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Oprah Winfrey takes aim at fake news, misinformation in speech to USC graduates

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Oprah Winfrey condemned fake news and disinformation in a commencement speech to graduates of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on Friday, imploring students to conquer the “hysteria” that grips national politics and “strike down deceit” wherever they see it.

Winfrey deplored the ways the internet was being used to “erode trust in our institutions, enter fear in our elections and wreak havoc on our infrastructure” — a veiled swipe at Russia-linked propaganda and the social media platforms, like Facebook, on which it spread during the 2016 presidential election.

The modern digital ecosystem, Winfrey said, “enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short and false stories from phone sites to run circles around major news outlets.”

Winfrey’s commencement address, by turns galvanizing and lighthearted, recalled the speech she delivered at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in January — impassioned remarks about racial injustice, gender inequality and the #MeToo movement that stirred speculation about her White House ambitions.

She nodded to that speculation in her address on Friday, joking that she hesitated to tell the USC graduates about the importance of voting and civic participation because “the rumors from my last big speech have finally died down.”

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But she nonetheless waded into politics, calling on the graduates to “overcome the sniping at one another, the trolling, the mean-spirited partisanship on both sides of the aisle, the divisiveness, the injustices, the out-and-out hatred.”

“If they go low — thank you, Michelle Obama — we go to the polls,” she said of elected officials, paraphrasing former first lady Michelle Obama’s oft-quoted words at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “People died for that right. I think about it every time I cast a vote, so don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.”

Winfrey, 64, did not directly address President Donald Trump, and she made it explicitly clear that the young journalists seated in the auditorium must “use what you’ve learned to challenge the left, challenge the right, and the center.”

The world-famous media mogul was introduced by Willow Bay, the dean of the Annenberg school and the wife of Disney CEO Robert Iger. Winfrey, who is widely described as Iger’s good friend, reportedly pushed him to run for president in 2020 before he decided against it.

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Suspected shark attack in Australia as pieces of diving equipment found in search for missing man | World News

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Rescuers trying to track down an Australian man, who went missing while snorkelling, believe he may have been taken by a shark after they found pieces of diving equipment.

The man went missing late on Thursday while snorkelling near Port MacDonnell off Australia’s south coast.

His unexplained disappearance sparked an air and sea search, but this was later scaled back when rescuers pulled a damaged wetsuit and flippers from the water.

Police at the scene
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Search teams have been trying to track the man down

The man has been named as 32-year-old Duncan Craw, according to News.com.au

His family, who spoke to the news site, described him as “extremely hard-working” and “the best father”, saying he had been due to celebrate his 33rd birthday on Saturday.

South Australia Police Limestone Coast operations manager Campbell Hill told ABC that no remains have been found but a shark had been seen in the area the previous day.

“There are a few remaining areas of interest that we are just looking to explore but the information from the experts at this time is that the search I should say, will be scaled down and unfortunately this will become a matter that will become the subject of an investigation report for the coroner,” he said.

If confirmed, it would be Australia’s first recorded shark attack this year.

Last year saw a spike in fatal shark attacks in the country with eight people killed, up from zero the previous year, according to the Taronga Conservation Society.

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COVID-19: Holidays to Spain could be delayed ‘until end of summer’ | World News

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Britons hoping to escape to Spain could have their holiday plans cancelled following reports the Spanish prime minister said the country would not welcome international tourists until the “end of summer”.

Speaking at a meeting of the World Tourism Organisation, Pedro Sanchez reportedly said he did not expect holidaymakers to visit Spain until nearly all of the population has been vaccinated.

He said the country would “progressively” prepare to welcome international tourists once 70% of Spain’s population had been vaccinated, which he expected to be by the end of this summer, local media sites including Euro Weekly News have reported.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reportedly said 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated
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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reportedly said 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated

It will be a blow for the tourism sector, which closed its worst year since the 1970s in 2020 with revenues falling by more than 75%.

Spain reported its highest daily number of coronavirus infections yet on Thursday, recording 44,357 cases.

A further 404 deaths were also reported, taking the country’s total to 55,041 deaths and 2.5 million cases.

Spain is not the only popular holiday destination closing its doors to British tourists, as Portugal has said it will be suspending all flights to and from Britain from Saturday onwards.

Only repatriation flights will be allowed between the two countries, Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.

British tourists arrive at Gran Canaria airport
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Spain is one of the most popular destinations for British tourists

Meanwhile, the UK itself has “considered” a full closure of its borders.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News ministers were keeping the idea “under review” and “can’t rule anything out for now” – although they believed the current restrictions were “sufficient”.

Asked whether people should be booking foreign holidays for this summer, Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to give an answer and said it was “far too early” to speculate on restrictions.

But some Britons have already begun booking their breaks, with holiday firms saying they had seen a spike in bookings from older people planning trips following the vaccine roll-out.

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‘We need to have a spring and summer season’

The UK’s largest tour operator TUI said half of bookings made so far have been made by over-50s.

Spain ranks among the most popular countries for people planning holidays this year.

A study by travel company Club Med showed it was the fifth most popular destination, behind the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.

Earlier, European Union leaders held an online summit to discuss potential coronavirus measures, including further border restrictions.

While a number of EU leaders said they would not rule out border closures, Spain and Greece backed an idea for a common approach to “vaccine passports”.

The system would allow people to travel if they had received the vaccine, although EU diplomats said the measure was premature as it is not yet clear if vaccinated people could still pass on the virus to others.

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China gold mine blast: Trapped workers must wait another two weeks for rescue | World News

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Rescuers trying to free a group of miners trapped hundreds of metres underground have said it may take another 15 days to drill and clear a route wide enough to reach them.

They are desperately trying to bring the workers back to the surface following an explosion at the Hushan gold mine in Qixia, Shandong province, in eastern China on 10 January.

A total of 22 miners became trapped after the blast blocked the mine entrance.

Medical workers in white protective suits are also on site
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Medical workers in white protective suits are also on site as part of coronavirus measures

One is confirmed to have died from head injuries. Eleven are known to be alive and rescuers have made contact with 10 of them, while one is said to be in a nearby chamber. The remaining 10 are missing.

Holes have been drilled and used to pass food, medicine and other supplies to the group while they wait.

Rescuers are now drilling a new wider shaft to reach the 10 men in the middle section of the mine – more than 600m from the entrance – which they hope to use to bring the survivors to safety.

The mine shaft is blocked 350m below the surface by 70 tonnes of debris that extends down another 100m, the Yantai city government said in a statement on its social media account.

Other shafts are being drilled for communication and ventilation – to expel deadly fumes.

Rescuers work at the Hushan gold mine in Qixia, Shandong province, China, where a group of miners remain trapped underground
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Rescuers say it may take another 15 days to reach the group of miners who remain trapped hundreds of metres underground

About 600 people are involved in the rescue, with as many as 25 ambulances waiting at the scene, as well as neurosurgeons, trauma specialists and psychologists.

Medical workers in white protective suits are also on site and have been taking people’s temperatures as part of COVID-19 precautions.

Mine managers have been detained for waiting more than 24 hours before reporting the incident, the cause of which is still not known.

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