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Archive for January 6th, 2022

Norwegian Cruise Line cancels voyages on 8 ships

Norwegian Cruise Line's "Norwegian Pearl " returns to the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida, on January 5, 2022. - The cruise ship returned after only one day out at sea after several crew members tested positive for Covid-19. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the cancellation of voyages on eight ships, citing “ongoing travel restrictions.”
A Norwegian Getaway cruise set to embark on a nine-day Caribbean itinerary was canceled “due to COVID related circumstances” on Wednesday, the same day it was scheduled to set sail.
The Norwegian Pearl returned to Miami on Wednesday after one day at sea, cutting short a voyage that was scheduled to return to Miami on January 14. Several Covid cases among the crew prompted the move, according to the red wing boots Miami Herald. Norwegian Pearl cruises with embarkation dates through January 14 are canceled.
Cancellations of cruises on Norwegian Sky, Pride of America, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Spirit were also announced on Wednesday.
Some of the cancellations affect sailings through dates in April. A full list of affected voyages is available online in Norwegian Cruise Line’s statement.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” the statement reads.
Guests booked on affected sailings will receive automatic full refunds plus a certificate valid for a future cruise, Norwegian said.
The cruise line has a vaccination requirement for 100% of guests and crew and requires pre-embarkation testing for everyone, it noted in its cancellation notices.
Other cruise lines hit
The cancellations come as an increasing number of cruises have been affected as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeps the world.
In Italy, 45 Covid positive passengers disembarked from the MSC Grandiosa vessel in the port of Genoa on Monday before the ship continued its voyage.
More than 3,000 cruise passengers were awaiting coronavirus testing in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning after nine people on board Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas were identified as close contacts of a positive Covid case.
CDC: Avoid cruising for now
On December 30, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.
The move “reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification hey dude of the Omicron variant,” the CDC website says.
“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the Covid-19 case threshold for CDC investigation,” the agency said.
Industry group Cruise Lines International Association expressed disappointment at the CDC’s elevated risk level.
“The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” CLIA said in a statement last week.

North Korea says it test-fired a hypersonic missile Wednesday, state media reports

North Korea said it successfully test-fired a hypersonic missile on Wednesday, the state-run news agency KCNA reported Thursday.

According to the report, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend the launch.
This image appearing to show North Korea testing a hypersonic missile on January 5 was published by North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

“The successive successful test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have a strategic significance of accelerating the task of modernizing the national strategic force suggested by the 8th Party Congress and completing the most important task among the top five tasks in the strategic weapons sector of the five-year plan,” KCNA said.
The missile was separated after launch, maneuvered 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) from the initial launch, and hit the target set at 700 kilometers (435 miles) without an error, KCNA reported.
The Japan Coast Guard said after reports of the launch hoka shoes for women Wednesday that the projectile fell into the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.
Shortly after the launch Wednesday, South Korea’s National Security Council expressed concerns over North Korea’s launch of a missile, which it presumed to be a ballistic missile, and called for resumption of dialogue with North Korea to ease tension in inter-Korean relations, according to the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry urged North Korea to respond to its efforts to reach peace and cooperation through dialogue.
Last September, North Korea said it had tested a new hypersonic missile, Hawasong-8, from Toyang-ri, Ryongrim County of Jagang province.

Emergency declared in Kazakhstan as fuel protests rage and government resigns

Unrest broke out in cities across Kazakhstan on Wednesday, as thousands angrily protested a sharp fuel price hike that sparked the resignation of the Central Asian country’s government.

Local media reported the airport in the country’s biggest city, Almaty, was breached by protesters, while a state of emergency has been introduced throughout the country, state-run Khabar 24 reports. It will be implemented until January 19, with the news agency saying restrictions on movement, including transport, were introduced in all three major cities and 14 regions.
In the three cities, local administration officials came under olukai shoes attack, buildings were damaged and “stones, sticks, gas, pepper, and Molotov cocktails were used,” according to a statement by the Interior Ministry. A journalist in Almaty told CNN they were experiencing internet outage and lights appeared to be off in buildings near the President’s residence and mayor’s office.
The press service of the Almaty airport told local outlet Orda.kz there were “about 45 invaders at the airport” on Wednesday evening. “The airport employees evacuated passengers on their own,” they added.
The protests were ignited when the government lifted price controls on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at the start of the year, Reuters reported. Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on the fuel because of its low cost.
Prime Minister Askar Mamin resigned amid the protests, and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting on “the evolving difficult socio-political and socio-economic situation in the country,” according to a statement published on the presidential website Wednesday.
Protesters and riot police in Almaty on Wednesday.

Tokayev said in a national television address on Wednesday that he will take control of the country’s Security Council — a move that seemingly sidelines his predecessor, the country’s longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country since it was a Soviet Republic until his departure in 2019, and has remained an influential but controversial figure behind the scenes and on the council since.
In a second televised address, the Kazakh President appealed for help from a military alliance comprised of post-Soviet states after “terrorists” captured Almaty airport, including five aircraft and are battling with the military outside the city.
According to state news agency Kazinform, Tokayev called on the heads of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — which includes Russia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan — to help put down the unrest. Tokayev said a number of infrastructure facilities in the city have also been damaged. He accused the protesters of undermining the “state system” and claimed “many of them have received military training abroad.”
Eight police officers and national guard personnel were killed in riots in different regions of the country, according to Kazakhstan’s local outlet Tengrinews.kz. It also said 317 officers and personnel were injured, citing the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Protesters set fire to the city administration building in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, January 5.
Oil-rich Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest nation by landmass, has attracted foreign investment and maintained a strong economy since its independence, but its autocratic method of governance has at times prompted international concern and has seen authorities harshly crack down on protests, according to global rights groups.
The State Department’s 2018 human rights report noted Kazakhstan’s 2015 presidential election, in hoka shoes which Nazarbayev received 98% of votes cast, “was marked by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition.”
Alikhan Smailov has been appointed acting prime minister, and members of the government will continue to serve until the formation of the new cabinet, the statement added.
A local journalist told CNN that thousands of people were protesting outside the mayor’s office in Almaty on Wednesday.
Kazakhstan's government resigns as fuel protests rage
“More than 10,000 people at the city administration building, we call it the Akimat. They have encircled it,” Serikzhan Mauletbay, deputy editor in chief of Orda.kz, said. Mauletbay said stun grenades were used and there is “some kind of fire,” according to an Instagram live video he watched from the scene.
Another journalist described the scene as chaotic and said they could hear and see what they believed were stun grenades going off and shots being fired, but it is unclear what the firing sounds were.
Russia maintains close relations with hoka shoes for women Kazakhstan and Russia depends on the Baikonur Cosmodrome as the launch base for all Russian manned space missions. The Central Asian nation also has a significant ethnic Russian minority; the CIA World Factbook says around 20% of Kazakhstan’s population is ethnically Russian.
The Kazakh president said a number of measures aimed “to stabilize the socio-economic situation” had been put into place, including government regulation of fuel prices for a period of 180 days, a moratorium on increasing utility tariffs for the population for the same period, and the consideration of rent subsidies for “vulnerable segments of the population.”
On Tuesday evening, Tokayev said on his official Twitter feed the government has decided to reduce the price for LPG in the Mangistau region to 50 tenge ($0.11) per liter “in order to ensure stability in the country.”

Novak Djokovic caught in visa bungle on arrival into Melbourne amid Australian Open controversy

Novak Djokovic has arrived in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, but a reported visa bungle raised questions about his participation at the season-opening grand slam.

Tournament organizers announced on Tuesday that Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption — a decision which has provoked a backlash among Australians.
However, according to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Border Force contacted the state Victoria government after learning of an issue with the visa submitted by Djokovic’s team while the Serb was on his way to Australia.
The 20-time grand slam champion reportedly traveled to Australia on a visa that does not permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated, Australian news outlets reported.
Acting Victoria Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirmed in a tweet on Wednesday that the government would not support Djokovic’s visa application.
“The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam,” wrote Pulford.
“We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a olukai shoes matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors,” she added.
Australian news outlets reported that the Australian Border Force subsequently sought support from the Victorian government to facilitate Djokovic’s entry because Victoria partners with Tennis Australia in running the Australian Open.
Both The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Djokovic would likely be allowed off the plane and into Melbourne, but the situation was still ongoing at midnight local time.
Neither Tennis Australia nor Djokovic’s team was immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN.
Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, posted a photo to social media from what appears to be the Melbourne Airport, where the men’s tennis world No. 1 is reportedly being held due to the visa mix-up.
Ivanisevic posted the photo of him and others with the caption, “Not the most usual trip Down Under,” on Instagram on Wednesday.
Australians have responded with anger and skepticism to the news that men’s tennis No. 1 has been granted an exemption to compete.
There had been uncertainty over Djokovic’s participation after players were told they would have to be fully vaccinated in order to participate or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts. The exemption from the vaccine mandate means he will defend his 2021 title in Melbourne.
Djokovic, who is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 grand slam singles titles, has not publicly revealed his vaccination status but voiced opposition to Covid-19 vaccines and vaccine mandates in April 2020.
“Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said in a Facebook live chat, according to Reuters.
But in May of last year, Djokovic said vaccination was a matter of personal choice: “I will keep the decision as to whether I’m going to get vaccinated or not to myself. It’s an intimate decision, and I don’t want to go into this game of pro and against vaccines, which the media is unfortunately creating these days.”
Australian Open organizers said in a statement on Tuesday Djokovic’s exemption was “granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”
But the vaccine exemption has sparked backlash in Australia.
Deputy Victorian Liberal Leader David Southwick called the decision to allow Djokovic to take part in this year’s tournament “a disgrace,” describing it as a “kick in the guts to every Victorian” who endured months of lockdowns and suffered personal setbacks during the pandemic.
Djokovic celebrates winning the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 21, 2021.

Calls for a boycott

One of Melbourne’s most famous former Australian Football League (AFL) stars Kevin Bartlett tweeted that Australians had been “taken for fools.” While one of the city’s prominent emergency physicians and former president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Stephen Parnis, said the decision sent “an appalling message” to the public.
Across Melbourne, one of the world’s most locked-down cities in 2021, tennis fans took to social media posting calls for an Australian Open “boycott.”
The CEO of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, defended the impartiality of the medical exemption review process on Wednesday, telling reporters during a press conference that “no one knew who the applicant was.”
“There were 26 applicants through the process — there’s a handful which were provided with an exemption and that information only gets disclosed by those individuals on the grounds of which they were provided an exemption,” Tiley said.
“The process has been very clear and we completely understand and empathize with, first of all, some people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements in the past around vaccination,” he said.
Australian Open organizers confirm medical exemption process
“However, it’s ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition if he chooses to do that and the reason why he received his exemption.”
Acting Victorian Sports Minister Jaala Pulford told reporters “nobody has had special treatment.”
“The process is incredibly robust. It’s de-identified and we are where we are, and so the tennis can begin,” she said, according to Reuters.
Djokovic’s exemption comes two weeks after Russian tennis player Nata Vikhlyantseva revealed she would be unable to travel to the tournament because her vaccine is not recognized by local health authorities.
The Sputnik V is not on the list of vaccines currently approved by the Australian government, leaving world No.195 Vikhlyantseva ineligible to play.
Under the Australian Technical Advisory Group on hey dude Immunisation’s (ATAGI) current guidelines, a medical exemption is granted to individuals who have an “acute major medical condition (e.g. undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness.”
The other remaining grounds for a medical exemption concern people who have suffered a “serious adverse event attributed to a previous dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, without another cause identified” and a vaccinee who “is a risk to themselves or others during the vaccination process,” due to an “underlying developmental or mental health disorder.”
Lastly, exemptions may be given to anyone with a “PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, where vaccination can be deferred until six months,” and in cases where individuals have received “anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma therapy.”
In June 2020, Djokovic tested positive for coronavirus following an exhibition event he organized in Croatia, but since then there have been no reports of him being re-infected with the virus.
Australia's vaccine mandate is not to 'blackmail' Djokovic says Victoria sports minister
The backlash against the exemption comes after Melbourne residents spent more than 260 days confined to their homes, forbidden to leave except to buy groceries or other essential items, mostly in two long stretches from July to October, 2020 and August to October, 2021.
Australia has started 2022 with a record number of new Covid-19 cases due to a growing outbreak centered in the eastern states.
New South Wales, the most populous state, and Victoria — home to Melbourne — both posted daily record case numbers on Saturday, health department figures showed.
Many commented on social media that thousands of Australians had been stranded abroad, unable to return to their home country even to visit sick or dying relatives, due to Australia’s strict border controls and quotas on arrivals.
On Tuesday, Djokovic posted a picture of red wing boots himself at an airport with a caption stating he was “heading Down Under.”
“Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022.”
Six-time grand slam champion and Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker says the Serbian is not intending to break any laws and should have personal choice over taking the vaccine.
“I think it would be in his best interests to openly speak about it […] and maybe let everyone in a little bit about what he went through to get this special exemption. I think it will help his cause,” Becker told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“Whether you like him or not, you need to respect his achievements.”
When asked about how players will respond to Djokovic’s exemption, Becker added: “The difference will be nothing from before because he’s been beating most of these players he’s been seeing in the locker room, so he’s not the most popular guy but for various different reasons.”
The Australian Open is the first grand slam of the year and is set to run from January 17-30.

Russian rocket stage makes uncontrolled entry into Earth’s atmosphere

This photo shows preparation to test launch heavy-lift carrier rocket Angara-A5 at Russia's Plesetsk launch facility in the northwestern region of Arkhangelsk, December 14, 2020.

Biggest investigation in FBI history still has Merrick Garland in the hot seat

A year after the January 6 insurrection, the Justice Department continues to press forward on the biggest investigation in FBI history, with 700 people already arrested and hundreds more offenders still at large and several more years of prosecutions ahead.

But the expansive investigation has yet to shed light on how vigorously the former President and political allies could be investigated for inciting rioters by spreading a lie that the election was stolen and asking them to march to the Capitol.
January 6 committee seeks cooperation from Fox News' Hannity and releases texts between host and White House
After opening aggressively, with prosecutors raising the prospect of using a rarely used seditious conspiracy law to charge some Capitol attackers, the Justice Department since Attorney General Merrick Garland took office in March 2021 has settled into a less headline-grabbing approach that Justice officials say is intended to keep the probe away from the political maelstrom.
Garland, a former appeals court judge, has made restoring institutional norms a top focus of his tenure, after a Trump era that regularly injected politics at the department. That includes a reminder to prosecutors that they should only speak in indictments and other court proceedings.
“The Justice Department remains red wing boots committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” Garland said in a speech Wednesday. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
His quiet approach has not satisfied Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who openly discuss their interest in identifying crimes they believe the Justice Department should prosecute. It’s also opened Garland to criticism that he hasn’t been as publicly dynamic or aggressive as the nation needs to counter a threat to democracy.
“I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak and I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of January 6 that should be arrested by now,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, said on CNN this week.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley defended the agency’s efforts. “We are proud of the men and women of the Justice Department, who are undertaking the largest investigation in the department’s history,” Coley said in a statement. “They are following the facts and the law and the Constitution while working at impressive speed and scale to hold accountable all those responsible for the attack on the Capitol, and will continue to do so.”
For the FBI, which came under criticism for failing to do more to prevent the attack, the January 6 anniversary is also a moment to urge the public to help with more tips to solve notable unsolved crimes, including the police assaults and the pipe bombs found that day near the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties just steps from the Capitol.
Steven D’Antuono, assistant director for the FBI’s Washington field office, said those inquiries are priorities as part of the broader complex investigation.
In the year since the US Capitol attack, judges remind us what it means to be American
“In this area where the bombs were placed, if they did go off they could have caused some serious harm or death,” D’Antuono said in an interview with CNN.
“On that day, over 100 police officers were assaulted that day multiple times,” D’Antuono said. “And we’re not just talking about one assault, multiple assaults and by multiple people. We’re still looking for about 250 people individuals that assaulted police officers that day.”
The Justice Department hired a contractor to help it process hundreds of thousands of hours of video in order to do the painstaking work to identify assailants, CNN previously reported. “We’re going to be at this as long as it takes,” he said.

Accountability beyond the rioters

The January 6 attack reframed the face of a domestic terrorism threat that the FBI, Homeland Security Department and other agencies say has grown rapidly. And the January 6 investigation has led to several arrests of what appear to be political extremists on the far right, and extensive investigations into militarized organizations that affiliated themselves with Trump and had members participating in the Capitol violence.
But in many ways, the role of the former President, whose rhetoric fueled the mob and continues to animate supporters, is the elephant in the room that Justice Department officials try to not talk about.
In one of the first moves under Garland, the Justice Department turned over thousands of pages of internal documents to congressional committees investigating the Capitol attack.