The Guardian 2024-02-10 12:01:03


Search for Ballarat woman turns to dashcam footage as police ‘scale back’ on-the-ground operation

Search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy turns to dashcam footage as police ‘scale back’ on-the-ground operation

Mother-of-three, 51, was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home about 7am last Sunday to go for a run

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Police have expanded an appeal for dashcam or CCTV footage as they investigate the disappearance of the Victorian woman Samantha Murphy.

Murphy, 51, was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home in Ballarat East about 7am last Sunday to go for a run.

As they announced an on-the-ground search that has canvassed large areas of Ballarat would be scaled back over the weekend, police called on members of the public to submit any CCTV or dashcam footage covering the Ballarat East, Mount Helen and Buninyong areas last Sunday.

“Even if the footage does not depict Samantha, detectives are keen to review all footage in the areas between 7am and 7pm on Sunday, 4 February,” they said in a statement on Saturday.

“Police previously urged everyone in the Ballarat East and Mount Helen areas, particularly around the Canadian Forest, to check their CCTV for any possible sightings over the past six days however would now like to collect all footage.”

Despite extensive searches in the area over the past six days, no sign of Murphy has been found.

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Police, with assistance from a number of other agencies, searched in the Canadian Forest area where Samantha was known to regularly run.

Following further information about possible run routes, the search moved to the nearby Mount Helen area to the east of Geelong Road on Wednesday.

The local community has also helped with the search, many on foot, others riding bicycles, on horseback or in four-wheel drives, with residents picking through scrub on the roadsides throughout the day or after finishing work.

Police said in a statement they continued to be in regular contact with Murphy’s family regarding the search and the status of the investigation.

“The investigative stage of the investigation continues and as any new information comes to hand identifying areas of interest, the search will be scaled up,” they said.

Police said the missing persons squad would continue to work with local police, as they had done since the early stages of Murphy’s disappearance.

The specialist detectives will manage the investigation into her disappearance and will work alongside local police, who will continue to lead the search when required. As of Friday, homicide detectives are not involved in the case.

Police again released two images of Murphy in the hope someone recognises her and can provide any information about her movements since Sunday.

On Thursday, the mother-of-three’s distraught eldest daughter, Jess, called for help to bring her mother home.

“I know she’s out there somewhere, so if you could please continue to search for her to give us something to work with, we’d really appreciate it,” she said.

Murphy’s husband, Mick, said: “People just don’t vanish into thin air. Someone has got to know something.”

Insp Bob Heaney said this week that Murphy’s movement’s last Sunday morning were in line with what she’d normally do.

“Samantha’s very fit – both physically and mentally – she would cover up to 14 to 15km on her runs,” he said.

“She’s normally due back from her run within a couple of hours and alarm bells went up when she didn’t return from that run.”

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Atlantic Ocean circulation nearing ‘devastating’ tipping point, study finds

Atlantic Ocean circulation nearing ‘devastating’ tipping point, study finds

Collapse in system of currents that helps regulate global climate would be at such speed that adaptation would be impossible

The circulation of the Atlantic Ocean is heading towards a tipping point that is “bad news for the climate system and humanity”, a study has found.

The scientists behind the research said they were shocked at the forecast speed of collapse once the point is reached, although they said it was not yet possible to predict how soon that would happen.

Using computer models and past data, the researchers developed an early warning indicator for the breakdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc), a vast system of ocean currents that is a key component in global climate regulation.

They found Amoc is already on track towards an abrupt shift, which has not happened for more than 10,000 years and would have dire implications for large parts of the world.

Amoc, which encompasses part of the Gulf Stream and other powerful currents, is a marine conveyer belt that carries heat, carbon and nutrients from the tropics towards the Arctic Circle, where it cools and sinks into the deep ocean. This churning helps to distribute energy around the Earth and modulates the impact of human-caused global heating.

But the system is being eroded by the faster-than-expected melt-off of Greenland’s glaciers and Arctic ice sheets, which pours freshwater into the sea and obstructs the sinking of saltier, warmer water from the south.

Amoc has declined 15% since 1950 and is in its weakest state in more than a millennium, according to previous research that prompted speculation about an approaching collapse.

Until now there has been no consensus about how severe this will be. One study last year, based on changes in sea surface temperatures, suggested the tipping point could happen between 2025 and 2095. However, the UK Met Office said large, rapid changes in Amoc were “very unlikely” in the 21st century.

The new paper, published in Science Advances, has broken new ground by looking for warning signs in the salinity levels at the southern extent of the Atlantic Ocean between Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Simulating changes over a period of 2,000 years on computer models of the global climate, it found a slow decline can lead to a sudden collapse over less than 100 years, with calamitous consequences.

The paper said the results provided a “clear answer” about whether such an abrupt shift was possible: “This is bad news for the climate system and humanity as up till now one could think that Amoc tipping was only a theoretical concept and tipping would disappear as soon as the full climate system, with all its additional feedbacks, was considered.”

It also mapped some of the consequences of Amoc collapse. Sea levels in the Atlantic would rise by a metre in some regions, inundating many coastal cities. The wet and dry seasons in the Amazon would flip, potentially pushing the already weakened rainforest past its own tipping point. Temperatures around the world would fluctuate far more erratically. The southern hemisphere would become warmer. Europe would cool dramatically and have less rainfall. While this might sound appealing compared with the current heating trend, the changes would hit 10 times faster than now, making adaptation almost impossible.

“What surprised us was the rate at which tipping occurs,” said the paper’s lead author, René van Westen, of Utrecht University. “It will be devastating.”

He said there was not yet enough data to say whether this would occur in the next year or in the coming century, but when it happens, the changes are irreversible on human timescales.

In the meantime, the direction of travel is undoubtedly in an alarming direction.

“We are moving towards it. That is kind of scary,” van Westen said. “We need to take climate change much more seriously.”

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Middle East crisis live: Israel warned against ‘catastrophic’ Rafah offensive as starvation fears grow

Israel’s plans for a military offensive on Rafah in the Gaza Strip are “alarming”, the EU’s foreign policy chief has said.

Josep Borell said on social media platform X that “1.4 million Palestinians are currently in Rafah without safe place to go, facing starvation”, Agence France-Presse reports.

Rafah is the southernmost city in the Palestinian territory hit by Israel’s fierce offensive since Hamas’s 7 October attacks and many of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million have taken refuge there.

“Reports of an Israeli military offensive on Rafah are alarming,” Borell said.

It would have catastrophic consequences worsening the already dire humanitarian situation and the unbearable civilian toll.

Earlier, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told officials to “submit to the cabinet a combined plan for evacuating the population and destroying the battalions” of Hamas holed up in Rafah, his office said.

Netanyahu said this week he had ordered troops to prepare to move into Rafah, and that “total victory” against the militants would come in months.

Israel-Gaza warIsrael moves closer to Rafah offensive despite ‘bloodbath’ warning

Gaza: Israel moves closer to Rafah offensive despite ‘bloodbath’ warning

Biden and UN say assault on city where 1.3m civilians are sheltering would be disastrous

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Israel has moved closer to a full-scale ground offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah, as Benjamin Netayahu ordered military leaders to present a plan to evacuate civilians from the area.

Despite warnings from a senior aid official that an assault on Rafah – where about 1.3 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering – would lead to a “bloodbath”, and the UN urging against forced mass displacement, Israel appeared determined to push ahead.

“It is impossible to achieve the war goal of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” the Israeli prime minister said in a statement, rejecting a warning from the Biden administration that it could not support an offensive against Rafah. “On the other hand, it is clear that a massive operation in Rafah requires the evacuation of the civilian population from the combat zones.”

With more than half of Gaza already under evacuation orders, widespread destruction throughout the coastal strip, and continuing fighting, it was unclear where such a large number of people could safely be moved.

“No war can be allowed in a gigantic refugee camp,” said Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warning of a “bloodbath” if Israeli operations expanded there. A United Nations spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said civilians in Rafah needed to be protected, but the UN did not want to see any forced mass displacement.

Situated on the southern border with Egypt, Rafah’s prewar population of several hundred thousand has increased massively as about half of the territory’s 2.3 million people have sought shelter in the city and surrounding areas.

The disclosure by Netanyahu’s office that it had requested detailed evacuation plans, along with a military plan for fighting in the city, came a day after Joe Biden described Israel’s military response in Gaza as “over the top” and said he was seeking a “sustained pause” in fighting.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” the US president told reporters late on Thursday, even as his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, left the region without reaching an agreement.

Biden said he had been pushing for a deal to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, increase humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians and pause the fighting temporarily to allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

“I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire,” Biden said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s got to stop.”

The previous day the US specifically warned against attacking Rafah. The US national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, said on Thursday that any assault on Rafah without due consideration of civilians would be a disaster and “we would not support it”.

The comments were echoed at the state department, with the spokesperson Vedant Patel saying that going ahead with such an offensive “with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster”.

Biden’s comments mark a sharp change in language for the president, who has been supportive of Israel, including in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said Israeli military action on Rafah would be a “total disaster”.

Speaking before Netanyahu’s evacuation announcement, Lazzarini, said the situation there was “extraordinarily worrisome” and that airstrikes had hit near the agency’s base in Rafah on Thursday.

“The situation is becoming more and more tense, more and more confusing … any large-scale military operation among this population can only lead to an additional layer of endless tragedy that’s unfolding, and that we witness on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s a sense of growing anxiety and growing panic in Rafah. People have absolutely no idea where to go after Rafah … I don’t know how long we will be able to operate in such a high-risk environment.”

The office of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu’s plan for military escalation aimed to drive Palestinians from their land. In a statement it called on the UN security council to take heed, “because taking this step threatens security and peace in the region and the world. It crosses all red lines”.

The White House has become increasingly frustrated with statements from Israeli ministers, including Netanyahu. It denied reports earlier this week that Biden had privately called the Israeli prime minister “a bad fucking guy”.

Sources of friction include Israel’s resistance to winding up a war that has caused so many civilian casualties and Netanyahu’s rejection of US calls for progress towards a Palestinian state when the war is over.

Biden’s administration issued a national security memorandum on Thursday that calls on the state department to procure written assurances from countries receiving US weapons that they will abide by international law, including the provision of humanitarian assistance.

Biden, who has been under increasing domestic pressure over the crisis in the Middle East, was criticised for remarks during the early stages of Israel’s military campaign in which he described the death of innocent Palestinians as “the price of waging a war”.

Israel began its offensive after Hamas militants from Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages on 7 October. Gaza’s health ministry says almost 28,000 Palestinians have been confirmed dead, with thousands more feared buried under rubble.

Despite bullish Israeli assessments of the progress it has made against Hamas, most recently by Netanyahu this week, US intelligence officials who briefed members of Congress suggested Israel was not close to eliminating the group.

Israeli forces bombed areas of Rafah on Thursday as diplomats sought to salvage ceasefire talks after Netanyahu rejected a Hamas proposal.

The strikes killed at least 13 people, including two women and five children, according to the Kuwaiti hospital, which received the bodies. At the scene of one of the strikes, residents used torches on their mobile phones as they dug through the rubble with pickaxes and their bare hands.

“I wish we could collect their whole bodies instead of just pieces,” said Mohammed Abu Habib, a neighbour who witnessed the strike.

Outside the hospital, relatives wept as they said farewell to their loved ones. Warda Abu Warda said she felt helpless. “Where do we go after Rafah? Do we go to the sea?” she asked.

Explaining his response to the crisis, Biden appeared to mix up the details of his diplomatic efforts, calling the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the leader of Mexico.

“Initially, the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in,” Biden said. “I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate. I talked to Bibi [Netanyahu] to open the gate on the Israeli side.”

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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Middle EastIsrael appears to be in breach of ICJ orders on Gaza, senior UN official says

Israel appears to be in breach of ICJ orders on Gaza, senior UN official says

Special rapporteur cites lack of medical supplies, food and clean water, and continued demolition of infrastructure

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Israel appears to be in breach of the orders issued a fortnight ago by the international court of justice requiring it to take immediate steps to protect Palestinians’ rights and cease all activities that could constitute genocide, the UN special rapporteur on the occupied territories, Francesca Albanese, has said.

The Israeli government was given until 23 February to report to the ICJ on what it has done to comply with six orders the court issued, including one relating to ending incitement to genocide and another requiring immediate steps to improve the supply of humanitarian aid.

Senior western officials say that despite hours of negotiations with Israeli officials there is at best a marginal and incremental improvement since the 26 January ruling. “Safe to say, it’s dire and getting worse,” one said.

The ICJ did not direct Israel to announce a ceasefire, as South Africa had requested, but by very large majorities the judges did make orders that were intended to have practical effect.

First, Israel was required to “take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide” in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, after the court found “discernibly genocidal and dehumanising rhetoric coming from senior Israeli government officials”.

Second, the ICJ required Israel to “take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance”.

Israel was further required to take all measures within its power to prevent, within the scope of the genocide convention, the killing of Palestinians, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and imposing measures intended to prevent births.

Many lawyers have interpreted this to mean that the acts mentioned are not prohibited so long as Israel undertakes them without genocidal intent – which Israel says is the case, and which the court will not test in full until later. Albanese, however, said she disagreed, and that the ICJ had mandated Israel to cease all activities that could constitute genocide.

Despite this, she said, the violence and the demolition of civilian infrastructure had continued, aggravating the harsh living conditions in Gaza. “The fatalities are not solely the result of bombings and sniper attacks,” she said in an interview with the Guardian. “They also occur due to a scarcity of medical supplies and treatment, and, most distressingly, due to inadequate access to food and potable water, forcing consumption of contaminated or polluted water.”

At least 1,755 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the court order.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said Israel has an “unwavering” commitment to international law and to its “sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people”. He has described the ICJ case as a “vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right”. The US – which has supported Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attacks – has called it “meritless”.

““Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said. “The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected.”

Lawyers have argued that the extent of Israel’s compliance with the orders is a test not only of the top UN court’s authority, but of other signatories to the genocide convention.

Yussef Al Tamimi, a visiting fellow at New York University school of law, pointed out that ICJ case law – notably the Bosnia v Serbia ruling in 1996 – specifies that states have the responsibility “to employ all means reasonably available to them, so as to prevent genocide so far as possible”.

He said that applied equally to states with “the capacity to influence effectively the action of persons likely to commit, or already committing, genocide”. In the Serbia judgment, the ICJ found “a state bore responsibility if it was aware, or should normally have been aware, of the serious danger that acts of genocide would be committed”.

This places stricter obligations on states that provide financial, intelligence and military assistance to Israel’s campaign in Gaza, he said. South Africa’s lawyers intend to press further over Israeli compliance with the ICJ’s orders and third parties over their obligations.

The case accusing Israel of genocide was brought by South Africa but others have since taken action. Nicaragua has asked to join the case on the basis, it says, that Israel is breaching the convention, and Algeria – the current lead Arab nation on the UN security council – has tabled a resolution endorsing the ICJ’s orders and adding that a humanitarian ceasefire is the prerequisite for them to be implemented, something the court itself did not say.

The US is opposed to the resolution. “This draft resolution could put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy, derailing the exhaustive, ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages, and secure an extended pause that Palestinian civilians and aid workers so desperately need,” the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas–Greenfield, said a week ago.

Independent of the ICJ, Belgium has banned arms sales to Israel, Japan’s Itochu Aviation has informed its Israeli partner it will end strategic cooperation by the end of February, and the Dutch appeal court will decide next week whether or not the government is entitled to sell F-16s to Israel.

Yuval Shany, the Hersch Lauterpacht chair in international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Israel’s presentation to the ICJ could become a dynamic process rather than the submission of a single report.

“It is open to South Africa, on the basis of significant factual changes on the ground, to seek a change to the language in the order, or more substantially to seek new orders,” he said. “In the case of Armenia v Azerbaijan, Armenia twice failed in bids to seek modifications, but twice succeeded in adding new orders … the 26 January orders may not be the last word.”

Shany said the two most important concerns in the court’s orders last month were aid and incitement.On both , it is hard to argue that Israel has been in compliance. The central evidence on incitement is a conference organised by the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit in Jerusalem three days after the ICJ ruling, in which the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, articulated a twin-track approach – encouraging the exodus of Gaza’s inhabitants while encouraging the influx of Israeli settlers. He argued it was “a correct, just, moral and humane solution”.

At the same event the chair of the major settler organisation Nahala, Daniella Weiss, was more explicit. Asked what would happen to the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, she said: “The Arabs will move.” Just as Israel “doesn’t give them food” in order to pressure Hamas to release the hostages, so too should Israel “not give them anything, so they will have to move”, she said. One of the videos shown at the conference was a clip of soldiers waiting to join the ground invasion chanting: “There are no innocents in Gaza.” The conference was attended by 11 cabinet ministers and 15 members of the coalition.

The US described Ben-Gvir’s remarks as inflammatory, but Netanyahu, who depends on his support to remain in office, has been silent. Similarly, little has been done to stop the stream of Israel Defense Forces messages glorifying victory over the Palestinian people rather than Hamas.

The most serious infraction has occurred over the order concerning aid. The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs reported on 5 February: “In the northern Gaza and Gaza governorates, the humanitarian situation has reached an exceedingly critical state, exacerbated by existing restrictions that impede the delivery of essential aid.”

It also pointed out that the Israeli authorities denied access to 56% of humanitarian aid missions planned for northern Gaza (34 out of 61) and 25% of missions planned for the middle area (28 out of 114) in January. Since 26 January the number of trucks allowed to enter Gaza, an inadequate metric, never exceeded 218 and was typically below 150.

Israeli rightwingers have blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing to prevent the entry of aid into the strip since 26 January and police have so far not removed their tents. The UN also noted that despite promises, checkpoints had not once been opened at 6am when operational conditions were optimal for delivering aid.

Many western governments which have engaged in months of fruitless negotiation to increase aid see an accumulation of bureaucratic hurdles and a reluctance to do anything that might help Hamas.

Cogat, the Israeli military body that liaises with the UN over aid, insists the humanitarian crisis is not as described by the agencies. It pointed out that 15 bakeries were operational in Gaza on Thursday, providing more than 2m loaves, rolls, and pitas a day for the local population. The number of operational bakeries had risen from 10 to 15 over the past two weeks, it said.

British and US officials think it would be possible to double the amount of aid entering Gaza relatively quickly, and are assured by Israel that its strategic intent is to “avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”. They also admit, however, that as long as Israel approaches each tactical and operational decision across the board on the basis that goods may be diverted to Hamas, the outcome can only be insufficient aid.

Kate Ferguson from Protection Approaches, a British NGO, told the UK foreign affairs select committee this week why the US and UK response to the ICJ case matters: “You cannot have approaches to mass atrocity crimes that are inconsistent. Inconsistency is the enabling factor for impunity everywhere.”

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Horror film Talk To Me cleans up

Horror film Talk To Me cleans up at 2024 Aacta awards

Film takes home awards for best film and direction – with Deadloch, The New Boy, The Newsreader and Margot Robbie also winning big

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The surprise international box office hit Talk To Me has collected eight gongs at the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards, including best film, best director for Danny and Michael Philippou and best lead actress for Sophie Wilde.

The A24 supernatural horror film, which earned in excess of A$138m worldwide in 2023, also collected best screenplay, best editing, best sound and best original score, in a ceremony on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

The night was hosted by Rebel Wilson, with guest appearances by Ron Howard, Simon Baker and Cate Blanchett, who was producer for the other production that dominated the film category, The New Boy – but missed out in the best lead actress category.

The New Boy won the award for best cinematography by its director, Warwick Thornton, best production design and best leading actor for tween First Nations newcomer Aswan Reid. Deborah Mailman was recognised for her role as best supporting actress in the film.

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The awards night also saw recognition for Margot Robbie, who won Aacta’s trailblazer award for her work in front of the camera and behind it, through her production company LuckyChap.

The announcement, made by Blanchett sporting an oversized pink polkadot headdress representing “middle-age Barbie”, included pre-filmed congratulatory messages from Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Greta Gerwig and America Ferrera.

Her film Barbie was the highest grossing film of 2023, earning more than A$2bn worldwide and taking home the Golden Globe award for cinematic and box office achievement last month.

Robbie’s role as the film’s star controversially failed to win her a best actress nomination at the forthcoming Academy Awards, but on Saturday she collected the Australian equivalent in the international category. Barbie also won best film, while the only nods for Barbie’s main box office competitor, Oppenheimer, were for Christopher Nolan’s direction and Cillian Murphy’s performance.

In television, the drama series The Newsreader and the comedy series Deadloch dominated.

The 1980s newsroom series won five awards, including best television drama series, best direction (for an episode directed by Emma Freeman), best lead actress for Anna Torv and best supporting actor for Hunter Page-Lochard.

Deadloch also won five awards, including best comedy series, best acting in a comedy for Kate Box, best screenplay, best editing and best original score.

Box used her acceptance speech to show her support for the Palestinian people in the Gaza conflict, calling on the audience and viewers to recognise “settler violence on the stolen lands” of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and globally.

“We can choose to radically reimagine ourselves, that community and our world so let us please call action on that ceasefire now,” she said. “Free Palestine.”

The were some tearful moments in the audience when Cal Wilson was awarded best comedy performance for The Great Australian Bake Off. Wilson died at the age of 53 in October 2023. Her husband Chris Woods and son Digby accepted the award on Wilson’s behalf.

The ABC’s long-running animated series Bluey won for the fifth consecutive year best children’s program, and best documentary was won by Poppy Stockwell’s John Farnham: Finding the Voice.

Rachel Perkins’ SBS series The Australian Wars collected three awards in the nonfiction television category.

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Horror film Talk To Me cleans up

Horror film Talk To Me cleans up at 2024 Aacta awards

Film takes home awards for best film and direction – with Deadloch, The New Boy, The Newsreader and Margot Robbie also winning big

  • Get our weekend culture and lifestyle email

The surprise international box office hit Talk To Me has collected eight gongs at the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards, including best film, best director for Danny and Michael Philippou and best lead actress for Sophie Wilde.

The A24 supernatural horror film, which earned in excess of A$138m worldwide in 2023, also collected best screenplay, best editing, best sound and best original score, in a ceremony on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

The night was hosted by Rebel Wilson, with guest appearances by Ron Howard, Simon Baker and Cate Blanchett, who was producer for the other production that dominated the film category, The New Boy – but missed out in the best lead actress category.

The New Boy won the award for best cinematography by its director, Warwick Thornton, best production design and best leading actor for tween First Nations newcomer Aswan Reid. Deborah Mailman was recognised for her role as best supporting actress in the film.

  • Sign up for the fun stuff with our rundown of must-reads, pop culture and tips for the weekend, every Saturday morning

The awards night also saw recognition for Margot Robbie, who won Aacta’s trailblazer award for her work in front of the camera and behind it, through her production company LuckyChap.

The announcement, made by Blanchett sporting an oversized pink polkadot headdress representing “middle-age Barbie”, included pre-filmed congratulatory messages from Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Greta Gerwig and America Ferrera.

Her film Barbie was the highest grossing film of 2023, earning more than A$2bn worldwide and taking home the Golden Globe award for cinematic and box office achievement last month.

Robbie’s role as the film’s star controversially failed to win her a best actress nomination at the forthcoming Academy Awards, but on Saturday she collected the Australian equivalent in the international category. Barbie also won best film, while the only nods for Barbie’s main box office competitor, Oppenheimer, were for Christopher Nolan’s direction and Cillian Murphy’s performance.

In television, the drama series The Newsreader and the comedy series Deadloch dominated.

The 1980s newsroom series won five awards, including best television drama series, best direction (for an episode directed by Emma Freeman), best lead actress for Anna Torv and best supporting actor for Hunter Page-Lochard.

Deadloch also won five awards, including best comedy series, best acting in a comedy for Kate Box, best screenplay, best editing and best original score.

Box used her acceptance speech to show her support for the Palestinian people in the Gaza conflict, calling on the audience and viewers to recognise “settler violence on the stolen lands” of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and globally.

“We can choose to radically reimagine ourselves, that community and our world so let us please call action on that ceasefire now,” she said. “Free Palestine.”

The were some tearful moments in the audience when Cal Wilson was awarded best comedy performance for The Great Australian Bake Off. Wilson died at the age of 53 in October 2023. Her husband Chris Woods and son Digby accepted the award on Wilson’s behalf.

The ABC’s long-running animated series Bluey won for the fifth consecutive year best children’s program, and best documentary was won by Poppy Stockwell’s John Farnham: Finding the Voice.

Rachel Perkins’ SBS series The Australian Wars collected three awards in the nonfiction television category.

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Peter Dutton looked like he was running on empty – then he refuelled on the Coalition’s latest culture wars

Peter Dutton looked like he was running on empty – then he refuelled on the Coalition’s latest culture wars

Paul Karp

Sideshows on cars and windfarms are a helpful distraction from its stage-three tax cuts backdown – and part of its plan to win back power via the regions

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The Coalition’s new tax policy is a bit of a hybrid.

It’s got the new-fangled electric motor: the half-hearted commitment to support Labor’s tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners.

But it’s also got the internal combustion engine: the plan to revive some elements of the stage-three flat tax plan that benefited the rich.

In his grouchy interview on ABC’s 7.30 this week and around the traps in Canberra, opposition leader Peter Dutton looked like a very reluctant hybrid driver. The Coalition backflip to wave through Labor’s tax changes was sealed on Tuesday with an air of “let’s get this over with”.

That left a long-term dilemma about how to design a tax alternative “in line with” the stage-three cuts they’d agreed to gut, and a short-term problem about how to change the narrative this week.

First, there was the effort to focus on Labor’s broken promise and the insinuation that you’re next because the government would not rule out a laundry list of other changes.

Those include: negative gearing, tax treatment of the family home, trusts, franking credits and capital gains tax – a wish list the Greens were happy to pick up and run with as they pressure Labor over the cost of housing.

In question time, Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers counted the minutes as they were asked about everything but Labor’s new $107bn tax cut package.

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Then the opposition found a bunch of other diverting pastimes outside the field of tax.

Coalition members inside parliament complained Labor had failed to deliver its projected $275 annual savings for households from renewable energy, while those who joined a dubious anti-renewables rally outside threw up further roadblocks.

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said we should “pause” the rollout of large-scale renewables because tearing up agricultural land was “pure insanity”; and was supported by former leader Barnaby Joyce’s complaints about the cost of transmission. Both claims are exaggerated.

The shadow climate and energy minister, Ted O’Brien, busied himself online shopping for new cars. In question time he suggested that the $19,000 price difference between a Mazda in the UK and in Australia (it is more expensive in the UK) was entirely down to fuel efficiency standards – which is a policy Labor has adopted.

On Friday Dutton followed that up with a visit to a Mazda dealership in the byelection seat of Dunkley to complain about Labor’s “new car and ute tax”.

Labor says the yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia will actually save consumers $1,000 in lower petrol bills, prompting a bunfight over the modelling to prove it.

Holding the government to account on claimed savings is fair enough, but is the Coalition really arguing once again that any form of regulation Labor proposes is a tax, even if it collects no revenue?

You bet they are. So let’s revise former Tony Abbott chief of staff Peta Credlin’s admission about the last time the Coalition pulled that trick: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax.”

Meanwhile, up in Queensland, there’s a bout of fear and loathing about youth crime, and the Liberal National party’s push to scrap the principle that detention is a last resort for young people. Dutton is ever the Queensland cop and wanted to weigh in. It was the first topic in his usual radio pow-wow with Ray Hadley on Thursday, giving him clear air to argue it is “not just Queenslanders but a lot of Australians who are facing this crime endemic – they want a leader who can stand up”.

The Coalition lent in again during question time: the first question was to Mark Dreyfus about plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

So here we have a party leader at a protest, a well-advanced stop in a byelection campaign and a pre-vetted question in parliament. These aren’t the random musings of reactionary characters with offbeat obsessions, they’re deliberate steps to advance a political strategy.

The value to the Coalition isn’t just as a distraction from the tax cut backdown. Take a look at the political map to see the potential of their sideshow-alley strategy.

Misinformation about wind turbines killing whales abounds on social media and community groups in the Illawarra and the Hunter region in New South Wales. The latter is rich in Labor seats on skinny margins and Dutton has visited the region to campaign against renewables.

In Tasmania two weeks ago, Dutton was warning that Tanya Plibersek could take a “political decision” to “destroy the lives and the livelihoods” of people in the small west coast town of Strahan, harming the salmon industry and its “world’s best practice” towards the Maugean skate.

The contrast is clear. The Albanese government is focusing on trying to materially improve people’s lives with low- and middle-income tax cuts and industrial relations changes to improve job security and pay.

Dutton’s path through the suburbs and regions is searching for a combination of issues that can shake enough seats loose to tip the government into minority or out of office.

To do so, he is prepared to whip up hip-pocket scare campaigns and cultural war issues to signal that inner-city lefties like Albanese and Plibersek are not like the average marginal-seat voter.

It seems a long-shot outsider political strategy, but for now it’s giving Dutton petrol in his tank to flee the scene of tax cut defeat.

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Democrats work on damage control after president’s fiery surprise speech

Democrats work on damage control after Biden’s fiery surprise speech

Kamala Harris slams claims of Biden’s failing mental acuity in classified documents report as ‘inaccurate and inappropriate’

Democrats and their allies were shaping a damage control response on Friday to a hastily organized White House press call the night before that appeared to fall short in its mission to reassure voters about Joe Biden’s mental acuity after it was harshly questioned in a prosecutor’s report about his having kept classified documents at the end of his vice-presidency.

Biden already said that his interview with the special counsel Robert Hur last October – in which he was reported to have forgotten the year his son Beau died and precisely when he had been vice-president – came in the days straight after Hamas attacked southern Israel, when Biden was preoccupied with the US response.

Hur’s report concluded on Thursday that Biden would not face criminal charges in the case, despite “willfully” retaining and disclosing classified material, which he would not be open to as a sitting president anyway but also would not be warranted even if he was no longer president.

But Hur then went on to describe at length how he found the US president’s memory to be failing, prompting anger from Biden and, in the following hours and into Friday, Democrats and aides to come to his defense.

“The way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated,” Kamala Harris told MSNBC on Friday.

The vice-president slammed claims of Biden’s failing mental acuity made in the 388-pages report as “gratuitous, inaccurate and inappropriate”.

Earlier, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin from the crucial swing state of Wisconsin addressed the conclusions by special counsel Robert Hur that the 81-year-old president’s recall was “significantly limited”, and that Hur would not bring charges over classified documents in part because jurors would see the US president not as a willful criminal but as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.

“I judge a president on what they’ve done and whose side they’re on,” Baldwin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She pointed to Biden’s “strong record of creating good-paying jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, and lowering prescription drug prices”.

Tommy Vietor, a former Obama administration staffer, wrote on X that the prosecutor’s comments were “just a rightwing hit job from within Biden’s own DOJ. Wild.”

On MSNBC, which often previews the Democratic party line, the host Joe Scarborough addressed the conclusions by the special counsel that the president’s recall was “significantly limited” and he would not bring charges over classified documents in part because jurors would see Biden as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”, not a criminal.

“So bizarre,” Scarborough said. “Why in the world would [Hur] put his neurological assessment of Joe Biden in his report, and why would [US attorney general] Merrick Garland release garbage like that in a justice department report?”

Dan Goldman, the Democratic congressman from New York, told the station that he did not have “any concerns” about Biden’s age or ability. “Remember, the job of the president is to guide our country. It is not to be a cheerleader for the United States. It is to govern our country,” he said.

Referring to missing Hillary Clinton emails that became an issue on the eve of the 2016 election, Scarborough added: “It sure sounds like James Comey in 2016 when he couldn’t indict Hillary Clinton legally so he indicted her politically.”

Vietor echoed that line, claiming Hur had “clearly decided to go down the Jim Comey path of filling his report absolving Biden of criminal activity with ad hominem attacks”.

The long-shot Democratic primary challenger Dean Phillips, who is campaigning against Biden, said Hur’s report had “all but handed the 2024 election to Donald Trump”.

“The report simply affirms what most Americans already know, that the President cannot continue to serve as our Commander-in-Chief beyond his term ending January 20, 2025,” Phillips said in a statement.

Behind closed doors, some Democrats expressed mounting concerns about a re-election narrative that focuses on Biden’s age. “It’s a nightmare,” a Democratic House member reportedly told NBC News. “It weakens President Biden electorally, and Donald Trump would be a disaster and an authoritarian.”

“For Democrats, we’re in a grim situation,” the anonymous source reportedly added.

Biden hit back at Hur’s characterization of his mental condition during a surprise press conference at the White House on Thursday evening. The president maintained that his memory was “just fine” and in a tense exchange said “I know what the hell I’m doing” and that remarks about his memory had “no place in this report”.

“My memory is fine,” Biden said. “Take a look at what I’ve done since I’ve become president.”

“For any extraneous commentary, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” he added. “It has no place in this report.”

At the end of the interview, he referred to Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as the “president of Mexico” in a response to a reporter’s query about the current situation in the Middle East. The error came after two other public gaffes this week in which Biden claimed to have spoken recently with two long-dead European leaders, Germany’s Helmut Kohl and France’s François Mitterrand.

Polling has consistently shown that concerns about Biden’s age are seen as his greatest political liability in a rematch with Donald Trump.

A poll by NBC News last month found that 76% of voters had major or moderate concerns when asked whether Biden has “the necessary mental and physical health to be president for a second term”. Asked the same question about the 77-year-old Trump, 48% said they had major or moderate concerns.

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Two men charged over alleged kidnapping and torture of woman

Two men charged over alleged kidnapping and torture of Brisbane woman

Police say victim did not know alleged attackers but there is no threat to wider community or indication it was gang-related

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Two men have faced court charged with torture, kidnapping and other offences while two others are wanted for questioning over an alleged violent attack on a woman in Brisbane.

Detectives say the victim did not know her alleged attackers but there is no threat to the wider community or indication it was gang-related.

Queensland police allege a group of men took the 43-year-old from a home in Doolandella on Friday.

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The woman was allegedly assaulted, placed in a vehicle and taken to a property at Forest Lake, Queensland police acting inspector Michael Hogan told reporters on Saturday.

He said a firearm was then discharged into the vehicle “at least once” but no one was shot.

A tip-off from a member of the public led officers to an address in Stafford Heights where four men were arrested, with two later released.

Two men, aged 18 and 20, were charged with kidnapping, extortion, torture, armed robbery, dangerous conduct with a weapon, enter a dwelling with intent whilst armed and other offences.

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries and has since been released from hospital.

“You could obviously understand that she’d been significantly shaken and traumatised by these events,” Hogan said.

Investigators have called on a further two men, ages unknown, to come forward for questioning about their alleged involvement.

“There’s no indication it’s gang related at this stage, it’s certainly something that we do look into as the Investigation progresses,” he said.

Crime scenes were established at three properties and a car taken away for forensic examination.

The investigation remains open and anyone with information about what happened or footage from the area has been asked to come forward.

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Two men charged over alleged kidnapping and torture of woman

Two men charged over alleged kidnapping and torture of Brisbane woman

Police say victim did not know alleged attackers but there is no threat to wider community or indication it was gang-related

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Two men have faced court charged with torture, kidnapping and other offences while two others are wanted for questioning over an alleged violent attack on a woman in Brisbane.

Detectives say the victim did not know her alleged attackers but there is no threat to the wider community or indication it was gang-related.

Queensland police allege a group of men took the 43-year-old from a home in Doolandella on Friday.

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The woman was allegedly assaulted, placed in a vehicle and taken to a property at Forest Lake, Queensland police acting inspector Michael Hogan told reporters on Saturday.

He said a firearm was then discharged into the vehicle “at least once” but no one was shot.

A tip-off from a member of the public led officers to an address in Stafford Heights where four men were arrested, with two later released.

Two men, aged 18 and 20, were charged with kidnapping, extortion, torture, armed robbery, dangerous conduct with a weapon, enter a dwelling with intent whilst armed and other offences.

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries and has since been released from hospital.

“You could obviously understand that she’d been significantly shaken and traumatised by these events,” Hogan said.

Investigators have called on a further two men, ages unknown, to come forward for questioning about their alleged involvement.

“There’s no indication it’s gang related at this stage, it’s certainly something that we do look into as the Investigation progresses,” he said.

Crime scenes were established at three properties and a car taken away for forensic examination.

The investigation remains open and anyone with information about what happened or footage from the area has been asked to come forward.

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Current owner of infamous bodies-in-barrels bank says Snowtown is ‘nice and quiet’

‘Every day we get tourists’: current owner of infamous bodies-in-barrels bank says Snowtown is ‘nice and quiet’

As the SA government considers whether a high-risk offenders scheme could apply to Snowtown killers, locals have mixed feelings about renewed attention

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“The town is not a scary place,” says Snowtown resident Rob Vanderveen. He and his partner, Kryss Black, bought its infamous former bank building in 2012 – decades after bodies were discovered hidden in barrels in its vault.

“It’s nice and quiet,” he says of the South Australian wheat-belt town that became known around the world after the murders were uncovered.

Snowtown is a small place, its population hovering a bit over 400, but there’s an IGA, a soldiers’ memorial, a newsagent and a pub.

“We don’t have peak hour and we’ve got everything here,” Vanderveen says.

“Every day we get tourists. Every day. It doesn’t worry us. We know it gets people into town. We’ve got the pub next door. There are a few shops in town.

“We actually open the bank on weekends and public holidays. To sell bric-a-brac … There’s information, people are interested.”

In May 1999, police found dismembered bodies in barrels filled with hydrochloric acid in the bank’s vault.

John Justin Bunting, Robert Joe Wagner, James Spyridon Vlassakis were convicted over the murders, and Mark Ray Haydon was convicted for helping to cover up the crimes.

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Eight of the 11 killed were found in those barrels, and a twelfth death was linked to the killers.

Most were murdered in the outer suburbs of Adelaide, more than 100km away – just one was killed in Snowtown.

Investigators initially thought the men’s motive was simply to take the welfare payments of their victims, but a more complicated picture gradually emerged.

The court heard Bunting was the ringleader, and that he hated various groups including homosexuals, drug addicts and paedophiles. The murders were “often ritualistic and humiliating” and targeted people connected to the men. Bunting was found guilty of 11 murders, Wagner 10, and Vlassakis pleaded guilty to four murders.

A 2014 study on “dark tourism”, published in the Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, found Snowtown residents were more opposed to tourists the longer they’d lived there. Those who had arrived after the crime was exposed were more welcoming.

Venderveen says the people of Snowtown are mostly relaxed, but hate when the media “goes apeshit [and] make[s] it look like an evil place”.

The media has gone, if not apeshit, a little bananas recently, with the news that one of the men convicted is due for release within months.

The state government is “seeking legal advice” about Haydon’s release – his 25-year sentence ends in May. Attorney general Kyam Maher says they will also seek advice about Vlassakis’ scheduled release next year.

Bunting and Wagner are serving multiple life sentences with no prospect of parole.

Haydon was not convicted of murder, but of helping to cover up seven of the killings.

One of the victims was his own wife, Elizabeth Haydon.

South Australia’s victims of crime commissioner, Sarah Quick, told the ABC in January that she was in regular contact with the victims’ relatives, who continued to suffer “unimaginable trauma”.

“Contemplating the fact that Haydon will be released is very difficult for them,” she said.

“It’s really difficult to reconcile the fact that Haydon might have the opportunity to start a fresh life and that’s certainly something they don’t have the luxury of.”

Maher says the government is looking at whether a high-risk offenders scheme could apply to Haydon and Vlassakis.

“It creates a regime where serious violent or sex offenders can be subject to extra conditions once they’ve finished their entire time in prison,” he says.

“It can be things like electronic monitoring, curfews, the people you can or can’t see.

“We’ve asked for advice – and we expect that in the coming weeks – whether Mark Haydon … meets that statutory definition of serious, violent offenders.”

The government could then apply to the supreme court, which would determine whether there was an appreciable risk. It is also looking at “other levers”.

Asked if the parliament could pass laws to prevent their release, the SA premier, Peter Malinauskas, says the government is exploring all options.

“I, along with a significant number of Australians, would be genuinely concerned about the prospect of release occurring to anyone associated with the Snowtown murders,” he says.

“These were horrific crimes, they were some of the worst we’ve ever seen in the history of the nation. We need to think through our options very carefully, and we are exploring each and every one of them, and as that evolves we will respond accordingly.”

While the government can’t do the job of the courts, he says, it is “actively exploring all options open to us”.

Maher says a standalone offence created in 2022 for concealing or interfering with human remains would have kept Haydon in prison for longer if it had been in place at the time.

Meanwhile, even though only one of the murders actually took place in Snowtown, the name remains synonymous with the crimes.

Maher says the murders were “almost burned into the psyche of SA”.

“No doubt it has had a deep and lasting impact on the victims’ families, but also the communities where these things occurred, particularly the Snowtown community,” he says.

When the bank was advertised for sale, Realestate.com.au spruiked it as a “piece of Australian history” which was a setting for the 2011 Snowtown movie.

“Buyers should note that illegal activities were conducted in the old bank building and you should enquire to the nature of these activities prior to bidding,” the ad read.

It’s a red brick building, with a snub-nosed veranda. The office is at the front, the vault (“with lockable vault door”) at the back, and a four-bedroom house is attached.

Vandeveen says the vault is shut to the visitors that come to see the bank, and shares a picture of the plaque above it, which reads: “In memory of those taken by evil, greed & ignorance”.

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Family’s plea for answers 40 years after Melbourne woman was murdered in her home

‘Someone must know’: family’s plea for answers 40 years after Melbourne woman was murdered in her home

Victoria police launch fresh appeal for information on anniversary of death of Boronia woman Nanette Ellis

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The family of a single mother murdered in her own home say their pain has been made worse by not knowing who killed her, as they launched a fresh plea for answers on the 40th anniversary of her death.

Melbourne woman Nanette Ellis was stabbed in her Boronia home by an unknown offender or group of offenders on the evening of 10 February 1984.

Her 16-year-old son Greg discovered his mother’s body about 45 minutes after she was seen arriving home.

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No one has ever been charged over the 41-year-old’s death although homicide squad detectives have spoken to a number of people.

Ellis’s car was subjected to a series of attacks in the days leading up to her death, including having tyres slashed, number plates removed, paint tipped over it as well as having rocks thrown while she was driving.

A number of other cars were attacked with rocks at the time and detectives have never been able to draw a clear link between those incidents and her death.

Ellis’s family say they are tormented by the brutality of what she endured in a place that should have been her safe haven.

“Our lives have gone on but have never been the same again since Nanette’s death,” her family said in a statement.

“A sense of enduring loss and sadness continue to this day, exacerbated by not knowing who was responsible, and why Nanette was targeted.

“We believe that someone must know who murdered Nanette.

“No one can carry such an appalling secret forever without sharing it with another.”

Ellis, an advertising manager, enjoyed a quiet life with her two boys and had no criminal associations or other links that could be connected to her death, according to Homicide Squad Det Insp Dean Thomas.

He stressed it’s not too late to come forward with information. “The time to come forward is now,” Thomas said.

“The Ellis family have waited four decades for answers, four decades of grief and mystery.

“If there is anyone out there who knows anything about Nanette’s death, no matter what it is, I urge you to come forward and speak to police or Crime Stoppers.”

A $500,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the conviction of her killer.

The Department of Public Prosecutions is also considering indemnification from prosecution for anyone who provides information about those responsible.

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Imran Khan allies claim shock victory in election despite crackdown

Imran Khan allies claim shock victory in Pakistan election despite crackdown

Candidates backed by Khan’s PTI secure most seats but rival Nawaz Sharif seeks to form coalition

Politicians allied with the former prime minister Imran Khan’s party have defied a military-led crackdown and alleged widespread rigging to win the most seats in Pakistan’s election, but opponent Nawaz Sharif claimed victory and said he would form a coalition government.

Candidates backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party run by Khan who is now serving sentences of more than a decade in jail, claimed a stunning victory after Thursday’s polls, defying all expectations that Sharif, a three-time former prime minister, and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) would win an easy majority.

Khan declared victory in an audio-visual message created using artificial intelligence and shared on his X social media account, calling on his supporters to celebrate a win that was achieved despite what he called a crackdown on his party.

Sharif was seen to have the backing of Pakistan’s military, which has long been the country’s political power broker and has a history of meddling in its elections.

Voters across the country, however, appear to have come out in unprecedented numbers to support PTI and Khan. Given the scale of the votes for PTI-backed candidates, according to sources the military was unable to “manage” the results for Sharif as planned.

With more than three-quarters of the votes counted for the 265 seats in the national assembly, PTI-backed candidates had won more than 90 seats, PML-N 69 and the Pakistan People’s party (PPP) 52.

However, without a simple majority, analysts agreed it would be a challenge for PTI to form a government. Due to an election commission ruling, PTI candidates had not been allowed to campaign under their party name or symbol and so had to be registered as independents.

Despite not leading in the polls, Sharif gave a “victory” speech on Friday night and invited other political parties “to join us to form a government”. It is understood PTI was not included in this offer. Sharif’s comments suggest that if a deal can be reached, the next government will be formed as a coalition of PML-N, PPP and other smaller parties – but without PTI or Khan.

The same parties came together in a coalition in 2020 and ousted Khan as prime minister two years later. They were in government for 16 months, when they were largely unpopular due to the country’s continuing economic crisis.

PTI leaders hit back at Sharif, claiming he had no right to claim victory or form a government. They pointed to widespread allegations of rigging in favour of PML-N candidates and said the true number of seats their party had won was much higher. The vote count was delayed for more than 24 hours in some districts and in some cases reversed overnight against PTI.

Two people were killed after protests against alleged rigging of seats erupted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, where police are alleged to have retaliated with violence, and PTI supporters also came out on to the streets of Lahore. More rallies against alleged rigging have been planned across the country.

The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, voiced concern over “significant delays to the reporting of results and claims of irregularities in the counting process”.

However, Pakistan’s army chief congratulated the country for the “successful conduct” of the elections, saying it needed “stable hands” to move on from the politics of “anarchy and polarisation”. Asim Munir said in a statement that he hoped the vote would “bring in political and economic stability and prove to be the harbinger of peace and prosperity”.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was prime minister between 2017 and 2018, said he feared that Sharif’s suggested coalition, without the inclusion of PTI, would only bring more resentment and instability to Pakistan at a time of severe economic crisis.

“The legitimacy of these elections has come into serious doubt so they will have no credibility in the eyes of the people,” Abbasi said. “The only way they can obtain legitimacy is to include Imran Khan. Any solution without Khan will not be workable. But the question is: will the [military] establishment accept that?”

The lead for Khan’s party came as a shock to many. He is loathed by many in the military leadership after he had a fallout with senior generals and was toppled from power in 2022.

The military has since led a sustained attack on Khan and his PTI, making it clear it would not tolerate his return to power. Over the course of months, PTI leaders and workers were arrested and their candidates prevented from campaigning. On polling day, the government suspended all mobile services, including internet access, in a move widely seen as intended to hurt PTI’s voter turnout.

Khan was arrested in August and last week he received three separate jail sentences that could keep him behind bars for more than a decade.

His popularity has soared in recent months, however, as voters have become increasingly frustrated at the military’s brazen interference in politics.

The surge in support for Khan on election day was evident at polling stations across Islamabad’s NA-47 district visited by the Guardian. From first-time voters to elderly women born before Pakistan was established, and from labourers to tech workers and lawyers, the overwhelming majority said they were voting for PTI, or as many put it, giving their full backing to Khan.

However, while initial results showed in favour of PTI, allegations of inconsistencies and rigging began to emerge on Thursday night. Declarations of results began to slow down and then stopped altogether. Polling agents began to say they were unable to collect results and then there was a reported “technical error” in counting.

TV stations were said to have received instructions to stop reporting the results. The suspension of mobile internet access, justified on the basis of keeping polling stations safe, continued long into the night after voting had finished.

More votes were said to have been counted than voters registered in Nawaz Sharif’s constituency, while the officer overseeing the count was transferred abruptly on Friday morning, allegedly for medical reasons.

In a Lahore constituency, the PTI candidate Salman Akram Raja went to the high court on Friday to challenge the result in which he lost to a PML-N candidate despite having a significant majority on Thursday night. He alleged that he and his wife had been removed from the polling office as they tried to observe the count.

In NA-47, the central Islamabad constituency visited by the Guardian on polling day, the PTI candidate Shoaib Shaheen said officials had declared him a clear winner on Thursday night with a majority of more than 50,000 votes. By Friday afternoon, however, the seat had been awarded to PML-N, to a candidate who is a close ally of Sharif.

Standing outside the office of the election commission in protest, Shaheen accused it, the judiciary and the military of colluding to rig the election and said he would be challenging the result in the courts.

“We can see clearly how corrupt and broken the system is,” he said. “My constituency is in the heart of the capital; the supreme court, the high court, parliament house, the election commission, all are located here. If they can change and rig the elections here, think what they are doing in the rest of the country.”

Non-PTI candidates also alleged irregularities. Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who was standing as an independent in Islamabad and had already voiced fears of vote manipulation, said the PTI candidate in his constituency was clearly winning but that the seat had been declared for the PML-N. “This is the worst kind of rigging and playing with fire,” Khokhar said.

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Ozzy Osbourne criticises Kanye West for using sample

Ozzy Osbourne criticises Kanye West for using sample: ‘He is an antisemite’

Rock star said he wants ‘no association’ with artist after he claims a sample of a Black Sabbath song was used without permission

Ozzy Osbourne has called out Kanye West for using a sample of his music without permission.

In a post on X, Osbourne claims he denied a request for a portion of a 1983 live version of the Black Sabbath song War Pigs to be used on West’s new album but heard it was used anyway during a listening party this week.

Osbourne wrote that he “refused permission because he is an antisemite and has caused untold heartache to many”. He added: “I want no association with this man!”

His wife, Sharon Osbourne, recently told the Jewish Chronicle: “Judaism is the only religion I have, and the only one with which I feel comfortable.”

This week’s one-hour event in Chicago saw West, also known as Ye, and Ty Dolla $ign premiere their joint project Vultures. The album was originally set to drop in December. It was reported at the time that the delay was down to Nicki Minaj refusing to let him feature an old collaboration between the two. “Regarding Kanye: that train has left the station, OK?” she said. “No disrespect in any way. I just put out a brand new album. Why would I put out a song that has been out for three years? Come on, guys.”

It was reported that a live feed of the listening party was shut off after West rapped the lyrics: “And I’m still crazy, bipolar, antisemite. And I’m still the king.”

At the end of 2023, West apologised for his previous antisemitic comments, that included praising Adolf Hitler and threatening to go “death con 3” on Jewish people.

His words drew ire from Joe Biden and the Anti-Defamation League, referring to him as a “vicious antisemite” who “put Jews in danger”.

“It was not my intention to hurt or demean, and I deeply regret any pain I may have caused,” West wrote on Hebrew on Instagram. “I am committed to starting with myself and learning from this experience to ensure greater sensitivity and understanding in the future.”

West had previously paid tribute to Black Sabbath on Hell of a Life, inspired by the song Iron Man.

West is yet to make a statement in response.

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