James Harden to Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons stays, mistake, ecstatic

Ben Simmons is reportedly “pretty ecstatic” about being left alone as NBA superstar James Harden left the Houston Rockets for the Brooklyn Nets.

The move sees the eight-time All-Star joining top dogs Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in New York in a team now overflowing with alpha personalities who like the ball in their hands.

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The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports the Nets are giving up four unprotected first-round draft picks and four first-round pick swaps to get their man in a wild deal that also involves Cleveland and Indiana.

ESPN’S Adrian Wojnarowski called Houston’s return “one of the strongest draft packages in league history”.

“Whatever the future of Kyrie Irving with the Nets, this trade does one more important thing for Brooklyn: It makes a strong case to help keep the franchise’s most important player — Kevin Durant — beyond his current contract,” Wojnarowski added.

The Rockets will also get Victor Oladipo, Aussie Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs.

But the man they won’t get is Ben Simmons.

While his offensive production has been down to start the season, Simmons has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in the NBA.

An All-Defensive first team member last season and 2018 Rookie of the Year, Simmons’ relationship with Joel Embiid has long been criticised as not being strong enough to bring a championship back to Philadelphia.

But with shooters brought into the team to allow Embiid and Simmons to operate in the paint, ESPN’s The Undefeated reporter Marc J. Spears tweeted that the Aussie believes this season is different.

“Hearing Ben Simmons was pretty ecstatic to not be traded from the Sixers to Houston for James Harden and believes his team is capable of bringing a title to Philadelphia. Doc Rivers is also a huge fan of Simmons and believes the best is yet to come with two-time NBA All-Star,” he tweeted.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic said Simmons is “fine” after the deal went down with Shams Charania reporting that Simmons was put on the trading block.

In the end, the Rockets believed “the Nets offer just supplanted that” and that the 76ers didn’t want to “mortgage their entire future” on Harden, according to Charania.

The Simmons deal reportedly had Simmons and Matisse Thybulle but the Rockets also wanted rookie Tyrese Maxey.

But CBS’s Brad Botkin, who said he didn’t believe Simmons was a franchise player but that the Aussie was the one thing the Rockets didn’t get with the big trade haul.

“It’s not a terrible bet. Still, not coming away with Simmons in a situation like this is a risk. You can pile up picks all you want and never end up with a franchise player, which some people still believe Simmons can be with the right supporting cast,” he wrote in a piece pondering if the Rockets got too greedy with the deal.

For the Nets, Harden has proved to be a divisive player with his petulant tantrum to get out of Houston.

It will also have a lot of money tied up in its best three players.

Irving, Durant and Harden all have two years left on their deals worth $34 million ($A44m), $40m ($A52m) and $44m ($57m) a season, at least $236 million ($A305m) according to The Athletic.

The Ringer’s Bill Simmons said in November that a Harden trade to Brooklyn could become a “beautiful disaster.”

“It’s three guys who are used to having the ball all the time,” he said on the Bill Simmons podcast.

“Harden and Durant are really good friends from way, way back. Kyrie is somebody that likes to have the ball. I don’t know how I feel about it. It could be a beautiful disaster, or it could be absolutely devastating.”

Just yesterday, Harden slammed the franchise.

“(The Rockets are) just not good enough. Chemistry, talent-wise, it was clear,” he said in a press conference.

“I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”

But it bent his former teammate’s noses out of shape with DeMarcus Cousins

“Me, personally, I don’t feel betrayed at all,” Cousins said. “My interest was playing with John Wall to be brutally honest. With that being said, the disrespect started way before any interview. Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the answers off the court. I mean, the disrespect started way before.”

And the move has also drawn a target on the Nets’ back with anything short of a championship to be considered a failure.

The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro said the offensive talents of the team could see 150 points being put on some nights – but it’s come at the expense of the side defensively.

“Taking the Bucks to seven games in an epic Eastern final won’t be enough. Falling to the Lakers in a memorable Finals? Nope. The Nets aren’t just all-in for the next 2-3 years, they are all in for the rest of the decade. Their viability exists in the here and now, defined by a simple equation: Parade or no parade?”

Only time will tell if any of these gambles will pay off.

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Indian Supreme Court stays contentious farm laws – NewsIn.Asia

New Delhi, January 12 (Reuters): India’s Supreme Court ordered an indefinite stay on Tuesday over the implementation of new agricultural laws that have triggered widespread protest from farmers, saying it would set up a panel to hear their objections.

For more than a month, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital, to protest against reform measures that they say benefit large private buyers and farm growers.

Chief Justice Sharad Bobde told a hearing the Supreme Court would establish a panel to hear the farmers’ grievances.

“We have the power to make a committee and the committee can give us the report,” he said, ordering the stay for an undisclosed period on the laws passed in September.

“We will protect farmers.”

There were no immediate further details.

The government has said there was no question of such a rollback, and eight rounds of talks have failed to find common ground. The two sides are set to meet next on Friday.


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Queensland stays put on border ban as deadline looms for other states

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she continued to monitor the situation in both southern states, and she reiterated her call for Queenslanders to reconsider unnecessary travel plans.

“While we are not changing any restrictions to NSW and Victoria at this stage, as we’ve seen, things can change really quickly with this virus,” Dr Young said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates earlier called for people to be given “as much notice as possible” should the Greater Sydney hotspot be expanded across NSW and into Victoria.

After Queensland announced the decision to declare Greater Sydney a hotspot on the afternoon of Sunday, December 20, travellers who had been through the region had only until 1am the following day before all but those with exemptions were locked out.

Returning Queensland residents were given an extra 24 hours to make it back under a home-quarantine arrangement before being directed into hotels.


Victorians trying to make it home from NSW on Friday before their state government closes the border to travellers from the northern state at 11.59pm on New Year’s Day faced hours-long traffic jams.

South Australia will also close its border to those from NSW at midnight, while Western Australia has shut out people travelling from Victoria.

Although the Queensland-Victoria border remains open, a rush of people making last-minute bookings led Qantas to schedule an extra flight at 5.35pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, Dr Young said genome testing of COVID-19 samples taken from returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine had detected a second case of the more infectious South African strain.

The man, in his 50s, had flown from South Africa via the United Kingdom and Qatar.

Further traces of the virus were also detected in sewage samples taken on December 30 from two sites across the state – Bundaberg in the Wide Bay area, and Elanora on the Gold Coast.

“We’ve announced 12 wastewater results in the past eight days, and Queenslanders are responding fantastically by getting tested – please keep it up,” Dr Young said.

She urged not just residents but holidaymakers in regions with positive sewage sample results to come forward for testing if they have even the mildest symptoms.

Thirteen cases remain active in the state.

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Trump stays on sidelines as virus vaccine injections begin

Trump launched Operation Warp Speed — the government campaign to help swiftly develop and distribute vaccines — this spring with great fanfare in the White House Rose Garden.

But now, five days into the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history, Trump has held no public events to trumpet the rollout. He hasn’t been inoculated himself. He has tweeted only twice about the shot. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has taken center stage — touring a vaccine production facility this week and preparing to receive a dose himself on live television Friday morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days.

Trump’s relative silence comes as he continues to stew about his defeat in the Nov. 3 election and embraces increasingly extreme efforts to overturn the people’s will. He’s pushed aside the plans of aides who wanted him to be the public face of the vaccination campaign, eschewing visits to labs and production facilities to thank workers, or hosting efforts to build public confidence in the shot, according to people familiar with the conversations.

The sheepish approach has been surprising, especially for a president rarely shy to take credit, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law who focuses on public health.

“The President’s relatively low profile on the COVID response since the election is curious and counter to Mr. Trump’s own interests,” he said. Gostin, who has criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic in the past, said that he “deserves a great deal of credit” for Operation Warp Speed and placing a bet on two vaccines that use groundbreaking mRNA technology.

“Having exhibited leadership in the vaccines’ development, he should take great pride in publicly demonstrating his trust in COVID vaccines,” he said.

Trump did appear at a White House “summit” ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine last week. That event included an introductory video highlighting the past comments of those — including top government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci — who doubted a shot would be ready this year.

But many Trump aides are puzzled by his low profile now that the vaccine is actually being injected. They see it as a missed opportunity for the president, who leaves office at noon on Jan. 20, to claim credit for helping oversee the speedy development and deployment of the vaccine that is expected to finally contain the virus that has killed more than 310,000 Americans.

Trump himself has tried to minimize any credit that might go to his successor, President-elect Joe Biden, who will preside over the bulk of the nationwide injection campaign next year.

“Don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccines,” Trump has told reporters. “Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me, and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before.”

Despite Trump’s claims, FDA scientists were the ones who came up with the idea for Operation Warp Speed, the White House-backed effort through which millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines and treatments are being manufactured even as they are still being evaluated. And much of the groundwork for the shots was laid over the past decade, including through research on messenger RNA, or mRNA, used in the vaccines developed by both Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer developed its vaccine outside Operation Warp Speed but is partnering with the federal government on manufacturing and distribution.

Trump’s low-key approach could have an impact on public health. Fauci told NBC News this week that 75% to 85% of the nation needs to be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” making the public education campaign about the vaccine’s safety all the more pressing.

A survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only about half of Americans want to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Another quarter of the public isn’t sure, while the remaining quarter say they aren’t interested. Some simply oppose vaccines in general. Others are concerned that the injections have been rushed and want to see how the rollout goes.

As Trump sat on the sidelines, some of his favored commentators, including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, were questioning the safety of the vaccine.

While senior officials are beginning to make plans to receive the vaccine in public to help build public confidence, Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October, is taking his time.

According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is not yet enough information to determine whether those who have had COVID-19, like Trump, should get the vaccine. Still, Fauci recommended that Trump take it publicly without delay.

“Even though the president himself was infected, and he has, likely, antibodies that likely would be protective, we’re not sure how long that protection lasts. So, to be doubly sure, I would recommend that he get vaccinated as well as the vice president,” Fauci told ABC News.

It was not clear whether first lady Melania Trump, who came down with COVID-19 at the same time as her husband, would be vaccinated.

White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said Trump “will continue to update the country through a variety of means while giving medical professionals and hardworking staff at OWS the space to do their jobs and save lives.”

Pence, along with his wife, Karen, and Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, planned to be vaccinated at 8 a.m. Friday. Biden expects to receive his shot as soon as next week.

“The last thing I would say to every American is be confident that we have cut red tape, but we’ve cut no corners when it comes to the development of this vaccine,” Pence said this week at an Indiana vaccine production facility.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters this week that Trump, who has previously spread misinformation about other vaccines, was trying to send a message about priorities by delaying his own inoculation.

“The president wants to send a parallel message which is, you know, our long-term care facility residents and our front-line workers are paramount in importance,” she said.

Gostin disagreed. ”It will be enormously damaging to public trust in the vaccine if President Trump isn’t visibly enthusiastic, including getting his shot on national television,” he argued. “It simply isn’t good enough to have Vice President Pence as a proxy.”

Presidents and their family members have often made a display of their vaccinations to boost public confidence. President Dwight Eisenhower highlighted that one of his grandchildren was among the first wave of American children vaccinated for polio. In 2009, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, vaccinated both their young daughters, who were in a higher risk group, for the swine flu.

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Perkins gets AFL wish, stays in Victoria

Archie Perkins’ wish has been granted by Essendon with the Bombers picking up the explosive midfielder in the AFL draft.

The 18-year-old set the footy world abuzz on Wednesday morning, admitting he had told AFL clubs he was not ready to move away from Victoria.

While players have told suitors this in the past – most recently now-Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith in 2018 – Perkins took the unusual step of making his intentions public just hours before the draft.

It allowed Essendon to pounce on the Sandringham Dragons player with pick No.9 – the second of three top-10 selections the Bombers had.

Perkins was far more tight-lipped after being selected than he was earlier in the day.

“I’m just so stoked and I couldn’t be more excited to get stuck into things,” he said.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, a lot of things have been said, but I’m just glad that’s all behind now.”

Perkins earlier said he was “not ready” to head to one of the eight AFL clubs based outside of Victoria.

“I don’t think it would be in their best interests as a footy club to have me there because I wouldn’t be 100 per cent with it, and couldn’t really commit myself 100 per cent as opposed to staying here,” he told SEN.

“I would be ready to go and fully committed. I just don’t think I’m ready for that and I wanted to be honest about it.”

There have been suggestions Perkins’ interview was in breach of draft rules.

The AFL has been contacted by AAP but they won’t be making any comment.

Perkins’ player agent Robbie D’Orazio believes the comments came out more provocative than the midfield-forward had intended.

“(Perkins is) a complex character but he understands that footy’s a team sport and he’s probably learning the ropes in that regard,” D’Orazio told AFL Draft Radio.

“I know that all he wants to do is play footy. He said something this morning that probably didn’t come out the way he meant it.

“Clubs sometimes call their bluff. I remember Adam Cerra probably didn’t want to go to Fremantle (in 2017), and he ended up extending his contract (with the Dockers).”

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Disease transmission in Kerala stays low

Kerala’s COVID-19 curve remains on an extended plateau, as the low level of disease transmission has continued throughout the State over the past one month, with the test positivity rate remaining steady between 9% and 11%.

While new cases have generally begun to show a declining trend, there has been no let-up in the mortality. The State is now bracing for another peak, with disease monitoring indicators in some northern districts showing a spike.

On Friday, Kerala reported 5,718 new cases when 57,456 samples were tested in the past 24 hours, taking the State’s cumulative case burden to 6,25,767. The test positivity rate was 9.95%. With 5,496 more patients recovering and getting discharged from hospitals, the State’s active caseload has now dropped to 61,401. So far, 5,61,874 recoveries have been reported in the State.

29 deaths

The addition of 29 more deaths to the official death list on Friday has taken the State’s toll to 2,358. Malappuram reported seven of these deaths, Kottayam six, Kollam five, Ernakulam and Kozhikode three each, Thrissur and Wayanad two each and Thiruvananthapuram one.

According to official data, 867 COVID-19 patients in the State are at critically ill and being treated in ICUs in various hospitals, with 215 requiring ventilator support.

Of the 5,718 new cases reported on Friday, 5,623 are locally acquired infections, with the authorities unable to establish the epidemiological link in 572 cases. The number of health-care workers who contracted the infection was 60. In 95 cases, health officials have reported a history of travel outside the State.

Among districts, Malappuram reported 943 cases, Kozhikode 773, Kottayam 570, Thrissur 528, Ernakulam 486, Palakkad 447, Alappuzha 394, Kollam 318, Thiruvananthapuram 279, Kannur 275, Idukki 216, Wayanad 180, Pathanamthitta 163 and Kasaragod 146 cases.

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China’s Xi Jinping stays silent on Donald Trump’s defeat, but appears to be preparing for a President Biden

Early reactions in China to the election of Joe Biden as the next US President have struck a positive but uncertain tone, with state media and commentators hopeful of a less adversarial relationship between the world’s top two powers.

China’s President Xi Jinping is yet to congratulate Mr Biden, nor has any official media mouthpiece voiced a commentary.

But state media outlets are already pondering what may change.

“Strategic trust has been destroyed, high level political exchanges have almost completely stopped and there’s no substantial cooperation,” Xin Qiang, a US studies expert at Fudan University, told state media.

“But Biden may at least make some breakthroughs on the latter two aspects.”

Commentaries promoted in China’s highly censored media environment have taken a measured tone, and even nationalistic writers are holding their fire for the domestic audience.

“Analysts generally are not clear on whether Biden’s policies towards China will soften or adjust, but at least I think it’s possible a future Biden administration will do away with the performative aspect of Trump’s stance towards China,” wrote Hu Xijin, the editor of China’s jingoistic tabloid Global Times.

“China must think about its bottom lines and prepare for all contingencies,” he wrote, while urging Beijing to avoid “provoking” Mr Trump personally so that any anger he holds doesn’t influence future US-China ties.

The Twitter account of People’s Daily openly trolled Donald Trump before deleting the tweet.(AP: Evan Vucci)

But some couldn’t resist.

The Twitter account of People’s Daily — a Communist Party media group — openly trolled Donald Trump.


In a tweet which was later deleted, they mocked President Trump’s claim of victory by writing “haha” coupled with a laughing emoji.

How will a President Biden engage with China?

Chinese caution about Mr Biden reflects how little he discussed China during the election campaign.

Foreign policy occupied an unusually low position in the campaign, and when asked direct questions about the relationship during a debate, Mr Biden’s vice-presidential running mate Kamala Harris turned the answer back to domestic issues.

Mr Biden though indicated earlier in his campaign that he would largely continue Donald Trump’s hard-nosed view of China, describing Communist Party leader Xi Jinping as “a thug” and vowing to lead an international campaign to “pressure, isolate and punish China”.

But on some issues, such as Mr Trump’s tariffs on China, Joe Biden has indicated he may change tack, with aides saying he’d consult with allies for “collective leverage”.

Trump meets Xi Jinping
Donald Trump and Xi Jinping had a fraught relationship for much of his four years in the White House.(AP: Susan Walsh, File)

“Internal debates within America mean Biden will have to consider the views of Trump supporters on trade along with the views of Democrats on human rights,” Shi Yinhong, a scholar at Renmin University in Beijing, told the ABC.

“If Biden initiates trade talks with China, it might improve the relationship, but the differences over human rights won’t change, if anything they may worsen.”

While some in the US have suggested Mr Biden, like his former boss Barack Obama, would seek cooperation on combating climate change, many others believe China’s rise as a competitor will override that.

Xi and Trump’s framing of great power rivalry won’t change

If the past four years has taught China’s leadership anything, it’s that the US president has very little ability to influence China domestically.

A man looks a screen with Joe Biden pictures while a woman walks by
World leaders congratulated US President-elect Biden on his victory, cheering it as an opportunity to fortify global democracy.(AP: Andy Wong)

American criticism of China’s ‘anti-terrorism’ internment program for ethnic minority Muslims in far west Xinjiang and its political crackdown in Hong Kong has failed to deter Xi Jinping.

He recently doubled-down on the detention program, describing it as “correct”.

In Hong Kong, he has ordered officials to ruthlessly stamp out dissent, with activists and journalists increasingly operating under the threat of arrest and jail, despite US sanctions.

And nor has Mr Trump’s criticisms of China’s early coronavirus handling rattled the leaders in Beijing.

They have largely suppressed the virus at home, and portrayed the spiralling US pandemic as an endorsement of China’s authoritarian system.

On trade, Mr Trump’s relatively modest tariffs did little to hurt Chinese economic growth.

The ‘Phase 1 deal’ signed in January did oblige China to significantly increase purchases of American agricultural goods, to the detriment of Australia and other competing exporters.

China largely kept its various restrictions on foreign companies operating in its massive market, meaning the deep grievances of US firms that drove much of the trade war remain.

But for foreign policy more broadly, the Trump administration’s measures against Huawei helped push some reluctant European allies to phase out the Chinese government-subsidised company from 5G networks.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during an event.
Xi Jinping is yet to congratulate Mr Biden on his victory, with official media so far silent on his election to the White House.(AP: Xinhua)

Other measures intended to hit back at China’s targeting of American technology, like app-store bans on Chinese platforms WeChat and TikTok, were scuttled by US courts, and received little attention or support from Democrats.

But Joe Biden’s pledges to work with allies and his longstanding commitment to organisations President Trump disparaged, like the World Trade Organisation, could make things harder for Beijing.

“Biden fighting sensibly with 80 per cent of the commitment is going to cause China substantially more pain than Trump going 100 per cent stupid.” said Jeffrey Wilson, the Research Director of the PerthUSAsia Centre.

China’s top priority — to convince the US to stop selling arms to neighbouring Taiwan so the Communist Party can invade or politically seize control before 2049 — is unlikely to get much sympathy from any side in Washington.

And with Xi Jinping urging a more general “struggle” against the US in the quest for “national rejuvenation” of China as a great power, there’s only so much change one side of the relationship can bring.

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Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris is breaking new ground on multiple fronts.

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NRL 2020: transfers, contracts, Esan Marsters stays at the Cowboys, Danny Levi, Manly, Newcastle Knights,

While hundreds of NRL players are enjoying the last few weeks of their holidays before having to return for the brutal slog of pre-season, Danny Levi is training in Tweeds Heads in the hope of picking up a new contract.

Levi, who has played 103 NRL games along with winning four caps for the Kiwis, says he’s not given up hope of sealing a return to the NRL after being released by the Sea Eagles.

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He was signed by Manly on a one-year deal from Newcastle to replace Api Koroisau and work in tandem with Manase Fainu.

Grand Final

However, Manly’s plans were thrown into turmoil when Fainu was sidelined by the NRL’s no fault stand-down policy for his alleged involvement in a stabbing at a church dance.

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Thailand: Protesters call on Germany to probe king over extended stays in Bavaria

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand have expanded their protests internationally, marching to the German Embassy to appeal to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to investigate whether Thailand’s king has exercised political power during his extended stays in Bavaria.

The protesters acted while criticizing their own Parliament, which began a special two-day session earlier Monday to address political tensions resulting from the near-daily pro-democracy protests demanding the prime minister’s resignation, constitutional changes and reforms to the monarchy.

They believe the king wields an inordinate amount of power in what is nominally a democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

The scrutiny and public criticism of the monarchy displayed by some of the protesters is unprecedented in a country where the royal institution has been considered sacrosanct. It has also led royalists to stage counter-rallies and to denounce the protesters for raising the issue, increasing the risk of confrontation.

The protesters, estimated by an Associated Press journalist to number between 5,000 and 10,000, defied police warnings that they constituted an illegal assembly and marched to the embassy in an effort to bring attention to the time King Maha Vajiralongkorn spends in Germany. The king in recent weeks has been in Thailand with a busy schedule of ceremonial events.

A statement from the protest group said they presented a letter to embassy officials asking that Germany investigate whether the king “has conducted Thai politics using his royal prerogative from German soil or not.”

It said such action could be considered a violation of Germany’s territorial sovereignty, and suggested that its government consider the protesters’ request with the aim of bringing the king back to Thailand to restore the country “to the path of the truthful constitutional monarchy.”

In addition to asking whether the king is carrying out his official royal duties in Germany, the letter provocatively echoed points on which the protesters have previously criticized the king.

German concern over king’s activities

Germany is seen as receptive to their entreaties.

The German government already brought up the issue in early October, when Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, responding to a question in Parliament, expressed concern over any political activities the king might be conducting in the country.

On Monday in Berlin, Maas spoke again, telling reporters the government was following developments in Thailand and was aware of the demonstrations and “people taking to the streets for their rights.” He added that he also was watching the king’s activities in Germany.

“We have been examining this not only in recent weeks, but we are continuing to examine it in the long term, and if there are things we feel to be unlawful, then that will have immediate consequences,” Maas said.

Vajiralongkorn has for years spent significant time in Germany, but it only became an issue after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in 2016.

Bhumibol was king for seven decades, and though he traveled extensively on state visits in the early years of his reign — including being welcomed with a ticker tape parade in New York City — he left the country only once after the 1960s, and that was an overnight stay in neighboring Laos.

Vajiralongkorn’s ability to spend time abroad has been made easier by changes his office sought and received to the current constitution that no longer require him to appoint a regent when away from the kingdom.

Pressure for reform

Defaming the monarchy can be punished by up to 15 years in prison under Thailand’s tough “lèse-majesté” law.

Speaker of the House Chuan Leekpai cautioned at Monday’s special Parliament session that it was not to discuss the role of the monarchy.

In his opening speech, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he and his government are aware that this is an era of change, pushed by technology.

“But we have to admit that in Thailand, millions, tens of millions of people do not want to see change through chaos,” he said, referring to different points of view toward the protesters and their demands. “Everyone has their own beliefs.”

He called for Parliament to “creatively find a balance” between competing views.

The protesters believe Prayuth, who led a coup ousting an elected government in 2014 when he was army chief, retained power unfairly in last year’s election because laws were changed to favor a pro-military party. The protesters also say the constitution, written and enacted under military rule, is undemocratic.

The protesters consider the government’s response insincere, noting the agenda for the non-voting session of Parliament does not include the protesters’ concerns but instead has thinly disguised criticism of the protests themselves.

The points of discussion released by Prayuth’s government concern the risk of the coronavirus spreading at rallies, alleged interference with a royal motorcade by a small crowd earlier this month, illegal gatherings, and the destruction of images of the royal family.

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Gary Ablett returns to AFL grand final field after arm injury scare as Geelong fairytale stays alive against Richmond

Geelong legend Gary Ablett has returned to the field in the AFL grand final against Richmond after an early injury scare.

The retiring champion hurt his left shoulder in a tackle from Richmond’s Trent Cotchin in a chaotic opening on a slick Gabba surface in Brisbane.

The 36-year-old grimaced as he was helped off the ground by trainers, clutching his left arm, and exited the field to receive assessment from the club doctors.

A huge cheer went around the ground when he re-emerged on the sidelines after 19 minutes, coming back on just before quarter-time in his 357th and final AFL match.

Ablett is chasing a fairytale finish to his career, with Geelong leading Richmond at half-time in Brisbane.

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