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Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on was convicted Monday of sexual assault and rape but cleared of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges.

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The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree, a partial victory for the #MeToo movement that considered the case a watershed moment.

The 67-year-old was found not guilty however of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault charges that could have seen him jailed for life.

The verdict marks the most high-profile sex assault conviction in the United States since Bill Cosby was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.

The decision was announced in a packed New York courtroom where some 100 people had gathered. The defendant, who attended the trial hunched over a walker, was shielded from view by police officers.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.

But the jury was considering charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.

One of the predatory sexual assault charges also included testRead More – Source

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Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of sexual assault, capping a stunning downfall for the former Hollywood mogul and a victory for the #MeToo movement against harassment.

Weinstein, 67, was convicted in New York City of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act.

But he was cleared of the most serious count of predatory sexual assault. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

He still faces charges in Los Angeles of assaulting two women in 2013.

At least 80 women had accused him of sexual misconduct stretching back decades, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek.

The allegations were at the centre of the #MeToo movement that inspired women to go public with misconduct allegations against powerful men.

The movie executive once enjoyed phenomenal success with Oscar winners such Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, The King's Speech and Shakespeare in Love.

What happened in the New York court?

The jury of seven men and five women reached their verdict on Monday morning, the fifth day of deliberations.

Weinstein – who denied all charges – was convicted of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, in 2013.

But the jury acquitted him on two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence, and first-degree rape of Mann.

In the minutes after the verdict, Weinstein showed no emotion as he talked to his lead lawyer Donna Rotunno.

But the judge ordered him to be sent to jail immediately. He was surrounded by court officers, handcuffed and led from the courtroom. He will be sentenced on 11 March.

Weinstein turned up before the verdict wearing a navy blue suit and leaning on a walking frame.

What were the allegations?

Ms Haleyi, who had worked on one of Weinstein's television productions, said she was assaulted by the producer after he invited her to his Lower Manhattan home.

She testified that he backed her into a bedroom, held her down on the bed and forced himself on her.

Ms Mann said that she found herself in an "extremely degrading" relationship with him that did not involve intercourse until he raped her in a New York City hotel room in 2013.

She said he was a "Jekyll and Hyde" figure who could be charming in public but showed his dark side when they were alone.

Another one of Weinstein's accusers, Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, told jurors he raped her in her apartment one night in the mid-1990s.

Her allegation was too old to be charged as a separate crime, but prosecutors used it in an attempt to demonstrate that the accused was a repeat sexual offender.

As part of prosecutors' efforts to show a pattern of predatory behaviour, three other women testified they were lured to apparent work meetings with Weinstein, then sexually assaulted.

How did the trial play out?

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Weinstein as a serial predator who had used his position of power in Hollywood to manipulate and violently attack women.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said during opening arguments: "The man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood, he was a rapist."

But the defence team said the accusers had had consensual sex with the movie executive to advance their careers, and the allegations amounted to "regret renamed as rape".

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They pointed out that two of the accusers had kept in contact with Weinstein, exchanged flirty emails with him and had sex with him after he had attacked them.

Weinstein's lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told jurors in closing arguments they were "the last line of defence" against an "overzealous" prosecution.

How did we get here?

Weinstein was once one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood, with dozens of Academy Award wins for his fiRead More – Source

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As jurors were sworn in for Harvey Weinstein's trial in New York, the judge told them in no uncertain terms that this case was not intended to be a referendum on the #MeToo movement as a whole. But the trial, which ended in him being convicted of rape and sexual assault, at times felt like one.

You may find some of the details in this article upsetting

It was a watershed moment. More than two years after allegations started to emerge about the Hollywood producer, some of his victims finally had their chance to be heard in court.

Twelve jurors were tasked with ruling on sex charges against Weinstein, which he denied, in a trial that saw complex questions about consent and power dynamics on the stand. Jurors heard harrowing testimony from six women who, at times in tears, recounted their alleged assaults by the producer. One woman, who he was later found guilty of raping, at one point had to leave court after apparently suffering a panic attack on the stand.

Weinstein's high-powered defence team tried to flip the narrative and paint his accusers as the manipulators in the situation: women who used Weinstein for his industry prowess and later regretted and mischaracterised their sexual encounters as non-consensual. During weeks of testimony, jurors were witness to everything from claims about Weinstein's genitals being deformed to nude photographs of the movie mogul himself.

Every day journalists lined up, sometimes before sunrise, to claim a place on the press benches. Cameras were not allowed inside the trial at Manhattan Supreme Court, but the entrance was always lined with paparazzi scrambling to get daily shots and sound-bites from Weinstein, who had barely been seen in public for two years.

Weinstein was a giant of the movie industry in every sense. Productions in his name became synonymous with success in Hollywood, with hundreds of Oscar nominations and 81 wins across his career. On stage, as he accepted awards, his large frame would often hulk over the stars of his films.

The image of Weinstein at his trial was a very different one: once reportedly 300lb (136kg), he appeared frail and shuffled in to court most days with his back hunched over a metal walking frame.

The term #MeToo preceded Weinstein, but was propelled across the globe as allegations mounted against him in October 2017. Millions of people from all ages, backgrounds and nationalities used the hashtag to detail their experiences of harassment and abuse. Other celebrities were implicated but it was the scale of claims against Weinstein, then arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood, that proved the most shocking.

More than 100 women came forward with allegations about him: alleging everything from aggressive outbursts to serious sexual assault. Stars at the very top of the industry, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, told of unwanted advances and upsetting interactions. Other women described, often in graphic detail, alleged rapes by the producer. Weinstein has consistently denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.

Despite dozens of allegations against him, these were the first to make it to trial.

In this time, Weinstein all but disappeared from public view. His marriage broke up and he is said to have sought treatment for sex addiction. His business partner brother described his behaviour as "sick and depraved" and their production company filed for bankruptcy.

During a rare interview, reportedly given without his lawyer's knowledge in December, Weinstein complained of feeling like a "forgotten man" within Hollywood. Speaking just one day after three-hour surgery to ease compression on his spine, he told the New York Post that he deserved a pat on the back for everything he had done for women in film. He posed for photographs in a medical centre wearing jeans and a T-shirt, which he lifted to reveal a bandage on his back from which a tube drained blood into a container fixed to a metal walking aid.

The walking frame took on a starring role during the trial when an argument broke out when prosecutors labelled it a "prop". Weinstein's lawyers even wanted his surgeon to testify to prove he wasn't faking his injury to gain sympathy.

On the first day, a group of high-profile accusers gathered outside the court to try to face him down. "You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many," actress Rose McGowan said, addressing her alleged rapist through the media. "You have only yourself to blame."

Weinstein's legal team made repeated appeals for the trial to be moved from Manhattan, citing the "carnival-like atmosphere" engulfing it. At one point, the defence complained after a flash-mob of protesters chanting lyrics including "The rapist is you" could be heard from inside the courtroom. At another, one of the world's best known supermodels, Gigi Hadid, appeared as a potential juror.

About 2,000 people were reportedly summoned during the jury selection process and prosecutors accused Weinstein's team of "systematically eliminating" young white women, resembling his victims, from serving on the jury. After almost two weeks, the group of 12 was finalised with seven men and five women.

Weinstein denied five felony criminal charges relating to allegations of sexual assault and rape. They related to incidents involving Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant who said he forced oral sex on her at his Manhattan apartment in 2006, and Jessica Mann, a one-time aspiring actress who said he raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013.

Another alleged victim, Sopranos star Annabella Sciorra, alleged he had forced his way into her New York apartment and raped her some time in the winter of 1993/4. The amount of time passed since the alleged incident meant it fell outside of New York's statute of limitations and could not be charged separately, but the judge ruled her testimony could be used to support the most serious charges on the indictment: for predatory sexual assault.

Three other women were also permitted by the judge to appear as "prior bad acts" witnesses to help establish a pattern of behaviour and common motive. All were aspiring actresses in their 20s, hoping to break into the industry, when they described being assaulted by him.

This tactic was notably used to help secure a conviction against US comedian Bill Cosby, who was jailed in 2018. Kristen Gibbons Feden was a prosecutor on both his trials and told the BBC that "prior bad act" witnesses' willingness to take the stand, and be open to cross-examination without the hope of direct justice for themselves, can play a "critical" role in undermining defence arguments and establishing the motive of repeat offenders.

"These women who testified, all of the women who testified in Cosby's trial, were willing to put their lives, their public sanctity and character on the line to try and assist the prosecution with putting away a serial rapist – I think that just speaks volumes about the movement," she said.

Physical evidence was never likely to play a part in the trial, given how much time had passed since the alleged incidents took place. The case would therefore rise and fall on the believability of the accusations against Weinstein: a case of he said, she said – or, in this trial, they said. "Obviously, any time you have a criminal trial, the goal of a defence attorney is to question the credibility of the witnesses – but particularly when the only evidence is eyewitness testimony, which it is in this case," Julie Rendelman, a former prosecutor turned criminal defence lawyer, told the BBC.

Sciorra was the first accuser to take the stand against Weinstein. She alleged that he forced his way into her 17th-floor Gramercy Park apartment and raped her, shortly after offering to drive her home from a dinner they attended with others, including Pulp Fiction star Uma Thurman. "I felt very overpowered as he was very big," she told the court, who had heard he was almost three times her weight of about 110-115lb (50kg) at the time.

"Then he grabbed me. He led me into the bedroom and he shoved me on the bed. I was punching him, I was kicking him, I was trying to take him away from me. He took my hands and put my hands over my head," she said, motioning with her arms.

In turn the defence called witnesses, including Sciorra's apartment's building manager, to try to contradict her claims. During the trial some defence witnesses appeared only once under subpoena, apparently reluctant to appear and contradict the account of accusers, who in some cases were former friends.

The defence quizzed Sciorra on her acting ability and success: playing a 1997 clip from a well-known US talk show where she admitted making-up colourful lies about her life in press interviews. They questioned why she didn't raise the alarm about what happened. "He was someone I knew," she told the court. "I felt at the time that rape was something that happened in a back alleyway in a dark place by someone you didn't know."

They also called Professor Elizabeth Loftus, a false memory expert, who testified about her research on how recollection can become distorted and contaminated over time.

With the main accusers, the defence tried to upend the narratives of manipulation presented by the prosecution. They said Haleyi and Mann's ongoing, and often friendly, communication with Weinstein after their assaults was evidence the relationships were consensual. Haleyi tearfully told the court how he lunged and physically overpowered her in 2006, removing a tampon and forcing oral sex on her when she was on her period.

"I checked out and decided to endure it," she told the court. "That was the safest thing I could do."

His lawyers confronted her with messages she sent to the producer afterwards, including ones signed off "lots of love" and "peace and love". "I asked for jobs from many people, including Harvey Weinstein," she said about contact over career opportunities. She also said she had felt "trapped" by her circumstances, so she decided to "almost pretend [the assault] didn't happen".

Jessica Mann told the court that she entered in a "degrading relationship" with Weinstein, which included subsequent consensual acts, after her rape.

Psychologist Dr Barbara Ziv was called by the prosecution to try and push back on some of the defence's scrutiny of his victims' behaviour. Dr Ziv, who also testified at Cosby's second trial, spoke about her 20 years of experience with assault survivors and sought to dispel so-called "rape myths".

"A vast majority of sexual assault victims don't report promptly," she told the court. "The time can range from days to months to years to report an assault – to never." She also said it was "extremely common" for victims to remain in contact with their attacker, sometimes in fear of retribution, and pointed out an overwhelming majority of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

"The trial was set up to raise some complicated issues around consent and what it looks like," Deborah Tuerkheimer, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, told Variety. "Jessica Mann in particular has really been a complex witness."

The three-day testimony by Mann, whose identity had not been made public before the trial, provided some of its most powerful moments. Journalists inside the court said that at one point, after being pressed to read an email which alluded to abuse earlier in her life, Mann broke down and started sobbing uncontrollably. The New York Times reported that, after being excused from court, she could be heard screaming in another room.

When quizzed about their ongoing coRead More – Source

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CHICAGO: US state and local public health laboratories are seeking permission from the Food and Drug Administration to create their own tests for the new coronavirus as manufacturing and regulatory issues continue to delay access to testing capabilities.

As of Monday, only five U.S. states – California, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada and Tennessee – have the capability to test for the virus, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL).

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The group, which represents state and local public health labs, sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn seeking permission to develop tests for the virus.

READ: Scientists race to develop vaccine for new coronavirus

READ: Singapore working with international body to develop vaccine for novel coronavirus

The request follows continued delays in getting access to a test developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was granted an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA earlier this month. The FDA grants such approvals in the event of public health emergencies to speed access to needed tests or drugs.

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The CDC said in a news briefing last week that the agency is still handling the bulk of testing for the coronavirus as it works out issues with test kits sent to states.

After receiving the tests, some labs discovered they produced inconclusive results, and they have been waiting for replacement tests as the CDC has been trying to work out those issues, said Scott Becker, APHL chief executive officer.

The CDC and FDA did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Becker said it is not clear when the new test kits will arrive.

"We're weeks and weeks into this response and the desire is to begin community-based surveillance and make sure we have the diagnostics as close to Read More – Source

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WASHINGTON: Scientists have spotted in rocks from northern China what may be the oldest fossils of a green plant ever found, tiny seaweed that carpeted areas of the seafloor roughly a billion years ago and were part of a primordial revolution among life on Earth.

Researchers on Monday (Feb 24) said the plant, called Proterocladus antiquus, was about the size of a rice grain and boasted numerous thin branches, thriving in shallow water while attached to the seafloor with a root-like structure.

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In the background of this digital recreation released by Dinghua Yang, ancient microscopic green seaweed is seen living in the ocean one billion years ago. In the foreground is the same seaweed in the process of being fossilised far later. Dinghua Yang/Handout via REUTERS.

It may seem small, but Proterocladus – a form of green algae – was one of the largest organisms of its time, sharing the seas mainly with bacteria and other microbes. It engaged in photosynthesis, transforming energy from sunlight into chemical energy and producing oxygen.

"Proterocladus antiquus is a close relative of the ancestor of all green plants alive today," said Qing Tang, a Virginia Tech post-doctoral researcher in paleobiology who detected the fossils in rock dug up in Liaoning Province near the city of Dalian and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Earth's biosphere depends heavily on plants for food and oxygen. The first land plants, thought to be descendents of green seaweeds, appeared about 450 million years ago.

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There was an evolutionary shift on Earth perhaps two billion years ago from simple bacteria-like cells to the first members of a group called eukaryotes that spans fungi, plants and animals. The first plants were single-celled organisms.

The transition to multicellular plants like Proterocladus was a pivotal development that paved the way for the riot of plants that have inhabited the world, from ferns to sequoias to the Venus flytrap.

Proterocladus is 200 million years older than the previous earliest-known green seaweed. One of its modern relatives is a type of edible seaweed called sea lettuRead More – Source

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LOS ANGELES: A tearful Michael Jordan on Monday (Feb 24) commemorated his "little brother" Kobe Bryant at a star-filled memorial in Los Angeles for the basketball great and his daughter Gianna who died with seven others in a helicopter crash last month.

"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look in this arena, across the globe, a piece of you died," the NBA legend said, tears streaming down his face.

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"I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories and knowing that I had a little brother," Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest player in history, added.

"I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace little brother."

The public memorial – dubbed "A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" – was being held at Staples Center, the arena where Bryant wowed fans for 17 years, known as "the house that Kobe built."

Fans arrive to attend the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. AFP/Mark RALSTON

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The 2/24 date carries special significance as it coincides with Bryant's jersey number – "24" – and Gianna's "2" jersey number.

Another basketball great, Shaquille O'Neal, who won three NBA titles with Bryant, also spoke at the ceremony while several music stars, including Beyonce and Alicia Keys, performed.

"I'm here because I love Kobe," said the 70-time Grammy-nominated Beyonce as she launched into one of Bryant's favorite songs "XO," dressed in a golden suit – the colour of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant's team for two decades.

'HE WAS MY EVERYTHING'

Bryant's widow Vanessa paid a tearful tribute to her late husband and daughter, saying she could not fathom life without them.

Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa Bryant speaks during the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. AFP/FREDERIC J. BROWN

"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other," Bryant said in her first public remarks since the Jan 26 crash. "He had to bring them home together."

She spoke of her heartbreak at not being able to watch Gianna, who was 13, grow up and missing important moments of her life.

"I won't be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day," she said through tears, receiving a standing ovation for the tribute.

"I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy."

A visibly shaken Jimmy Kimmel – the comedian officiated at the ceremony – said he saw Kobe and Gianna's faces and jersey numbers everywhere in Los Angeles and beyond.

"All we can do is to be grateful for the time we had with them," the late night talk show host said.

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President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are on a two-day state visit to India starting Monday, Feb. 24 where they landed at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, according to multiple reports. This marks the first time Donald Trump has set foot in India.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump walks to a waiting car upon arrival at Palam Air Force Base in New Delhi on Feb. 24, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Trumps daughter Ivanka Trump was also present in India along with her husband, Jared Kushner, and both Ivanka and Melania Trump donned impressive attire befitting the occasion.

Melania Trump donned a white jumpsuit designed by Atelier Caito for Herve Pierre made with a creme crepe fabric, according to India Today. In addition, as her first time in India, she kept her hair simple and loose, as with her make-up, which was done subtly. Furthermore, as a way to pay homage to the Indian culture, Melania also wore a green silk sash, embroidered with golden metallic thread to pair together with her white attire.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pose as they visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, on Feb. 24, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Herve Pierre, the French-American fashion and costume designer, in regards to the sash, he wrote in a post on his Instagram:

“Arriving in India, the First Lady #flotus is wearing a white jumpsuit from @atelier_caito_for_herve_pierre in crème crêpe. The sash was cut in an early XX century Indian textile documents I found in Paris through very good friends who are collectors. @herve_pierre_creative_director. The sash is made out of green silk and gold metallic thread. We used the border which was the most Interesting piece we could use as it was a vintage piece.”

Herve Pierre was known to also make designer clothes for previous first ladies, such as Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. Pierre was also known to design clothes for famous people such as Renee Zellweger and Lady Gaga. Pierre was also the person to design Melania Trumps inaugural ball gown after he met her in early January 2017, according to his profile on Atelier Caito for Herve Pierre.

According to Herve Pierre, Melania already owned the Atelier Caito for Herve Pierre jumpsuit in black but asked to have it made in a creme color for her visit to India.

Trump and Melania
Trump and Melania
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on Feb. 24, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Footwear News reported that to complete the overall look, Melania Trump completed her outfit wearing white pumps with a pointed toe. Although there isnt any indication as to which brand she was wearing at the time of her visit to India, the first lady is known to choose brands and types such as Manolo Blahniks BB pumps or Christian Louboutins So Kate.

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T<a href=https://www.theepochtimes.com/melania-trump-dons-attire-inspired-by-early-20th-century-indian-textiles_3249451.html>Read More – Source</a></p><div id=
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Children as young as 13 are being targeted by extremist recruiters as the number of terrorism leads under investigation doubled over the past year.

Mike Burgess, the boss of Australias domestic intelligence agency ASIO, says terrorism remains a threat.

“As a father, I find it truly disturbing to see cases where extremists are actively trying to recruit children who have only just started high school and are as young as 13 or 14,” he said as he delivered his first annual threat assessment on Monday.

“Our view is that the threat of terrorism will remain a constant feature of the global security environment in 2020 and the threat to Australia and Australian interests will remain.

“The number of terrorism leads we are investigating right now has doubled since this time last year.”

Australias terrorism threat level remains at “probable” and would remain unacceptably high for the foreseeable future, dBurgess said.

“The unfortunate reality is that, right now, terrorists are still plotting to harm Australians,” he said.

Of great concern was the use of the internet and new technologies.

The director-general of security said that while messaging apps and greater global connectivity had been a “force for good”, they also had a dark side being used in nine out of 10 priority counter-terrorism cases.

“Technology should not be beyond the rule of law,” he said, praising laws that came into force a year ago.

“I can confirm that ASIO has used the Assistance and Access Act to protect Australians from serious harm.

“We needed to take advantage of the new powers within 10 days of the legislation coming into effect – a clear indication of its significance to our mission. And Im happy to report that the internet did not break as a result.

“The bottom line was this, these new powers helped ASIO prevent a real risk of injury to Australians.”

The laws enhance the obligations of communications services to assist agencies, establish new “computer access warrants” for law enforcement and strengthen agencies existing search and seizure powers to access unencrypted data on computers and mobile phones.

Burgess said right-wing extremism was real and growing, citing one example of ASIO advice leading to an Australian being stopped from leaving the country to fight with an extreme right-wing group on a foreign battlefield.

“While we would expect any right-wing extremist inspired attack in Australia to be low capability – that is a knife, gun or vehicle attack – more sophisticated attacks are possible,” he said.

Burgess also voiced concerns about Australia being the “target of sophisticated and persistent espionage and foreign interference activities.”

However, new laws dealing with foreign interference had “caused discomfort and pRead More – Source

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EDMONTON — The Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal carbon tax is not constitutional.

In a 4−1 decision, the court says the legislation that brought in the tax erodes provincial jurisdiction.

The Alberta government had argued in its challenge of the tax that climate change isnt a national issue requiring overriding federal intervention.

The federal government countered by saying climate change is a national and global concern that cant be left to each of the provinces to take on alone.

The majority of the Appeal Court judges sided with the province.

“The act is a constitutional Trojan horse,” said the portion of the decision written by three of the four majority justices.

The court rejected federal arguments that reducing greenhouse gases met the legal test of being a national concern.

“Almost every aspect of the provinces development and management of their natural resources … would be subject to federal regulation.”

It noted health care, minimum wages and justice are all national concerns but are administered by the provinces.

The court ruled that, for something to be a national concern within federal jurisdiction, it woulRead More – Source

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Fears are growing that the coronavirus outbreak could become a pandemic as new cases are reported around the world.

Most infections are in China but other countries including South Korea, Italy and Iran are battling to contain the virus, which causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.

A pandemic is declared when an infectious disease threatens different parts of the world simultaneously.

No vaccine is available so far to prevent the new coronavirus.

About 77,000 people in China, where the virus emerged last year, have been infected and nearly 2,600 have died.

More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in 26 other countries and there have been more than 20 deaths. Italy reported its fourth death on Monday.

The proportion of infected patients dying from Covid-19 appears to be between 1% and 2%, although the World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that the mortality rate is not known yet.

On Monday Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain reported their first cases, all involving people who had come from Iran.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was "narrowing".

Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in the UK, echoed his fears, saying the spike in cases outside China was "extremely concerning".

"The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours," he said on Monday.

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told the BBC that the situation was not being seen as a pandemic at the moment because countries were managing to prevent the virus spreading too far.

"If countries took no measures at all we would have seen way, way, way more cases," she said. "That's what we mean by containment."

What are the symptoms?

The main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

What should I do?

Frequent handwashing with soap or gel, avoiding close contact with people who are ill and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands can help cut the risk of infection.

Catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, binning it and washing your hands can minimise the risk of spreading disease.

World edges closer to coronavirus pandemic

Analysis by Fergus Walsh, medical correspondent

The combined situation in South Korea, Iran and Italy points to the early stages of pandemic. This means a global outbreak, with the coronavirus spreading in the community in multiple parts of the world.

In each of these countries we are seeing spread of the virus with no connection to China. The lockdown efforts in Italy mirror those that have happened in China.

The situation in Iran is especially worrying, because the health authorities have reportedly said the virus has spread to multiple cities, and it appears the first case in Lebanon is linked to a traveller from Iran.

If we have a pandemic, it will still be important to limit the speed of spread of the virus.

If countries could hold it somewhat at bay until the end of winter, there is a hope that warmer temperatures will reduce the time the virus can survive in the air, as we see with seasonal flu. But this may not be certain.

What are the worst-affected countries?

South Korea – which has the largest number of confirmed cases outside China – reported another 231 infections on Monday taking the total there to more than 830. Eight people have died.

Around 7,700 troops have been quarantined after 11 military members were infected.

But the biggest virus clusters have been linked to a hospital and a religious group near the south-eastern city of Daegu.

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Some South Korean airlines have suspended flights to Daegu, which has a population of around 2.5m.

Korean Air said the suspension would last until 27 March.

Italy has the largest number of cases in Europe, 165, and announced a series of drastic measures over the weekend to try to contain the outbreak.

In the Read More – Source