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House Democrats ask Trump to testify at his impeachment trial

House of Representatives Democrats who will prosecute former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial asked him on Thursday to testify next week about his conduct before hundreds of his supporters launched a deadly attack on the Capitol. Donald Trump and wife Melania make their way to board Marine One, leaving the White House for the final time in January. Photo: AFP The House last month impeached Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection after he made a fiery speech urging his followers to "fight" his election defeat shortly before they stormed the Capitol, fighting with police and sending lawmakers scrambling for their safety. Trump's attorneys this week rejected the charge, contending that he "fully and faithfully executed his duties as president" and asserting that his claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud - which were baseless - were protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. "In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021," Democratic lawmaker Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, wrote in a letter to Trump and his attorneys. Raskin asked Trump to provide testimony between 8 and 11 February. "If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021," Raskin wrote. House managers want Trump to testify under oath about a number of statements made by his lawyers, including that he never tried to subvert the certification of the election results, according to a senior aide on the impeachment team. It was not immediately clear whether Trump would agree to the request. Trump's representatives and lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump's, dismissed the request as a "political ploy." Asked if Trump would testify, Graham said: "I don't think that would be in anybody's interest." For two months after losing his re-election bid to President Joe Biden, Trump loudly argued that he lost due to rampant electoral fraud, claims that were rejected by multiple courts and state election officials. At the 6 January rally, the former president urged supporters to fight before hundreds of them stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification of Biden's victory. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died during the incident. Trump's lawyers and most Republican senators have challenged the constitutionality of the trial. They have said the Senate does not have the authority to hear the case because Trump, also a Republican, has already left office and cannot be removed. Such an argument would allow Republican senators - who hold half the seats in the chamber - to vote against Trump's conviction on procedural concerns instead of directly supporting his comments. A total of 17 Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats to convict Trump in the trial. The impeachment trial of Trump, the first US president to face such a trial twice, is expected to begin next week. Trump's first impeachment trial, on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress after he appeared to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, resulted in an acquittal by the Senate, where Republicans held the majority at the time and denied Democrats' attempts to present witnesses. - Reuters
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Uighur camps: US, UK governments condemn reports of systematic rape

The US government has said it is "deeply disturbed" by a BBC report detailing allegations of systematic rape of Uighur women in Chinese camps. A facility in Artux, in China's western Xinjiang region,believed to be a detention camp, pictured in 2019, More than a million Uighurs and other minorities are estimated to have been detained in camps in China. Photo: AFP "These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences," a spokesperson said. A UK government minister, Nigel Adams, said in parliament on Thursday that the report showed "clearly evil acts". According to estimates, more than a million Uighurs and other minorities have been detained in camps in China. An investigation published by the BBC on Wednesday contained first-hand testimony of systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture of women detainees by police and guards. China's foreign ministry has denied the allegations, accusing the BBC of making a "false report". Spokesman Wang Wenbin said there was "no systemic sexual assault and abuse against women" and China operated all of its facilities within guidelines on human rights. "There is no systemic sexual assault and abuse against women. China is a country [ruled] by law, our constitution guarantees and protects human rights, and it is embodied in our legal system under which governments work," he said. What did the BBC investigation uncover? The testimony given to the BBC detailed allegations of rape and sexual abuse of Uighur women detained in China's internment camps in the Xinjiang region. One woman told the BBC that women were removed from their cells "every night" and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled the region after her release and is now in the US, said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men. A Kazakh woman from Xinjiang who was detained for 18 months in the camp system said she was forced to strip Uighur women naked and handcuff them, before leaving them alone with Chinese men. The Chinese men "would pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates", said Gulzira Auelkhan. "They forced me to take off those women's clothes and to restrain their hands and leave the room," she said. A former guard at one of the camps, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described torture and food deprivation of inmates. Adrian Zenz, a leading expert on China's policies in Xinjiang, said the testimony gathered by the BBC was "some of the most horrendous evidence I have seen since the atrocity began. "It provides authoritative and detailed evidence of sexual abuse and torture at a level clearly greater than what we had assumed," he said. UK, US and Australia call for action In a statement on Wednesday, a US state department spokesman said: "We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang". "These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences." In an urgent question to the UK parliament on Friday, MP Nus Ghani said: "These horrifying stories add to the huge and growing body of evidence detailing atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang - atrocities which may even be genocidal." Ms Ghani called on UK Minister of State for Asia Nigel Adams to "make a promise today that no further deepening of any ties of any kind will take place with China until a full judicial inquiry has investigated these crimes". Mr Adams said the government was "leading international efforts to hold China to account". "Anybody who has seen the BBC report cannot help but be moved and distressed by what are clearly evil acts," he said. The UK would continue to work with European nations and the new US administration to pressure China, he added. Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne also commented on the report, saying the United Nations should be given "immediate" access to the region. "We consider transparency to be of utmost importance and continue to urge China to allow international observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, to be given immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang at the earliest opportunity," she said. Human rights groups say the Chinese government has gradually stripped away the religious and other freedoms of the Uighurs, culminating in an oppressive system of mass surveillance, detention, indoctrination, and even forced sterilisation. In December, the International Criminal Court rejected an application from Uighurs in exile to investigate China for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity, saying it was unable to act because China was outside its jurisdiction. In January, the outgoing Trump administration declared that China had committed genocide in its repression of the Uighurs - a declaration later endorsed by the new Biden administration. China has consistently denied allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and said the camps were not detention camps, but "vocational educational and training centres". - BBC
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University of South Pacific may move after vice-chancellor's deportation

Samoa has confirmed it will pursue moving the University of the South Pacific headquarters from Fiji to Samoa. The revelation follows the Fiji government's deportation of USP vice-chancellor and president (VCP) Pal Ahluwalia and his wife after they were whisked away from their home in the middle of the night by immigration officers. USP campus in Fiji Photo: USP Samoa's minister of education has revealed that moving the university headquarters to Samoa will be on the agenda of tomorrow's USP Council meeting. Loau Keneti Sio said the manner in which USP president and vice-chancellor Pal Ahluwalia was removed will also be tabled. There were issues to work through in moving much of a large campus, said Loau, but they were not insurmountable and Samoa offered many advantages, including stability. Meanwhile, New Zealand's foreign ministry has expressed concern at the implications of VCP Ahluwalia's removal, and said it would work with other USP Council members for a resolution. It has sought information from the Fiji government. USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Sandy have boarded the flight to Brisbane Photo: Nukualofa Times Fiji government's claims The Fiji government has released a statement about the deportation of the USP vice-chancellor and his wife, who were foreign citizens in Fiji on work permits. But in a statement, the government said "repeated breaches by both individuals of the stated provisions of Section 13 of the Immigration Act" were the reasons behind the deportation. "Their actions have clearly violated the terms of their work permits, resulting in their subsequent deportation," the statement continued. "Similar criteria have been applied to other foreign nationals in Fiji in the past and, as a sovereign nation, Fiji will continue to enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards any breaches of its immigration law." However, the USP Staff Union (USPSU) and Association (AUSPS) released a joint statement condemning the deportation as "a violation of human rights and due process". The two bodies have demanded an explanation of how Ahluwalia can be cited by government as a 'public risk'. Meanwhile, the leader of Fiji's opposition National Federation Party (NFP) said the vice-chancellor was deported so that he would miss the next USP Council meeting. Ahluwalia had been exposing "mismanagement, nepotism and corruption" at the university among those closely associated with government, Prasad said. He said both Ahluwalia and the university's governing council had frustrated government with their ongoing independence. Prasad said the USP Council meeting agenda tomorrow included dealing with those choosing to undermine that independence. "The USP Council Chair and another government individual who have been basically an obstacle to the management and governance of the university," he said. "And obviously [the] Fiji government wanted to protect these individuals and therefore, before the council meeting, they have undertaken this particular action which is entirely uncalled for." The NFP is calling on the prime minister, who is also the immigration minister, to rescind the decision. Leader of the National Federation Party Biman Prasad Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox
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Myanmar coup: UN chief Guterres calls for failure of military takeover

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged the world community to make sure Monday's coup in Myanmar fails. The Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres. Photo: AFP The reversal of elections is "unacceptable", he said, and coup leaders must be made to understand this is no way to rule the country. The UN Security Council is discussing a possible statement, but China is expected to block any form of words which condemns the coup. Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained when the army seized power. Police in Myanmar - also known as Burma - later filed several charges against Suu Kyi, who has been remanded in custody until 16 February. Neither Suu Kyi nor deposed President Win Myint have been heard from since the takeover. The coup, led by armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, has seen the installation of an 11-member junta. The military, which has declared a year-long state of emergency, sought to justify its action by alleging fraud in last November's elections, which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won decisively. Facebook services in Myanmar were disrupted today amid reports the military had ordered telecom companies to block the social media platform. The company confirmed the disruptions, urging "authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information". Over the past days, activists had set up Facebook pages to co-ordinate opposition to the coup. 'Absolutely unacceptable' The UN secretary general called for constitutional order to be re-established in Myanmar. He said he hoped there would be unity in the Security Council on the matter. "We'll do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors of the international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails," he said. "It's absolutely unacceptable to reverse the result of the elections and the will of the people. "I hope that it'll be possible to make the military in Myanmar understand that this is not the way to rule the country and this is not the way to move forward." Western countries have condemned the coup unreservedly, but efforts at the Security Council to reach a common position failed as China dissented. China is one of five permanent members with a right of veto in the council. Photo: AFP Beijing has long played a role of protecting the country from international scrutiny, and has warned since the coup that sanctions or international pressure will only make things worse. Alongside Russia, it has repeatedly protected Myanmar from criticism at the UN over the military crackdown on the Muslim minority Rohingya population. Leaders' held It has been reported that Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being held at her residence in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw. She faces charges which include breaching import and export laws, and possession of unlawful communication devices. The accusations are contained in a police document - called a First Initial Report - submitted to a court. She was remanded in custody "to question witnesses, request evidence and seek legal counsel after questioning the defendant", the document says. President Win Myint is accused, under the National Disaster Management Law, of meeting supporters in a 220-vehicle motorcade during the election campaign in breach of Covid restrictions. Military soldiers with tanks and police trucks continue to block Yaza Htar Ni road where vip entrance to the parliament in Naypyidaw in Myanmar Photo: Anadolu Agency via AFP Activists call for civil disobedience There have been few signs of major protest in Myanmar so far. On Tuesday and Wednesday night (local time), drivers honked their horns in the main city, Yangon (also known as Rangoon), and residents banged cooking pots. The country has appeared mainly calm following the coup, with troops on patrol and a night-time curfew in force. However, hospitals have seen protests. Many medics have either stopped work, or continued while wearing symbols of defiance to oppose the suppression of Myanmar's short-lived democracy. The protesters say they are pushing for the release of Suu Kyi. They are wearing red or black ribbons to signify resistance, and have been pictured giving the three-fingered salute familiar from the Hunger Games films and used by demonstrators last year in Thailand. Online, many changed their social media profile pictures to the colour red, in support of Suu Kyi's party. - BBC
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New Start: US and Russia extend nuclear treaty

The US has extended the New Start nuclear arms control treaty with Russia for five years. In this file photo a Russian army RS-24 Yars ballistic missile system moves through Red Square during a military parade, marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Moscow on 24 June 2020. Photo: AFP Announcing the move, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it made the world safer. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed it by phone a week ago, and Putin signed it into law on Friday. The treaty had been set to lapse on 5 February, as the Trump administration had refused to approve the extension. It had sought tougher verification procedures and some inclusion of tactical weapons, as well as an expansion of the deal to cover China. New Start is the last remaining nuclear arms deal between Russia and the US, and its demise would have ended all limits on deployments of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems. "This welcome step is the start of our efforts to pursue effective arms control that lowers the risks of war and helps prevent arms races." A Russian foreign ministry statement said the agreement entered into force on Wednesday after diplomatic notes were exchanged with the US Embassy in Moscow, adding that the treaty remained in effect "exactly as it had been signed, without any amendments or additions". Originally signed in 2010, the treaty limits each side to 1550 long-range nuclear warheads, a lower number than under the previous Start deal. Each country is allowed, in total, no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear arms. Another 100 are allowed if they are not operationally deployed - for example, missiles removed from a sub undergoing a long-term overhaul. Again, this is a significant reduction from the original treaty. - BBC
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Head of Pacific university to be deported by Fiji

Fiji authorities have detained the vice-chancellor of the University of the South Pacific and are to deport him today. Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife were awoken and whisked away from their home late last night by plain-clothed Fiji immigration officers who broke into the residence. USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Sandy have boarded the flight to Brisbane Photo: Nukualofa Times The vice-chancellor and his wife were transported to Nadi from where they will be deported to Brisbane this morning. The academic asked for the grounds of his deportation and was told he posed a "public risk". A letter signed by Fiji's Acting Director of Immigration Amelia Komaisavai further explained that the government deemed Professor Ahluwalia to be "a person who is or has been conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, security or good government of the Fiji Islands". Notice of removal of USP VC @pal_vcp issued by the Acting Director of Immigration Amelia Komaisavai pic.twitter.com/gX2To73k7j — NFP (Fiji) (@FijiNfp) February 3, 2021 Since taking on the job two years ago, Professor Ahluwalia had been driving efforts to clean up the governance of the Suva-based university. However last June, the vice-chancellor was suspended by the USP's executive committee led by Winston Thompson over alleged malpractice. After weeks of protests by students and staff, and regional concern, Professor Ahluwalia was reinstated when the council ruled that due process had not been followed in the suspension. The council also subsequently cleared Professor Ahluwalia of all the allegations. The Fiji government later announced it was suspending its grants of more than $US10 million to the university.
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Golden Globes 2021: Three female directors make history in nominations

Three women have been nominated for best director at the Golden Globe awards - the first time more than one has been shortlisted in a single year. Left to right: Regina King, Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell Photo: AFP Regina King, Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell are up for the prize, which had only previously nominated five women in the Golden Globes' 77 year-history. Mank leads the overall film awards race with six nominations, while The Crown leads the TV categories, also with six. The nominations belatedly fired the starting gun for this year's Hollywood awards season, which has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Aaron Sorkin's film drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 and TV comedy Schitt's Creek also performed well, with five nominations each. Doubles for Borat and The Crown stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Olivia Colman and Anya Taylor-Joy all scooped two acting nominations each. Baron Cohen said he felt "overwhelmed and humbled" to be recognised for the films Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The Trial of the Chicago 7. "These two films are different, but they share a common theme," he wrote on Twitter. "Sometimes we have to protest injustice with our own farce." Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has been nominated for best picture - musical/comedy at the 2021 Golden Globes. Photo: Amazon Studios He went on to joke that he had already hired Rudy Giuliani, former President Trump's lawyer, to contest the results. The star also has a third nomination, as a producer of the Borat sequel. Taylor-Joy, meanwhile, was shortlisted for Netflix's chess drama The Queen's Gambit and for the Jane Austen film adaptation Emma. Colman, who won best actress in a TV drama for playing the Queen in Netflix's The Crown last year, could repeat that this year, and is also shortlisted for her forthcoming film The Father. The Crown reigns Four of Colman's The Crown co-stars were also nominated - Emma Corrin (Princess Diana), Josh O'Connor (Prince Charles), Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher) and Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret). Bookmakers have also made the show's fourth season the favourite to win best TV drama ahead of Lovecraft Country, The Mandalorian, Ozark and Ratched. That's all despite a row over how the show portrays the Royal Family. Series creator Peter Morgan said everyone involved in the Netflix series was "thrilled to be recognised in this way". "This season really seems to have resonated with audiences of all generations all around the world," he said. "We could not be more grateful or more proud." The Crown has six Golden Globe nominations. Photo: Netflix Women behind the camera Emerald Fennell will be familiar to The Crown viewers for playing Camilla Parker-Bowles. The Brit wasn't nominated for her acting - but was nominated for Promising Young Woman, her first feature film as director. She also wrote the dark comic thriller, and was previously chief writer on the second series of Killing Eve. Film and TV fans will also know Regina King, who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for acting in 2018's If Beale Street Could Talk, and has now moved behind the camera with One Night in Miami. And Chinese director Chloe Zhao has become the first woman of Asian descent to be up for the Golden Globes' best director prize, for Nomadland. Nomadland and Promising Young Woman are also nominated for best film drama alongside Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Father. The last female director to be nominated for best director was Ava DuVernay for Selma in 2014, and the only woman ever to have won is Barbra Streisand for Yentl in 1984. Top films Mank - 6 nominations The Trial of the Chicago 7 - 5 The Father - 4 Nomadland - 4 Promising Young Woman - 4 Controversial choices The Globes split most awards between dramas and musicals/comedies, and the nominees for best musical/comedy film include Music, the directorial debut of pop star Sia. But her film has attracted controversy for its casting of dancer Maddie Ziegler as a young girl on the autism spectrum. Actress Ruth Madeley, who has spina bifida, expressed solidarity with "every #ActuallyAutistic person who is rightly devastated to see #Sia"s Music nominated". "Disabled people are needed in the industry now more than ever to help change the narrative we're all so sick of," she wrote on Twitter. Music is up against the Borat sequel, the Disney+ recording of Broadway hit Hamilton, time loop comedy Palm Springs and Netflix film The Prom. James Corden was a surprise nominee for best actor in a musical or comedy for The Prom, after he was criticised for taking on a character who is, by his own admission, "as a gay as a bucket of wigs". Top TV shows The Crown - 6 nominations Schitt's Creek - 5 Ozark - 4 The Undoing - 4 The Great - 3 Ratched - 3 Netflix dominates (but not Bridgerton) With the cinema shutdown and delays to many films, streaming has gained the upper hand over the past year. As a result, Netflix leads the Golden Globes field with 22 out of the 70 film nominations and 20 out of 54 film nominations - giving the streaming giant one third of all nominations in total. Yet there was no room for its period drama Bridgerton, despite the show becoming the service's "biggest series ever". What do nominations tell us about the Oscars race? Presented annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the Golden Globes are the most prestigious movie awards behind the Oscars. This year's winners will be announced at the end of this month in a bi-coastal ceremony hosted by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Los Angeles. In a normal year, many of the nominees would be expected to be among the Academy Award nominations. But this is not a normal year. The Oscars will take place two months later than normal, having been put back from the date - 28 February - that the Globes ceremony now occupies. The eligibility period for this year's Oscars has been extended by two months, meaning films released in cinemas or online before the end of February could be in contention. This may not end up making much of a difference - although it could mean that the Globes' traditional role as an awards season indicator may not be as reliable as it sometimes has been. - BBC
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Myanmar coup: Detained Aung San Suu Kyi faces charges

Police in Myanmar have filed several charges against the elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi following Monday's military coup. Aung San Suu Kyi (file photo) is reportedly being held at her residence. She has been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkie radios. Photo: AFP She has been remanded in custody until 15 February, police documents show. The charges include breaching import and export laws, and possession of unlawful communication devices. Her whereabouts are still unclear, but it has been reported that she is being held at her residence in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw. Deposed president Win Myint has also been charged, the documents show - in his case with violating rules banning gatherings during the Covid pandemic. He has also been remanded in custody for two weeks. Neither the president nor Suu Kyi have been heard from since the military seized power in the early hours of 1 February. The coup, led by armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, has seen the installation of an 11-member junta which is ruling under a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The military sought to justify its action by alleging fraud in last November's elections, which Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won decisively. What are the details of the charges? The accusations are contained in a police document - called a First Initial Report - submitted to a court. It alleges that Suu Kyi illegally imported and used communications equipment - walkie-talkies - found at her home in Nay Pyi Taw. She was remanded in custody "to question witnesses, request evidence and seek legal counsel after questioning the defendant", the document says. Win Myint is accused, under the National Disaster Management Law, of meeting supporters in a 220-vehicle motorcade during the election campaign in breach of Covid restrictions. What opposition is there to the coup? Activists in Myanmar are calling for civil disobedience. Many hospital medics are either stopping work or continuing but wearing symbols of defiance in simmering anger over the suppression of Myanmar's short-lived democracy. Protesting medical staff say they are pushing for the release of Ms Suu Kyi. They are wearing red, or black, ribbons and pictured giving the three-fingered salute familiar from the Hunger Games movies and used by demonstrators last year in Thailand. Online, many changed their social media profile pictures to one of just the colour red. "Now young people in Myanmar... have digital power, we have digital devices and we have digital space so this is the only platform for us" Yangon Youth Network founder Thinzar Shunlei told AFP. "So we've been using this since day one, since the first few hours that we are opposing the military junta." But there have been few signs of major protest. On Tuesday night, drivers honked their horns in the main city, Yangon (also known as Rangoon), and residents banged cooking pots. Myanmar has been mainly calm following the coup, with troops on patrol and a night-time curfew in force. There have also been demonstrations in support of the military - one attracted 3,000 people, AP news agency reports. Hundreds of MPs were also detained by the military but were told on Tuesday they could leave their guest houses in the capital. Among them is Zin Mar Aung, an NLD MP who spent 11 years in jail on political charges under military dictatorship. She told BBC Burmese she had now been given 24 hours to leave the MPs' compound. "Currently the situation is very very tough and challenging," she said. "Under the military coup it's very dangerous if we speak out about what will be our next steps... only thing that I can say is that the MPs of parliament will stand with our people and vote." Aung San Suu Kyi - the basics Rose to international prominence in the 1990s as she campaigned to restore democracy in Myanmar during decades of military dictatorship Spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010 after organising rallies calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections Awarded Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest in 1991 Led her NLD party to victory in Myanmar's first openly contested election in 25 years in 2015 Reputation tarnished by failure to condemn military campaign which saw more than half a million civilians from Muslim Rohingya minority seek refuge in Bangladesh How are other countries reacting to the takeover? The Group of Seven major economic powers said it was "deeply concerned" about the coup and called for the return of democracy. "We call upon the military to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically-elected government, to release all those unjustly detained and to respect human rights," the statement released in London said. The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. But efforts at the United Nations Security Council to reach a common position came to nought as China failed to agree. China is one of five permanent members with a right of veto in the council - the UN body responsible for maintaining peace. China has been warning since the coup that sanctions or international pressure would only make things worse in Myanmar. Beijing has long played a role of protecting the country from international scrutiny. It sees the country as economically important and is one of Myanmar's closest allies. Alongside Russia, it has repeatedly protected Myanmar from criticism at the UN over the military crackdown on the Muslim minority Rohingya population. - BBC
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Victoria reintroduces Covid-19 restrictions after quarantine worker tests positive

Victoria has reintroduced mandatory mask rules, reduced the cap on visitors in homes and paused an increase on the number of people allowed in offices after a hotel quarantine worker contracted Covid-19. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews (file) said Victoria now knew how to get on top of Covid-19 outbreaks. Photo: AFP A plan to have up to 75 per cent of workers back in the office from Monday has been paused. It follows the diagnosis of a 26-year-old, who had been serving as a resident support officer as part of the Australian Open quarantine programme. The Noble Park man last worked at the Grand Hyatt on 29 January and returned a negative test after the end of that shift but later developed symptoms. Premier Daniel Andrews said authorities were "assuming the worst" and acting as though the man had the highly infectious UK strain of the virus. Genomic sequencing to identify the strain will be completed in coming days. Andrews said authorities were adding new restriction levels because "we have to assume that this person has in fact infected others". Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said testing indicated the man "probably had a high viral load", meaning he expected his close contacts to potentially become cases. But Mr Andrews said "there's no need for people to panic" after the positive case, adding Victoria now knew how to get on top of outbreaks. Source of infection still being determined Andrews said it was still not clear how the worker contracted the virus, given he had previously recorded negative test results while working at the quarantine hotel. "All of that will become clearer with a combination of CCTV footage, genomic sequencing, further testing, all of that coronavirus detective work that is already well and truly under way." Andrews made the announcement in a late-night press conference, just hours after the infection was confirmed. The case will be recorded as a community transmission, the day the state had celebrated reaching a milestone 28 days in a row without a locally acquired infection. It followed news on Wednesday afternoon that health authorities were investigating the possible transmission of the virus between returned travellers at a different quarantine hotel. Andrews said the 26-year-old worker had attended a social function in his capacity as a volunteer firefighter. "We have been through FRV and CFA have been contacting brigades, they have been doing deep cleaning, they in turn have been contacting their members, their staff as well as their volunteers," he said. "We are confident people will get the information they need as quickly as possible." From Thursday all of the 13 major testing sites in the south-east of Melbourne were to open early and additional testing sites were being opened. Victoria's Covid-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said contact tracing work was occurring throughout Wednesday night. "We are continuing to talk to him [the worker] tonight to extract as much information as possible about his movements," he said. Weimar said contact tracers were working to get in touch with organisations and businesses listed as exposure sites. He asked Victorians to bring water and have enough fuel in their car to wait for their testing at sites, adding that the weather is forecast to be warm. More than 500 people linked to the Australian Open classed as casual contacts The Grand Hyatt was one of three quarantine hotels used by the Australian Open to quarantine more than 1000 players and support staff ahead of the tournament. Andrews said there would be an impact on some of the grand slam's players and staff. "There is a number of about 500, 600 people who are players and officials and others who are casual contacts," Andrews said. "They will be isolating until they get a negative test." Andrews said that may impact on play in lead-up tournaments taking place on Thursday, "but at this stage there is no impact to the tournament proper". But Andrews said the tennis was not the most important issue. "I must say that is important to us but the issues are much broader and that is about public health and public safety," he said. Professor Sutton said he believed it would be safe for the first grand slam of the year to go ahead, as the latest people to test positive within the hotel quarantine system were diagnosed between January 15 and 22 and then moved to the health hotel. He said it was a "precautionary but useful measure" to test the casual contacts who had stayed in the hotel. 'We'll absolutely get on top of it' Professor Sutton and Mr Andrews praised the hotel quarantine worker for providing contact tracers with a detailed list of where he had been. "We've identified it relatively early. We've got that exposure information coming in very rapidly," he said. "And I think people will absolutely step up to this in terms of knowing that they need to get tested and that they'll need to isolate until they get that negative result. If everyone's doing that, we'll absolutely get on top of it." Professor Sutton said while the case meant an end to Victoria's technical elimination of the virus, "we'll do it again". "If we have to do it 10 times over, we can do it." - ABC
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G7 condemns coup in Myanmar, China rejects claims of support

The Group of Seven largest developed economies have condemned the military coup in Myanmar saying it is deeply concerned about the fate of detained political leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar's military stand guard at around Sin Bin Guest House in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Photo: AFP "We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in condemning the coup in Myanmar," they said in a statement. "We are deeply concerned by the detention of political leaders and civil society activists, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and targeting of the media." The G7 foreign ministers called on the military to end the state of emergency and allow unrestricted humanitarian access to support the most vulnerable. "We call upon the military to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically-elected government, to release all those unjustly detained and to respect human rights and the rule of law," the G7 said. "The November election results must be respected and Parliament should be convened at the earliest opportunity." Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry has rejected the suggestion that it supported or gave tacit consent to the coup. "Relevant theories are not true. As Myanmar's friendly neighbouring country, we wish that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately resolve their differences, and uphold political and social stability," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in response to a question at a daily briefing. The Chinese government's top diplomat met last month during a scheduled visit to the Myanmar capital with officials including the country's military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who this week seized power in the coup. -Reuters
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