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What we know today, Wednesday February 3


Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Four new COVID-19 cases in SA

SA Health has recorded four new cases of COVID-19 today, all reported in a medi-hotel.

Three of the cases – a man in his 50s, a woman in her 20s and a teenager – are from the same family, while another case, a man in his 40s, is unrelated.

It is the most number of new cases recorded in a day since January 4, and it brings the state’s total number of cases to 601.

Today’s figures came from a total of 4736 tests.

There are five active cases in the state.

Australia joins calls for Navalny’s release

Several nations, including Australia, have called for the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who was sentenced to three and a half years in jail after a Russian court ruled he had violated the terms of his parole – although his prison term has been shortened by nearly a year due to time previously spent under house arrest.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, was arrested at the Russian border on January 17 after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

Navalny’s allies called on their supporters to immediately protest against the ruling in central Moscow.

Navalny’s lawyer said the opposition politician would appeal against the ruling.

Australia has joined a chorus on international calls for Nalvalny’s release, with Foreign Minister Marise Payne saying the nation is deeply concerned by his arrest and sentencing.

Senator Payne noted the European Court of Human Rights had found the 2014 conviction was unlawful and politically motivated.

“We call for Mr Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release,” she said today.

“Australia is also concerned by the approach of Russian authorities against peaceful protesters and journalists detained in recent weeks. We call for their release without delay.

“Australia supports all peoples’ right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

Senator Payne reaffirmed calls for Russia to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into Navalny’s poisoning using the banned Novichok nerve agent last August.

The United States, Britain and Germany have all urged Moscow to free Navalny, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Washington would coordinate with allies to hold Russia accountable.

Two 36ers make star-studded Olympic Squad

Adelaide 36ers Point Guard Josh Giddey and Centre Isaac Humphries will join NBA star Ben Simmons as part of the Australian Olympic basketball team, announced today.

Giddey, 18, is a top NBA Draft prospect and is one of eight NBL players included in the 24-man-practice squad hoping to take on the world at the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Humphries, 23, joined the 36ers in July last year after short stints with the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks in the NBA.

Adelaide 36ers Chairman Grant Kelley congratulated the two players on the achievement.

“We would like to congratulate our two young guns Josh Giddey and Isaac Humphries who have made the Boomers training squad and wish them luck on their journey!” Kelley said.

Philadelphia 76ers Forward Ben Simmons says it would be an amazing honour to play for Australia and is hopeful of playing for the Boomers at this year’s Olympic Games, after being included in a star-studded 24-man squad.

The Melbourne-born NBA All-Star and his Philadelphia 76ers’ teammate Matisse Thybulle, a dual citizen who spent seven years in Australia as a child, are notable additions to a squad named that features 12 players with NBA experience.

The Olympics, if they go ahead, will follow immediately after the NBA Finals, adding another cloud for the likes of Simmons to compete given the 76ers’ strong start to the season.

But, after a late withdrawal from the Boomers’ 2019 World Cup campaign, Simmons said he intended to wear the green and gold as Australia’s men target a first international tournament medal.

“It would be an amazing honour to play for my country,” Simmons said.

“I know things are uncertain right now but I’ve been in touch with coach (Brian) Goorjian and we’re hopeful I can join the Boomers.”

NBA stalwarts Joe Ingles and Patty Mills are slated to play in their fourth Olympics while Aron Baynes has established himself as one of the NBA’s prominent centres in recent years and starred at the last World Cup.

Matthew Dellavedova, Ryan Broekhoff, Chris Goulding and Brock Motum were also part of the Boomers’ Olympic campaign in 2016, which saw them finish fourth after a heartbreaking one-point loss to Spain in the bronze medal match.

Dallas Mavericks draftee Josh Green, Will McDowell-White, Will Magnay and Duop Reath have been named to the Boomers for the first time while Jonah Bolden – an 11th hour withdrawal from the World Cup team – has not been named after missing out on an NBA contract this season.

“It is a well-balanced squad selected by position with a nice blend of experience coupled with a lot of new and exciting players coming through,” Goorjian said.

KI fire threatens endangered species

Fears are held for remaining populations of the Glossy Black Cockatoo and the Kangaroo Island Dunnart as a scrub fire burns through key habitat for the two endangered species.

The Country Fire Service says it is liaising close with ecologists on how to control the spread of the Kangaroo Island blaze to protect as much of the habitat as possible.

Large areas that were home to the two animals were destroyed in last summer’s devastating fires which raged through more than 200,000 hectares on KI’s west.

The CFS says the Western River fire started on Tuesday afternoon and is burning in an area around De Mole River about 40 kilometres west of Parndana.

It poses little threat to lives and property with a bushfire warning in place for local residents.

The blaze is expected to burn for several days with crews using a combination of bulldozers and backburning in an effort to minimise the spread.

“At this stage, little information is known about the size of the fire,” the CFS said.

“An observation helicopter has been dispatched from the mainland this morning, and will be tasked to map the fire and is also equipped with a thermal imaging camera to aid ground crews in identifying areas of higher intensity and hot spots.”

Plibersek and Kelly clash in Parliament halls

Senior Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek has clashed with Liberal MP Craig Kelly for promoting “crazy conspiracies” she warns could undermine the coronavirus vaccine roll-out.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuses to publicly condemn Kelly despite doctors and medical experts warning his Facebook posts are dangerous.

The government MP continues to promote unproven virus treatments hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.

Plibersek confronted Kelly outside media studios in parliament where both had been giving interviews.

“It’s beyond time the prime minister told Craig Kelly to just shut up,” she told reporters.

“We’re spending $24 million on a campaign to tell people to get vaccinated and we’ve got a taxpayer-funded nong running around telling people not to.”

Plibersek addressed the Liberal backbencher directly with the pair arguing in a corridor surrounded by cameras.

“My mum lives in your electorate and I do not want her exposed to people who aren’t going to be vaccinated because of these crazy conspiracy theories,” the Labor MP said.

Kelly claims he is not anti-vaccination but wants to consult with his doctor before deciding on which jab he may elect to have.

He has latched on to endorsements for the two unproven treatments from University of Newcastle Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy.

Professor Clancy said evidence showed hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin were safe and should be used.

“Early treatment is highly effective. Vaccines are critically important. They should not be seen as mutually exclusive. You need them both,” he told Nine newspapers.

Kelly accused the national COVID evidence task force – which is made up of top medical experts reviewing science continuously – of not being across the latest studies.

“Catch up with the evidence. Yes, you looked at three studies. Go and look at the other 32 studies and come back,” he told reporters.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said if the prime minister had spoken to Mr Kelly privately, the talks had failed to sway the rebel backbencher.

“Craig Kelly was out on podcasts yesterday spruiking the benefits of snake oil COVID treatments and undermining the public health response,” he told ABC radio.

Bandt said Morrison personally intervened to save Kelly from a preselection challenge and should now ensure the MP doesn’t contest another election.

SA Police still tracking down WA travellers

South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens this morning confirmed SAPOL are still trying to track down travellers from Western Australia, with more than 1000 travellers outstanding as of yesterday.

“My understanding is there are still some people outstanding who haven’t been contacted,” Stevens told ABC Radio.

“They’re still working through that list, we’re hopeful that the public information about the obligations of quarantine is being heard by those people and they’re doing the right thing.”

Authorities are contacting the remaining travellers by phone, but Stevens said police are being sent out to find those who do not respond to calls.

“We have contact details and we’re using those contact details, but if people don’t answer their phones or they don’t respond then … we have to send people out to go and find them,” he said.

“If people were simply passing through South Australia, they may not be here anymore.”

Stevens also said it is “yet to be seen” whether the Adelaide Crows AFLW team will have to remain in quarantine from Friday onwards after the team returned to Adelaide from Perth on Sunday.

“We are continuously monitoring what’s happening in Western Australia,” he said.

“Their five-day lockdown is due to finish on Friday, so we’ll be looking for the outcomes of their assessment, what information is provided to national cabinet on Friday, and what the AHPPC meeting is informed of.”

Amazon founder Bezos to step down as CEO

Jeff Bezos, who founded and turned Amazon into an online shopping behemoth, is stepping down as the company’s CEO, a role he’s had for nearly 30 years.

He’ll be replaced by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon’s cloud-computing business. Bezos, 57, will then become the company’s executive chair.

In a blog post to employees on Tuesday, Bezos said he plans to focus on new products and early initiatives being developed at Amazon.

And he said he’ll have more time for side projects: his space exploration company Blue Origin; the newspaper he owns, The Washington Post; and his charities.

Amazon is one of the last of the biggest tech giants to have a founder as CEO.

Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin relinquished their executive positions in parent company Alphabet in 2019 while Oracle’s Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO in 2014.

Bill Gates was Microsoft’s CEO until 2000, kept a day-to-day role at the company until 2008 and served as its chairman until 2014. He left the board entirely last year to focus on philanthropy.

Launched in 1995, Amazon was a pioneer of fast and free shipping that won over millions of shoppers who used the site to buy nappies, TVs and just about anything.

However, the company has come under criticism for its monopoly power, poor working conditions and anti-labour union practices, and has frequently been the target of anti-trust advocates.

Bezos will make the move to executive chairman in the third quarter of this year.

Victoria reaches 28-day virus milestone

Victoria has reached 28 days without a new local coronavirus case.

Health authorities say 28 days with no new infections means the virus has been eliminated from the community, given that period represents two 14-day incubation periods.

But as state Health Minister Martin Foley announced details of the state’s coronavirus vaccination program this morning, he warned against complacency despite the good news on local cases.

“This virus has a long way to go,” Foley said.

The state has 21 active case all in hotel quarantine.

There were also no new quarantine cases to midnight on Tuesday, after 16,142 tests.

Victoria previously had more than a month without any local cases late last year but the streak ended when the Black Rock cluster broke out before Christmas.

Dozens of homes lost as Perth fire rages on

At least 71 homes have been lost in a bushfire burning out of control in Perth’s northeastern suburbs, with more property losses expected today.

The massive fire doubled in size on Monday evening and approached the city’s coastal plain from the hills town of Wooroloo, as firefighters desperately tried to save lives and homes.

Western Australia’s Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the number of homes lost is likely to climb

“Tragically, 59 properties have been lost in this fire, and that number may increase as we continue to assess the extent of the damage,” he said late on Tuesday.

Weather conditions were expected to worsen overnight, with the possibility of wind gusts up to 75km/h.

Some 2000 residents and businesses were left without power on Tuesday afternoon.

Around 150 poles and 100 transformers were down in the fire scar area, Western Power said.

Premier Mark McGowan said earlier on Tuesday that firefighters would continue to check destroyed homes in the rural suburb of Tilden Park to check if any lives had been lost.

He said a large aerial tanker was en route from NSW to help battle the blaze and the prime minister had been briefed on the situation.

“This is an extremely dangerous fire and a serious situation. Weather conditions are extremely volatile,” the premier said.

Australia pulls out of South African cricket tour

Australia has pulled out the upcoming Test tour of South Africa because of coronavirus concerns, angering the hosts who say the “eleventh-hour” decision is costly and unnecessary.

Cricket Australia on Tuesday called off next month’s three-Test series due to start on March 3 as the host nation struggles to contain the virus and a new variant.

The decision came down to health and safety risks after discussions with medical experts, Cricket Australia’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said.

“We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour,” Hockley said.

“This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time.”

But Cricket South Africa’s director of cricket Graeme Smith believes Australia’s concerns are unfounded given the safety measures the hosts had taken.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision of CA,” he said in a statement.

“CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA.

“So to be informed about the CA decision at the eleventh hour is frustrating.”

CSA’s acting chief executive officer Pholetsi Moseki said the organisation had already incurred significant costs while preparing for the Australia tour.

“In this challenging period for cricket and its member countries, we believe the stance taken by CA is regrettable and will have a serious impact on the sustainability of the less wealthy cricket playing nations,” he said.

Cricket Australia had earlier said the second wave of the virus in South Africa and the new variant posed too much of a risk for the tour.

“It has become clear that travelling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,” Hockley said.

“As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin (Langer), Tim (Paine) and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised.”

South Africa has recorded more than 1.45 million coronavirus cases and more than 44,000 deaths.

The country recently hosted Sri Lanka for two Tests and their side are currently touring Pakistan.

Cricket Australia said they hoped to play the series at a later date.

Australia’s bid to earn a spot in the world Test championship is now out of their hands.

New Zealand are in the box seat to secure one of the spots, while the four-Test series between India and England will determine who snares the other spot.

India, England and Australia are all in the mix for that spot depending on the result of that series.

Cricket Australia isn’t expected to send any of Australia’s Test stars to the T20 tour of New Zealand.

But coach Justin Langer, who was due to go to South Africa with the Test team, could now coach the T20 outfit in New Zealand.

Elderly cleared for Pfizer vaccine

Elderly Australians have been given the medical regulator’s okay to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine after concerns raised from overseas were allayed.

About 30 elderly people from more than 40,000 died after receiving the jab in Norway, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration saying no causal link could be established between vaccination and deaths.

The TGA says very frail patients had died, including some who were only expected to live for weeks or months.

Medical regulators in North America, the UK and Europe have made similar conclusions.

“Elderly patients can receive this vaccine and there is no cap on the upper age limit,” the TGA said in a statement on Tuesday.

For frail patients over the age of 85, the TGA says the benefits of the vaccine should be weighed against the potential risk of even mild reactions.

The Pfizer vaccine was given approval last month and the rollout is expected to begin later this month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the program remains on track, despite ongoing supply issues across Europe.

There were no new cases of local coronavirus transmission nationwide on Tuesday, with WA recording a second-straight zero infection day despite a hotel quarantine breach.

Trump impeachment fight heats up

Lawyers for Donald Trump say the US Senate has no authority to try the former US president as a private citizen on an impeachment charge that he incited an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 while the Democratic lawmakers who will serve as prosecutors urged his conviction.

Both sides filed briefs with the Senate on Tuesday, a week before the impeachment trial is due to begin.

Nine House of Representatives lawmakers said Trump pointed a mob “like a loaded cannon” at Congress and said he should be convicted and barred from holding public office in the future.

Trump’s defence team said that not only does the Senate lack the authority to put Trump on trial as a private citizen but that the chamber also lacks the jurisdiction to prevent Trump from holding office again.

“President Trump’s conduct offends everything that the Constitution stands for,” the Democratic impeachment managers wrote in an 80-page brief noting that Trump had begun voicing his intention to contest an election loss months before the November 3 election was held.

“He summoned a mob to Washington (DC), exhorted them into a frenzy and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly ‘delighted,'” they said.

During his January 6 speech, Trump repeated claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” “stop the steal,” “show strength” and “fight like hell”.

The rampage interrupted the formal congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory and sent lawmakers into hiding for their own safety.

“The Senate must make clear to him and all who follow that a president who provokes armed violence against the government of the United States in an effort to overturn the results of an election will face trial and judgment,” the Democratic managers added.

Trump is just the third president to have been impeached, the first to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office.

Members of the 100-seat Senate will serve as jurors in his impeachment trial, due to begin next week.

Convicting Trump would require a two-thirds vote, meaning that 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats in voting to convict.

That presents a daunting hurdle for Democrats.

Last week, 45 of the 50 Republican senators voted in favour of a failed bid to dismiss the impeachment charge as unconstitutional because Trump has left office.

A conviction could lead to a second vote banning Trump from holding public office again.

The Tuesday deadline for briefs in the case came just days after he parted ways with his initial legal team amid a reported dispute over how to respond to the charge.

Survey reveals majority of cyclists have been road rage targets

The ongoing battle between riders and drivers in South Australia is set to further heat up after an RAA survey revealed almost three-quarters of cyclists have been the target of road rage.

Another 81 per cent said they had been cut off by cars despite having a right of way, 65 per cent had a car door opened directly in front of them and 39 per cent had been knocked off their bike by a vehicle, according to RAA’s inaugural Risky Rides survey.

The survey also showed a majority said they actively avoided major roads without cycle lanes (85 per cent) and travelling during peak hour traffic (58 per cent), while 45 per cent said they avoided large roundabouts.

RAA Senior Manager of Safety and Infrastructure, Charles Mountain, said the responses from the 471 survey participants were ‘alarming.’

“Cyclists are particularly vulnerable, so motorists must do their best to be aware of them on the road,” he said.

“And cyclists should ensure they wear high visibility clothing and an appropriate safety helmet.’’

According to latest SAPOL figures, 2518 cyclists were injured and 26 lost their lives in a road crash between 2015 and 2019.

The worst locations for casualty cyclist crashes in this period were Adelaide CBD (272), Norwood (68), North Adelaide (46), Henley Beach (39) and Glenelg (36).

The annual number of cyclists’ casualty crashes has fallen since the introduction of road rules in 2015 requiring vehicles to keep a minimum safe distance when passing cyclists, SAPOL figures show.

Mountain said the Risky Rides survey complemented RAA’s successful Risky Roads initiative that’s been running since 2013, which has provided an avenue for thousands of road users to nominate trouble spots on the metropolitan and regional road network.

“RAA is here to represent all road users, and we know around 150,000 of our members are cyclists too,’’ he said.

Musician to take up new role with Australian String Quartet

The Australian String Quartet is set for another change in its line-up with the announcement that violist Stephen King is transitioning to a new off-stage role with the Adelaide-based group.

King, who has been a member of the ASQ since 2012, is taking up the position of director of engagement and learning, which will see him charged with developing creative collaborations and educational initiatives to broaden the quartet’s reach.

His move follows the departure of cellist Sharon Grigoryan, who left the quartet late last year and was replaced by Michael Dahlenburg in the first change in the line-up in around five years.

Read the full story here.

British hero Captain Tom Moore dies

Captain Tom Moore, the British World War II veteran who raised millions of pounds for health service workers on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, has died aged 100, his family says.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear father, Captain Sir Tom Moore,” his daughters said in a statement.

Moore, who was knighted by the Queen last year, died on Tuesday morning at Bedford Hospital.

He had tested positive for COVID-19 on January 22 and was fighting pneumonia.

Over the last five years, Moore had been receiving treatment for prostate and skin cancer, his family said.

Moore’s fundraising efforts raised more than 32 million pounds ($A58 million) for the National Health Service, walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday during England’s first lockdown in April.

Captain Tom, as he became known in newspaper headlines and TV interviews, set out to raise 1000 pounds for the NHS by walking 100 laps but his quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic.

Donations poured in from across the UK and as far away as the US and Japan.

For three weeks in April, fans were greeted with daily videos of Moore, stooped with age, doggedly pushing his walker in the garden.

But it was his sunny attitude during a dark moment that inspired people to look beyond illness and loss.

“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.

“I’m so sorry to hear that Captain Tom has passed away in hospital,” UK  health minister Matt Hancock said on Twitter.

“He was a great British hero that showed the best of our country.”

with AAP and Reuters

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