The Guardian 2024-02-04 04:01:16


Australia news: climate groups welcome fuel efficiency standards; search for NSW fisher swept into sea resumes

Australia and Russia have been the two only advanced economies without fuel efficiency standards.

But today the minister for climate change and energy, Chris Bowen, and the minister for transport, regional development and local government, Catherine King, announced that Australia will adopt the “new vehicle efficiency standard”.

The standard, which was made available online today, will apply to new passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia, and bring it into line with the US.

Bowen said the standard meant Australians would save about $1,000 from 2028:

Because of a lack of action on an Efficiency Standard, Australian families are paying around $1,000 a year more than they need to be for their annual fuel bill – the Albanese Government is delivering long-term cost-of-living relief to fix that for new vehicles and put money back in people’s pockets.

We’re giving Australians more choice to spend less on petrol, by catching up with the U.S. – this will save Australian motorists $100bn in fuel costs to 2050.

This is about ensuring Australian families and businesses can choose the latest and most efficient cars and utes, whether they’re petrol and diesel engines, or hybrid, or electric.

The government will consult on the preferred model for a month and introduce the legislation as soon as possible, with the new cost saving rules to come into effect by 1 January 2025.

Celebrated campaigner for Aboriginal Australians dies aged 91

Lowitja O’Donoghue, celebrated campaigner for Aboriginal Australians, dies aged 91

A member of the stolen generations, the Yankunytjatjara leader was only reunited with her mother through a chance meeting 30 years later

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Lowitja O’Donoghue, a Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara leader and activist, has died at the age of 91.

The Lowitja Institute announced her death on Sunday. A pioneering leader in Aboriginal advancement and recognition campaigns, O’Donoghue was a “formidable leader who was never afraid to listen, speak and act”, her family said.

“Yankunytjatjara woman, Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG, aged 91, died peacefully on Sunday 4 February 2024 on Kaurna Country in Adelaide, South Australia, with her immediate family by her side,” Deb Edwards, O’Donoghue’s niece, said in the statement.

“Our Aunty and Nana was the matriarch of our family, whom we have loved and looked up to our entire lives. We adored and admired her when we were young and have grown up full of never-ending pride as she became one of the most respected and influential Aboriginal leaders this country has ever known.”

Like other members of the stolen generations, O’Donoghue was taken from her family and home at a young age and raised in an institution. From the age of two she was brought up by missionaries at the Colebrook home for half-caste children. She was born on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands at Granite Downs station in SA but did not know her birthdate. Missionaries assigned her the birthday of 1 August 1932.

By the age of 16 O’Dononghue was employed as a domestic servant in Victor Harbour in SA before campaigning to be allowed to pursue nursing training.

She became the first Aboriginal person to train as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide hospital, the first Aboriginal person to be named a Companion of the Order of Australia, and the first to address the UN general assembly.

She campaigned for the recognition of Aboriginal peoples in the 1967 referendum and went on to work with the prime minister Paul Keating as a lead negotiator on the Native Title Act after the 1992 Mabo decision.

A chance meeting with an aunt and uncle who recognised O’Donoghue in the SA town of Coober Pedy in the late 1960s led to her being reunited with her birth mother, Lily, more than 30 years after they were torn apart. She told the Australian Biography project that the moment had brought “new meaning and a whole new dimension” to her life and a resolve to devote herself to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In 1984 she was named Australian of the Year and in 2005 was honoured with a papal award, becoming Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

She was the founding chair of the National Aboriginal Conference in 1977 and, in 1990, the first chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

“Aunty Lowitja dedicated her entire lifetime of work to the rights, health, and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Edwards said.

“We thank and honour her for all that she has done – for all the pathways she created, for all the doors she opened, for all the issues she tackled head-on, for all the tables she sat at and for all the arguments she fought and won.”

O’Donoghue was the first Aboriginal woman named in the Order of Australia in 1976, and later a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1999 – both for her commitment to public service and leadership in Indigenous affairs.

Naidoc described her as “one of the great and sustaining forces for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

The Lowitja Institute, dedicated to advancing Indigenous health outcomes, was named in her honour in 2010.

The Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, paid tribute to O’Donoghue as a “fearless and passionate advocate”.

“Australia mourns the passing of Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue and it is with great sadness and love that I pay tribute to her remarkable legacy,” she said.

“Throughout her career in public life, Dr O’Donoghue displayed enormous courage, dignity and grace. She dedicated her life to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians and deserves our deepest respect and gratitude …

“She was a truly extraordinary leader. Lowitja was not just a giant for those of us who knew her, but a giant for our country.”

Pat Dodson, the former Labor senator known as the father of reconciliation, said: “This is a sad day for first peoples of this nation. We have lost an extraordinary person of great courage and strength.”

Dodson said O’Donoghue’s leadership in the battle for justice was legendary.

“Hers was a strong voice, and her intelligent navigation for our rightful place in a resistant society resulted in many of the privileges we enjoy today. She will be forever remembered in our hearts.”

Temperatures soar across Australia’s south-east

Hot weather: temperatures soar across Australia’s south-east

Melbourne expected to record top of 38C, city’s first officially hot day of summer

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Australia’s south-east is sweltering through a scorching summer day with authorities urging parents to take particular care of younger children.

Parts of regional Victoria and South Australia were forecast to reach temperatures exceeding 40C on Sunday.

Melbourne was expected to reach a top of 38C, which would be the hottest day of summer so far. To date, the city has yet to record a “hot” day – classified by the Bureau of Meteorology as above 35C.

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Victoria’s regional areas will experience hotter temperatures, with Mildura on track to reach 43C. The Country Fire Authority announced a total fire ban for the state’s north-east on Sunday, with wind conditions of up to 40km/hour posing a challenge to firefighters.

In Sydney’s western suburbs, Penrith was expected to reach 39C, while the city was tipped to hit 32C.

The bureau recorded 40.8C at Borrona Downs, a cattle station in north-western New South Wales – the highest temperature across the state on Sunday morning. In Adelaide, residents were bracing for a top of 36C, while Port Augusta in South Australia’s west was set for 45C.

Angus Hines, a senior meteorologist at the BoM, said warm weather in Western Australia had swept across to the nation’s east.

“We’re seeing some north-westerly winds drag that heat across from the west and it’s reaching central and south-eastern places today,” he said.

“Part of the reason we’re seeing those north-westerly [winds] is ahead of the approaching cool change and they will switch around to the much cooler, south-westerly winds once that change has gone through.”

Hines said a cool change was expected for many areas across the south-east on Sunday evening.

Melbourne’s temperature was forecast to drop to a top of 22C on Monday and continue in the mid-20s throughout the week. Cooler temperatures were also forecast for much of South Australia.

But there will be little respite for western Sydney, with a top of 38C forecast for Penrith on Monday.

Health practitioners encouraged people to keep cool and covered and avoid sun exposure, which can cause pain as well as lead to skin cancer.

Staff at the Women’s and Children’s hospital in North Adelaide have treated 15 patients for severe sunburn in recent weeks.

Dr Bernard Carney said parents and carers could not be too cautious about children being in the sun.

“It is incredibly distressing for children to be treated for sunburn,” he said. “They are often in severe pain and require frequent dressing changes. No parent wants to see their child suffer, especially from something that’s preventable.”

Carney encouraged people to stay hydrated, wear a hat and loose clothes, and use sunscreen.

The UV index in each city will reach extreme levels, with sun protection recommended until about 5.30pm.

Hot temperatures could be dangerous for everyone’s health, NSW’s health department said, while emphasising the impact on people 65 and older, young children, pregnant women and those with medical conditions.

Closing doors, windows and blinds and using air-conditioning or electric fans would help cool homes, NSW Health said.

Inside the race to transform the science of electric vehicles

Solid-state batteries: inside the race to transform the science of electric vehicles

They promise more energy and a vastly improved range for EV drivers. But can they deliver on the hype?

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Working in the dry room at Deakin University’s Battery Research and Innovation Hub is no day at the beach.

“[It’s] more desert than beach,” says its general manager, Dr Timothy Khoo. “At the beach, you at least still get the moisture coming in.”

The 150m2 dry room is, as far as Khoo knows, the largest in Australia for research purposes and essential to work prototyping and testing the next generation of batteries.

“It’s very difficult working in there for extended periods,” Khoo says. “It’s not dangerous but your eyes starting getting dry, your skin starts getting dry and it feels like you’ve been outside in the sun all summer.”

The room must be dry because water, moisture and humidity is lethal to a battery during production. Contamination, Khoo says, means it might not work or its performance will be compromised.

Depending on the materials, the worst-case scenario can also be dangerous.

“Lithium reacts poorly with water,” Khoo says. “I don’t know if you ever did high school science but it’s in the same sort of chemical category as sodium, potassium – if you’ve ever thrown sodium into water, it explodes. It’s a similar reaction in the context of lithium metal.”

The centre is doing a brisk business, as companies race to develop the next generation of battery technology.

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Most will be familiar with the lithium-ion battery, first commercialised by Sony in the 1990s to power its portable music players. From these humble beginnings, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery is now king, powering mobile phones, laptops and – in their most high-performance application – electric cars.

One McKinsey analysis suggests the global lithium-ion battery market will grow into a $400bn industry by 2030. But with lithium-ion technology well-understood, those seeking transformative change are increasingly looking to solid-state batteries.

Hype and hope

Dr Rory McNulty, a senior analyst with Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, says the hype around solid-state batteries has been building since the first commercial solid-state battery was introduced by French company Blue Solutions in 2015.

Their battery was designed for use in e-buses but had design limitations and a charging time of four or more hours – an illustration of how difficult the development process can be, even for a company such as Toyota.

Last July, the global car giant announced a breakthrough in the development of solid-state batteries that it claimed would halve the size, weight and cost of their manufacture.

This was greeted with both excitement and scepticism, owing in part to Toyota having poured money into the development of solid-state batteries since 2006 and reluctance to commit to producing fully electric vehicles over the past decade.

This development was soon followed by another in October: Toyota and Japanese petroleum company Idemitsu said they were aiming to develop and manufacture a solid-state electrolyte and bring it to market by 2028.

Toyota isn’t the only company working in the area. In January, Volkswagen announced successful testing on a solid-state battery developed by QuantumScape achieved more than 1,000 charging cycles and maintained 95% of its capacity.

Meanwhile, Chinese companies such as WeLion and Nio EV have partnered to rush out a solid-state battery – albeit one with less ambitious chemistry – by 2024 but McNulty says those in western countries will have to wait until the end of the decade.

“Toyota has pushed back its solid-state delivery timeline a few times over the years, which I think is a testament to how difficult some of the technical challenges that underpin development of a novel technology can be,” he says.

Battery mechanics

The basic promise of solid-state batteries is more energy generated by a smaller battery. Efforts to develop the technology have taken several approaches but Khoo says much public attention is focused on two materials: silicon and lithium-metal.

“Silicon-based anodes, they’re a little more advanced in terms of their technological readiness than the lithium-metal type batteries,” he says. “Purely from a scientific or engineering perspective, I believe lithium-metal batteries are a little more revolutionary.

“That is, if people can get them to work.”

Broadly speaking, there are three components that make a battery: a cathode, an anode and an electrolyte. From a scientific or engineering perspective, Khoo says, the anode, commonly known as the “negative” side of a battery, releases electrons into a circuit; the positive side, the cathode, receives the incoming electrons. The electrolyte allows ions to transfer between them.

The interaction of these components gives a battery its “energy density” – the amount of energy it can hold, relative to its weight. Higher density batteries hold more charge, which makes them suited to things like electric cars.

Unlike current lithium-ion batteries, which use a graphite-silicon anode with a liquid electrolyte, solid-state batteries – as the name implies – swap the liquid for a solid material.

This creates a safer battery as there is no risk the liquid will leak if the casing is punctured, as in a car accident, and the chance of lithium fires is reduced. More importantly for EV drivers, it promises vastly improved range.

But for all the hype, the development of the solid-state batteries is being held back by the anode.

Dendrites and development

Of the several variations out there, lithium-metal anode solid-state batteries have received significant attention as a potential high-performance future battery technology.

The catch? Developing them has run into a problem known as “dendrites”.

Dendrites form when lithium-ions “plate” on to the pure metal anode, leaving tiny spurs on the surface.

Lee Finniear, the chief executive of Li-S Energy and a founding director of the Advanced Materials and Battery Council, says that as these imperfections grow over time they act “like the high-point on a building in a major city during a lightning strike.”

“The lithium-ions are trying to find the shortest path to the anode,” he says. “If you get any variation or any kind of high point on the anode, it will tend to attract more ions, which will then plate as lithium, increasing the high point.”

Depending how big these dendrites grow, they can pierce the material separating the anode from the cathode and cause a short-circuit.

“And that kills the battery,” he says.

There are other challenges too but solving these problem can be difficult – and expensive – which is why others have preferred to work with silicon-anodes, which rely on a similar material to that used in photovoltaic solar panels.

As it is highly conductive, it is thought the more silicon that’s used in an anode, the more its performance will improve.

Silicon anodes act like a sponge soaking up water, expanding and contracting with each charge cycle. Adding more silicon increases how much the anode expands and a pure silicon anode can expand up to four times its size.

Without intervention, the anode will eventually pulverise itself.

One fix involves structuring the silicon in a special way, another is to find additives to change its behaviour.

It is possible to solve these problems but making these batteries commercially available for use in EVs remains difficult.

As future technologies, manufacturing lines will have to be rebuilt and supply chain issues resolved, particularly as there is no one currently producing enough pure lithium-metal foil to supply car battery manufacturers.

Any breakthrough that addresses these problems and brings down the cost of production for solid-state batteries would be revolutionary but Toyota has so far been coy about the materials it is working with in its anodes.

When asked, a Toyota Australia spokesperson said they could not disclose this as “research and development is being undertaken by its parent company”.

Whatever the case, industry figures privately say it is best to simply assume the company is pursuing “everything”.

“People forget that we’re talking about science here,” Finniear says. “We’re talking abut persuading electrons and ions and chemicals to do what they’re told; it’s not software development, it’s not something you can program your way through.

“These breakthroughs are really important but they take a lot of work.”

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Woman killed in front of granddaughter in Queensland

Woman killed in front of granddaughter in random car park attack in Ipswich

Victim, 70, had been shopping with six-year-old before she was stabbed on Saturday night in Redbank Plains, police say

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Police have launched a homicide investigation after a 70-year-old woman was stabbed to death in a shopping centre car park in Ipswich near Brisbane.

Emergency services were called to the Redbank Plains car park about 6.10pm on Saturday following reports of a stabbing.

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The woman had sustained life-threatening injuries and died at the scene a short time later after attempts to revive her failed, the Queensland police service said.

The woman’s six-year-old granddaughter was also assessed at the scene but was not physically injured.

Det Acting Supt Heath McQueen said the woman had been shopping and was near her car when the random attack occurred. It probably started as an attempted robbery, police said.

“It’s an abhorrent, cowardly and violent attack on a 70-year-old grandmother in front of her six-year-old granddaughter,” McQueen told reporters.

The detective said he and other police officers who had seen CCTV footage of the stabbing were “taken aback at the level of violence” involved.

A crime scene was declared and investigations are continuing, with police asking for witnesses to contact them.

“Now is the time to step up and come forward and provide us with the information we need as to who the identity of this offender is,” McQueen said.

Woman killed in front of granddaughter in Queensland

Woman killed in front of granddaughter in random car park attack in Ipswich

Victim, 70, had been shopping with six-year-old before she was stabbed on Saturday night in Redbank Plains, police say

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Police have launched a homicide investigation after a 70-year-old woman was stabbed to death in a shopping centre car park in Ipswich near Brisbane.

Emergency services were called to the Redbank Plains car park about 6.10pm on Saturday following reports of a stabbing.

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The woman had sustained life-threatening injuries and died at the scene a short time later after attempts to revive her failed, the Queensland police service said.

The woman’s six-year-old granddaughter was also assessed at the scene but was not physically injured.

Det Acting Supt Heath McQueen said the woman had been shopping and was near her car when the random attack occurred. It probably started as an attempted robbery, police said.

“It’s an abhorrent, cowardly and violent attack on a 70-year-old grandmother in front of her six-year-old granddaughter,” McQueen told reporters.

The detective said he and other police officers who had seen CCTV footage of the stabbing were “taken aback at the level of violence” involved.

A crime scene was declared and investigations are continuing, with police asking for witnesses to contact them.

“Now is the time to step up and come forward and provide us with the information we need as to who the identity of this offender is,” McQueen said.

Anthony Albanese flags recognition could rest on state being ‘demilitarised’

Anthony Albanese flags recognising Palestinian state could rest on it being ‘demilitarised’

Prime minister says Australia backed US strikes on Houthi targets but shrugged off claims from Donald Trump that globe was on brink of new world war

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has flagged that Australia recognising a Palestinian state could rest on it being “demilitarised”.

Albanese on Sunday dodged questions regarding when Australia could resume funding to the United Nations agency delivering aid in Gaza, while stating the international community should focus on what happens after the war in the Middle East.

“The idea you can have security with the tension in the region, we need to de-escalate,” the prime minister told the ABC’s Insiders program.

“Part of that might mean, for example, any existence of a Palestinian state would be one which was a demilitarised state as well. Those are the sort of issues that need to be on the table.”

Earlier on Sunday, Australia again supported US and UK-led strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.

A joint statement distributed by the Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, alongside Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the US, said the countries had “conducted an additional round of proportionate and necessary strikes against 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen”.

The ongoing strikes were in response to Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

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The US also launched more than 85 strikes in Iraq and Syria against targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Albanese said Australia backed the US actions but shrugged off claims from the former president Donald Trump that the globe was on the brink of a new world war.

“I don’t think that’s right. I think that the United States has played a responsible role in the region. You can’t have the sort of attacks that we’ve seen and see no response, whether it be the actions of the Houthis in targeting our trade, whether it be the attacks that occurred on Americans in Jordan,” Albanese said.

“We want to see the area settled down. We’re working with our allies to play a role there.”

Asked about the war in Gaza, Albanese reiterated Australia’s support for a political solution.

“It is important we look to, arising out of this crisis, what is the long-term solution … the international community has had support for a long period of time that the two-state solution to be advanced,” he told ABC TV.

The prime minister went on to say that a demilitarised Palestine should be “on the table”.

“Israel has an interest in security. Quite clearly, if you talk about the distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, for people who have travelled to the region, it is like the difference from where we are and Queanbeyan,” Albanese said.

“The United States, I know, is looking at these issues, as is the United Kingdom.”

The general delegation of Palestine to Australia was contacted for comment.

The idea of a demilitarised Palestine has been raised publicly by the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as Israel’s president, Benjamin Netanyahu. The US president, Joe Biden, last month said different models of a two-state solution were available and he alluded to the possibility of a demilitarised Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s recent comments demanding that Gaza “must be demilitarised, under Israel’s full security control”, and that he would “not compromise on full Israeli security control of all territory west of the Jordan River”, were last month criticised by Australia’s assistant foreign minister, Tim Watts.

Watts said “there can’t be any permanent Israeli presence within Gaza”.

Albanese on Sunday also stopped short of saying what conditions Australia would need to be met before it resumed funding the UNRWA, the agency delivering aid in Gaza.

Funds were stopped last weekend after the Israeli government provided the agency with information alleging as many as 12 staff members were involved in the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.

Albanese has said the government was keen to resume funding but on Sunday said it was still “examining” the issues.

“The issue here is one that is of deep concern, that this occurred, that there was some involvement. Those allegations need to be fully examined to ensure that every single dollar of aid is go going to just that, aid,” the PM said.

An Australian government insider this week accused the Israeli ambassador of making “shockingly amateurish and counterproductive” comments in a rift over reinstating the funding.

The Greens will this week put forward a motion in parliament seeking to reverse Australia’s support for Israeli actions in Gaza.

“Labor must stop backing the invasion. With 26,000 people dead, a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding and the International Court of Justice intervening, Labor must withdraw its support for the invasion when parliament resumes,” the party’s leader, Adam Bandt, said.

“Labor must stop backing the invasion and join the community in pushing for a permanent ceasefire, the release of the hostages and an end to the occupation of Palestine.”

Man charged with murdering a mother and son in home

Man charged with murdering a mother and son in Adelaide home

Daughter and sister of victims found bodies before detectives arrested 43-year-old man who police say was living across the road in Rosewater

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A man has been charged with murdering a mother and son whose bodies were found at their home in Adelaide’s west.

South Australian police were called to the Rosewater property on Saturday afternoon.

The bodies of a 76-year-old woman and her 55-year-old son were found inside with significant injuries. They were discovered by the woman’s daughter, according to Graham Goodwin, an acting assistant commissioner.

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“She came around with her daughter and they were confronted with the horrific scenes,” he told reporters.

Police believe the deaths occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Detectives arrested a 43-year-old man who was living across the road and charged him with two counts of murder.

Police believe the man and the mother and son were known to each other “but at this stage we don’t know what that relationship was”.

Police are not seeking any other suspects and believe the incident was not random.

The accused is due to face Port Adelaide magistrates court on Monday.

Anyone with dashcam footage or any other information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

“That’s not only for events for today but also for events that were in the days leading up to these tragic circumstances,” Goodwin said.

Joe Biden wins South Carolina Democratic primary for presidential nomination

Biden wins South Carolina Democratic primary for presidential nomination

The president easily swept past his opponents Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson to gain the state’s nod for the nomination

President Joe Biden has again won the South Carolina presidential primary, his first formal primary win of the election season.

Amid low voter turnout, the Associated Press projected that Biden also won all 55 of the state’s Democratic delegates. Another seven delegates are pledged by party leaders and elected officials, such as South Carolina’s lone Democratic congressman, Jim Clyburn. Neither Dean Phillips, the congressman from Minnesota, nor author Marianne Williamson received at least 15% of the statewide vote or 15% of the vote in any congressional district, the threshold necessary to win delegates.

The president sent out a statement shortly after the results were called in his favor, specifically highlighting Black voters, who comprise 26% of state residents and a significant portion of the Democratic voting base in South Carolina.

“As I said four years ago, this campaign is for everyone who has been knocked down, counted out and left behind. That is still true today. With more than 14m new jobs and a record 24 straight months – two years – of the unemployment rate under 4%, including a record low unemployment rate for Black Americans, we are leaving no one behind,” he said.

“In 2020, it was the voters of South Carolina who proved the pundits wrong, breathed new life into our campaign, and set us on the path to winning the Presidency.

“Now in 2024, the people of South Carolina have spoken again and I have no doubt that you have set us on the path to winning the Presidency again – and making Donald Trump a loser – again.

Biden continued: “When I was elected president, I said the days of the backbone of the Democratic party being at the back of the line were over. That was a promise made and a promise kept. Now, you are first in the nation.”

The Democratic National Committee changed the national election calendar last year to designate South Carolina as the first official contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, taking the privilege away from the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Biden did not participate in the New Hampshire primary, which state Democratic officials held over the objections of the national committee.

Marvin Pendarvis, a Democratic state representative from North Charleston, said the primary was important, regardless of turnout.

“Everyone probably wondered why was it so important that we got turnout, even when we knew that Joe Biden was going to win South Carolina. It’s because we are first in the nation. It’s because we want to maintain that status going into 2028. And it is big for our party to be able to showcase why South Carolina was chosen to be first: because we are representative of the Democratic party, not only in our diversity of values, but also how we look and how we come together as Democrats.

“We’re the ones that spearheaded Joe Biden to get into office in 2020,” Pendarvis added. “We’ll do it again in 2024.”

South Carolina’s primaries are open, allowing any registered voter to participate, though voters much choose only one primary – Democratic or Republican – to vote in. Of South Carolina’s 3.3 million registered voters, about 13% participated in the 2016 Democratic primary, which was won overwhelmingly by Hillary Clinton, while 16% voted in the 2020 primary that separated Biden from the pack.

South Carolina’s Republicans go to the polls on 24 February, when former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley faces former president Donald Trump.

Biden’s statement ended on a warning about the upcoming contest: “The stakes in this election could not be higher. There are extreme and dangerous voices at work in the country – led by Donald Trump – who are determined to divide our nation and take us backward. We cannot let that happen. We’ve come a long way these past four years – with America now having the strongest economy in the world and among the lowest inflation of any major economy. Let’s keep pushing forward. Let’s finish what we started – together.”

US and UK hit 30 Houthi targets in fresh strikes

US and UK hit 30 Houthi targets to further weaken Iran-backed groups

Joint operation to further disable militias follows attacks on US and international interests amid war in Gaza

The United States and Britain struck at least 30 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday in another wave of assaults meant to further disable Iran-backed groups that have attacked US and international interests in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Ships and fighter jets on Saturday launched strikes against the Houthis. It followed an air assault in Iraq and Syria on Friday targeting other Iran-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for the drone strike that killed three US troops – William Jerome Rivers, Kennedy Ladon Sanders and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett – in Jordan last weekend.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said the military action “sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels.”

The Houthi targets were in 13 different locations and were struck by US F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier, by British Typhoon FGR4 fighter aircraft and by the destroyers USS Gravely and the USS Carney firing Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea, according to US officials and the UK defence ministry. The US officials were not authorised to publicly discuss the military operation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Saturday’s strikes marked the third time the US and Britain had conducted a large, joint operation to strike Houthi launchers, radar sites and drones. But the Houthis have made it clear that they have no intention of scaling back their assault.

On Friday, the US destroyer Laboon and F/A-18s from the Eisenhower shot down seven drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Red Sea; the destroyer Carney also shot down a drone fired in the Gulf of Aden and US forces took out four more drones that were prepared to launch.

Hours before the latest joint operation, the US undertook another self-defence strike on a site in Yemen, destroying six anti-ship cruise missiles, as it has repeatedly when it has detected a missile or drone ready to launch.

The US warned that its response after the soldiers’ deaths at the Tower 22 base in Jordan last Sunday would not be limited to one night, one target or one group. While there has been no suggestion the Houthis were directly responsible, they have been one of the prime US adversaries since Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October 2023, killing more than 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

The Houthis have been conducting almost daily missile or drone attacks against commercial and military ships transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and they have made clear that they have no intention of scaling back despite pressure from the American and British campaign.

Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, said “military operations against Israel will continue until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and the siege on its residents is lifted, no matter the sacrifices it costs us.” He wrote online that the “American-British aggression against Yemen will not go unanswered, and we will meet escalation with escalation”.

The Biden administration has indicated that this is likely not the last of its strikes. The US has blamed the Jordan attack on the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias. Iran has tried to distance itself from the drone strike, saying the militias act independently of its direction.

Austin said the military action, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, “sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels”.

He added: “We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways.”

The Pentagon said the strikes targeted sites associated with the Houthis’ deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defence, radars and helicopters. The British military said it struck a ground control station west of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, that has been used to control Houthi drones that have launched against vessels in the Red Sea.

The US president, Joe Biden, was briefed on the strikes before he left Delaware on Saturday for a west coast campaign trip, according to an administration official.

The strikes in Yemen are meant to underscore the broader message to Iran that Washington holds Tehran responsible for arming, funding and training the array of militias – from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen – who are behind attacks across the Middle East against US and international interests.

Video shared online by people in Sana’a included the sound of explosions and at least one blast was seen lighting up the night sky. Residents described the blasts as happening around buildings associated with the Yemeni presidential compound. The Houthi-controlled news agency Saba reported strikes in al-Bayda, Dhamar, Hajjah, Hodeida, Taiz and Sana’a provinces.

The Houthis’ attacks have led shipping companies to reroute their vessels from the Red Sea, sending them around Africa through the Cape of Good Hope – a much longer, costlier and less efficient passage. The threats also have led the US and its allies to set up a joint mission where warships from participating nations provide a protective umbrella of air defense for ships as they travel the critical waterway that runs from the Suez Canal down to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

During normal operations about 400 commercial vessels transit the southern Red Sea at any given time.

In the wake of the strikes on Friday in Iraq and Syria, Hussein al-Mosawi, spokesperson for Harakat al-Nujaba, one of the main Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, said Washington “must understand that every action elicits a reaction”. But in an AP interview in Baghdad, he also struck a more conciliatory tone. “We do not wish to escalate or widen regional tensions,” he said.

Iraqi officials have attempted to rein in the militias, while also condemning US retaliatory strikes as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and calling for an exit of the 2,500 US troops who are in Iraq as part of an international coalition to fight Islamic State. In January, Iraqi and US military officials launched formal talks to wind down the coalition’s presence, a process that likely to take years.

Imran Khan and his wife sentenced to seven years each

Imran Khan and his wife sentenced in ‘un-Islamic’ marriage case

Pakistani former PM says case was created to ‘humiliate’ him and Bushra Bibi, who were sentenced to seven years each

A local court in Pakistan has sentenced Imran Khan, the country’s former prime minister, and his wife to seven years each in a case related to their marriage, which it declared “un-Islamic”.

Khan and Bushra Bibi were both last week separately handed 14-year sentences in a corruption case, known as Toshakhana, for illegally selling state gifts.

The verdict was announced on Saturday in the “un-Islamic marriage case”, which was filed by Bushra Bibi’s former husband.

It was the third sentence handed to Khan in a week. It was given at a hearing in the Rawalpindi prison, where he has been incarcerated since August and is facing more than 100 different charges.

After his conviction in the “iddat” case for not waiting 40 days to remarry after Bibi’s divorce, Khan told the reporters the case was created to “humiliate and disgrace” him and his wife.

“This marks the first instance in history where a case related to iddat has been initiated,” Khan said.

The timing of the three convictions is viewed as significant by observers, coming days before the general election scheduled for 8 February. Khan is banned from running in the election but he remains popular among voters.

Civil society, experts and analysts criticised the verdict. Hamid Mir, a renowned journalist and analyst, said: “The verdict is disgraceful for the judiciary.”

Reema Umer, a law expert, wrote on X: “The proceedings + convictions in the ‘iddat case’ (or specifically, ‘going through a marriage ceremony fraudulently without being lawfully married’) are a damning blot on our justice system.

“Horrifying the state stooped this low seemingly just to humiliate IK, Bushra Bibi.”

Khan was toppled from power in 2022 after a constitutional vote of no confidence against him, but he claims that the cases brought against him are politically motivated and denies any wrongdoing.

After his ousting, Khan started attacking the powerful military who once brought him to power and accused the serving military chief of having personal grudges against him. The country’s military has long been accused of meddling in politics.

Khan’s party leaders have parted ways or are behind the bars, and party workers have faced a severe crackdown. Khan’s party accused the state of not allowing them to campaign for the coming elections and arresting their workers and leaders.

Syed Zulfikar Bukhari, Khan’s close aide and media adviser, said the latest conviction was a fake case and that he had been a witness to the marriage.

“Is this all that’s left in the country and courts or systems to do? In a way it’s a victory for Imran Khan. Pakistan has stooped to a level where the whole politics is now about someone’s marriage or divorce,” Bukhari said.