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Novak Djokovic lands in Melbourne for Australian Open amid anger over Covid vaccine exemption

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Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has faced a dramatic late night bureaucratic bungle after arriving in Melbourne to defend his Australian Open crown, leaving him trapped at the airport overnight in a guarded room after being grilled by border officials. 

It is understood the type of visa his team applied for does not allow medical exemptions for the unvaccinated, and there are also believed to be issues with the exemption itself, leading to the star being grilled by border officials.

The world number one touched down on a Emirates flight from Dubai around 11.30pm Wednesday night AEST, just 24 hours after confirmation of his quest to become the greatest men’s player of all time. 

As of 4.00am on Thursday, the Serbian star still hadn’t gotten through passport control, and had endured several hours of discussions with Border Force officials.

His father Srdjan confirmed to a Serbian radio station that the star was ‘isolated in a room’ at the airport with his support staff banned from entering and without access to a mobile phone, even claiming he was under ‘police guard’. 

‘Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,’ he told the B92 internet portal. ‘In front of the room are two policemen.’ 

Novak Djokovic was caught up in a late night visa bungle as he touched down in Melbourne late on Wednesday night

Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic (pictured with physiotherapist Ulises Badio) has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team's predicament

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic (pictured with physiotherapist Ulises Badio) has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team’s predicament

The late night visa chaos has left his appearance at the Open in doubt, after it was alleged his team had submitted an application for a visa that doesn’t allow medical exemptions, fuelling speculation Djokovic’s title defence may be over less than two weeks out from the Grand Slam. 

To add to the chaos, there are now doubts whether his exemption – believed to be related to a previous Covid infection in the past six months – is even valid under federal guidelines, which dictates who is allowed across Australia’s border.

Meanwhile, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team’s predicament. 

The photo features himself and physiotherapist Ulises Badio kicking back on large armchairs with the caption: ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’. 

A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room. 

A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room (pictured)

A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room (pictured)

The photo also features His declaration to the world that he was on his way to Australia sparked an outpouring of anger on a day the nation recorded a record 64,770 new Covid cases, as tennis great Rod Laver called on Djokovic to ‘own up’ to the reason for his exemption or face hostility from spectators.

Federal Border Force officials learnt while Djokovic was in the air that he would be trying to enter the country on a visa that doesn’t permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated, sources said.

As a result, they contacted the Victorian government late on Wednesday night to ask it to formally help facilitate his entry into the country – but this was rejected. 

‘They may have to send him or put him in immigration detention,’ one source told Melbourne’s Herald Sun.  

Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford confirmed the state government would not support the application.

‘The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,’ Ms Pulford tweeted at 11.14pm.

Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford announced late Wednesday night that the Victorian government would not support the visa application submitted

Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford announced late Wednesday night that the Victorian government would not support the visa application submitted

‘We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.

‘We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions a matter for doctors.’ 

Djokovic will likely eventually be allowed into Melbourne as the saga continued into the early hours of Thursday morning, but his remaining in Australia or competing at the Open are unclear.

The Victorian government was asked to support his application because the state government works with Tennis Australia to run the Open, the event that his visa would allow him to work at. 

The Federal Government therefore wanted Victoria to formally back his entry, something the state government quickly claimed is not in their jurisdiction.

Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia to defend his Australian Open crown but must provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption - something that caused chaos overnight

Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia to defend his Australian Open crown but must provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption – something that caused chaos overnight

It was revealed hours earlier the Acting Australian Border Force Commissioner was examining an ‘issue’ with Djokovic’s Australian Travel Declaration as Scott Morrison warned the tennis star will receive no special treatment.  

‘If that evidence is insufficient, then he will be treated no different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home,’ Mr Morrison said.   

Australian tennis great Rod Laver believes Djokovic owes everyone an explanation.

‘If he’s got a reason for (the exemption) then… we should know it,’ the 11-time grand slam winner told News Corp.

‘Yes, you’re a great player and you’ve performed and won so many tournaments, so, it can’t be physical. So what is the problem?’

If he doesn’t, Djokovic should expect hostility from fans every time he walks onto the court in a city which has spent than 260 days in lockdown since early 2020.

‘I think it might get ugly,’ Laver said. 

‘I would think the Victorian people would be thinking ”yes I would love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there’s a right way and a wrong way’.’

Currently, everyone entering Australia – even its own citizens – must be fully-vaccinated against Covid or face two weeks in hotel quarantine.

‘My view is that any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,’ Mr Morrison said on Wednesday afternoon.

‘Now Novak Djokovic, when he arrives in Australia, he has to if he’s not vaccinated, must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully-vaccinated travellers. 

Scott Morrison (pictured on Wednesday) insists Novak Djokovic will receive no special treatment upon arrival in Melbourne if he can't provide evidence to support his exemption

Scott Morrison (pictured on Wednesday) insists Novak Djokovic will receive no special treatment upon arrival in Melbourne if he can’t provide evidence to support his exemption

‘So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that. 

‘If that evidence is insufficient, then he will be treated no different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. 

‘There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.’ 

He added that any exemption given to Djokovic will still have to stack up upon arrival in Australia. 

‘There are other cases — there are quite a number over the last couple of years — where people have had these exemptions and have the suitable proof to support their claim in those circumstances,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘So the circumstance is not unique. The issue is whether he has sufficient evidence to support that he would qualify for the exemption.’

A short time earlier, Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews warned border officials could step in.

‘While the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border,’ she said.

‘Since 15 December 2021 fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption, and enter eligible states and territories quarantine free.

‘If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers.

‘Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements.

‘No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.

‘Quarantine requirements for international arrivals in Victoria, including for non-vaccinated individuals, are a matter for the Victorian government.’

A late night visa bungle has left  Novak Djokovic's entry into Melbourne in doubt (pictured with his wife)

A late night visa bungle has left  Novak Djokovic’s entry into Melbourne in doubt (pictured with his wife)

The debate continued on The Project, where the panelists suggesting there was a lot more to the story.

Co-host Lisa Wilkinson didn’t mince her words as she slammed Djokovic.

‘The problem is, no-one cared, today. I think everyone knows someone who’s really ‘suffered through COVID, if not many, many, many people,’ Wilkinson said.

‘We know people who’ve lost loved ones, who weren’t there to say goodbye to them. 

‘And in the end, people are just sick of superstars being given special treatment. And that’s the category that this looked to fall into. 

‘And it probably didn’t help, Novak, that you were lacking a bit of grace in your announcement of the whole thing. It was all a bit, ‘Let’s go!’

They wondered whether Djokovic had a legitimate reason.

‘One of the reasons, as I understand it, that you can get an exemption under ATAGI rules is if you’ve had Covid within the last six months,’ co-host Hamish McDonald explained.

Peter Helliar added: ‘He did pull out of a tournament in Indianapolis not that long ago, I think.’  

Djokovic has previously contracted Covid in June 2020 shortly after he hosted a number of players in an exhibition tournament in south-east Europe.

A day earlier, Novak Djokovic announced to the world he was on his way to Australia after being granted an exemption (pictured, the photo he used to accompany his social media announcement)

A day earlier, Novak Djokovic announced to the world he was on his way to Australia after being granted an exemption (pictured, the photo he used to accompany his social media announcement)

Former Australian tennis star Sam Groth, who’s currently recovering from Covid-19, described Djokovic’s ‘brazen’ exemption as a decision that ‘spits in the face of every Victorian and Australian’ in a strongly-worded column for News Corp.

‘Just look at the s*** storm he’s created. It’s disrespectful to everyone that has endured the hell of the last two years.

‘He was here last year lifting the trophy and paying tribute to what Victorians in particular had endured. He played in empty stadiums during the snap lockdown. His announcement on Tuesday was tone deaf. He should know better.’

Groth also accused Djokovic of hiding behind an exemption without explanation.

‘I still think Djokovic is one of the greatest ever but with greatness comes expectation and he fails every time. He is failing his peers and laughing in the face of Victorians,’ he wrote.

‘Maybe he will come and do a press conference and tell us what we want to know, but based on his track record, I’m not holding my breath.’ 

Djokovic, a Australian Open nine-time champion has refused to reveal his vaccination status, declaring it a private matter – and has previously voiced his displeasure against ‘forced’ jabs.   

‘I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,’ he told fans in a live Facebook chat last April. 

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said the independent panel consisted of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and all exemptions met conditions set out by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation as he came out in defence of the controversial decision.

‘It’s ultimately the decision of the medical experts an we follow that accordingly,’ Tiley said.

‘We completely understand and empathise with … people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination.’

Novak Djokovic (with wife Jelena) will be sent on the first plane home if he can't provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption, Scott Morrison has said

Novak Djokovic (with wife Jelena) will be sent on the first plane home if he can’t provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption, Scott Morrison has said

Tiley acknowledged that questions will be asked about the exemption and the only person who can answer them is Djokovic.

‘It’ll certainly be helpful if Novak was to explain the conditions in which he’s sought an exemption … but ultimately it’s up to him,’ he said.

He added it was up to Djokovic if he wished to discuss his condition with the public as well as why he received his exemption.

All players and spectators at the Australian Open, which begins on January 17, need to be vaccinated or secure an exemption like Djokovic, which is assessed by an independent panel of experts. 

Djokovic will surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the best men’s player in the sport’s history if he wins his tenth Australian Open title on January 30, taking his tally of Grand Slam titles to 21.

While many players weren’t willing to weigh in on the saga, there were some rivals who pledged support for Djokovic.

‘I know we’re big on vaccination in Australia (but) I think it should be the choice of the person whether they want to get the vaccination,’ Australian tennis star Jordan Thompson said.

‘I can see why people are upset but it’s a difficult one. Honestly, I don’t really give a s***.

‘I just think people should have their say on if they want to get vaccinated or not. I just worry about myself … It’s up to him whether he gets it or not.’

There are growing calls for Novak Djokovic (pictured in Adelaide while quarantining for the 2021 Australian Open) to explain his reasons for his vaccination exemption

There are growing calls for Novak Djokovic (pictured in Adelaide while quarantining for the 2021 Australian Open) to explain his reasons for his vaccination exemption

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Hailey Bieber Details Terrifying ‘Life-Altering’ Mini-Stroke She Suffered And Procedure To Close Hole In Her Heart

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Hailey Bieber has spoken out in her “own words” about the “life-altering,” “scariest moment” of her life she had after suffering what she called a mini-stroke, and later underwent a procedure to close a hole in her heart.

The 25-year-old supermodel and wife of superstar singer Justin Bieber took to her YouTube channel Wednesday and opened up about the terrifying experience of being hospitalized last month after she suffered a blood clot to her brain that traveled through a hole in her heart between 12 and 13 millimeters, reported People magazine.

“I had, like, a very scary incident on March 10, basically,” Bieber shared. “I was sitting at breakfast with my husband, having a normal day … and all of the sudden, I felt this really weird sensation that kind of like traveled down my arm from my shoulder all the way down to my fingertips. And it made my fingertips feel really numb and weird.”

“Justin [her husband] was like, ‘Are you okay?’” she added, as she explained that she tried to respond to him, but she “couldn’t speak.” “The right side of my face started drooping; I couldn’t get a sentence out.”

“Obviously, immediately, I thought I was having a stroke,” the supermodel continued. “He thought I was having a stroke. Right away, he asked for somebody to please call 911 and get a doctor.”

Hailey said that where they were, there happened to be a medic who started asking her lots of questions and testing her arms, calling it definitely the “scariest moment” of her life. The model talked about how the “facial drooping lasted for probably like thirty seconds.” Her speech did came back, but her “anxiety” about what was happening just made “everything worse.”

“By the time I got to the emergency room, I was pretty much back to normal – [I] could talk, [I] wasn’t having any issues with my face or my arm,” Bieber explained.

She said scans revealed she had, in fact, suffered a “small blood clot” to her brain which was labeled a “TIA” [Transient Ischemic Attack]. Hailey told her followers it was basically like having a “mini-stroke.”

Doctors still weren’t sure what caused it, but she said it was widely believed it was a combination of birth-control issues, recently having COVID-19, and having just traveled “to Paris and back in a very short amount of time,” calling it a “perfect storm.”

Further testing at the University of California, Los Angeles, revealed Bieber had a Grade 5 PFO [a small opening in the heart that usually closes after birth]. The outlet said the hold measured between 12 and 13 millimeters. She later underwent a procedure to close the hole, and said it went “very smoothly” and she’s recovering.

“The biggest thing I feel is I just feel really relieved that we were able to figure everything out, that we were able to get it closed, that I will be able to just move on from this really scary situation and just live my life,” Hailey shared.

“If there’s anybody that watches this that has gone through the same thing or something similar, I definitely really empathize with you,” she concluded. “And I understand how life-altering and scary it is.”

Bieber, who’s the daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin and Kennya Baldwin, married her husband Justin in 2018.

Related: Hailey Baldwin Credits Christian Faith For Marriage To Justin Bieber

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Wikipedia’s Left-Wing Bias

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I love Wikipedia. I donated thousands of dollars to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Before Wikipedia, all we had were printed encyclopedias—out of date by the time we bought them.

Then libertarian Jimmy Wales came up with a web-based, crowd-sourced encyclopedia.

Crowd-sourced? A Britannica editor called Wikipedia “a public restroom.” But Wales won the battle. Britannica’s encyclopedias are no longer printed.

Congratulations to Wales.

But recently, I learned that Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger now says Wikipedia’s political pages have turned into leftist “propaganda.”

That’s upsetting. Leftists took over the editing?

Sadly, yes. I checked it out.

All editing is done by volunteers. Wales hoped there would be enough diverse political persuasions that biases would be countered by others.

But that’s not what’s happening.

Leftists just like to write. Conservatives build things: companies, homes, farms.

You see the pattern comparing political donations from different professions: Surgeons, oil workers, truck drivers, loggers, and pilots lean right; artists, bartenders, librarians, reporters, and teachers lean left.

Conservatives don’t have as much time to tweet or argue on the web. Leftists do. And they love doing it. This helps them take over the media, universities, and now, Wikipedia.

Jonathan Weiss is what Wikipedia calls a “Top 100” Wikipedian because he’s made almost half a million edits. He says he’s noticed new bias: “Wikipedia does a great job on things like science and sports, but you see a lot of political bias come into play when you’re talking current events.”

Weiss is no conservative. In presidential races, he voted for Al Gore, Ralph Nader, and Barack Obama. Never for a Republican. “I’ve really never identified strongly with either political party,” he says.

Maybe that’s why he notices the new Wikipedia bias.

“People on the left far outweigh people on the center and the right … a lot [are] openly socialist and Marxist.” Some even post pictures of Che Guevara and Lenin on their own profiles.

These are the people who decide which news sources Wikipedia writers may cite. Wikipedia’s approved “Reliable sources” page rejects political reporting from Fox but calls CNN and MSNBC “reliable.”

Good conservative outlets like The Federalist, the Daily Caller, and The Daily Wire are all deemed “unreliable.” Same with the New York Post (That’s probably why Wikipedia called Hunter Biden’s emails a conspiracy theory even after other liberal media finally acknowledged that they were real).

While it excludes Fox, Wikipedia approves even hard left media like Vox, Slate, The Nation, Mother Jones, and Jacobin, a socialist publication.

Until recently, Wikipedia’s “socialism” and “communism” pages made no mention of the millions of people killed by socialism and communism. Even now, deaths are “deep in the article,” says Weiss, “treated as an arcane academic debate. But we’re talking about mass murder!”

The communism page even adds that we cannot ignore the “lives saved by communist modernization”! This is nuts.

Look up “concentration and internment camps” and you’ll find, along with the Holocaust, “Mexico-United States border,” and under that, “Trump administration family separation policy.”

What? Former President Donald Trump’s border controls, no matter how harsh, are very different from the Nazi’s mass murder.

Wikipedia does say “anyone can edit.” So, I made a small addition for political balance, mentioning that President Barack Obama built those cages.

My edit was taken down.

I wrote Wikipedia founder Wales to say that if his creation now uses only progressive sources, I would no longer donate.

He replied, “I totally respect the decision not to give us more money. I’m such a fan and have great respect for you and your work.” But then he said it is “just 100% false … that ‘only globalist, progressive mainstream sources’ are permitted.”

He gave examples of left-wing media that Wikipedia rejects, like Raw Story and Occupy Democrats.

I’m glad he rejects them. Those sites are childishly far left.

I then wrote again to ask why “there’s not a single right-leaning media outlet Wiki labels ‘reliable’ about politics, [but] Vox, Slate, The Nation, Mother Jones, CNN, MSNBC” get approval.

Wales then stopped responding to my emails.

Unless Wikipedia’s bias is fixed, I’ll be skeptical reading anything on the site.

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Public Health England to blame for sending patients to care homes without Covid tests

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Speaking on condition of anonymity, Whitehall officials alleged that Prof Duncan Selbie, the former PHE chief executive, was ultimately responsible for informing Mr Hancock of the risks.

Prof Selbie is working as a senior adviser to the DHSC. Neither he nor the department responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Mr Hancock, who was replaced by Sajid Javid last year, claimed the High Court ruling had exonerated him and the had been cleared “of any wrongdoing” because PHE “failed to tell ministers what they knew about asymptomatic transmission”.

The High Court judges concluded that care home policies in March and April 2020 were “irrational” because they failed to advise that those discharged from hospitals “should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for up to 14 days”.

“Since there is no evidence that this question was considered by the secretary of state, or that he was asked to consider it, it is not an example of a political judgment on a finely balanced issue,” they said. “Nor is it a point on which any of the expert committees had advised that no guidance was required.”

After the ruling, Boris Johnson said he wanted to “renew my apologies and sympathies” to relatives who lost loved ones, adding: “The thing we didn’t know in particular was that Covid could be transmitted asymptomatically in the way that it was.”

However, the risks of asymptomatic transmission had been highlighted by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser for England, who said it was “quite likely” as early as March 13 2020. Varying levels of risk had been outlined in papers from late January, the ruling said.

The judicial review was brought by Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, whose fathers, Michael Gibson and Donald Harris, died after testing positive for Covid.

‘Opens the floodgates for potential claims’

Paul Conrathe, a solicitor at Sinclairslaw who was instructed by both women, said: “It’s possible that care home providers and relatives who lost loved ones in the first wave could bring compensation claims. The Government was found to have acted ‘irrationally’ – that’s a very high legal hurdle.”

Nadra Ahmed, who chairs the National Care Association, said the ruling “opens the floodgates for potential claims to be brought against government policy”.

“This will be especially pertinent where the individual was not given a choice,” she said. “There will be a lot of people assimilating to the information as they consider if the loss of their loved one was premature, and holding the Government to account is the only way forward for them.”

Helen Wildbore, the director of the Relatives and Residents Association, said that the ruling proved “the protective ring around care homes was non-existent” and that older people were “abandoned at the outset of the pandemic”.

A government spokesman said it had been a “very difficult decision” to discharge hospital patients into care homes, taken when evidence on asymptomatic transmission was “extremely uncertain”.

The spokesman added: “We acknowledge the judge’s comments on assessing the risks of asymptomatic transmission and our guidance on isolation, and will respond in more detail in due course.”


‘He was in a home and should have been safe’

They stood outside the Royal Courts of Justice, two women unknown to each other before the Covid pandemic but brought together by tragedy, writes Tom Ough.

Cathy Gardner spoke first, delivering a steely reading of a statement. Matt Hancock’s boast of a “protective ring” encircling care homes, Dr Gardner said, was “a despicable lie of which he ought to be ashamed and for which he ought to apologise”.

Fay Harris, more downcast in demeanour but no less forthright, told journalists: “I have lost precious years with my wonderful Dad.”

Both women lost their fathers in early 2020, arguing that they might still be alive were it not for hospital patients having been discharged into care homes without having been tested for Covid.

Michael Gibson, born in 1931, had been a superintendent registrar of births and deaths. “He was in a home and should have been safe,” Dr Gardner told The Independent after his death.

Mr Gibson, who had advanced dementia, had fallen ill a couple of weeks before the first lockdown. Staff at his care home were unable to procure tests for Covid, but the virus is believed to have struck him down.

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