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What we know today, Tuesday September 29

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Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. Follow this post for live updates through the day.

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Crouch’s future uncertain as details emerge of drug incident

Brad Crouch’s AFL playing future at Adelaide won’t be decided for several weeks, regardless of the findings of an investigation into his drugs bust.

Crouch and his Crows teammate Tyson Stengle were caught with an illicit drug, understood to be cocaine, early Monday.

Crouch and Stengle were stopped by police in a taxi at 5.15am Monday in Adelaide’s central business district.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens says officers stopped the pair after live monitoring of CCTV footage raised suspicions.

Police didn’t charge the duo, instead referring them to counselling under a drug diversion program.

Crouch, Adelaide’s 2019 club champion, is off-contract at the Crows.

He became a free agent at the end of Adelaide’s season and is considering offers from rival clubs.,

Adelaide’s chief executive Andrew Fagan says his club’s investigation into the drugs bust and negotiations with Crouch about his playing future are “two separate processes”.

“We will complete our investigation into this incident,” Fagan told reporters on Tuesday.

“Brad … as a restricted free agenct he is exploring his (playing) options at the moment and we’re comfortable in allowing him to do so.

“We said that we will engage with him down the track where that sits with him. We also have our views on how we might address that negotiation.

“All information feeds into it but we will allow the two separate perocesses to run their course.

“And I expect that on his contractual side, that won’t be finalised for several weeks.”

Fagan was uncertain how long the club’s probe into the drugs incident would take.

“We made a fair bit of progress yesterday but … we want to do these things thoroughly and clearly understand each element of it and the circumstances,” he said.

Crouch and Stengle face fines of up to $5000 and possible other sanctions from the Crows and the AFL.

Stengle was suspended by the Crows in April for four AFL games after he was caught drink driving and driving an unregistered car.

The 21-year-old was due to appear in Adelaide Magistrates Court next month to answer those charges.

Grim global milestone for COVID-19

The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed one million, nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work.

“It’s not just a number. It’s human beings. It’s people we love,” says Dr Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has advised government on pandemics and lost his 84-year-old mother to COVID-19 in February.

“It’s our brothers, our sisters. It’s people we know,” he added.

“And if you don’t have that human factor right in your face, it’s very easy to make it abstract.”

The bleak milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Jerusalem. It is two-and-a-half times the sea of humanity that was at Woodstock in 1969. It is more than four times the number killed in the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Even then, the figure is almost certainly a vast undercount because of inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting and suspected concealment by some countries.

And the number continues to mount.

Nearly 5000 deaths are reported each day on average.

Parts of Europe are getting hit by a second wave and experts fear the same fate awaits the US, which accounts for about 205,000 deaths, or one of five worldwide.

That is far more than any other country, despite America’s wealth and resources.

Victoria records 10 new cases, seven deaths

Victoria has recorded 10 new cases of coronavirus and seven more deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 794 and the national figure to 882.

The new infections, confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, brings Melbourne’s 14-day average to 18.2.

The average needs to drop below five and there must be fewer than five mystery cases for a fortnight before the state eases further restrictions.

Under step three, the five-kilometre limit will be scrapped, shops will be able to reopen and cafes and restaurants will be able to seat diners.

Originally, the earliest date the metropolitan region could move to step three was October 26.

But authorities will work on a minimum three-week gap between stages, meaning that date has been brought forward to October 19.

The following step on Victoria’s road map out of restrictions requires zero new cases in the community for more than 14 days.

But Premier Daniel Andrews insists suppression, not eradication, remains Victoria’s coronavirus goal.

Budget to fund facial scanning for more government services

The Federal Government will spend more than $250 million upgrading online systems so Australians can access more government services using facial recognition.

The funding will form part of an $800 million digital technology package in next week’s budget.

More than 1.6 million people and 1.16 million businesses already use facial recognition to access 70 government services online.

The new funding will support the full integration of the digital identity program with MyGov and 14 additional services, such as getting a director identification number or tax file number.

People will also be able to use facial recognition to lodge bankruptcy applications, register drones, enrol to vote and apply for welfare payments.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping to make it safer and easier for individuals and businesses to use government services, saving them time and money.

The biggest single piece of the digital technology package is more than $400 million to modernise business registers, allowing companies to quickly view, update and maintain their data in one location.

Morrison said many businesses moved online quickly when the coronavirus pandemic hit, undergoing a decade of change in months, finding new customers and ways of doing things.

“The plan supports Australia’s economic recovery by removing out-dated regulatory barriers, boosting the capability of small businesses, and backs the uptake of technology across the economy,” he said on Tuesday.

Dream show for Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival will present UK composer Benjamin Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a highlight of its 2021 program, with four performances at the Festival Theatre plus big-screen streamed events in Elder Park and regional areas.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the Festival’s first 2021 announcement – is directed by Neil Armfield, who previously directed the production in Chicago, Houston and Toronto around 10 years ago.

He says he is thrilled to finally bring it to Adelaide for an Australian-exclusive season from February 26 to March 3.

“It is an opera of beauty and of joy, and it’s very much about reconciliation and magic,” says Armfield, who is also joint artistic director, with Rachel Healy, of the Adelaide Festival.

“We think it’s the perfect work to cheer us up and to remind us of the beauty of the world, the beauty of the imagination and the beauty of making theatre.”

Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – composed in 1960 – is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s popular comedy comprising multiple subplots involving fairies, Athenian royals, four lovers and a group of amateur actors (aka the mechanicals) in an enchanted forest.

Read the full story here.

 

Pell to return to Rome today

Catholic Cardinal George Pell is returning to Rome six months after he was acquitted of child sexual abuse, according to agency reports.

The former Vatican treasurer, 79, is expected to depart Sydney today, after living in the city since his release from a Victorian jail, the Catholic News Agency reported.

“He always intended to return to Rome,” Katrina Lee, an adviser to the Archdiocese of Sydney, told Reuters.

Cardinal Pell came back to Australia from Rome in mid-2017 to fight charges related to the sexual assault of two choirboys when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s.

He was convicted in December 2018 and served just over a year of a six-year sentence in jail before the High Court of Australia overturned the conviction in April and he was released.

Cardinal Pell had been head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of the Economy, tasked with cleaning up the church’s vast finances and eliminating abuse, and had taken a leave of absence from that role when he came back to Australia.

His return to Rome comes just days after a powerful Vatican cardinal, Giovanni Becciu, was fired after Pope Francis accused him of embezzlement and nepotism.

Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Becciu were reportedly previously at odds over reform of the Vatican’s accounts.

“The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances,” Cardinal Pell told the Catholic News Agency on September 25.

“He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments.

“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Cardinal Pell said.

Assange faces ‘intolerable conditions’

The dissident Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei has staged a silent protest outside London’s Old Bailey court against the possible extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he is wanted on an array of espionage charges.

Meanwhile, the court heard that Assange, if convicted in the US, could end up spending the rest of his life imprisoned in the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

The facility is home to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, 1993 World Trade Center mastermind Ramzi Yousef and Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man ever convicted in a US court for a role in the September 11 attacks.

Ai, who visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was holed up for seven years until April 2019 and subsequently at Britain’s Belmarsh high security prison, said the authorities have a responsibility to protect the freedom of the press.

“He is prepared to fight, but this is not fair to him,” he said. “Free him, let him be a free man.”

US prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military documents a decade ago.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

As well as arguing that the extradition would pose a threat to Assange’s life, his defence team say that Assange is a journalist and entitled to First Amendment protections for the publication of leaked documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He truly represents a core value of why we are free – because we have freedom of the press.,” Ai said.

“We need a lot of protesting, and it can take any form. I’m an artist, if I cannot use my art, it’s very limited, then I’d rather just be silent.”

Ai, 63, is one of the world’s most successful artists, famous around the world for his installations of bicycles and sunflower seeds.

On Monday, the court heard from two witnesses who said Assange would face intolerable conditions if extradited.

It is widely expected that Assange would be moved to the pre-trial facilities at Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia if extradited.

Yancey Ellis, a Virginia-based lawyer who has had clients at the facility, said Assange would likely be put into an administrative segregation unit for months or even years that would be akin to “solitary confinement”.

And Joel Sickler, who heads the Justice Advocacy Group, said Assange would face “no meaningful interaction” in pre-trial confinement in a cell the size of “a parking space”.

US Democrats prepare for contested election outcome

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rallying Democrats to prepare for a once-in-a-century election scenario requiring Congress to decide the outcome of the country’s presidential race if neither Democrat Joe Biden nor President Donald Trump wins outright.

In a campaign letter to colleagues, Pelosi told her fellow House Democrats that recent comments by Trump demonstrate that he could ask the House to decide the race if it is not clear which of the two candidates had received the minimum 270 Electoral College votes in the November 3 presidential election needed to gain office.

Trump repeatedly has questioned the security of mail-in ballots, which could take a while to tabulate given the high number of voters likely to use them this year due to the pandemic.

Democrats fear that the president could attempt to have the count of those votes cut short in an attempt to have the election outcome determined by the House.

Under the US Constitution, the House would vote by state delegation to settle such a contest, with each state casting a single vote.

While Democrats control the chamber by 232 seats to 198, Republicans control a majority of 26 state delegations versus 22 for Democrats.

Pennsylvania’s delegation is tied while Michigan has a 7-6 split between Democrats and Republicans and an additional seat held by a Libertarian.

The House has not determined the outcome of a presidential election since 1876.

Pelosi called on Democrats for “an all-out effort” to capture additional Republican-held House seats, which they might need if a decision on the presidential election spills over into next year.

forecast

– Reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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