The Guardian 2024-02-13 00:01:16


New anti-doxing laws to cover range of ‘malicious purposes’ for releasing personal information, Dreyfus says

Asked about the timing of hate speech laws, Mark Dreyfus appeared to confirm they will be included in and accelerate religious discrimination reforms.

He said:

We’ve already been working on the hate speech provisions. It is our intention to bring them forward with the religious discrimination bill that we plan to bring forward. The prime minister has asked me to accelerate the work on this hate speech part of that package.

Asked if leaking the contents of the WhatsApp group to Nine newspapers would qualify as doxing, Dreyfus equivocated:

We see that with massive changes in digital technology that is throughout our society that the opportunities for invasions of privacy, the opportunities for the use of people’s personal information without consent, the opportunities for really malicious actions to take place affecting hundreds or thousands of people very, very quickly has been made possible. Legislation has struggled to keep up. That’s part of the reason behind this reform of the Privacy Act that we’ve embarked on. And clearly though all of those things that needing to be looked at.

We also asked whether doxing laws would protect only religion and race, or other attributes such as sexuality and gender identity.

He replied:

Doxing is a broad term, but I think it’s generally understood to be the malicious release publicly of personal information of people without their consent. It takes different forms, it’s clearly got different malicious purposes, depending on the context. But that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with when we prepare this legislature.

DoxingAlbanese government to propose legislation to crack down on practice

Albanese government to propose legislation to crack down on doxing

PM flags amendments to privacy laws and strengthening of hate speech laws after publication of details of a WhatsApp group of Jewish Australians

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, says his government will propose legislation to crack down on doxing after the publication of details of a WhatsApp group of Jewish Australians.

Albanese said on Monday that the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, was developing amendments to privacy laws and also looking at how to “strengthen laws against hate speech”.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry called for legislative changes after it condemned the publication of the log of a group chat of more than 600 Jewish writers and artists.

The Nine newspapers, which first reported the story, alleged that the link also contained a spreadsheet of links to social media accounts and another file that contained the photos of over 100 Jewish people.

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Writer and commentator Clementine Ford last week published a link to the log of the group chat to her 239,000 Facebook followers, although she was not involved in the initial leak and was not the only person to post a link.

Ford told her followers that she was posting the transcript of the leaked chat to provide an insight into “how coordinated efforts are to silence Palestinian activists and their allies”.

Albanese signalled his intention to pursue legislative changes in an interview with 2GB on Monday.

“I’ve asked the attorney general to bring forward legislation in response to the Privacy Act review, including laws that deal with so-called doxing, which is basically the malicious publication of private information online,” the prime minister said.

“And let’s be very clear, these are 600 people in the creative industries … who had a WhatsApp group, not heavily political, to provide support for each other because of the antisemitism we’ve seen.”

Albanese said the publication of the details had led to people being “targeted”.

“Now these people have a range of views about the Middle East. What they have in common is they are members of the Jewish community,” he said.

“The idea that in Australia someone should be targeted because of their religion, because of their faith, whether they be Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu or Catholic – it’s just completely unacceptable.

“And that’s why I’ve asked as well the attorney general to develop proposals to strengthen laws against hate speech. This is not the Australia we want to see.”

When asked for a response to Albanese’s comments, Ford said: “This fixation on rewriting narratives in order to obfuscate the truth is yet another tactic to conceal Israel’s genocide of Palestinian people in Gaza.”

Ford said there was a wider effort aimed at “the demonisation of people who cannot stand to see any more children be killed” in Gaza.

She asked: “How many children need to die before Albanese remembers he once had a backbone?”

The leaked WhatsApp chat log allegedly included several messages about Ford, including a comment from a user: “One of my big goals is taking down Clementine, either by making her have to issue a public apology, or getting her dropped by her publisher, or preferably both.”

On Sunday Ford posted a “collective statement regarding the leaked chat, and the pernicious attempts by individuals, lobby groups and the media to frame it as ‘doxing’”.

The statement said the group chat had been “leaked by a whistleblower” and no addresses, phone numbers or emails had been shared.

“Many of us were shocked and disturbed by the contents of the transcript as we read the tactics discussed to target and harm the livelihood and reputation of good and just people, some for simply being Palestinian, and almost all for calling for an end to the genocide against the people of Gaza,” said the statement posted by Ford on Sunday.

However, the Labor MP Josh Burns said last week that the publication of the details had led to death threats and forced one family into hiding.

“This has resulted in really serious consequences where people have received death threats,” he said.

Dreyfus has long been working on reforms to the Privacy Act, and it is understood the government is planning to create a new criminal offence of “malicious doxing”.

Dreyfus said the government would bring forward legislation “as soon as possible” to protect Australians from “the malicious use of their personal and private information”.

Earlier, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry called for “reform of the Criminal Code to make it unlawful to post private or identifying information about an individual or group with the intent that the information be used to cause harm to the victim”.

The president, Daniel Aghion KC, said many within the Jewish community in Australia were “fearful for their physical security and loss of livelihood”.

“In the last few days this has been caused by the publication of lists containing the names, faces and other personal information of hundreds of individuals, whose only common trait is that they are Jewish,” he said on Monday.

In addition to legal changes, Aghion called on social media platforms “to permanently deactivate the accounts of those found to have used their accounts for the purposes of doxing”.

“Social media is intended to connect individuals and communities and allow the rapid exchange of information,” he said.

“Where accounts are used to threaten the lives and livelihoods of others, the platforms have a duty to act.”

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NeglectMore than 1,000 cases reported each month in aged care homes

More than 1,000 cases of neglect reported each month in Australia’s aged care homes

Regulator worried about ‘concerning spike’ in neglect cases, which advocates say are the result of workforce shortages

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More than 1,000 cases of neglect are being reported in residential aged care homes each month, prompting a warning from the sector’s regulator.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) has flagged “a concerning spike” in neglect cases over the past 12 months and raised concerns about inadequate care standards.

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But some aged care advocates believe the rise might be a sign that providers were taking the issue more seriously and increasingly reporting incidents to the commission.

ACQSC’s latest quarterly report on performance standards confirmed 3,134 cases of neglect in residential care homes and 556 in home care. Rates of neglect have steadily increased since late 2022, when 1,861 cases were reported by the commission.

Neglect is described by the federal government as a form of elder abuse. It can involve the withholding of basic provisions such as food, hygiene, appropriate accommodation or medication.

It can be deliberate or unintentional, when staff may not have appropriate training or resources.

ACQSC’s commissioner, Janet Anderson, said while some of the increase in neglect cases could be attributed to “a heightened awareness of this incident type, it could also point to shortcomings in personal and clinical care”.

“Clearly, there is more work to do in this important area at the levels of sector, provider and individual services,” Anderson said in the report.

Anderson said there had been an overall improvement in the sector’s standard of care but stressed “performance gaps continue to be apparent”.

“The current compliance rates show us that one in five residential aged care services failed to meet all the requirements of the quality standards in the care they provided,” Anderson said.

The chief executive of the Older Persons Advocacy Network (Opan), Craig Gear, said his clients often raised concerns about “missed meals”, “poor medication management” and “not providing personal care in a timely manner”.

“When our advocates raise this and the matter is investigated, it is often related to the quality of care and the skills of the staff,” Gear said. “We know there is an aged care workforce shortage and this does contribute to it.

“We need the right staff, in the right place, at the right time, with the right skillset.”

In 2022, an Opan audit of 27,000 calls made by aged care residents, families and carers to aged care advocates found inadequate staffing was “a major factor in poor-quality aged care and inadequate access to care”.

But Gear said it was important for providers to continue to disclose instances of neglect and to confront the issues facing the industry.

“That means responding to support the older person and having an open disclosure with their family and telling them that something was wrong,” Gear said. “But, more importantly, it means telling them what they are going to do to prevent this from happening again.”

The chief economist for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (Ceda), Cassandra Winzar, said the increase in neglect cases signified the challenges facing the industry.

“Despite being three years on from the royal commission, the aged care sector continues to struggle with workforce shortages which are impacting on the quality of care that our older Australians are receiving,” Winzar said.

“Concerns around the funding and financial viability of residential aged care are also impacting on the sector’s ability to attract staff and improve pay and conditions. Without addressing funding issues, staffing challenges will continue to plague the industry.”

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QueenslandProgressives nervously await Steven Miles’ priorities in parliament

Day one of 28: Queensland progressives nervously await Steven Miles’ priorities in parliament

The new premier plans to cram in an ambitious social reform agenda before facing voters in October and there are fears he may not have enough time

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On Tuesday, the clock starts ticking for Steven Miles. The first sitting day of parliament under Queensland’s new leader will be one of just 28 that he has as premier before the state election. In that time, the government plans to cram in an ambitious social reform agenda, legislating everything from a 75% emissions reduction target and coercive control legislation to a ban on rent bidding, the expansion of access to abortion pills and laws to ban specific breeds of dog.

Hanging over everything is the deadline of the October election.

Matilda Alexander from Rainbow Families Queensland is one of many campaigners nervously waiting to see if reforms they have championed will become law in time. She is pushing for changes to the state’s anti-discrimination laws as quickly as possible.

The government promised to implement the most substantial reform of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act in 30 years after a 2022 review of the law following a scandal at Citipointe Christian College that year.

The review called for changes to create a positive duty for employers to prevent discrimination, bolster the role of the state human rights commission and remove an exemption from the rules for religious institutions such as private schools.

“We are deeply concerned that unless those changes are implemented in this sitting, they become at risk of not being implemented at all,” Alexander said.

Even if the government finds the time to legislate, it may not find time to implement the changes before election day, she said, pointing to changes to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act that were legislated in June last year but do not yet have a date of assent by the governor.

“These two pieces of legislation … both have serious consequences for our community and have brought serious hope to our community that things can be better. And that hope is put at risk by further delays,” Alexander said.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president, Michael Cope, said it was “about time” for an update of the ageing anti-discrimination law.

He said if the opposition wins the election, it could choose to never proclaim passed legislation, effectively repealing it.

“Anticipating that the government may not win the next election, if they want to do these things, we look forward to them doing it,” Cope said.

Sex workers’ rights tackled in week one

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) protested in December after the government broke a promise to introduce legislation to decriminalise sex work by the end of last year.

Sex work law reform will be introduced this week, along with the emissions reduction target that Miles announced in his first act as premier.

The QCU general secretary, Jacqueline King, said the council was also pushing for amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act and the anti-discrimination bill.

King is less worried about her priorities falling off the agenda. Queensland’s unicameral parliament can be unusually fast-moving. She said it typically takes six to eight weeks from introduction of a bill to it becoming law.

“I would expect that [all] four pieces of work-related legislation will get through [this year],” she said.

Donor-conceived people’s urgent need for law

Another group nervously waiting are the likely thousands of Queenslanders conceived with the aid of reproductive technologies who do not have access to their parents’ health records.

Queensland has one of the most unregulated assisted reproductive sectors in the country and does not have a register.

Members of the community have been pushing for change for 30 years, said the Donor Conceived Australia national director, Aimee Shackleton, with up to 80% of adult donor-conceived people not knowing how they were conceived.

The state government supported in principle the recommendations of a 2022 parliamentary inquiry to grant them the right to understand the circumstances of their conception but has yet to announce an intention to legislate.

Shackleton said every extra year they are forced to wait is another missed opportunity to meet biological parents and another year for a hereditary medical condition to take root.

“It’s important to pass this legislation, ASAP,” she said.

“The donors are getting older. The longer we wait, the more donor-conceived people risk genetic health complications simply due to a lack of information they have a right to.”

Miles said the government had a “significant legislative agenda to deliver on our commitments to Queenslanders”.

“Where needed, we will sit late or extra days to deliver this agenda,” he said. “My intention is to have those bills passed this term.”

The amendments to the Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act is expected to take effect this term.

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Joe Biden and David Cameron join international calls for Israel to halt Rafah offensive

Biden joins international calls for Israel to halt Rafah offensive

Politicians say Palestinians sheltering in the southern city in Gaza have nowhere else to go

Joe Biden has added his voice to growing international calls for Israel to drop plans for an all-out military assault on the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza, after a ferocious hostage rescue operation that killed dozens of Palestinians.

Speaking after talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the White House on Monday, the US president said: “A major military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible plan for ensuring the safety and support of more than 1 million people sheltering there.

“Many people there have been displaced multiple times fleeing the violence to the north and now they are packed into Rafah, exposed and vulnerable. They need to be protected,” he said.

Biden said that the US had been working “day and night” on efforts to agree a six-week pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas as a stepping stone to a longer ceasefire. He said that “key elements of the deal are on the table” although gaps remained.

King Abdullah echoed Biden’s appeal for a broad ceasefire. “We cannot stand by and let this continue,” he said. “We need a lasting ceasefire now. This war must end.”

Earlier, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, congratulated the soldiers who mounted the dramatic rescue of two Israeli hostages in the city, where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled seeking shelter, describing it as a “perfect operation”. The Israeli military launched airstrikes on nearby buildings to support the rescue, killing at least 67 Palestinians. Hamas later claimed that other Israeli hostages were also killed in the bombardment.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, furiously rounded on the Israeli leader amid growing international alarm at the rising death toll in Gaza – which reached 28,340 on Monday – saying that Netanyahu “doesn’t listen to anyone”.

Responding to Netanyahu’s statement that refugees in Rafah would be evacuated from the area before a major military offensive, Borrell said: “Where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people to?”

Borrell’s sentiments were echoed in more diplomatic language by David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, who said: “It really, we think, is impossible to see how you can fight a war among these people, there is nowhere for them to go.

“They can’t go south into Egypt, they can’t go north and back to their homes because many have been destroyed. So we are very concerned about the situation and we want Israel to stop and think seriously before it takes any further action.”

A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak said that the prime minister was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah”.

Penny Wong, the Australian foreign minister, also suggested that a failure to ensure special care for civilians in Rafah would “cause serious harm to Israel’s own interests”.

Last week, her German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, warned that an Israeli offensive on Rafah would be a “humanitarian catastrophe in the making”. “The people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air,” she added.

Volker Türk, the UN’s human rights chief, said: “The world must not allow this to happen. Those with influence must restrain rather than enable.”

Hundreds of thousands of families from other parts of Gaza who are now living in makeshift tents in Rafah, which sits on the border with Egypt, have moved up to half a dozen times in the past four months in desperate attempts to flee bombardment and ground fighting.

Despite mounting warnings from aid agencies and the international community that an assault on Rafah would be catastrophic, Netanyahu has reiterated his intention to extend Israel’s offensive. Hamas said a new advance into Rafah would “blow up” continuing negotiations to return hostages in exchange for a ceasefire.

In the early hours of Monday, the Israeli military launched airstrikes on Rafah as its forces mounted a raid to rescue the two hostages. Residents said two mosques and several houses were hit in more than an hour of strikes by Israeli warplanes, tanks and ships, causing widespread panic among people who had been asleep. Women and children were among those killed, according to Dr Marwan al-Hams, the director of the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, and dozens were wounded.

The freed hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who had been abducted from the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz on 7 October, were taken to a hospital in central Israel and were confirmed by doctors to be in “good condition”, a statement from the hospital said.

A photograph released to the media showed the two men in hospital, sitting on a sofa alongside relatives. Har’s son-in-law, Idan Begerano, said the two men were thin and pale but communicating well and aware of their surroundings.

Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, said the IDF had conducted a “wave of attacks” on Rafah during the 90-minute operation. Israeli special forces shielded the hostages with their bodies as a heavy battle erupted, he said. The airstrikes were launched “to allow the force to cut off contact and hit the Hamas terrorists in the area” and take the hostages out safely.

Later on Monday Hamas claimed that a number of hostages were among the dead and injured from the heavy Israeli airstrikes that accompanied the rescue mission.

The group’s armed wing claimed in a statement that three of eight Israeli hostages who were seriously injured after the airstrikes had subsequently died from their wounds.

The claims were impossible to verify and information from Hamas on the subject of the hostages has in the past been unreliable.

The White House has said that before the rescue took place, Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of people sheltering there.

In an indication of frustration within the international community, Borrell took a swipe at the US for continuing to arm Israel while raising concerns about civilian deaths.

“How many times have you heard the most prominent leaders of the world saying too many people are being killed. President Biden has said this [killing] is too much, said it is not proportional,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels. “Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed. That is logical.”

On Monday, a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, ruling that there was a “clear risk” that the planes could be used to violate international humanitarian law.

Several human rights organisations had launched a legal challenge in December, calling for the continued transfer of aircraft parts to be re-evaluated in the context of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

The appeals court said: “It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law … Israel does not take sufficient account of the consequences for the civilian population when conducting its attacks.”

It added that the military offensive in Gaza had “caused a disproportionate number of civilian casualties, including thousands of children”.

The Dutch government said it would file an appeal with the country’s supreme court amid concerns that the order had encroached on the state’s responsibility to formulate foreign policy.

The UK government announced new sanctions on four “extremist” Israeli settlers who have committed human rights abuses against Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

In a statement released by the Foreign Office, Cameron, said: “Today’s sanctions place restrictions on those involved in some of the most egregious abuses of human rights. We should be clear about what is happening here. Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs. This behaviour is illegal and unacceptable.

“Israel must also take stronger action and put a stop to settler violence. Too often, we see commitments made and undertakings given, but not followed through.”

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RafahCity’s 1 million refugees fear Israeli onslaught after night of bombardment

Rafah’s 1 million refugees fear Israeli onslaught after night of bombardment

Population crammed into Gaza’s southernmost city dread IDF assault after at least 67 killed during hostage rescue

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Panic and despair spread across Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah after a night of intense bombardment where more than 1 million people – at least half of the territory’s population – fled seeking shelter but now fear an Israeli ground assault.

“Last night was the heaviest night that we witnessed since we fled to Rafah. It reminded us of what we endured in the northern parts of Gaza, in Gaza City and again in Khan Younis,” said Yousef Hammash of the Norwegian Refugee Council, sheltering in Rafah with his family.

He described how he feared even looking out of the window during a night of fierce attacks across Rafah that killed at least 67 people according to health authorities and as many as 100 people according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa. The strikes – launched by Israel while rescuing two hostages held by Hamas – were so intense, he said, that he believed that an Israeli ground operation had already begun.

At least half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is crammed into Rafah, a city that previously housed a fraction of that amount. Some have found dwindling space in houses, hospitals or other buildings, while others huddle in makeshift shelters and tents and thousands sleep on the streets.

“People were forced to flee from other parts of Gaza, and they came here to have a sense of safety, which we lost since the Israeli media and [the prime minister, Benjamin] Netanyahu started talking about expanding the Israeli military operation in Rafah,” Hammash said.

Israeli officials have begun openly discussing a deeper southern advance. But for those in Rafah, including at least 600,000 children according to Unicef, most fear there is simply nowhere left to go.

Plans for a ground assault on Rafah were last week requested by Netanyahu, along with a plan “for evacuating the population”, which was followed two days later by the US president, Joe Biden, warning the Israeli prime minister not to launch any operation “without a credible and executable plan” for the safety of those sheltering there.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said on Monday the death toll from the strikes proved the warnings of “the catastrophic consequences” of an attack. The Israeli military did not respond when contacted for comment about whether they intended to provide safe passage for those in Rafah.

Haneen Harara, who works for a Dutch environmental organisation and is in Rafah with her family, said the strikes were so intense that she began thinking of how to evacuate her three children, all under 10, to Egypt.

But paying an estimated $6,000 (£4,750) a child in brokers’ fees was unaffordable, she said. Instead, the family tried to focus on celebrating her six-year-old son’s birthday.

“I bought him strawberries, as they’re expensive and now hard to find,” she said, now almost £13 a kilo. Harara tried to make do with 250g. “He deserves something special, and there are no cake supplies,” she said.

Hammash said some families among the tens of thousands displaced three or even four times before arriving in Rafah had begun using the coastal road to flee north to Deir al-Balah and Nuseirat camps in Gaza’s middle area, although these have also come under attack.

“Unfortunately there are no options for us, and when you think about it, it’s really difficult to regain any sense of safety. The middle area is already overcrowded: there are several camps with makeshift shelters all over Deir al-Balah which is the main destination for those fleeing Rafah. But there isn’t room there to accommodate the 1.3 million people who are here,” he said.

“Rafah was the final destination for most people … the families that are here have fled four or five times now, and they are now locked between the Egyptian border and the Israeli tanks that are conducting ground operations in Khan Younis.”

The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, an organisation that tracks developments in the area around the Rafah crossing, shared video showing Egyptian forces adding barbed wire reinforcements atop the concrete fence that runs along Gaza’s southern border. Egypt has also reportedly deployed about 40 tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the north-eastern Sinai peninsula.

Cairo has expressed alarm that an Israeli push into Rafah could force Palestinians to flee into the Sinai. Two Egyptian officials and a western diplomat told the Associated Press on Sunday that Cairo is threatening to suspend its participation in the historic 1978 peace treaty with Israel if it goes ahead with the offensive.

Sayed Ghoneim, an Egyptian security analyst and former major-general, said he was hopeful that Washington could intervene. “The US will never allow violations of the peace treaty, as the sponsor,” he said. “There is clearly some mistrust from the Israeli side towards the Egyptians. Coordination between Israel and Egypt needs to return.”

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Ex-president asks US supreme court to keep election interference case frozen

Trump asks US supreme court to keep election interference case frozen

Ex-president met deadline imposed by federal appeals court to keep the criminal case on hold as he prepares a last-ditch challenge

Lawyers for Donald Trump asked the US supreme court Monday to keep on hold the criminal case over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results while he prepares to challenge a recent appeals court ruling that found he was not immune from prosecution.

The former US president also asked the nation’s highest court to stay the US court of appeals for the DC circuit order that prevented him from seeking what is known as an “en banc” rehearing of the case by the full bench of appeals judges.

“President Trump’s application easily satisfies this Court’s traditional factors for granting a stay of the mandate pending en banc review and review on certiorari by this Court,” Trump’s lawyers John Sauer, John Lauro and Greg Singer wrote in the 110-page petition.

The petition argued that Trump had met the key tests for the supreme court to grant a stay because there was a strong likelihood it would hear the case and because without a stay, Trump would suffer “irreparable injury” if the case proceeded to trial in the interim.

“It is axiomatic that President Trump’s claim of immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial at all, and to avoid the burdens of litigation pending review of his claim,” the petition said.

The filing broadly expounded earlier arguments Trump had made about presidential immunity, which his legal team has viewed as the best vehicle to delay the impending trial because it was a vehicle through which Trump could pursue an appeal before trial that also triggered an automatic stay.

Trump has made it no secret that his strategy for all his impending cases is to seek delay – ideally beyond the 2024 election in November, in the hopes that winning a second presidency could enable him to pardon himself or direct his attorney general to drop the charges.

For months, Trump has attempted to advance a sweeping view of executive power – that he enjoyed absolute immunity from prosecution because the conduct charged by the special counsel Jack Smith fell within the “outer perimeter” of his duties as president.

The contention received short shrift from the US district judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing his case in Washington and rejected his argument. It received similar treatment from a three-judge panel at the DC circuit, which categorically rejected his position.

“We cannot accept former president Trump’s claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power,” the unsigned but unanimous opinion from the three-judge panel said.

“At bottom, former president Trump’s stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three [government] branches,” the opinion said. “We cannot accept that the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

But Trump’s lawyers have long viewed the immunity issue as more of a vehicle to stall the case from going to trial than an argument they would win on its merits. It was perhaps the only motion they could make that triggered an appeal before trial and came with an automatic stay.

Trump was forced to appeal directly to the supreme court, instead of making an intermediary challenge that would cause further delay, after the DC circuit panel issued parameters on how Trump could use further appeals if he wanted the case to remain frozen.

The panel ruled that Trump needed to petition the supreme court by Monday to keep the stay in place. The stay would remain until the supreme court either declined to hear the case or until it issued a judgment in the event it did agree to take up the matter.

That effectively foreclosed Trump from pursuing an “en banc” rehearing – which is where the full bench of judges at the DC circuit would reconsider the decision of the three-judge panel – since pre-trial proceedings under Chutkan would resume while he waited for the DC circuit to weigh in.

Over the weekend, Trump’s chief appellate lawyer John Sauer prepared the application for a stay, a person familiar with the matter said.

The concern in recent days among the Trump legal team has been whether the supreme court would agree to keep the case frozen while Trump made his final appeal, the person said. And even if they granted the stay, it remains unclear whether the supreme court would ultimately agree to take up the case.

How the court moves next could decide whether Trump will go to trial on the federal election interference case before the 2024 presidential election. Recent public polls have shown that voters would be more inclined to vote for the Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, who defeated Trump in 2020, if Trump was convicted in this case.

If the supreme court declines to hear the case, it would return jurisdiction to Chutkan in the federal district court in Washington. Chutkan scrapped the 4 March trial date she initially scheduled, but has otherwise shown a determination to proceed to trial with unusual haste.

If the supreme court does accept the case, the question will be how quickly it schedules deadlines and arguments – and how quickly it issues a decision. The closer to the end of its term that the court issues a decision, the more unlikely a trial would take place before the election.

The speed with which the supreme court moves has become important because Chutkan has promised Trump that he would get the full seven months to prepare his trial defense that she envisioned in her original scheduling order that set the 4 March trial date.

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NatoEuropean leaders call for stronger defence ties after Trump’s remarks

European leaders call for stronger defence ties after Trump’s Nato remarks

Polish PM Donald Tusk says ‘all for one, and one for all’ in thinly veiled riposte to Republican frontrunner

European leaders have called for greater unity and military cooperation across the continent in response to comments from Donald Trump that threatened to undermine the basis of Nato.

Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, said on a visit to Paris on Monday that there was “no alternative” to the EU and the transatlantic alliance before a summit in which he discussed deepening defence relationships with the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

“It is probably here in Paris that the words from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas resonate most clearly: ‘All for one, and one for all,’” said Tusk, in a thinly veiled riposte to the former US president and frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

On Saturday, Trump caused outrage and concern in Europe when he said he would not defend any Nato member that had failed to meet a longstanding target of spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defence – and would even encourage Russia to continue attacking.

Recalling a conversation he said he had had with the leader of a “big country” discussing such a scenario, Trump told a rally in South Carolina: “No, I would not protect you, in fact I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You gotta pay.”

Nato countries are in theory protected by article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, which obliges all member states to respond with “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force” to restore security in the north Atlantic area. Crucially it stops short of requiring alliance members to declare war in support of a country under attack.

On Monday, some European leaders were openly critical of Trump. On a visit to Cyprus, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s president, said: “These statements are not responsible, and they help Russia.”

Others were more nuanced. David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, said Trump’s remarks were unhelpful: “Of course we want all countries, like us, to spend 2% [of GDP], but I think what was said was not a sensible approach.”

There was a more sympathetic response from an EU neighbour of Russia. Kaja Kallas, Estonia’s prime minister, said: “I think what the presidential candidate in America said is also something to maybe wake up some of the allies who haven’t done that much.”

Tusk, who leads the Nato country with the highest proportion of defence spending, said: “The European Union, France and Poland must become strong and ready to defend their own borders and to defend and support our allies and friends from outside the union.”

The Polish prime minister, a centrist who took over in December, later visited Berlin, where he met the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, a trip billed as an effort by Tusk and his Civic Coalition to bolster EU defence links alongside Nato.

Tusk’s political grouping traditionally values closer relationships within continental Europe, compared with its predecessor the Law and Justice party, which preferred a more direct relationship with the US and the UK.

Macron said it was “a joy to have you back” and to have, through Tusk’s government, “partners who we can trust, are pro-European and clear on European security and the major challenges we face”. Tusk previously led Poland between 2007 and 2014.

The French president said France and Poland would negotiate a new treaty covering defence, energy and cultural issues – and that Europe needed to increase the production of arms for Ukraine at a time when Republicans in the US Congress were blocking a $61bn (£48bn) military aid package.

Weapons manufacturing would build up Europe’s industrial base and military role, Macron said: “This is what will also make it possible to make Europe a security and defence power complementary to Nato, the European pillar of the Atlantic alliance.”

Shortly before Macron’s remarks, Scholz and his defence minister, Boris Pistorius, attended the groundbreaking ceremony of an ammunition factory in Lower Saxony. The plant, which is run by Germany’s largest defence contractor, Rheinmetall, will produce 200,000 artillery shells a year that will probably be bound for Ukraine.

Scholz said: “Not only the United States, but all European countries must do even more to support Ukraine. The pledges made so far are not enough. Germany’s power alone is not enough.”

Ukraine is desperately short of artillery ammunition, the principal weapon in the near two-year war, and is being outgunned by a ratio of five to one. While Russia has transitioned to a war economy and is expected to make 4.5m shells during 2024, supplies from the US have halted while Europe has struggled to make good the gap.

A pledge by EU leaders to manufacture 1m shells in the year to March 2024 has fallen short, and European leaders have been criticised for being slow to issue contracts significant enough to allow private sector manufacturers to rebuild.

Scholz also recommitted Germany, traditionally hesitant about military spending, to meeting the Nato target of 2% of GDP, arguing that would help arms manufacturers invest. Berlin, often considered a target of Trump’s spending rhetoric, spends 1.57% of its GDP on defence, according to Nato data.

Britain is expected to have spent 2.03% in 2023, according to Nato’s figures,while for France, Europe’s other nuclear power, the proportion is slightly less at 1.9%. Poland’s defence budget amounts to 3.9% of GDP, the country having dramatically lifted spending in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while the US, the world’s largest military power, spends 3.49%.

Dr Karin von Hippel, the director general of the Royal United Services Institute thinktank, said European countries were quickly adjusting to the possibility of a Trump presidency. “I think leaders across the continent are much more aware of what it could mean this time – and even if Biden wins they know Congress could still be dysfunctional,” she said.

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‘Simply ringing the warning bell’Republicans say Trump call for Russia to attack Nato allies was fine

Republicans say Trump call for Russia to attack Nato allies was just fine, actually

Tom Cotton echoes fellow GOP senators, saying former president was ‘simply ringing the warning bell’

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A leading Republican senator said Donald Trump was “simply ringing the warning bell” when he caused global alarm by declaring he would encourage Russia to attack Nato allies who did not pay enough to maintain the alliance, as Trump’s party closed ranks behind its presumptive presidential nominee.

“Nato countries that don’t spend enough on defense, like Germany, are already encouraging Russian aggression and President Trump is simply ringing the warning bell,” Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a former soldier, told the New York Times.

“Strength, not weakness, deters aggression. Russia invaded Ukraine twice under Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but not under Donald Trump.”

Cotton was referring to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

As president between 2017 and 2021, Trump was widely held to have shown alarming favour, and arguably subservience, to Vladimir Putin.

Trump made the controversial remarks at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday.

In remarks the Times said were not part of Trump’s planned speech but which did repeat a story he has often told, the former president said: “One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’

“I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent?’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You’ve got to pay. You’ve got to pay your bills. And the money came flowing in.”

Amid fierce controversy over remarks the Biden White House called “appalling and unhinged”, another Republican hawk in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told the Times: “Give me a break – I mean, it’s Trump.”

Graham, who has vacillated from warning that Trump will “destroy” the Republican party to full-throated support, added: “All I can say is while Trump was president nobody invaded anybody. I think the point here is to, in his way, to get people to pay.”

Last year, Marco Rubio co-sponsored a law preventing presidents unilaterally withdrawing from Nato. On Sunday the Florida senator, whom Trump ridiculed and defeated in the 2016 primary, also dismissed Trump’s remarks about Russia.

“Donald Trump is not a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,” Rubio told CNN, referring to a Washington thinktank. “He doesn’t talk like a traditional politician, and we’ve already been through this. You would think people would’ve figured it out by now.”

Among other Senate Republicans there was some rather muted pushback. Thom Tillis of North Carolina reportedly blamed Trump’s aides for failing to explain to him how Nato works, while Rand Paul of Kentucky was quoted by Politico as saying Trump’s remarks represented “a stupid thing to say”.

Trump’s last rival for the presidential nomination, which he is all but certain to secure, is Nikki Haley, who served as United Nations ambassador under Trump. Asked about his remarks, Haley told CBS: “Nato has been a success story for the last 75 years. But what bothers me about this is, don’t take the side of a thug [Vladimir Putin], who kills his opponents. Don’t take the side of someone who has gone in and invaded a country [Ukraine] and half a million people have died or been wounded because of Putin.

“Now, we do want Nato allies to pull their weight. But there are ways you can do that without sitting there and telling Russia, have your way with these countries. That’s not what we want.”

A former candidate for the nomination, the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, told NBC the Nato remark was “absolutely inappropriate” and “consistent with his love for dictators”.

Among former Trump aides, John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser, told MSNBC: “When he says he wants to get out of Nato, I think it’s a very real threat, and it will have dramatically negative implications for the United States, not just in the North Atlantic but worldwide.”

HR McMaster, Bolton’s predecessor, who was a serving army general when Trump picked him, said Trump’s Nato comment was “irresponsible”.

Another former general and former Trump adviser, Keith Kellogg, told the Times he thought Trump was “on to something” with his remarks, which Kellogg said were meant to prompt member nations to bolster their own defences.

“I don’t think it’s encouragement at all,” Kellogg said of Trump’s apparent message to Russia. “We know what he means when he says it.”

But Liz Cheney, the former Republican Wyoming congresswoman who became a Trump opponent after the January 6 attack on Congress, called Nato “the most successful military alliance in history … essential to deterring war and defending American security”. She added: “No sane American president would encourage Putin to attack our Nato allies. No honorable American leaders would excuse or endorse this.”

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Stone age wall found at bottom of Baltic Sea ‘may be Europe’s oldest megastructure’

Stone age wall found at bottom of Baltic Sea ‘may be Europe’s oldest megastructure’

Structure stretches for almost a kilometre off coast of Germany and may have once stood by a lake

A stone age wall discovered beneath the waves off Germany’s Baltic coast may be the oldest known megastructure built by humans in Europe, researchers say.

The wall, which stretches for nearly a kilometre along the seafloor in the Bay of Mecklenburg, was spotted by accident when scientists operated a multibeam sonar system from a research vessel on a student trip about 10km (six miles) offshore.

Closer inspection of the structure, named the Blinkerwall, revealed about 1,400 smaller stones that appear to have been positioned to connect nearly 300 larger boulders, many of which were too heavy for groups of humans to have moved.

The submerged wall, described as a “thrilling discovery”, is covered by 21 metres of water, but researchers believe it was constructed by hunter-gatherers on land next to a lake or marsh more than 10,000 years ago.

While the purpose of the wall is hard to prove, scientists suspect it served as a driving lane for hunters in pursuit of herds of reindeer.

“When you chase the animals, they follow these structures, they don’t attempt to jump over them,” said Jacob Geersen at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde, a German port town on the Baltic coast.

“The idea would be to create an artificial bottleneck with a second wall or with the lake shore,” he added.

A second wall that ran alongside the Blinkerwall may be buried in the seafloor sediments, the researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Alternatively, the wall may have forced the animals into the nearby lake, slowing them down and making them easy pickings for humans lying in wait in canoes armed with spears or bows and arrows.

Based on the size and shape of the 971 metre-long wall, Geersen and his colleagues consider it unlikely that it formed through natural processes, such as a huge tsunami moving the stones into place, or the stones being left behind by a moving glacier.

The angle of the wall, which is mostly less than 1 metre high, changes direction when it meets the larger boulders, suggesting the piles of smaller stones were positioned intentionally to link them up. In total, the wall’s stones are thought to weigh more than 142 tonnes.

If the wall was an ancient hunting lane, it was probably built more than 10,000 years ago and submerged with rising sea levels about 8,500 years ago.

“This puts the Blinkerwall into range of the oldest known examples of hunting architecture in the world and potentially makes it the oldest man-made megastructure in Europe,” the researchers said.

Geersen is now keen to revisit the site to reconstruct the ancient landscape and search for animal bones and human artefacts, such as projectiles used in hunting, which may be buried in sediments around the wall.

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Stone age wall found at bottom of Baltic Sea ‘may be Europe’s oldest megastructure’

Stone age wall found at bottom of Baltic Sea ‘may be Europe’s oldest megastructure’

Structure stretches for almost a kilometre off coast of Germany and may have once stood by a lake

A stone age wall discovered beneath the waves off Germany’s Baltic coast may be the oldest known megastructure built by humans in Europe, researchers say.

The wall, which stretches for nearly a kilometre along the seafloor in the Bay of Mecklenburg, was spotted by accident when scientists operated a multibeam sonar system from a research vessel on a student trip about 10km (six miles) offshore.

Closer inspection of the structure, named the Blinkerwall, revealed about 1,400 smaller stones that appear to have been positioned to connect nearly 300 larger boulders, many of which were too heavy for groups of humans to have moved.

The submerged wall, described as a “thrilling discovery”, is covered by 21 metres of water, but researchers believe it was constructed by hunter-gatherers on land next to a lake or marsh more than 10,000 years ago.

While the purpose of the wall is hard to prove, scientists suspect it served as a driving lane for hunters in pursuit of herds of reindeer.

“When you chase the animals, they follow these structures, they don’t attempt to jump over them,” said Jacob Geersen at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde, a German port town on the Baltic coast.

“The idea would be to create an artificial bottleneck with a second wall or with the lake shore,” he added.

A second wall that ran alongside the Blinkerwall may be buried in the seafloor sediments, the researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Alternatively, the wall may have forced the animals into the nearby lake, slowing them down and making them easy pickings for humans lying in wait in canoes armed with spears or bows and arrows.

Based on the size and shape of the 971 metre-long wall, Geersen and his colleagues consider it unlikely that it formed through natural processes, such as a huge tsunami moving the stones into place, or the stones being left behind by a moving glacier.

The angle of the wall, which is mostly less than 1 metre high, changes direction when it meets the larger boulders, suggesting the piles of smaller stones were positioned intentionally to link them up. In total, the wall’s stones are thought to weigh more than 142 tonnes.

If the wall was an ancient hunting lane, it was probably built more than 10,000 years ago and submerged with rising sea levels about 8,500 years ago.

“This puts the Blinkerwall into range of the oldest known examples of hunting architecture in the world and potentially makes it the oldest man-made megastructure in Europe,” the researchers said.

Geersen is now keen to revisit the site to reconstruct the ancient landscape and search for animal bones and human artefacts, such as projectiles used in hunting, which may be buried in sediments around the wall.

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Victoria faces worst bushfire conditions in four years

Schools and national parks close as Victoria faces worst bushfire conditions since black summer

Hot, dry and windy conditions are forecast across Victoria with a catastrophic fire danger declared for parts of the state

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Schools and national parks have been ordered to close as parts of Victoria face the first catastrophic fire conditions since the black summer of 2019-20.

Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia were also on alert for extreme fire danger amid heatwave conditions.

Hot, dry and windy conditions were forecast across Victoria on Tuesday, with the possibility of thunderstorms, dry lightning and winds of up to 100 kilometres an hour.

The hot northerly winds were already moving across the state on Tuesday morning, the Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, told ABC TV.

He said hot conditions set in early, with the mercury reaching 29C in Mildura and 27C in Melbourne at 6am.

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A catastrophic fire danger rating had been declared for the Wimmera region, with authorities closely watching conditions in Rainbow, Warracknabeal, Minyip, Rupanyup and Murtoa.

“Those communities are of particular concern for firefighters today as conditions will be very, very nasty, ” Heffernan said.

Extreme fire danger is forecast for the Mallee, a high danger rating for rest of the state except for East Gippsland and a total fire ban in much of the state.

Heffernan said it would be some of the most dangerous grassfire conditions since 2019-20.

The black summer was one of the most intense and catastrophic fire seasons on record in Australia.

“Grass fires can be just as deadly as bushfires during the 2019-20 season, they move incredibly fast and can jump roads,” he said.

The emergency management commissioner, Rick Nugent, said Tuesday’s weather forecast, with some areas predicted to reach 40C, would be challenging.

“We’re going to have an extremely hot, dry and windy day … followed by thunderstorms and lightning,” Nugent said on Monday.

“We are doing everything possible to make sure we are well prepared to respond to any fires that may occur anywhere in the state.”

Tasmanians were also being urged to prepare for an increased fire danger over the coming days.

The Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) deputy chief officer, Matt Lowe, said current weather conditions combined with a dry landscape meant fires could spread easily and become difficult to control.

“TFS are putting a temporary hold on issuing fire permits in the south and north of the state until 2am Thursday,” he said on Monday.

“While we are not declaring a total fire ban, we are asking people to think carefully before lighting campfires and using machinery, and if doing so please be extremely cautious.”

South Australians were also bracing for a hot and dry Tuesday.

Total fire bans had been declared, with extreme fire danger ratings for mid north, Riverland and Murraylands.

The South Australian Country Fire Service said “very hazardous” fire weather conditions were predicted.

The Bureau of Meteorology had also issued a heatwave warning for parts of Victoria, with conditions expected to ease with a cooler change from late Tuesday night through early Wednesday morning.

A severe heatwave warning was also in place for parts of Western Australia including Kimberley, Gascoyne, Central West and Great Southern districts.

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Several people shot at subway station, police say

Several people shot at New York City subway station, police say

Police spokesperson could not immediately say how many people were shot or the extent of their injuries

Several people were shot Monday at a New York City subway station, police said.

The shooting was reported about 4.38pm.

A police spokesperson could not immediately say how many people were shot, the extent of their injuries or whether anyone was in custody.

The station is in the Bronx, at the intersection of Mount Eden and Jerome Avenues.

Video from television news helicopters showed a subway train stopped at the station and orange evidence cones on the elevated platform.

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Inner city park to be closed as dangerous friable asbestos found in garden bed mulch

Inner Sydney park to be closed as dangerous friable asbestos found in garden bed mulch

The friable asbestos was found at Harmony Park in Surry Hills, while less immediately dangerous bonded asbestos was found in Victoria and Belmore parks

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An inner city Sydney park will be closed after friable asbestos was found in mulch at the site.

The City of Sydney announced it had been contacted by the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority last week and told its suppliers may have received contaminated products.

The council tested Victoria Park at Broadway, Belmore Park near Central Station, Harmony Park and Prince Alfred Park in Surry Hills and Pope Paul VI Reserve in Glebe.

Friable asbestos was found in mulch at Harmony Park. People and dogs were seen walking at the park until 8.30am on Tuesday with no official indication that they should keep away.

“This park will be fenced off and temporarily closed. Signs will be installed and the site cleaned,” a council spokesperson said.

Bonded asbestos, which poses a lower immediate danger, was found in mulch at Victoria and Belmore parks. Fences and signs will be installed around the affected areas while the material is cleaned up.

The mulch was used in garden beds and under trees, not in playgrounds, the council stressed.

Bonded asbestos is considered lower risk than friable asbestos because it is mixed with a hard material such as concrete so hazardous particles are less likely to become airborne.

“No asbestos has been detected at Prince Alfred Park in Surry Hills or Pope Paul VI Reserve in Glebe,” the council spokesperson said. “Testing will continue at other parks in our local area.”

The latest discoveries come after a primary school in Sydney’s south-west was shut and part of a hospital closed-off to the public after asbestos was found in garden mulch.

The EPA on Sunday confirmed the material had been found in mulch at Liverpool West public school, which was followed by the discovery of the contaminant in mulch at Campbelltown hospital on Monday.

The environmental watchdog said it identified the school as a priority site for testing after learning the mulch used there was supplied by Greenlife Resource Recovery – the same company that supplied mulch to Rozelle parklands.

The discovery of bonded asbestos in the park on top of the Rozelle interchange in January prompted a broad investigation by the EPA and the NSW government, which has detected the contaminant at other sites across Sydney, as well as the south coast.

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Inner city park to be closed as dangerous friable asbestos found in garden bed mulch

Inner Sydney park to be closed as dangerous friable asbestos found in garden bed mulch

The friable asbestos was found at Harmony Park in Surry Hills, while less immediately dangerous bonded asbestos was found in Victoria and Belmore parks

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

An inner city Sydney park will be closed after friable asbestos was found in mulch at the site.

The City of Sydney announced it had been contacted by the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority last week and told its suppliers may have received contaminated products.

The council tested Victoria Park at Broadway, Belmore Park near Central Station, Harmony Park and Prince Alfred Park in Surry Hills and Pope Paul VI Reserve in Glebe.

Friable asbestos was found in mulch at Harmony Park. People and dogs were seen walking at the park until 8.30am on Tuesday with no official indication that they should keep away.

“This park will be fenced off and temporarily closed. Signs will be installed and the site cleaned,” a council spokesperson said.

Bonded asbestos, which poses a lower immediate danger, was found in mulch at Victoria and Belmore parks. Fences and signs will be installed around the affected areas while the material is cleaned up.

The mulch was used in garden beds and under trees, not in playgrounds, the council stressed.

Bonded asbestos is considered lower risk than friable asbestos because it is mixed with a hard material such as concrete so hazardous particles are less likely to become airborne.

“No asbestos has been detected at Prince Alfred Park in Surry Hills or Pope Paul VI Reserve in Glebe,” the council spokesperson said. “Testing will continue at other parks in our local area.”

The latest discoveries come after a primary school in Sydney’s south-west was shut and part of a hospital closed-off to the public after asbestos was found in garden mulch.

The EPA on Sunday confirmed the material had been found in mulch at Liverpool West public school, which was followed by the discovery of the contaminant in mulch at Campbelltown hospital on Monday.

The environmental watchdog said it identified the school as a priority site for testing after learning the mulch used there was supplied by Greenlife Resource Recovery – the same company that supplied mulch to Rozelle parklands.

The discovery of bonded asbestos in the park on top of the Rozelle interchange in January prompted a broad investigation by the EPA and the NSW government, which has detected the contaminant at other sites across Sydney, as well as the south coast.

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Driverless taxi vandalised and set on fire in Chinatown

Driverless taxi vandalized and set on fire in San Francisco’s Chinatown

California authorities investigating if attack on Google’s Waymo car is latest in series of protests targeting autonomous vehicles

Authorities in California are working to determine if the destruction of a driverless taxi in an arson attack by a mob of lunar new year revelers was the latest in a series of protests targeting autonomous vehicles in the state.

According to the San Francisco fire department, which posted images of the incinerated SUV on Twitter/X, a group of people jumped on the electric vehicle in the city’s Chinatown district on Saturday night, smashing windows and spraying it with graffiti before setting it alight with a firework.

Officials said the car, a Jaguar I-Pace operated by Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, was unoccupied, and that no arrests had been made as of Monday morning.

“The vehicle was not transporting any riders and no injuries have been reported,” Waymo said in a statement. “We are working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation.”

The attack follows a number of recent cases and protests involving autonomous vehicles in California, a leading state for the driverless revolution with more than 9m miles driven on public roads by test permit holders last year, according to its department of motor vehicles (DMV).

The Guardian reported last summer on a group called the Safe Street Rebels, which has operated a campaign of disrupting and disabling driverless vehicles in San Francisco since they first appeared in 2022.

Members realized quickly that placing a traffic cone on the hood of a self-driving car interfered with sensors and placed it in “panic mode”, rendering it immobile until a human employee could come to rescue it.

Protesters question the safety of the vehicles, operated in California almost exclusively by Waymo since Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, saw its test permit suspended in October last year.

Cruise was accused of trying to hide the severity of an incident in San Francisco in which a pedestrian was hit by a car, driven by a human driver, at a stoplight and flung into the path of a Cruise self-driving car, which then ran her over and stopped on top of her. The woman survived.

Cruise withdrew its fleet of 950 vehicles after the California DMV said they posed “an unreasonable threat to public safety” and that the agency was investigating a number of other “concerning incidents” involving driverless cars.

The safety record of Waymo’s driverless taxi service has also come into question. Last June, one of its vehicles killed a dog, and California’s automobile regulator launched an investigation recently after a Waymo car struck and injured a cyclist that was obscured from its sensors by another vehicle at a San Francisco intersection.

Police said they had not immediately established whether the destruction of the Waymo car in Chinatown was linked to protests against autonomous vehicles or the work of opportunist vandals.

An eyewitness, Michael Vandi, told Reuters he saw one person jump on the roof and break the windshield, and another leapt onto the vehicle’s hood as a large group of others cheered, some battering it with skateboards.

“That was when it went wild,” he told the news agency. “There were two groups of people, folks who encouraged it and others who were just shocked and started filming. No one stood up. There wasn’t anything you could do to stand up to dozens of people.”

  • Reuters contributed reporting

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Early blood test to predict disease is step closer as biological markers identified

Early blood test to predict dementia is step closer as biological markers identified

Scientists have found patterns of four proteins that predict onset of dementia more than a decade before formal diagnosis

Researchers have taken a major step towards a blood test that can predict the risk of dementia more than a decade before the condition is formally diagnosed in patients.

Hopes for the test were raised after scientists discovered biological markers for the condition in blood samples collected from more than 50,000 healthy volunteers enrolled in the UK Biobank project.

Analysis of the blood identified patterns of four proteins that predicted the onset of dementia in general, and Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia specifically, in older age.

When combined with more conventional risk factors such as age, sex, education and genetic susceptibility, the protein profiles allowed researchers to predict dementia with an estimated 90% accuracy nearly 15 years before people received clinical confirmation of the disease.

More than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, a figure that is expected to reach 78 million by 2030. About 70% of all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease, with vascular dementia, caused by blood vessel damage, making up 20% of cases.

“We hope to develop this as a screening kit that can be used in the NHS,” said Prof Jianfeng Feng, who holds posts at the University of Warwick and Fudan University in China.

A flurry of recent studies have demonstrated the potential for blood tests to flag patients most likely to develop dementia. Armed with such information, doctors could determine which patients to fast-track for further assessments, including full diagnostic testing for Alzheimer’s.

Confirming the disease early is crucial if patients are to benefit from two new Alzheimer’s drugs, lecanemab and donanemab, which are under review by the UK medicines regulator. If licensed, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will look at the costs and benefits before deciding if they should be made available on the NHS.

The US medicines regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, has approved lecanemab and is expected to rule on donanemab imminently. European regulators are still reviewing both drugs.

Ever since lecanemab, a synthetic antibody therapy created by Biogen in the US and Eisai in Japan, made headlines in 2022 for slowing Alzheimer’s, doctors and medical charities have warned that the health service is not ready to deliver such drugs.

For patients to receive lecanemab or donanemab, they would need to have early stage Alzheimer’s and a lumbar puncture or a PET scan to confirm the presence of amyloid protein in the brain. Toxic clumps of amyloid are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. But Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates that only 2% of eligible patients receive such testing.

Work is under way to develop and roll out simple blood tests to diagnose Alzheimer’s, but even with swift diagnosis, challenges remain. The new drugs must be infused into patients every two weeks, and because of the potentially fatal side effects, patients need regular MRI scans to check for brain swelling or bleeding.

For the latest study, blood samples from 52,645 UK adults without dementia were collected and frozen between 2006 and 2010 and analysed 10 to 15 years later. More than 1,400 participants went on to develop dementia.

Using artificial intelligence, the researchers looked for connections between nearly 1,500 blood proteins and developing dementia years later. Writing in Nature Aging, they describe how four proteins, Gfap, Nefl, Gdf15 and Ltbp2, were present in unusual levels among those who developed all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.

Higher levels of the proteins were warning signs of disease. Inflammation in the brain can trigger cells called astrocytes to over-produce Gfap, a known biomarker for Alzheimer’s. People with raised Gfap were more than twice as likely to develop dementia than those with lower levels.

Another blood protein, Nefl, is linked to nerve fibre damage, while higher than normal Gdf15 can occur after damage to the brain’s blood vessels. Rising levels of Gfap and Ltbp2 was highly specific for dementia rather than other brain diseases, the scientists found, with changes occurring at least 10 years before people received a dementia diagnosis.

The researchers are speaking to companies to develop the test but said the cost, currently at several hundred pounds, would need to come down to make it viable.

Dr Sheona Scales, the director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This new study adds to the growing body of evidence that looking at levels of certain proteins in the blood of healthy people could accurately predict dementia before symptoms develop.”

Further studies are needed to understand how well such tests work in more diverse populations. Scales added: “Even when tests show promise in studies like this, they still need to go through regulatory approval before they can be used in a health care setting.

“Blood tests are showing great promise, but so far, none have been validated for use in the UK. In collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society, NIHR, and with generous funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we are in the process of funding research to provide the evidence the NHS would need to move forward with blood tests to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.”

Prof Sir Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director, said the NHS was “doing everything possible to prepare for the arrival of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease once they are deemed safe and approved for use”.

He added: “The pandemic had a significant impact on the dementia diagnosis rate but thanks to NHS staff, who have worked hard to recover services, dementia diagnosis rates are the highest they have been for three years.”

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Guidelines updated to take account of diverse skin types

Australia’s sun safety guidelines updated to take account of diverse skin types

New Australian guidelines balance the risk of getting too much sun exposure with the benefits of vitamin D

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Growing evidence about the health importance of sun exposure and genetic differences in the population have prompted Australia to adopt new sun safety guidelines.

The research informing the update was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health on Tuesday, and led by Prof Rachel Neale from the QIMR Berghofer medical research institute in Brisbane.

The guidelines are endorsed by health bodies including Cancer Council Australia and the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

“A major step forward for this position statement is that it does recognise that we have a diverse population and that sun protection is less critical for people with very dark skin,” Neale said.

People with dark skin are at the highest risk of vitamin D deficiency. They do not need routine sun protection unless they are in the sun for extended periods, the guidelines state.

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“But we’re not wanting to undo the sun protection message,” Neale said. “We’re really trying to get the balance right so we can reduce the risk of skin cancer but also enable people to get the benefits of sun exposure.”

Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption and immune and nervous system function. The body makes vitamin D after the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) B rays from the sun, with darker skinned people usually requiring greater levels of exposure to generate the same amount of vitamin D as those with lighter skin.

“But these updated guidelines are not just about vitamin D production, otherwise we could just tell everyone not to go into the sun and to take a vitamin D supplement,” Neale said.

“There is evidence that UV has got health benefits beyond just vitamin D and so people with deeply pigmented, dark skin who are not at a high risk of skin cancer can get a small amount of sun exposure and get some of the vitamin D and other benefits as well.”

It remains critical for everyone else in Australia to wear sunscreen daily whenever the UV index is forecast to rise to three or above. For much of Australia that applies most of the year.

This provides a “base” level of protection but people should also ensure they reapply sunscreen and use hats, clothing, sunglasses and shade when outdoors to reduce their risk of skin cancer, Neale said.

Pale skinned people remain at the very highest risk of skin cancer and are advised to protect themselves from the sun at all times, and discuss their vitamin D requirements with their doctor.

This high-risk group also includes people with certain risk factors, such as a family history of melanoma, those with a personal history of skin cancer, people who are immunosuppressed, or those who have lots of moles or moles that are large or atypical. These factors may put someone at high risk regardless of their skin pigmentation.

The guidelines identify those with darker white, olive, or light brown skin as having an intermediate risk of skin cancer.

Protection remains very important for this intermediate group but they can spend some time outdoors to maintain their vitamin D levels and gain other benefits of sun exposure.

The amount of time needed outside will vary depending on where people live, the time of day, the time of year and how much skin is not covered by clothing while outdoors, the guidelines state.

The chair of the Cancer Council’s national skin cancer committee, Prof. Anne Cust, said the guidelines aimed to provide people with more specific advice.

“Anecdotally, a lot of people were saying things like, ‘I have to go outside and get my vitamin D’ and we wanted to give extra guidance about how to safely do so,” she said.

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Any changes to negative gearing get lukewarm support, survey shows

Guardian Essential poll: any changes to negative gearing get lukewarm support

Voters approve of Labor’s rejigged income tax cuts but any broader reform would fail to win over majority, latest survey finds

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Voters have given a tick of approval to the Albanese government’s changes to income tax cuts but are lukewarm on broader tax reform, including negative gearing.

These are the findings of the latest Guardian Essential poll of 1,148 voters, which found 56% support for providing more benefit to low- and middle-income earners by trimming tax cuts for high-income earners but less than majority support for other measures reducing tax concessions.

The poll was conducted last week as the Coalition claimed that Labor’s broken promise on stage-three tax cuts sets the scene for further tax changes on negative gearing and capital gains tax (CGT), despite the government insisting they are not on its agenda.

The Greens and crossbench independents have urged Labor to go further to rebalance the housing system in favour of owner-occupiers and address the $50bn cost of rental tax deductions to the federal budget.

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The poll found that half (50%) of respondents were in favour of preventing “wealthy families from using family trusts to split their assets to minimise tax”, down four points since the question was last asked in November.

Almost half (44%) support only allowing people to claim negative gearing tax concessions on one investment property, more than double the proportion who oppose the measure (21%) but down three points since November.

A similar proportion (42%) want to “reduce the capital gains tax discount for assets held longer than a year from 50% to 25%”, roughly double the proportion who oppose it (20%).

A little over a third (37%) want to “tax deceased estates worth more than $5m”, down four points since November.

The Liberal senator Maria Kovacic has suggested capping the number of properties investors can negatively gear, thereby deducting rental losses from their wage income, but the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said on Sunday the government had no plans to do so.

On Monday Anthony Albanese said the government had “no intention” of changing negative gearing and its only tax change on housing had been its “incentive for build-to-rent”.

In its pre-budget submission, the Everybody’s Home campaign is calling on the government to abolish negative gearing and the capital gains discount altogether.

Maiy Azize, the campaign spokesperson, said the forgone revenue could build 500,000 social homes within the next decade.

“Housing in Australia has been rigged against average Australians because the government has chosen to prop up the private market,” she said.

“Handouts like negative gearing and the CGT discount are pushing up the cost of buying and renting, and they’re making Australia more unfair and more unequal.”

In the Essential poll, support was more solid for income tax changes: 30% strongly support the revised tax cuts, 26% “somewhat support”, 28% “neither support nor oppose” and about one in six oppose either strongly (6%) or somewhat (10%).

Despite that, the majority of voters (53%) said it is “never acceptable to break an election promise”, compared with 47% who said “it is acceptable to break an election promise if circumstances change”.

Labor appears to be more trusted than the Coalition on tax. On which political party is trusted to “create a fair taxation system”, Labor leads 31% to 29%, while 41% say there is “no difference”.

On the aim of keeping taxes low, Labor is ahead of the Coalition by 29% to 27%, while 43% say there is “no difference”.

However, the Coalition leads Labor 31% to 27% on the measure of most trusted to “use the money from taxes effectively”.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, recorded a four-point boost in his favourability rating, with 32% of responders giving him a positive score of 7-10 on a 10-point scale.

In the week the Coalition agreed to wave through Labor’s tax cuts changes, the proportion giving Dutton a negative score of 0 to 3 fell by three points, with just a third (33%) now rating him unfavourably.

Albanese’s approval ratings were steady with 33% giving the prime minister a positive score, up one point, and 35% a negative score, down one.

The poll found strong support for the right to disconnect, with 59% saying employers should be legally prevented from contacting employees after hours compared with just 15% who oppose the right. On Sunday, Dutton vowed to repeal the new right.

The poll showed a deterioration in respondents’ economic wellbeing, with just 30% describing themselves as “secure” because they are “able to pay bills and usually have money spare for savings or buying luxuries”, down eight points since January.

The proportion saying they are “struggling” was up five points to 44% and “in serious difficulty” up two points to 13%. Just 13% describe themselves as “comfortable”.

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