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Djokovic’s appeal of canceled visa moves to higher court

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic’s effort to play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19 moved to a higher court Saturday as the No. 1-ranked tennis player appealed the second cancellation of his visa.

Djokovic was not seen on the online feed available to the public for the 15-minute procedural hearing, which began just two days before he is scheduled to play his first match of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

Judge David O’Callaghan ruled that lawyers representing Djokovic and the government would need to submit written arguments later Saturday, and he scheduled another hearing for Sunday morning.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke blocked the 34-year-old Serb’s visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport last week. But it was restored Monday by a judge on procedural grounds because Djokovic was not allowed to have a lawyer with him at the airport.

Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic has acknowledged that his travel declaration was incorrect because it failed to indicate that he had been in multiple countries over the two weeks before his arrival in Australia.

He has a record nine Australian Open titles, including the past three in a row, part of his overall Grand Slam haul of 20 championships. He is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most by a man in history.

In a post on social media Wednesday that constituted his most extensive public comments yet the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error and certainly not deliberate.”

In that same post, Djokovic said he went ahead with an interview and a photo shoot with a French newspaper in Serbia despite knowing he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier. Djokovic has been attempting to use what he says was a positive test taken on Dec. 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to skirt the vaccine requirement on the grounds that he already had COVID-19.

Hawke said he canceled the visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The main idea of the appeal of Hawke’s decision, according to the athlete’s lawyers, was that it was not based on the health risk that Djokovic might pose by not being vaccinated, but on how he might be perceived by anti-vaxxers.

Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation. The episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and particularly in Victoria state, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is a vaccination rate among adults of more than 90%.

Australia faces a massive surge in virus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state. Although many infected people aren’t getting as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It has also disrupted workplaces and supply chains.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said. “This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”

His supporters in Serbia have been dismayed by the visa cancellations.

Everyone at the Australian Open — including players, their support teams and spectators — is required to be vaccinated. Djokovic is not inoculated.

His exemption was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in the country on Jan. 5.

Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge overturned that decision. That ruling allowed him to move freely around Australia and he has been practicing at Melbourne Park daily.

“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now.”

According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to pull out of the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev would move into Djokovic’s spot in the bracket.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he would be replaced in the field by what’s known as a “lucky loser” — a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but gets into the main draw because of another player’s exit before competition has started.

And if Djokovic plays in a match — or more — and then is told he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent would simply advance to the following round and there would be no replacement.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Thursday is warming up Orlando, but the heat won’t stay for long

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A warming trend is rising in Central Florida, but another cold front is hot on its heels coming into the weekend.

Temperatures are approaching well above the average for January, with the high forecast for 79 degrees Thursday, the temperature low is predicted at 58, said Maureen McCann, Spectrum News 13 meteorologist.

A southwesterly wind is warming things up ahead of an approaching system thought to be bringing rain and cold temperatures to Central Florida, McCann said.

Thursday is not anticipated to have rain, but rain chances emerge Friday at 20% and Saturday at 40%. Following the rain, temperatures should drop, with Saturday’s high forecast for 65 degrees and the low at 48. That cold trend should remain in the five-day forecast through the rest of the weekend and into the start of the next work week.

Jpedersen@orlandosentinel.com

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Driver transported after crashing into fence in Hollywood

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HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) – A woman has been transported to the hospital after crashing her vehicle into a fence in Hollywood.

7SkyForce hovered over the scene where rescue crews could be seen carrying the woman away from the side of the road on a stretcher.

The crash happened along the eastbound lanes of Pines Boulevard near 68th Avenue, at around 5:45 a.m., Thursday.

The vehicle the woman was driving crashed into a nearby neighbor’s yard. There was apparently another vehicle involved in the crash.

The victim’s condition remains unknown.

7News spoke with the homeowner whose fence was destroyed. He said his son woke him up after hearing a loud crashing sound.

At around 6 a.m., his neighbor then called to see if he knew about the damage to his fence.

He said he was shocked but thankful his house wasn’t hit.

“I think the car that hit my house, she hit that black car then she ran into my fence and my neighbor’s fence and she damaged both of them,” he said. “Luckily nothing [else] happened because the concrete stopped her from going further.”

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Missouri highway patrol blasts out ‘Batman’ cell phone alert by mistake

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(CNN) — The Joker is not on the rampage in Missouri, but it looks like authorities there are ready for the “Batman” villain.

An emergency alert mistakenly sent to mobile devices Tuesday by the Missouri State Highway Patrol asked residents of Gotham City to be on the lookout for a purple/green 1978 Dodge 3700 GT. The sedan, with license plate “UKIDME,” sounds a lot like the cars used by the Joker’s goons in the 1989 Batman movie.

It turns out there is no Gotham City in Missouri, and the message was sent in error during a test — apparently by someone with an impressive knowledge of the vehicles used in the movie that pits characters played by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

“This was meant to be a test message, THERE WAS NO ALERT,” the law enforcement agency soon posted on social media. Similar errors by other public agencies sometimes have sparked real concern — and also gotten corrected quickly.

Missouri State Highway Patrol had been conducting “a routine test of Missouri’s Blue Alert system” when the message was sent to wireless devices around the state, the agency said in a news release.

“The Patrol regularly tests the Blue Alert system to ensure it works properly when needed. During the test, an option was incorrectly selected, allowing the message to be disseminated to the public,” the release said.

The Blue Alert system is designed to quickly spread information about “violent offenders who have killed, seriously injured, or pose an imminent and credible threat to law enforcement,” according to the highway patrol.

Last year, authorities in Chile mistakenly sent a tsunami evacuation warning following an earthquake. And in 2018, residents and tourists in Hawaii were terrified by a text warning of an incoming ballistic missile that turned out to be a false alarm.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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