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‘Operation Sleigh’ in full force to ensure safe travel during the festive period

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As travellers get ready to take to the skies, authorities are on high alert for suspicious activity

International borders are open, and domestic travel has increased amid the Christmas period.

However, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) remains on high alert at airports around the country.

Dubbed ‘Operation Sleigh’ officers will step up their patrols across nine Australian airports during the busy December and January holiday period.

“Airports are not nightclubs. Intoxicated individuals on flights or in the terminal can be charged. Passengers who are convicted of an act of violence at an airport or endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight face serious penalties,” said AFP Commander Gail McClure.

The alert follows an uptick in alleged offences at Australian airports in recent months.

The AFP has charged more than 360 alleged offenders with 520 offences this year.

Around 20,000 incidents have taken place at AFP-protected airports around Australia.

Ms McClure said officers will be targeting intoxicated and offensive travellers. Meanwhile, disruptive behaviour in the skies will also place travellers on Santa’s ‘naughty list’.

“It’s a very exciting time and there is plenty to celebrate following the pandemic and the lifting of international travel restrictions, however we want to remind everyone that the airport isn’t the place to continue your Christmas parties at,” she said.

Over 500 members operate within the Airport Uniform Police, Protection Operations Response Teams and Counter Terrorism First Response team across nine domestic airports.

In addition, 49 explosive detection dogs and 25 canines are capable of detecting cash, drugs, firearms and prohibited devices.

Sidone Thomas is the chief operations officer at Sydney Airport, who said the summer holiday period will be a busy time for all airports.

“We are excited to welcome passengers for what will be our biggest Christmas since 2019, and want to thank everyone in advance for their patience and for treating staff and fellow passengers with kindness and respect.”

Operation Sleigh will cover nine Australian airports, which have been named after one of Santa’s reindeers.

Canberra will be known as ‘Op Rudolf’, while Melbourne will take ‘Op Blitzen’.

The AFP encourages all travellers to remain on high alert and report any suspicious behaviour to authorities.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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OpenAI to offer premium ChatGPT service

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OpenAI has announced a monthly plan that will give you priority access to the ChatGPT bot

ChatGPT Plus is set to cost $20/month, and allow a user the ability to use the chatbot even during peak times, where free users would have to wait.

The company also says the plan will give you “faster response times” and “priority access to new features and improvements.”

OpenAI will be sending out invitations for the service to people in the U.S. over the next few weeks, before expanding to other regions around the world.

This comes amid the company revealing that a mobile phone version of the chatbot is being developed.

Currently, it is only available as a computer program.

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Meta stocks soar in ‘Year of Efficiency’

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Meta Platforms has announced a better-than-expected sales quarter, as well as a USD$40 billion stock buyback.

The parent of Instagram and Facebook cut its cost outlook for 2023 by $5 billion, and projected first-quarter sales that could beat Wall Street estimates.

Meta stock surged nearly 19% in after-hours trade.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg described the focus on efficiency as part of the natural evolution of the company, calling it a “phase change” for an organisation that once lived by the motto “move fast and break things.”

“We just grew so quickly for like the first 18 years,” Zuckerberg said in a conference call. “It’s very hard to really crank on efficiency while you’re growing that quickly. I just think we’re in a different environment now.”

The cost cuts reflect Meta’s updated plans for lower data centre construction expenses this year.

In November, the company cut more than 11,000 jobs in response, a precursor to the tens of thousands of layoffs in the tech industry that followed.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we are focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organisation,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

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U.S. Fed Reserve hikes interest rates by 25 basis points

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The U.S. Federal Reserve has announced its latest interest rate hike

 
The 25 basis-point increase comes after a half-point hike in December, and a three-quarter-point increase the month before that.

And it came with the forecast that the Fed isn’t finished.

“We will need substantially more evidence to be confident that inflation is on a sustained downward path,” U.S. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a press conference.

Powell noted positive signs that inflation was beginning to abate.

“We can now say I think for the first time that the disinflationary process has started, and we see it in goods prices, so far…but it is insufficient to signal an end to the rate hikes, though it would be stepping down from last year’s rapid pace of increases.”

Future rate increases would be in quarter-percentage-point increments.

“We will continue to make our decisions meeting by meeting, taking into account the totality of incoming data and their implications for the outlook for economic activity and inflation,” Powell added.

The decision lifted the benchmark overnight interest rate to a range between 4.50% and 4.75% – a move widely anticipated by investors and flagged by U.S. central bankers ahead of this week’s two-day policy session.

Inflation, based on the Fed’s preferred measure, slowed to a 5% annual rate in December.

The Fed hopes it can continue nudging inflation lower to its 2% target without triggering a deep recession or causing a substantial rise in the unemployment rate from the current 3.5%, a level rarely seen in recent decades.

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