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Australian softball squad leaves for Tokyo Olympics, among first athletes to travel to Japan for Games

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The Aussie Spirit, the Australian women’s softball team, will be among the first athletes to arrive in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics after leaving Sydney on Monday.

The squad of 23 will arrive in Ota City for a training camp before facing Japan on July 21, a game that marks the start of official Olympic competition two days before the opening ceremony.
Having not faced an international opponent since February last year, the Aussie Spirit, which has won a medal in each of its past Olympic appearances, will also play against professional softball clubs in Japan, as well as two games against the Japanese national team, before the Olympics get underway.
“We’ve done so much training over the last year, we’ve had intra-squad camps against one another, now we finally get to play some really tough competition against Japanese clubs,” said squad member Jade Wall.
Earlier this month, Australia started to vaccinate its Olympic and Paralympic athletes with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 shot.
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said at the time that getting a vaccine was not compulsory but “highly, highly recommended.”
Softball is returning to the Olympics having been removed from the program after the 2008 Games.
It’s one of a number of sports added to the Olympics ahead of Tokyo, alongside sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate.
“All staff and players heading to Japan today are fully vaccinated thanks to the Australian Olympic Committee,” said Softball Australia CEO David Pryles.
“They’ll also be undergoing stringent testing and checks as soon as they land at the airport and throughout their camp and Olympic fixtures.
“Movements in Japan are restricted to the one level of the team hotel in Ota where they will complete gym work, meetings, meals and, of course, relaxing amongst themselves.”
In the past few weeks, there has been mounting pressure in Japan for the Games to be canceled amid the pandemic, although International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound recently told CNN that a cancellation is “essentially off the table.”

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Anti-racism activist calls for control of neo-Nazi groups after attack on Sydney home

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sbs– A Sydney anti-racism activist and Indigenous rights supporter has accused neo-Nazis of attacking his home and authorities of failing to do more to control far-right groups.

Paddy Gibson said three “skinheads” with Eureka flag shirts came to the front door of his family home on Saturday night and called for him to come outside.

“Me and my partner were at home. Three men came to the door calling out for me,” Mr Gibson told SBS News.

He said he believed they were far-right activists after seeing the men’s clothing and appearance through the peephole in his door.

“They demanded to see me. I’ve got threats from the far-right before,” he said

Mr Gibson quickly moved with his partner to the back of the house.

“They started smashing on the door, they ripped the grill off the window at the front and they smashed the front window out with a chair,” he said.

“We were really worried that they were trying to force entry and get into the house and hurt us.”

Neighbours were immediately on the scene, Mr Gibson said, calling out to ensure everyone in the house was safe, and giving the all-clear when the men had left the premises.

Mr Gibson said it had been a “pretty scary few hours” and he was making plans to fortify his home.

He said his involvement in social justice causes including Black Lives Matter rallies had attracted abuse from far-right groups in the past, but until now, they’d been limited to social media or email.

“Last year when the Black Lives Matter rallies were happening … I was getting death threats at that time but no one’s ever come to my house. This was an escalation.”

NSW Police has confirmed detectives are investigating reports of “malicious damage”.

A spokesperson said officers arrived at the house after a report came in shortly after 7:30, and they then established a crime scene.

‘Far-right emboldened, openly organising’

The presence of far-right groups and Nazi symbols have become more frequent in Australia in recent months, including at ‘freedom’ rallies across the country.

In October, congregants at a Brisbane synagogue were confronted by the sight of a Nazi flag flying from a nearby apartment window.

At the time, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner labelled the display as “sickening” and “pure evil”, and said current laws were “inadequate”.

He said the incident would “likely to be classified as nothing more than a low-level public nuisance”.

Queensland MP Ali King blamed vaccine conspiracy theorists for a Nazi swastika symbol painted on her office last month.

The Australian government last month named a neo-Nazi group known as The Base as a terrorist group following advice from security agencies.

“There is no place in Australia for their hateful ideologies,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said at the time.

“We know that there are individuals actively watching what is happening in Australia. There are people here who have the intent and the capability to do us harm.”

The Victorian government has announced it is working on new laws to ban the public display of Nazi symbols, in what would be a national first.

Mr Gibson said the far-right and neo-Nazis were “capitalising on anger that’s out there” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, job insecurity and vaccine mandates to “set their own agenda”.

“It’s a very dangerous situation when the far-right are as emboldened as they are now and openly organising in the context of these ‘freedom’ marches,” he said.

“It does mean that there will be more attacks on people of colour, on Aboriginal people, even white people like myself who actually organise for justice and against racism. It’s a very dangerous situation for everyone.”

George Newhouse, CEO of the National Justice Project, called on authorities to take prompt steps to bring the perpetrators of the attack on Mr Gibson’s house to justice.

“Governments around Australia have failed to take the threat of violent racist and militant groups seriously and this is the end result. In the US, we have seen lives lost because of the demonisation of the Black Lives Matter movement by the right,” he said in a statement.

“It’s time for our leaders to heed the calls for racial justice and protect those who are calling for change.”

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Briki Cafe owner Simos Kandias ‘in shock’ after death threat left at vandalised store

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skynews– The owner of a popular Melbourne cafe says he “can’t believe what had happened” after he turned up to work to find a death threat stuck to his door.

Simos Kandias, owner of Briki cafe in Thornbury, received a call in the early hours of Monday morning to news the windows and doors of his cafe had been shattered.

“I was informed at 4am by my delivery guys my windows had been smashed,” he told Sky News Australia.

Mr Kandias then found a note stuck to his door which wrote: “Do what Daniel Andrews says and we will burn your shop down and kill you motherf**kers”.

“I don’t feel safe, not fully, no,” he told Sky News Australia.

“That’s why I’m looking at taking other measures, upgrading my security and possibly installing shutters.”

Photos posted on social media show the main window and door had been smashed with a brick, and a death threat had been taped on top of his COVID safe check-in displays.

A photo taken from inside the cafe displayed shattered glass spilling on the bench and a knife on the ground.

Mr Kandias posted the news to a local Facebook group, urging fellow business owners to upgrade their security if they have the means to.

“Hey guys, you might have heard about the damage at our cafe this morning. Really sad and uncalled for,” it wrote.

“I’m just trying to operate in a COVID-safe manner. I’m really disappointed and sad but we will be ok.

“To the fellow business owners, please upgrade your security if you can and protect yourselves as much as possible. Thank you for your amazing support. Stay safe people.”

Victoria Police say investigations are “ongoing” following the incident overnight on Sunday.

“Police are investigating a report that a brick was thrown through a café window in Thornbury overnight and a threatening note left,” a spokesperson said.

“The investigation is ongoing.”

Locals have taken to Facebook to voice their support with Ged Kearney, MP for Cooper in Victoria condemning the act on Facebook last night.

“One of our favourite local cafes was brutally attacked by anti-vaxxers last night,” she wrote.

“They smashed windows and left notes threatening to burn the shop and kill those who work there.

“This is not okay. Whatever your opinions may be on mandatory vaccinations, everyone should feel safe at work.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Briki Cafe. With the community’s help and support, I know they’ll bounce back in no time.”

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Mark McGowan ‘considering’ moving after detectives charged two young men who allegedly made threats against the WA Premier and his family

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skynews– Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan is “considering” relocating his family from their home in his electorate of Rockingham after he allegedly became the victim of beheading threats.

Detectives this week revealed two men, aged 20 and 18, have been charged after allegedly phoning Mr McGowan late on Saturday night and leaving “a number of threatening messages”.

The Premier confirmed to reporters he and his family had been allegedly threatened with beheading.

“In terms of my own family, obviously it’s not pleasant. It’s not very nice and I just urge the people doing it to stop,” he said.

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While the family has no immediate plans to move houses in the wake of the alleged threats, Mr McGowan said it is something “we’re considering”.

The incident comes amid increased threats of violence to state leaders over vaccination mandates.

Protesters in Melbourne displayed fake gallows to pretend to execute Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, while Northern Territory Chief Minister was forced to order his family to flee their home after his address was shared at an anti-vaccine rally.

Mr McGowan told reporters the alleged threats would not stop his government from encouraging vaccine uptake ahead of plans to reopen to the rest of the country.

Border restrictions will be removed within the first two months of next year when the 90 per cent double-dose target is met and showing proof of vaccination at some venues will become a requirement.

“It’s not going to change our approach, we are going to continue to work together to get West Australians vaccinated,” Mr McGowan said of the alleged threats.

“We’re going to continue with the rules we’ve put in place cause that is what is needed.

“These sorts of threats, intimidation, violence, extremism is dangerous, it’s unhelpful and it’s not going to change anything the government does.”

WA Police confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that detectives from the State Security Investigation Group have charged two men over the alleged incident on Saturday night.

“It is alleged about 10.50pm, the two men phoned the Premier and left a number of threatening messages,” the statement read.

A 20-year-old man from Canning Vale and an 18-year-old man from Harrisdale have both been charged with one count each of Acts Creating False Apprehension as to the Existence of Threats or Danger.

They have been granted bail and are now subject to strict protective bail conditions.

Both men are due to appear in Armadale Magistrates Court on Friday December 17.

Last week Mr McGowan confirmed he shut his electorate office in Rockingham, south of Perth, after repeated threats of violence against himself and a number of staff members.

“There’s been death threats, there’s been threats to rape my staff, there’s been people threatening to bomb my office,” he told reporters last Wednesday

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