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Jumat, 31 Juli 2020

Trump says TikTok app will be banned in the US over security concerns - ABC News

US President Donald Trump said he will soon take action to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.

Mr Trump's comments came after published reports that the administration is planning to order China's ByteDance to sell TikTok.

There were also reports that software giant Microsoft is in talks to buy the app.

"As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States," Mr Trump told reporters.

Mr Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting: "I have that authority."

Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.

There have been reports of US tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app.

The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.

TikTok issued a statement saying: "While we do not comment on rumours or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok."

What is TikTok?

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teenagers in the US and Europe, and combined the two.

A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok's fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and US tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat.

It has said it has tens of millions of US users and hundreds of millions globally.

But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese Government, and the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials.

TikTok maintains it doesn't censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese Government access to US user data even if asked.

The company has hired a US CEO, a former top Disney executive, in an attempt to distance itself from its Chinese ownership.

Why does the US Government want it banned?

US national security officials have been reviewing the Musical.ly acquisition in recent months, while US armed forces have banned their employees from installing TikTok on government-issued phones.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the US was considering banning TikTok.

These national security worries parallel a broader US security crackdown on Chinese companies, including telecom providers Huawei and ZTE.

The Trump administration has ordered that the US stop funding equipment from those providers in US networks.

It has also tried to steer allies away from Huawei because of worries about the Chinese Government's access to data, which the companies have denied it has.

The Trump administration has stepped in before to block or dissolve deals on national-security concerns, including stopping Singapore's Broadcom from its US$117 billion bid for US chipmaker Qualcomm in 2018 in an effort to help retain US leadership in the telecom space.

It also told China's Beijing Kunlun Tech to sell off its 2016 purchase of gay dating app Grindr.

Other countries are also taking action against TikTok.

India this month banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns, amid tensions between the countries.

AP

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2020-08-01 04:07:00Z
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Coronavirus Victoria: Melbourne postcodes with most COVID-19 infections - NEWS.com.au

Hoppers Crossing and Tarneit, in Melbourne’s south west, are the worst hit suburbs affected by the outbreak of coronavirus in the state, new data has revealed.

For the first time, the Victorian health department has listed all the state’s active COVID-19 cases by postcode. Previously, they were only listed by local government area which in some cases can cover a large area.

Victoria announced 397 new copronavirus infections on Saturday, down from 627 on Friday.

The new postcode-by-postcode data gives a far more granular level of information.

It reveals that postcode 3029, that include Hoppers Crossing and Tarneit as well as Truganina - located just north of Werribee - has 346 active cases based on Friday’s figures.

The high numbers is partly due to Truganina being the home of the Al-Taqwa College cluster which on Friday had 184 infections.

Postcode 3064 is the next hardest-hit location. Containing the suburbs of Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park, the area has recorded 286 cases.

Two other postcodes have seen more than 200 cases on Friday’s numbers. These are the St Albans centred postcode of 3021 which has seen 221 cases and postcode 3030 around and including Werribee which has recorded 217 cases.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

RELATED: Shocking toll of state’s most deadly week

VICTORIAN POSTCODES WITH MORE THAN 50 CASES

3029 – Truganina, Tarneit, Hoppers Crossing – 346 cases

3064 – Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, Mickleham, Kalkallo, Donnybrook – 286 cases

3021 – St Albans, Albanvale, Kealba, Kings Park – 221 cases

3030 – Quandong, Cocoroc, Werribee, Point Cook, Werribee South – 217 cases

3023 – Caroline Springs, Deer Park, Ravenhall, Cairnlea, Burnside Heights, Burnside – 177 cases

3076 – Epping – 146 cases

3020 – Sunshine West, Sunshine North, Sunshine, Albion – 144 cases

3037 – Sydenham, Hillside, Delahey, Taylors Hill, Calder Park) – 119 cases

3031 – Kensington, Flemington) – 118 cases

3175 – Dandenong, Dandenong South, Dandenong North, Bangholme 112 cases

3024 – Wyndham Vale, Manor Lakes, Mambourin, Mount Cottrell, Fieldstone – 94 cases

3060 – Fawkner – 91 cases

3081 – Heidelberg West, Heidelberg Heights, Bellfield – 79 cases

3337 – Kurunjang, Melton, Harkness, Toolern Vale, Melton West – 79 cases

3250 – Colac, Elliminyt, Colac East, Colac West – 69 cases

3051 – North Melbourne- 68 cases

3338 – Melton – 66 cases

3046 – Glenroy, Oak Park, Hadfield – 65 cases

3022 – Ardeer – 64 cases

3074 – Thomastown – 60 cases

3012 – West Footscray, Maidstone, Kingsville, Brooklyn, Tottenham – 57 cases

3073 – Reservoir – 57 cases

3977 – Cranbourne, Botanic Ridge, Devon Meadows – 54 cases

3011 – Footscray, Seddon – 53 cases

3058 – Coburg, Coburg North – 52 cases

3137 – Kilsyth, Kilsyth South – 50 cases

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2020-08-01 03:31:24Z
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TikTok: President Trump announces US ban of popular video app - NEWS.com.au

US President Donald Trump has reportedly announced that popular app TikTok will banned.

The app, which allows users to record short videos, has become hugely popular internationally in recent years.

However, its popularity has caused some consternation around the world due to its Chinese ownership.

CNN has reported that Trump made the announcement on-board air force One on Friday, US time.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”

He said he could sign an executive order to bar the app or use other powers.

RELATED: Shock reason why you need to delete TikTok immediately

ByteDance, the Chinese firm behind TikTok, has insisted users data is safe and not shared with the Chinese Government.

It hasn’t assuaged some politicians however who are nervous at how quickly a Chinese firm which holds the personal data of users has been able to grow abroad particularly with younger people.

Some firms have ordered employees to delete TikTok from there phones

It had earlier been reported that Trump would push ByteDance to sell TikTok due to national security concerns. Microsoft had been touted as a possible buyer.

“We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things,” Trump said on Friday, The Guardianreported.

However, later reports have suggested Trump is not in favour of TikTok being bought by a US company and would rather it be banned outright.

India banned the app in recent months after skirmishes with Chinese troops on the two nations’ disputed border in the Himalayas.

AUSTRALIA BAN MOOTED

In early June, an MP was quoted as saying that the Australian government was facing pressure to ban TikTok.

The app has been accused of hiding sinister (and for the most part unproven) links to the Chinese Communist Party behind a fun facade.

At the time, TikTok Australia’s director of public policy Brent Thomas told news.com.au the reports were “not credible”.

The company has said the data of international users is stored outside of China and is not accessible to Chinese authorities.

“Consumers love TikTok in Australia, precisely because we focus on providing an experience that is safe as well as fun,” Mr Thomas said.

“We already have multiple safety measures in place for consumers, and we are continuing to invest in making it even safer.”

TikTok has been downloaded two billion times this year alone.

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2020-08-01 03:07:01Z
52780967412114

TikTok: President Trump announces US ban of popular video app - NEWS.com.au

US President Donald Trump has reportedly announced that popular app TikTok will banned.

The app, which allows users to record short videos, has become hugely popular internationally in recent years.

However, its popularity has caused some consternation around the world due to its Chinese ownership.

CNN reporter Kaitlyn Collins tweeted that Trump announced the ban onboard Air Force One on Friday, US time.

He reportedly said he would sign an executive order to bar the app from the US.

RELATED: Shock reason why you need to delete TikTok immediately

ByteDance, the Chinese firm behind TikTok, has insisted users data is safe and not shared with the Chinese Government.

It hasn’t assuaged some politicians however who are nervous at how quickly a Chinese firm which holds the personal data of users has been able to grow abroad particularly with younger people.

Some firms have ordered employees to delete TikTok from there phones

It had earlier been reported that Trump would push ByteDance to sell TikTok due to national security concerns. Microsoft had been touted as a possible buyer.

“We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things,” Trump said on Friday, The Guardianreported.

However, later reports have suggested Trump is not in favour of TikTok being bought by a US company and would rather it be banned outright.

India banned the app in recent months after skirmishes with Chinese troops on the two nations’ disputde border in the Himalayas.

AUSTRALIA BAN MOOTED

In early June, an MP was quoted as saying that the Australian government was facing pressure to ban TikTok.

The app has been accused of hiding sinister (and for the most part unproven) links to the Chinese Communist Party behind a fun facade.

At the time, TikTok Australia’s director of public policy Brent Thomas told news.com.au the reports were “not credible”.

“Consumers love TikTok in Australia, precisely because we focus on providing an experience that is safe as well as fun,” Mr Thomas said.

“We already have multiple safety measures in place for consumers, and we are continuing to invest in making it even safer.”

TikTok has been downloaded two billion times this year alone.

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2020-08-01 02:59:19Z
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Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wins appeal against death penalty - ABC News

A federal appeals court has overturned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack.

Three people, including an eight-year-old boy, died and more than 260 others were wounded when Tsarnaev and his older brother set off a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the world-renowned race.

The blasts tore through the packed crowd, causing many people to lose legs.

The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld much of Tsarnaev's conviction but ordered a lower-court judge to hold a new trial strictly over what sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes.

A spokeswoman for US Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office was reviewing the decision and would have more to say "in the coming days and weeks".

A lawyer for Tsarnaev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US Circuit Judge O Rogeriee Thompson, writing for the court, said the trial judge "fell short" in conducting the jury selection process and ensuring it could winnow out partial jurors exposed to pretrial publicity surrounding the high-profile case.

Judge Thompson said the pervasive news coverage of the bombings and their aftermath featured "bone-chilling" photos and videos of Tsarnaev and his brother carrying backpacks at the marathon and of those injured and killed near its finish line.

Still from Boston Globe's bombing witness video
The bombs went off at the finish line of the famous race.(The Boston Globe)

The trial judge allowed his jury to include jurors who had "already formed an opinion that Dzhokhar was guilty — and he did so in large part because they answered 'yes' to the question whether they could decide this high-profile case based on the evidence".

Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston on April 15, 2013, when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon's finish line and then went into hiding.

Three nights later, as they attempted to flee the city, they sparked a new round of terror in Boston when they hijacked a car and then shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier.

Tsarnaev's brother died later that night after a gunfight with police, which ended when Dzhokhar ran him over with a stolen car.

'I am sorry for the lives I have taken'

In the ensuing manhunt, police locked down Boston and most surrounding communities for almost 24 hours, with heavily armed officers conducting house-to-house searches through the suburb of Watertown, where the surviving brother was found hiding in a dry-docked boat in a backyard.

A federal jury in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed eight-year-old Martin Richard and 23-year-old Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu. Restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, was also killed in the attack by a bomb placed by Tamerlan.

Suspects One and Two walk through the crowd.
Coverage of the bombings included photos and videos of Tsarnaev and his brother carrying backpacks at the marathon.(Supplied: FBI)

Tsarnaev's lawyers argued the case should not have been tried in Boston, where potential jurors were exposed to heart-wrenching, wall-to-wall media coverage about the attacks and the victims, many of whom lost limbs.

In a statement printed on the front page of the Boston Globe in 2015, Martin's parents Bill and Denise Richard had asked the US Department of Justice to drop its pursuit of the death penalty, saying it would only prolong their pain.

On the day of his sentencing, Tsarnaev admitted his crimes.

"I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done, irreparable damage," said Tsarnaev.

"In case there is any doubt, I am guilty of this attack, along with my brother."

Reuters

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2020-07-31 21:55:00Z
CAIiEANF1UWsGlXtFyVZx-Mih9MqFwgEKg4IACoGCAow3vI9MPeaCDD7kIkG

Australia backs India over deadly border clashes with China - ABC News

Australia has taken another subtle diplomatic swipe at China, this time over its long-running and deadly border dispute with India.

For decades, the world's two most populous nations have fought skirmishes along a stretch of land that divides the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet from India.

Last month, India said 20 of its soldiers had been killed in clashes with the People's Liberation Army at a disputed border site in the western Himalayas, in a major escalation of the standoff between the two nuclear powers.

An Indian army patrol had attempted to tear down temporary structures erected by the Chinese military on terrain claimed by New Delhi, setting off a brutal six-hour melee in sub-zero temperatures.

Now the ABC has learnt Barry O'Farrell, Australia's newly appointed High Commissioner to New Delhi, has indicated the Federal Government's support for India in the decades-long dispute.

"Australia urges restraint along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and supports continued moves towards de-escalation," Mr O'Farrell said in a statement issued by the High Commission this week.

"As I told the External Affairs Minister of India [on Thursday], Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo, which only serve to increase tension and the risk of instability.

"It is important that the bilaterally agreed principles and norms that have helped prevent escalation or miscalculation in the border areas over many decades continue to be observed."

Indian army soldiers dressed in military uniform carry the coffin of their colleague.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops last month.(AP: Aftab Alam Siddiqui)

Foreign Minister urged negotiation

Since the 1960s Australia has not taken sides in the LAC dispute, but diplomatic sources said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recently decided to clarify its public position.

When border clashes between Indian and Chinese troops turned deadly last month, Foreign Minister Marise Payne took a more cautious stance, urging both sides to "avoid confrontation".

"Clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley, and reports of loss of life, are concerning," she said in a statement issued on June 17.

"During a global pandemic, it is more important than ever that all countries minimise tensions and avoid confrontation in long-standing disputes."

At the time Senator Payne added that Australia was monitoring the situation, but stressed it was a "matter for India and China to resolve through negotiation".

So far, DFAT has declined to comment on what has prompted the clarification of its stance, or whether it has formally conveyed its latest position to Beijing.

The Government's newly stated position on the border dispute comes amid growing expectations that Australia could soon be invited to re-join the Malabar naval exercises involving the United States, Japan and India.

The Government has strengthened its opposition to Beijing's maritime claims in the disputed South China Sea through a formal letter to the United Nations.

The US and Australia also jointly reaffirmed their opposition to the Chinese military build-up in the disputed waters following annual AUSMIN talks in Washington.

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2020-07-31 19:16:00Z
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Coronavirus update: World Health Organization reveals devastating daily infection record, Boris Johnson warns Brits of second wave - ABC News

The World Health Organization has reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, eclipsing the previous daily record by more than 8,000 infections.

Meanwhile the UK Government has reversed its plan to ease lockdowns and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of a potential second wave of infections as he announced changes to restrictions.

This story will be updated throughout Saturday and was last updated at 4:00am.

Saturday's key moments:

Global daily case toll reaches devastating new high

The World Health Organization has reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the worldwide total rising by 292,527 on Friday.

The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa — the four countries have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks — while India reported its highest daily infection rate, with more than 55,000 new cases confirmed.

Deaths rose by 6,812 on Friday, as the US state of Florida recorded its fourth straight day of record death tolls.

The previous WHO record for new cases was 284,196 on July 24. Deaths rose by 9,753 on July 24, the second-largest one-day increase.

Deaths have been averaging 5,200 a day in July, up from an average of 4,600 a day in June.

Nearly 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the last week, around double the number that did so the previous week.

Last week, cases in Latin America surpassed the combined infections in the US and Canada for the first time. Infections are continuing to surge in Brazil, which is second in the world behind the United States in cases and deaths.

Cases have been on the rise in Australia with the outbreak in Victoria recording multiple daily case highs throughout the week.

Earlier on Friday World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world may be feeling the effects of the pandemic for decades.

Globally there are more than 17.3 million infections and almost 674,000 deaths attributed to the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Britain PM Johnson postpones easing lockdown

A man in a suit places his left hand on his head and looks down
Boris Johnson said the measures were to help keep the virus under control amid fears of a second wave.(AP: Rui Vieira)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has postponed an easing in lockdown restrictions amid fears of a second wave of the pandemic.

Just hours after imposing tougher measures on swathes of northern England, Mr Johnson announced that casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, due to reopen on Saturday, would remain shut for at least two more weeks.

"Our assessment is that we should now squeeze the brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control."

The changes, combined with the stricter lockdown imposed on more than 4 million people throughout Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, are the largest reversal of restrictions to date in the UK.

England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the Government had probably reached the limit of reopening society and the economy without causing an increase in the number of infections.

"We all know that what we have to try and do is to get to the absolute edge of what we can do in terms of opening up society and the economy without getting to the point where the virus starts to take off again," he said.

More than 45,000 people in the UK have died from COVID-19, according to Government figures.

As restrictions return to parts of England, Northern Ireland has launched the UK's first COVID-19 tracing app.

A similar app was launched in Ireland on July 8, and cases can now be traced across the island's open border by its two separate health services.

Record number of new infections in India

Two people in PPE swap medical testing kits
There are more than 1.6 million cases in India now as daily cases hit a new peak.(AP: David Santiago/Miami Herald)

A record surge of 55,079 new cases in the past 24 hours has taken India's coronavirus caseload past 1.6 million, as the Government decided to lift a night curfew that has been in force since late March.

The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 779 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 35,747.

The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons including limited testing.

The night curfew will be lifted this weekend and yoga institutes and gyms will reopen on August 5, according to the Home Ministry.

People wait to give their samples to medical staff at a slum area during India's lockdown.
Restrictions will continue to ease across India throughout August.(AP: Rajanish Kakade)

The Government has also removed interstate restrictions on movement of people and goods.

Hotels in the Indian capital will reopen as they no longer serve as quarantine facilities.

Lockdowns remain in place across all containment zones.

Subways, cinemas, swimming pools, entertainment parks, bars, theatres, auditoriums and other social gathering places will remain closed until August 31.

Fourth straight day of record deaths in Florida

Florida has reported a record increase in new COVID-19 deaths for a fourth day in a row, with 257 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.

The state has also confirmed 9,007 new cases, bringing its total infections to over 470,000, which is the second-highest in the US behind California.

Florida's total death toll rose to nearly 7,000 — the eighth-highest in the nation.

Florida is among at least 18 states that saw cases more than double in July.

It has reported record daily increases in cases three times during the month, with the highest on July 12, at 15,300 new cases in a single day.

Deaths are rising at their fastest rate since early June and one person in the US died about every minute from COVID-19 on Wednesday as the national death toll surpassed 150,000, the highest in the world.

Cases surge as graft hampers South Africa's fight

A woman in a face mask looks through a barred window
South Africa has the fifth-highest caseload in the world.(Reuters: Mike Hutchings)

South Africa's number of confirmed coronavirus cases is edging close to half-a-million, with the Health Ministry reporting 11,046 new cases overnight.

That brings the country's caseload to 482,169, including 7,812 deaths.

Corruption in the country's pandemic response is also a growing problem.

On Thursday, the health minister in the country's epicentre of Gauteng province was forced to step down over corruption allegations related to Government contracts for COVID-19 personal protective equipment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that now, more than ever, South Africa's persistent problem with widespread graft is endangering people's lives.

South Africa makes up well over half the cases on the African continent and has the world's fifth-highest virus caseload.

As cases increase, the first of thousands of South African-designed ventilators have rolled off a Cape Town assembly line.

Hospitals in the country had struggled to source them on global markets, as richer nations scrambled to obtain ventilators and protective gear, officials said.

South Africa aims to build 20,000 ventilators.

F1 driver Sergio Perez tests positive, gifting Nico Hulkenberg return

A pink F1 racing car is seen on a race track
Nico Hulkenberg will drive for Racing Point for the first time, he last raced in November 2019 for Renault.(AP: Frank Augstein)

Nico Hulkenberg has made an unexpected return to Formula One, stepping in at Racing Point after Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the British Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Hulkenberg lost his seat at Renault for this season so was available when Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer made the call.

The German was immediately back in action for the first time since November, driving in first practice on Friday at Silverstone, where no fans are attending due to the pandemic restrictions.

"I was on my way to the Nurburgring for another racing project when the call from Otmar came," Hulkenberg said.

The race will be Hulkenberg's 178th Grand Prix.

Perez believes he picked up the virus on a trip home to Mexico between the Hungarian and British races to visit his mother after she had an accident.

Spain records worst day in months

A doctor fixes a protective mask to her face with gloved hands
Cases across Spain are rising again and community transmission has surpassed levels expected by authorities.(AP: Felipe Dana)

Spain has reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections in almost three months, as authorities aim to contain new outbreaks.

In the past 24 hours, 1,229 new cases were recorded, marking the largest rise since a lockdown was lifted on 21 June, according to Government data.

The figure meant that Spain recorded more than 1,000 infections for a third consecutive day.

A Spanish Health Ministry official said community transmission of the virus has "exceeded expectations" in recent days.

At least 282,641 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in total in Spain, with 28,441 deaths.

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2020-07-31 15:51:00Z
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Donald Trump says mail-in voting leads to fraud. Experts say it's critical to protecting the US election from coronavirus - ABC News

Yesterday US President Donald Trump said he was so concerned about "Universal Mail-In Voting" that he suggested delaying the November election.

"It will be a great embarrassment to the USA," Trump said.

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It's not the first time he's attacked mail voting. He told Fox News recently that it would "rig the election" and that he might not accept the result of the election because of it.

But with record daily cases and a second wave apparently yet to reach its peak, the reality is setting in that COVID-19 won't go away before November. Experts say without mail voting, Americans will be putting their lives at risk to cast a ballot.

So is there any truth to the claims that mail voting will "rig the election"? And is America ready to vote in the middle of a pandemic?

The answer differs state to state

We'll get back to those rigging claims, but let's start with the US's pandemic preparedness.

America's electoral system is decentralised by design, with each state responsible for its own rules.

On the one hand, it makes it hard to hack or change the results of a presidential election when there are 50 different electoral systems administered in 50 different states.

On the other, it makes it hard to introduce catch-all measures to change those systems quickly.

A report prepared by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice says only five states meet every condition it says are necessary to hold an election during a pandemic.

Voting stations are set up in the South Wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center
The 2020 election will bring big changes to the way America votes.(AP: Timothy D. Easley)

And while some states are moving to change that, the push hasn't been universally successful.

In Texas, the state Supreme Court ruled a lack of immunity from COVID-19 wasn't a valid excuse to be able to vote by mail.

The Federal Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin's request to extend a mail-in ballot deadline back in April.

And six states have signalled they won't allow coronavirus concerns to stand as a valid reason to be granted a mail-in ballot at all.

Change won't be easy. Or cheap

The Brennan Center report lays out five broad areas it says are "critical" to "ensure the election works":

  • Polling place modification and preparation
  • Expanded early voting
  • A universal vote-by-mail option
  • Voter registration modification and preparation
  • Voter education and manipulation prevention

The report found that "to ensure all elections between now and November are free, fair, safe, and secure", at least $US4 billion ($5.6 billion) would be needed from Congress.

So far, Congress has only approved $US450 million. House Democrats rolled more election funding into a new coronavirus stimulus bill, but we're waiting to see if that package will pass Congress (and avoid a potential veto on the President's desk).

An election worker cleans a polling booth with an American flag on it
Experts say safe in-person voting remains vital in 2020.(Reuters: Paul Ratje)

Elections Integrity Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy David Levine says the last issue on that list — voter education — is vitally important.

"One of the things about the coronavirus, wherever you are in the world, is that you've seen numerous instances where people are uncertain and they want answers from trusted sources," Levine said.

"In many places, including the United States, those trusted sources have at times been uncertain of what exactly the best response is. Those opportunities, where someone's looking for information and we don't know the answer, can become perfect opportunities for bad actors to fill that void."

Trump says mail-in voting will lead to fraud. The research says otherwise

In the tweet that got him fact-checked by Twitter for the first time, Trump claimed: "There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.

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The fact check didn't deter Trump, who is still making claims about mail voting more than two months later.

An investigation of American elections from 2000-2012 found only 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud, a figure it described as "infinitesimal".

In Oregon — a state where almost all voting is done by mail — there have only been a dozen cases from more than 100 million ballots sent out since 2000, according to the National Vote at Home Coalition.

And an analysis by Wendy R Weiser and Harold Ekeh at The Brennan Center for Justice puts it like this:

Levine agrees.

"In-person voting, the likelihood of fraud is remote, according to the research," he said.

"Absentee ballot fraud is a hair above remote."

Trump says mail-in voting will end the Republican Party. Again, the research says otherwise

There are two pieces of conventional wisdom that exist in US politics when it comes to mail-in voting:

  • Mail-in voting would significantly increase voter turnout by making it easier for people to vote
  • That would be bad for Republicans, because those who find it tough to vote in person are more likely to vote for Democrats

It's another idea Trump has relied on when explaining why he's so against the expansion of mail-in voting.

"They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again," Trump said on an appearance on Fox and Friends.

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But research from the Democracy and Polarization Lab at Stanford University found "universal vote-by-mail does not affect either party's share of turnout or either party's vote share".

Florida, one of the states most key to Trump's re-election, sends mail-in ballots to any voter that requests one.

Long-time Republican strategist in Florida Mac Stipanovich told NPR mail-in ballots had been a "key tool" for the party.

Republican state officials in some of the states that helped send Trump to the White House in 2016 — Ohio, Iowa and West Virginia — are taking steps to make mail-in voting easier because of the coronavirus.

In Utah, the state's elections director, Justin Lee, says mail-in voting hasn't hurt Republicans at all.

"People are turning out, 90 per cent are using it in a very red state. I don't see any problems for us," Lee told the Associated Press.

What are the chances of things changing by November? What happens if they don't?

Election day is fast approaching, and so are the opportunities for states to make changes to their electoral systems in time.

Georgia's primaries in June was an example of one of the worst-case scenarios— voting lines so long people stood in them for hours (with little social distancing), absentee ballots that were never delivered and results that were delayed by more than a week.

Wisconsin didn't fare much better.

"The primaries were definitely a test run in both directions," said Darrell West, the vice-president and director for governance studies at the Brookings Institute.

"Because of what happened, a number of states moved [towards mail-in ballots] and it was very popular. There were a number of places that, once they made that option available, 60, 70, 80 per cent of the voters actually chose that option.

Voters line up outside polling boohts in Georgia
Georgia's primaries were delayed because of coronavirus but still faced huge problems.(Reuters: Dustin Chambers)

West says there's still time to change processes, but a critical deadline is fast approaching. In about six weeks, some states will begin early mail-in voting, meaning there won't be time to reprint ballots or make major staffing changes past mid-September.

Though mail-in voting may well become more popular before then, the results of that big change could disappoint the public in a key way.

We could be waiting 'days' for a result

Unless the election is a landslide, the process of counting mail-in ballots leaves every chance we'll be waiting "a few days" to find out who won, West said.

US media isn't preparing for a standard election night, but an 'Election Week'.

And that's bad news — not because of the delay itself, but because of how it'll be spun.

"They're going to worry, 'Are the Russians playing with the results?' 'Is Trump playing with the results?' 'Are Democrats playing with the results?'

"It will create scepticism about the whole process."

In other words, you can expect the 2020 election to get messy, regardless of whether states are prepared or not.

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2020-07-31 14:11:00Z
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Hong Kong opposition says decision to delay elections by one year 'politically driven' - ABC News

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has announced the Government will postpone highly anticipated legislative elections by one year, citing a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The Hong Kong Government is invoking an emergency ordinance in delaying the elections. Ms Lam said the Government has the support of the Chinese Government in making the decision.

"The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I've had to make in the past seven months," Ms Lam said at a news conference.

"We want to ensure fairness and public safety and health, and need to make sure the election is held in an open, fair and impartial manner. This decision is therefore essential," she said.

The postponement is a setback for the pro-democracy opposition, which was hoping to capitalise on disenchantment with the current pro-Beijing majority to make gains.

'The most scandalous election ever in Hong Kong history'

A group of 22 elected representatives issued a statement ahead of the announcement accusing the Government of using the outbreak as an excuse to delay the vote.

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Hong Kong teenagers arrested under new National Security Law

"Incumbent pro-democracy legislators, who represent 60 per cent of the public's opinion, collectively oppose the postponement and emphasise the responsibility of the SAR government to make every effort to arrange adequate anti-epidemic measures to hold elections in September as scheduled," the statement said, referring to the territory's official name, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

"Otherwise, it is tantamount to uprooting the foundation of the establishment of the SAR."

The city of 7.5 million people has had a surge in coronavirus infections since the beginning of July.

Hong Kong has recorded 3,273 infections as of Friday, more than double the tally on July 1.

The Government has tightened social distancing restrictions, limiting public gatherings to two people, and banned dining-in at restaurants after 6:00 pm.

The lead-up to the elections has been closely watched, after a national security law that took effect in late June stipulated that candidates who violated the law would be barred from running.

The new law is seen as Beijing's attempt to curb dissent in the city, after months of pro-democracy and anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong shows his disqualification notice during a press conference.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong shows his disqualification notice during a press conference.(AP: Kin Cheung)

On Thursday, 12 pro-democracy candidates including prominent activist Joshua Wong were disqualified from running for not complying with the city's mini-constitution or pledging allegiance to the local and national governments.

"Beyond any doubt, this is the most scandalous election ever in Hong Kong history," Mr Wong said at a news conference Friday.

"I wish to emphasise that no reasonable man would think that this election ban is not politically driven.

"Beijing has staged multiple acts to prevent the opposition bloc from taking the majority in the Hong Kong legislature."

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2020-07-31 13:09:00Z
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Australia's top medical experts to spend Saturday deciding further Victorian restrictions - The Age

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the panel faced "impossible decisions" that could cause widespread economic ruptures with the closure of non-essential businesses, tougher restrictions on high-risk workplaces and tighter limits on movement between suburbs of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

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Professor Sutton said tougher restrictions would bring "really significant consequences" but admitted that after a record 723 new cases on Thursday and 42 deaths since Sunday, a tougher lockdown appeared unavoidable.

“It may be the case that an intervention in a certain area [such as high-risk workplaces] will make a difference. It may also be the case that we look at restrictions in areas that are not a driver of transmission,” Professor Sutton said.

“The impact on businesses, the impact on people’s livelihoods, on their psychological and emotional wellbeing are all part of those considerations. I’ve said before, these are impossible decisions in lots of ways. We are balancing harms.”

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will speak with his state and federal counterparts on the AHPPC on Saturday.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will speak with his state and federal counterparts on the AHPPC on Saturday.Credit:Justin McManus

Five months after COVID-19 took hold in Australia, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton have been appointed to be part of the State Control Centre meetings, which will now be chaired by Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp.

The Department of Health and Human Services secretary, Kym Peake, has been appointed to the role of State Controller for Health. Professor Allen Cheng, from The Alfred hospital, Professor Rhonda Stuart, from Monash Health, and Professor Paul Johnson, from Austin Health, have joined the DHHS as Professor Sutton’s deputies, after Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen decided to return to her former role of managing other communicable diseases, including the avian flu.

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Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist from Melbourne University, said authorities would be considering elements of a New Zealand-style stage four lockdown including closing department stores, banning takeaway and delivery food, blocking construction and closing schools.

"We're halfway through the proposed six-week lockdown - it is almost certainly going to be tighter and longer," Professor Blakely said.

Victoria's aged care and healthcare concerns continued on Friday, with aged care residents comprising more than half of 928 active cases linked to nursing homes on Friday while there were 614 healthcare workers infected with the virus and thousands more colleagues in self-isolation.

Victoria had 349 people with coronavirus cases in hospital, including 36 in intensive care, while Friday's eight deaths included two men in their 50s and four aged care residents.

Geelong has recorded its first COVID-19 death, with a patient who was receiving palliative care passing away overnight on Thursday.

Mr Andrews said Victoria was fighting to overcome a bind where the majority of cases were occurring in essential industries such as aged care, healthcare, meatworks and distribution, which would not normally be shut down in a widespread stage four lockdown.

“It is just not acceptable,” said Mr Andrews.

“No element of this strategy will be successful if, when we door knock you, we are finding one in four people are not home.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly (left), who chairs the AHPPC, alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly (left), who chairs the AHPPC, alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The AHPPC, chaired by Australia's acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and comprising chief health officers from each state and territory, met on Thursday but could not reach a decision on what extra measures should be introduced in Victoria

That prompted Mr Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to agree the AHPPC should spend 48 hours starting on Friday examining Victoria’s coronavirus data.

Professor Sutton said as well as outbreaks in high-risk settings such as aged care and healthcare, he was concerned by Victoria’s levels of community transmission with an unknown source, which increased by 94 on Friday.

He said Victoria would not necessarily replicate New Zealand’s lockdown, in place for a month, which closed schools and all businesses except for essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and medical services.

After the Prime Minister reiterated on Friday that Victoria’s level of community transmission remained unacceptably high, Mr Andrews said Victorians should take comfort that he and the Prime Minister were in lock-step in canvassing a stricter lockdown.

“There is a complete acknowledgement that there can be no economic recovery until we deal with this public health challenge,” the Premier said on Friday.

“It is incredibly difficult, in fact it’s almost impossible for us to see businesses recover unless and until we get these numbers down. That will mean there is a significant imposte. It may be that there will be further support that is needed for businesses and workers.”

Mr Andrews called the figures “rather disturbing” but said he did not yet have plans to increase punishments for positive cases who leave home without good reason.

Professor Sutton added that nine days after masks became compulsory, their effect appeared promising but was not yet fully clear. Fifty-three people were fined for not wearing a mask on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the first witnesses to give evidence at the inquiry into Victoria's hotel quarantine program were confirmed on Friday.

Director of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Austin Health Professor Lindsay Grayson, Director of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at The Doherty Institute Professor Ben Howden and Dr Charles Alpren, epidemiolost from the Department of Health and Human Services, will all give evidence on Thursday.

With Rachael Dexter

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2020-07-31 12:01:00Z
CAIiEBV21hh4gAsMupornA9xZMcqGQgEKhAIACoHCAowgNjvCjCC3s8BMKCtmwY

'Obstruction to democracy': Hong Kong delays election by a year - Sydney Morning Herald

Australian MPs from across the political spectrum have labelled Hong Kong's decision to disqualify a dozen pro-democracy candidates from local elections and a delay in the local poll as an unacceptable obstruction to democracy.

Hong Kong's government announced on Friday night the September elections would be delayed by a year, as the city attempts to suppress a second surge of COVID-19 and the popularity of opposition candidates surges.

The Hong Kong government triggered an emergency order to postpone the elections.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government had the backing of Beijing after warning the city could see a large-scale community coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong has recorded consecutive days of more than 100 infections.

“The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in the past seven months,” Lam said on Friday.

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“We want to ensure fairness and public safety and health, and need to make sure the election is held in an open, fair and impartial manner. This decision is therefore essential."

The sudden disqualification of pro-democracy candidates including high profile activists Joshua Wong, Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung and Gwyneth Ho on Thursday night drew immediate international condemnation.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong at a press conference on Friday.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong at a press conference on Friday. Credit:AP

Wong said on Friday he would continue to resist Beijing's crackdown after more than 600,000 Hongkongers voted in democratic primaries despite being warned they could be in breach of the new national security legislation. The candidates were disqualified after they were found to have expressed "an objection in principle" to the new laws which criminalise dissent.

"Beyond any doubt [this] is the most scandalous election fraud era in Hong Kong history," he said.

Students aged between 16 and 21 were on Thursday arrested for making social media posts deemed to be in breach of the new laws imposed by Beijing on the former British colony.

Ahead of Friday's announcement thirteen Australian MPs including Liberals Andrew Hastie and James Paterson, as well as Labor's Daniel Mulino and David Smith, signed an inter-parliamentary alliance motion calling for the international community to ramp up its response.

"These actions further curtail Hong Kong's way of life and will exacerbate existing grievances in the city at a time of increased tension," the group of more than 100 MPs from Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, Britain and the United States said.

"The decision to disqualify democratic candidates and the anticipated delay to September's Legislative Council elections represent unacceptable obstructions to the democratic process in Hong Kong and raise further concerns about the erosion of rights and freedoms in the city."

Hong Kong's ex-governor Chris Patten said on Friday China was conducting "an outrageous political purge".

“It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy. This is the sort of behaviour that you would expect in a police state."

Benedict Rogers, who co-founded the UK Conservative Party's human rights commission called for the British government to implement Magnitsky-style sanctions, which would strip British assets from Chinese officials involved in the crackdown.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne asked the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to inquire into the use of targeted Magnitsky-style sanctions to address human rights abuses in December. Government sources expect the report to be favourable when it is handed down later this year.

If passed, the measures, which were originally focused on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, could be used to target Chinese officials involved in Hong Kong over their investments in Australia. Hong Kong is Australia's fifth-largest foreign direct investor, with $140 billion in direct and portfolio investment last year, surging by 13 per cent since 2017.

Human rights groups have condemned China's actions in the global financial hub, warning it risks turning the Hong Kong legislature into a rubber-stamp parliament for the Chinese Communist Party.

"This mass disqualification appears to be a concerted effort specifically targeting candidates who advocate viewpoints at odds with those of the government," Amnesty International said. "This move is likely to intensify the climate of fear and tension in Hong Kong."

The ongoing position of the Australian Federal Police in Hong Kong has also become highly sensitive after China terminated Hong Kong's criminal cooperation agreements with Australia, forcing the AFP and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assess its operations. The AFP's Hong Kong bureau has been a key outpost for investigating drug trafficking and fraud in the region.

The Morrison government suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong in July after the passage of the national security laws.

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2020-07-31 11:19:00Z
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