First Thing: Rapid fall in Covid cases in north-eastern US states | US news

Good morning.

There is good news from New York City and some north-eastern US states, which appear to have recorded rapid decreases in their numbers of Covid-19 cases in recent days, raising the possibility that the Omicron wave has already peaked in some parts of America.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases in New York City was below 28,000 a day on 16 January, down from an average of more than 40,000 on 9 January. Similar patterns have been observed in the state as a whole and other nearby regions.

“The Covid forecast is improving … the Covid clouds are parting,” the New York governor, Kathy Hochul, said in a statement Sunday after releasing figures that showed positivity rates in the state were falling sharply. “Overall, the prognosis, the forecast, for Covid is much brighter than it had been before.”

  • How many cases are there in New York? About 400,000 tests were conducted in New York on Saturday, with a positivity rate of 12.9%. The rate was almost 20% a week ago, based on a similar number of tests.

Former NY Post editor sues News Corp and Col Allan, alleging sexual harassment

Col Allan and News Corp have been accused of sex-based discrimination by Michelle Gotthelf.
Col Allan and News Corp have been accused of sex-based discrimination by Michelle Gotthelf. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Michelle Gotthelf, a former senior New York Post editor, has launched legal action accusing the tabloid’s longtime editor-in-chief, Col Allan, of sexually harassing and verbally abusing her, including propositioning her for sex.

In a complaint filed in the US federal court system on Tuesday, Gotthelf accused the Post’s owner, News Corp, Allan and the paper’s current editor-in-chief, Keith Poole, of breaching New York employment law by discriminating against her on the basis of her sex and retaliating against her when she complained.

She also claimed Allan had intervened in coverage of Donald Trump, demanding that a story about the then-president being accused of rape be removed from the paper’s website, of which she was editor-in-chief, and calling the complaint “baseless shit”.

  • What sparked the legal action? Gotthelf said Poole fired her last week, ending her 20-year career at News Corp. She alleges Allan created a hostile work environment for her.

  • What else does she say in the lawsuit? The sexual harassment allegedly peaked in 2015 when she alleged that Allan had propositioned her for sex, saying: “We should sleep together”. Her rejection allegedly resulted in Allan becoming more abusive.

  • What has Allan said? The Guardian has been unable to contact Allan for comment. A spokesperson for News Corp and the Post said in a statement: “Any suggestion of wrongdoing related to the management changes announced today is meritless.”

André Leon Talley, influential fashion journalist, dies aged 73

The former editor-at-large of Vogue was famous for his big personality and as a champion of Black designers and models.
The former editor-at-large of Vogue was famous for his big personality and as a champion of Black designers and models. Photograph: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

André Leon Talley, the influential fashion journalist and former editor-at-large of US Vogue under Anna Wintour, has died at the age of 73.

TMZ reported that Talley died of an unknown illness at New York hospital on Tuesday. His death was later confirmed by his literary agent, David Vigliano.

A larger-than-life character – and 6ft 7ins tall – Talley was a pioneering figure in the fashion world, as known for his biting comments and flamboyant presence as the statement kaftans, hats and robes he frequently wore. In a career that spanned six decades, Talley used his position to champion diversity on the runway and behind the scenes in the fashion world.

  • What have people said in tribute? The designer Diane von Furstenberg, a close friend, said: “No one saw the world in a more glamorous way than you did. No one was grander and more soulful than you were.”

In other news …

HMAS Adelaide departs Fleet Base East at Garden Island, Sydney, Australia
HMAS Adelaide departs from Sydney. Photograph: /Reuters
  • Australia and New Zealand have started to dispatch aid to Tonga, despite fears that relief workers could bring a “tsunami of Covid” cases to the Pacific Island nation that has so far recorded just one case of the virus.

  • The US congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack has issued a blitz of subpoenas to some of Donald Trump’s top lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, Boris Epshteyn, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis.

  • A 14-year-old indigenous activist has been murdered in Colombia, the latest in a spate of killings of environmentalists and social leaders in the country. Breiner David Cucuñame was shot dead on Friday.

  • Healthcare workers and first responders are displaying post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms like veterans who served in combat, research indicates, and experts say many could leave the profession as a result of their experiences.

Don’t miss this: Can a blockbuster still win big at the Oscars?

No Way Home has grossed more than $1.6bn worldwide.
No Way Home has grossed more than $1.6bn worldwide. Photograph: Courtesy of Sony Pictures/AP

Nobody was talking much about Oscars when Spider-Man: No Way Home was released in cinemas last month, but it was easy enough to see that they soon would be. The film swung on to screens as a pre-ordained saviour of cinema, the hopes of an industry pinned on its well-worn spandex bodysuit. By the end of December, the film’s formal Oscar campaign for best picture had been launched, reigniting a debate over what kind of film the academy should be rewarding.

Climate check: Expanding national parks not enough to protect nature

Protected parks such as Yellowstone in the US are a good start, say scientists, but more needs to be done.
Protected parks such as Yellowstone in the US are a good start, say scientists, but more needs to be done. Photograph: Ryan Dorgan/AP

Expanding national parks and protected areas will not be enough to halt the destruction of nature, and urgent action on overconsumption, harmful subsidies and the climate crisis is also required to halt biodiversity loss, scientists say. Governments are expected to commit to a Paris-style agreement for nature at Cop15 in Kunming, China, later this year, but experts say the plan falls short.

Last Thing: who is behind the Adelaide’s googly eyes wave?

Googly eyes on a statue of city planner Colonel William Light as he looks over the city from a site called Light’s Vision. Googly eyes have continued to appear around Adelaide, South Australia.
‘A very Adelaide thing to do.’ Photograph: /Walter Marsh

A serial prankster has been leaving a trail of novelty oversized googly eyes across metropolitan Adelaide in Australia, from fast-food and liquor store mascots to one of the city’s most recognisable colonial monuments. The eyes first appeared in the early hours of 11 January and Adelaide residents have since had their own eyes glued to a low-stakes whodunnit.

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