hotspot.

However, strict measures remain in place in several states and territories for those who have visited, or are from, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

Here’s where we’re at.

Masks are now mandatory in every airport and on every plane in Australia, no matter where you’re travelling.(AAP: James Ross)

I want to go to …

Tap through to find out where you can travel to, depending on where you are travelling from:

New South Wales

NSW’s borders are open to every state and territory except parts of Queensland at the moment.

You cannot visit NSW if you have been to City of Brisbane, City of Ipswich, Lockyer Valley Region, Logan City, Moreton Bay Region, Redland City, Scenic Rim Region or Somerset Region since January 2.

There are no restrictions for moving around within NSW, but the State Government has asked people to avoid non-essential travel to the regions, particularly Greater Sydneysiders.

That’s because most of NSW’s cases are concentrated within the Greater Sydney area, which includes the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong.

Queensland

A white sign with a bright orange border, one half says Qld, the other NSW.
Queensland’s border remains closed to people who have been in Greater Sydney.(ABC News: Cathy Border)

People who have visited a Greater Sydney hotspot within the past two weeks are not allowed to enter Queensland.

Areas include the Blue Mountains, City of Sydney, Central Coast, Wollongong, Parramatta, northern beaches and several more.

Queensland residents returning home from a hotspot have to quarantine for 14 days in government-arranged accommodation at their own expense.

If you have been in Victoria during the past two weeks, you need to get tested once you arrive in Queensland and quarantine at home until you receive a negative test result.

Visitors from other states and territories are free to enter the sunshine state without a border pass or quarantine period.

Victoria

All interstate travellers will require a permit to enter Victoria under new travel rules for the state.

From 6:00pm Monday the permit system will be operational, with travel allowed from “green zones” and “oranges zones”.

Travellers from “orange zones” will be required to be tested within 72 hours of arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a relaxation of the state’s hard border with NSW, moving regional NSW into the orange category.

People in protective masks stand around waiting for their bags at Melbourne airport.
People arriving into Melbourne will need to declare where they have been under the state’s new permit system.(ABC News: Rudy De Santis)

Travel from a red zone — currently Greater Brisbane and Greater Sydney, including Wollongong and the Blue Mountains — is still banned.

The red zones will be under daily review.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT has announced people from Greater Brisbane will no longer need to quarantine in the capital.

Those who had come from Greater Brisbane and were undertaking their mandatory quarantine period already were free to go at 2:00pm AEDT on Monday.

It followed a Friday announcement which ordered people who had been in Brisbane since January 2 to self-isolate for 14 days.

Greater Sydneysiders or people who have visited that region are still not permitted to enter the ACT, as the city battles several clusters.

However, returning ACT residents who have been in Greater Sydney can return as long as they undertake a 14-day quarantine period.

All other NSW residents are free to go to the ACT without declaring travel or quarantining.

Tasmania

Tasmania has eased its quarantine requirements for people who arrived in the state from the Greater Brisbane area before last Friday morning.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney said people who arrived in Tasmania prior to 9:00am on Friday, January 8, would no longer need to quarantine as they posed no risk.

People who arrived from the Greater Brisbane area after that time are required to continue to quarantine, with a review due on Wednesday afternoon.

Greater Brisbane remains classified as a high-risk area, with anyone arriving in Tasmania from the region still required to quarantine.

Travellers are not allowed into Tasmania if they have been to several Victorian venues recently, including a Nike store, a Nandos restaurant, a yacht club and a brewing house. The full list is here.

People coming from the Greater Sydney area into Tasmania are also required to quarantine for 14 days, either at a suitable premises or government accommodation.

Western Australia

A line-up of cars, caravans and trucks at the West Australian border checkpoint at Eucla.
Western Australia’s hard border is policed at checkpoints across the state.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

Western Australia currently has some of the toughest state border rules in the country.

People from Queensland, or who have been there since January 2, are not permitted to enter Western Australia.

Travel from anywhere within Victoria or NSW is not permitted either unless the person is exempt — for example, they are a diplomat or military personnel.

People from the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania can visit as long as they fill in a form and complete a health screening on arrival.

South Australia

Anyone who wants to go to South Australia has to fill in a form, known as the Cross Border Travel Registration.

However, people who have stopped in Greater Brisbane must enter self-quarantine for 14 days, and be tested on days one, five and 12.

The SA Government says this does not include essential travellers, people escaping domestic violence, people who normally live in South Australia and those relocating to South Australia.

If a person lives within 100 kilometres of the NSW and South Australian border, they’re free to enter South Australia, as long as they haven’t been anywhere else in NSW during the past two weeks.

The Northern Territory

A photo of the Howard Springs quarantine facility — a former workers camp — at sunset.
People have to pay $2,500 to quarantine at the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs facility.(Supplied: Charlotte George)

Everyone headed to the Northern Territory is required to fill in an exemption form to enter the Top End.

However, people who have been to a COVID-19 hotspot must go into mandatory supervised quarantine at their own cost ($2,500) upon arrival.

At the moment all the COVID-19 hotspots are located throughout the area of Greater Sydney, including the city of Sydney, Parramatta, the northern beaches and Hornsby, visible on a map here.

On Monday the NT Government revoked its hotspot declaration for Greater Brisbane.

That means people who have been in Queensland’s capital and its surrounds will no longer need to quarantine in NT.

Brisbane was declared a hotspot on Friday after a quarantine hotel worker tested positive for the more contagious UK strain of coronavirus.

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Centre releases 11th installment of Rs 6000 crore to states to meet GST compensation shortfall


The Centre has released the 11th instalment of Rs 6,000 crore to states as a back-to-back loan to meet the compensation shortfall in collection of goods and services tax, taking the total amount released so far through the special borrowing window to Rs 66,000 crore, the finance ministry said on Monday.

“Now, more than 60% of the estimated GST compensation shortfall has been released to the states & UT with legislative assembly,” the ministry said.

Of this amount, Rs 5,516.60 crore was released to 23 states and Rs 483.40 crore to Delhi and the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Puducherry. Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim do not have a gap in revenue on account of GST implementation.

The amount was borrowed this week at an interest rate of 5.1057%, while the average interest rate was 4.7271%.

Out of the total amount, Rs 60,066.36 crore has been released to the states and an amount of Rs 5,933.64 crore has been released to the three UTs with Legislative Assembly.

An additional borrowing permission of Rs 1,06,830 crore has been granted to the states, it added, equivalent to 0.5% of their gross domestic product.

All states have now taken the Rs 1.1 lakh crore option, where the Centre will borrow the amount and transfer it to the states as loans.

The Centre had offered the state two borrowing options – Rs 97,000 crore and Rs 2.35 lakh crore – with different sets of conditions for each to meet the GST compensation shortfall. The Centre sweetened the first option by increasing the borrowing to Rs 1.1 lakh crore.

Some states initially declined to take any of the options but later chose the first option. The Centre had set up a special borrowing window in October 2020 to meet the estimated shortfall arising on account of implementation of GST.



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