FRIDAY JULY 3
Is the gloss coming off Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? The Labor poster boy was riding high after steering Victoria through the summer bushfire crisis and the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now, the wheels are starting to fall off following the quarantine hotels security debacle which has been blamed for a surge in the state’s cases leading to the reimposition of major lockdown.
There are now 415 active cases in Victoria and community transmission continues to grow. Genomic sequencing of this recent surge points to the virus spreading from security guards at hotel quarantine taking the virus back to their families, some of them large multi-generational households.
These breaches are unacceptable to me, they are unacceptable to all Victorians. That’s happened though, I can’t change that, Mr Andrews told 7.30. The botched handling of hotel quarantine has the potential to be the biggest scandal to rock the Andrews since his government was elected in 2014. Unlike other political scandals, the failures of quarantine are directly affecting hundreds of thousands of people, more than 310,000 to be precise.
Other states, which mainly use police to guard quarantine hotels and insist on high work standards by its civilian security guards, have not had this level of virus spillage.
Reports of poorly trained, subcontracted security guards have dogged the Victorian Government. Pictures of guards sleeping on duty have been printed by news outlets. The United Workers Union that represents guards say the inadequate training was a disaster waiting to happen.
The practise of ghosting, where security guards don’t turn up but still charge for a shift, is also a problem. And then there is the unconfirmed salacious allegations that the virus was spread between the sheets, with guards accused of sleeping with people in quarantine.
Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of dead accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in New Hampshire. The 58-year-old, who lived for years with Epstein, was taken into custody at about 8:30am Thursday (local time), according to the ABC and newsagencies.
William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI New York office, told a news conference Ms Maxwell had been living at a gorgeous property in New Hampshire.
Federal prosecutors allege Ms Maxwell enticed and caused minor victims to travel to Epstein’s residence in different states and that she would assist in their grooming for and subjection to sexual abuse. Prosecutors said Ms Maxwell was well aware of Epstein’s preference for minor girls, and that he intended to sexually abuse them.
The charges against Ms Maxwell include counts of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury.
Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney in Manhattan, said told the press conference that the alleged offences were almost unspeakable. The indictment alleges that after winning the girls trust, Ms Maxwell would try to ‘normalise sexual abuse’ by discussing sexual topics or by undressing in front of the victims or being present when a victim was undressed.
It is also alleged that Ms Maxwell encouraged the young girls to massage Epstein, and in some cases, the victims were partially or fully nude during the massages.
The court papers said Epstein’s abuse of girls occurred at his Manhattan mansion and other residences in Florida, New Mexico and London.
Landlocked African country Botswana is investigating the unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants. Authorities say 275 elephants have died in recent weeks, up from 154 two weeks ago. The dead elephants were first spotted months ago in the Okavango Panhandle region, and authorities said they have since been trying to discover the cause. Poaching has been ruled out as the cause of death because the carcasses were found intact.
Three laboratories in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Canada have been identified to process the samples taken from the dead elephants, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism said in a statement.
Elephants Without Borders (EWB), a conservation organisation, reported that its own aerial surveys showed that elephants of all ages appeared to be dying.
The group counted 169 dead elephants on May 25, and another 187 on June 14. Several live elephants that we observed appeared to be weak, lethargic and emaciated, EWB director Mike Chase said. Some elephants appeared disorientated, had difficulty walking, showed signs of partial paralysis or a limp.
One elephant was observed walking in circles, unable to change direction although being encouraged by other herd members. Mr Chase said urgent action was needed to establish if the deaths were caused by disease or poisoning.
Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, had recorded growth from 80,000 to 130,000 in the late 1990s.
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