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Virus hits budget as new case numbers drop

Matt Coughlan and Rebecca GredleyAAP
Premier Daniel Andrews is tempering hopes of wholesale changes to Melbourne's lockdown rules.
Camera IconPremier Daniel Andrews is tempering hopes of wholesale changes to Melbourne’s lockdown rules.

The budget black hole created by the coronavirus pandemic has been revealed as welfare recipients prepare for less support.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Friday said the federal budget deficit hit $85.3 billion in 2019/20 as the government wrestled with the initial impact of the virus.

He said Australia had approached the pandemic from a position of economic strength, having in December forecast a $5 billion surplus.

“Yes, the hole in the Australian economy is significant. Yes, the road back will be long, bumpy and hard,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.

The figure sets ...

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Estée Lauder paying NASA for skincare photoshoot on space station

A high-profile cosmetics company is providing a new look for NASA by using the International Space Station to market its products.

Estée Lauder is paying NASA to launch bottles of its nighttime skincare serum so they can be photographed aboard the International Space Station. The company is using the flight of its Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex to create content for its social media channels, as well as deliver back a unique flown-in-space artifact that Estée Lauder intends to auction for charity.

The bottles are launching on board Northrop Grumman’s NG-14 Cygnus cargo spacecraft, the S.S. Kalpana Chawla, which is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sept. 29...

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House report: Medical neglect, falsified records harmed detained immigrants

In addition to obtaining thousands of pages of internal staff complaints, assessments and whistleblower accounts, congressional staff conducted on-site inspections at 20 facilities in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. 

The report cites, for instance, falsification of records involving Jean Carlos Jimenez-Joseph, a 27-year-old Panamanian migrant who committed suicide in May 2017 at ICE’s Stewart Detention Center in Georgia after reporting hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. 

Jimenez-Joseph was a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children the ability to live and work in the United States...

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Coronavirus: UK hits record high daily virus cases of COVID-19 as second wave sweeps through

William JamesAAP
Bartenders socially distance and wear masks as they pour drinks in a pub in London.
Camera IconBartenders socially distance and wear masks as they pour drinks in a pub in London. Credit: TheWest

The United Kingdom has recorded its highest number of daily cases of COVID-19 reflecting a second wave of infections sweeping through the country.

On Thursday government data showed 6634 new cases of the virus, up from 6178 on Wednesday, itself a jump from 4926 the previous day.

But government officials say the sharp increase in new infections is largely down to a higher level of testing than during the first wave.

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government estimated fewer than 10,000 people were becoming infected every day as opposed to estimated numbers of more than 100,000 ...

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SpaceX pops Starship tank on purpose in explosive pressure test

SpaceX just popped another Starship test tank.

The Starship SN7.1 tank was destroyed on purpose Tuesday night (Sept. 22) at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, during a pressure test designed to take the stainless-steel hardware to its bursting point. 

SpaceX has performed several other such tests, including one this past June that blew the top off the SN7 tank. Such trials inform future iterations of Starship, the 100-passenger spacecraft Elon Musk’s company is developing to get people to Mars, the moon and other cosmic destinations. 

Related: SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy rocket in pictures

SN7.1’s death clears the way for testing of the SN8 prototype, which could begin as soon as this weekend...

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‘Fix Congress Committee’ launches framework for earmark revival

Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida have each committed to bringing back earmarks if chosen to succeed retiring Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey after the November elections. A third candidate, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, didn’t embrace that stance but didn’t rule it out, saying it was “premature” to discuss restoring earmarks at this stage.

Under the Modernization panel’s proposal, the grant program framework would only be possible if larger deficiencies in the budget and appropriations process are solved along the way, because grant projects wouldn’t be allowed in continuing resolutions.

The select committee isn’t the first to set out with the agenda to fix the dysfunctional budget and spending process in Congress, but it has made it further than its prede...

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Hope for last survivors of whale stranding

Ethan JamesAAP
Rescuers hope to save some of the surviving whales that remain stranded in a Tasmanian harbour.
Camera IconRescuers hope to save some of the surviving whales that remain stranded in a Tasmanian harbour.

Rescuers are hopeful of saving about 20 surviving pilot whales involved in Australia largest mass stranding on Tasmania’s west coast.

As of Thursday evening, 88 whales from the 470-strong group stranded on sand bars in Macquarie Harbour earlier this week had been freed.

“If we’d said on Monday when we were going through our plans that we’d get 90 off the bar then we’d have been very happy with that,” wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said.

“It’s a fantastic result for us.”

Efforts on Friday will focus on about 20 remaining whales considered to have a good chance of surviving.

But decisions have to be...

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Shuttle astronaut Wendy Lawrence talks spacesuits, Mir and learning Russian in ‘Virtual Astronaut’ webcast Friday

In October, if all goes to plan, the International Space Station (ISS) will celebrate 20 years of continuous human presence. That’s two decades, 63 expeditions, and dozens of astronauts and cosmonauts who lived and worked on board the orbiting lab nonstop. 

Former NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence was supposed to fly in the predecessor program to ISS, called the Shuttle-Mir program. A handful of astronauts from NASA’s space shuttle program spent a few months each on the Russian (formerly Soviet) Mir space station in the 1990s. This allowed them to train regularly for the first time with cosmonauts, or Russian spaceflyers, since the joint NASA-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975.

But Lawrence will soon deliver a virtual talk that, in part, addresses a time when she was pulled from her planned...

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Breonna Taylor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the future of our country with Fatima Goss Graves

In this inaugural episode of CQ Roll Call’s Equal Time, Mary C. Curtis reflects on this moment in time, examining the complexity and history of issues dividing the country in 2020. Today’s episode features Fatima Goss Graves, CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, discussing Breonna Taylor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and what is at stake for the courts, our country and women — especially those of color.

Show Notes:

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Republicans vow ‘orderly transition’ in US

Susan Heavey and Doina ChiacuAAP
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Donald Trump will accept the will of voters.
Camera IconWhite House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Donald Trump will accept the will of voters.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans have repudiated President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, assuring American voters they would accept the outcome of November’s election.

Trump declined on Wednesday to embrace a peaceful transfer in response to a reporter’s question and said he expected his election battle with Democrat Joe Biden to be settled by the Supreme Court.

The Republican president’s exchange with reporters set off a fury that prompted several Republicans in Congress to distance themselves from the pr...

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