The Guardian 2024-02-22 16:31:19


Police seek third person as they investigate disappearance of TV presenter Jesse Baird and partner Luke Davies

New line of inquiry in disappearance of TV presenter Jesse Baird and partner Luke Davies as police seek third person

Police hold ‘grave concerns’ for former Channel 10 presenter, 26, and Qantas flight attendant, 29, after blood discovered at Paddington property and on personal possessions in Cronulla bin

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New South Wales police are trying to locate a third person as the investigation continues into the suspicious disappearance of the former Network Ten presenter Jesse Baird and his partner, Luke Davies.

Police said they had “grave concerns” for Baird, 26, and 29-year-old Davies, who works as a flight attendant for Qantas. Both were last seen in Paddington on Monday.

“Following inquiries, detectives are looking at a line of inquiry that a third person may be able to assist with the investigation,” NSW police said in a statement on Thursday evening.

“Police are currently trying to locate him.”

A crime scene was established at Baird’s home in Brown Street in Paddington on Wednesday afternoon. Police then attended Davies’ home in Waterloo.

“We do believe from the crime scene at Paddington and from property that was located at Cronulla that there has been some sort of incident that has more than likely occurred at the Paddington address, and that has given us grave concerns for one, possibly both, their safety,” Det Supt Jodi Radmore told reporters on Thursday.

Bloody possessions belonging to both men were found in a skip bin in Cronulla before midday on Wednesday.

Police subsequently found blood when searching Baird’s Paddington home, and found furniture had been moved. Radmore said the amount of blood suggested someone had suffered a significant or major wound.

Police said it was too early to tell whether either man had met with foul play.

Detectives said neighbours reported hearing a verbal argument at the Paddington property on Monday morning – the day both men were last seen.

According to a report by Network Ten, Baird’s social media was last active late on Tuesday night.

“If any of their friends know their whereabouts, please contact us so we can speak to that person or to them,” Radmore said.

“If Jesse is seeing this, we’d ask him to contact us, as well as anyone that might know the whereabouts of Jesse.”

Police said they were looking into all of Baird’s and Davies’ relationships and associations as part of their investigation.

Two cars were seized from Baird’s Paddington home and a third was also located, according to police. A phone had been found. Police said credit cards had been discovered in the skip.

Baird began working at Network Ten in January 2017 before finishing up in January this year, according to his LinkedIn profile.

It is understood Qantas, where Davies works, is providing support to his colleagues.

“Our thoughts are with family, friends and colleagues of our crew member at this very difficult time,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

Police were appealing for the public to contact either Waverley police or Crime Stoppers if they had information about either man’s whereabouts.

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Rightwing group Advance mounts ‘unprecedented’ campaign against Labor in Dunkley

Rightwing political group Advance mounts ‘unprecedented’ campaign against Labor in Dunkley

Lobby group made a mark during voice vote and is outspending the Liberals in byelection. Will its tactics work again?

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The rightwing political group Advance is running a third-party campaign “unprecedented” for an Australian electoral contest, outspending the Liberal party on social media ads in an effort to wrestle the seat of Dunkley from Labor.

The strategy, being orchestrated by the team behind the referendum’s no vote, is focused on criticising Anthony Albanese over the cost of living crisis and community safety. Labor believes it may be among the biggest push ever mounted by an activist group in a single seat outside a general election.

Dunkley is Advance’s first electoral project since the voice, with the mortgage belt seat a field test of whether its brand of populist, incendiary campaigning can have an impact in a standard ballot rather than the binary choice of a referendum.

The group’s rolling billboards – which it calls “truth trucks” – circle the Victorian electorate, imploring voters to “put Labor last”. But despite Advance’s deep links with – and prior work for – the Liberal party, it is not explicitly campaigning for Coalition candidate Nathan Conroy as much it is campaigning heavily against the government. The group plans on “hammering letterboxes” with anti-Labor flyers; it ran full-page ads in Victorian newspapers about asylum seekers; and its paid social media ads are targeted solely at Dunkley.

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Senior Labor sources remain confident of retaining the seat, held previously by the late Peta Murphy, but are wary of Advance’s novel tactics in a live electoral contest – especially since the absence of One Nation and United Australia party candidates could hand the Liberals a greater share of the rightwing vote.

Advance’s controversial referendum campaign – which drew criticisms of racism and misinformation from opponents and some Liberal MPs – has Labor alive to the challenge, with no less than the party’s national president, Wayne Swan, and director, Paul Erickson, continually emailing supporters, asking for donations to “fight Advance”.

Albanese claimed the group wants to “frighten” people with its messaging about crime and asylum seekers. “This group is certainly very partisan. They spread a whole lot of misinformation,” he told 3AW on Thursday.

Sophisticated digital operation

Advance reported $5.2m in donations in 2022-23, double its takings for the previous year. It also declared $4.5m on election expenditure in the year to July 2023, before the main period of official referendum campaigning.

Guardian Australia’s investigations throughout the referendum campaign highlighted Advance’s sophisticated digital operation, including a network of Facebook pages highlighting different criticisms of the Indigenous voice, as well as a “Referendum News” page which portrayed itself as a neutral news source. That page rebranded as “Election News” shortly after the byelection date was confirmed, posting only content related to Victoria and Dunkley.

Analysis of Meta’s ad library, which tracks ads across Facebook and Instagram, shows Advance is outspending the Liberal party but splashing far less than Labor in Dunkley.

In the 30 days to 22 February, Advance’s main page and Election News combined spent about $25,000 boosting its Dunkley-related posts. Ads boosted by Conroy and the Victorian Liberal party came to only $20,600.

Meanwhile, Labor spent closer to $50,000 on Dunkley ads on its national Facebook page, according to ad library. Candidate Jodie Belyea spent $7,200 boosting ads.

Advance’s ads, targeted at Dunkley postcodes, have garnered between 1.37m and 1.64m impressions, according to Meta’s ad library tool (which gives a range, rather than a specific number).

Byelection ‘a referendum on the prime minister’

Advance is almost entirely focused on criticising Labor to galvanise a “protest vote” in Dunkley. Its Facebook messaging targets concerns about rising prices and the release of asylum seekers from indefinite detention. “How many in Dunkley?” the online and newspaper ads read, demanding the government reveal if any of the detainees freed after a high court ruling live in the electorate.

Asked about the ad on 3AW, Albanese defended his government’s response. “I think people will have a look at that ad, which is designed to frighten and scare people, and see it for what it is,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because I don’t want to see Australia go down the American road, where there’s so much polarisation.”

Asked for response to the comments from Albanese and Labor, an Advance spokesperson replied that the prime minister “didn’t answer the question” on 3AW, and shrugged off his criticisms.

In an email to supporters on 2 March, Advance’s director, Matthew Sheahan, claimed the byelection is “a referendum on the prime minister”, urging “hard-working Aussies who live in Dunkley” to “fire a warning shot across the prime minister’s bow”.

“If we convince voters in this one seat to put Labor last on March 2, the pressure will pile on Anthony Albanese in ways he can’t imagine. It will be a political earthquake,” he wrote.

In a 14 February email, Sheahan spruiked a “brutal shock and awe political campaign in Dunkley”. He said Advance was seeking $275,000 in donations to finance social media advertising, “rolling truth trucks out on to every major road in Dunkley”, and “hammering letterboxes with eye-catching leaflets”.

Sources on the ground in Dunkley say the trucks are a constant presence on main thoroughfares, with a black-and-white photo of a grumpy looking Albanese as people stand in a kitchen, looking over bills and appearing stressed. “We’ve all had enough,” the signage reads.

“This is more than just a byelection: it’s a chance to rearrange the political landscape,” Advance’s donations page claims.

Wayne Swan ‘concerned’ about rise of Advance

After Guardian Australia reported on Advance’s fundraising drive, Labor’s president, Wayne Swan, put his name on an email to party supporters accusing Advance of “trying to import a permanent Trumpist style culture war” and “using the politics of race, gender and identity”.

Swan said he was “concerned” about Advance being “one of the fastest growing campaign organisations in the country”, calling them a “nasty organisation”. The email asked for donations to “fight Advance”.

Labor’s vice-president, Mich-Elle Myers, sent a similar fundraising email, claiming Advance was “trying to buy Dunkley for Peter Dutton”.

Advance, in turn, used it as a fundraising opportunity of their own. In an email on Wednesday, Sheahan claimed “Albo has hit the panic button” and was “running scared”.

“They’re so rattled, former federal treasurer Wayne Swan has written to all Labor members. He warned them that your powerful ADVANCE campaign in Dunkley is about to overwhelm them.”

On Thursday, Erickson – a mastermind of Labor’s 2022 election triumph – sent his own donations email, blasting Advance’s mobile billboards as a “truck of lies”.

“They’re not going to stop until they’ve bought the seat of Dunkley for the Liberals,” he claimed, requesting cash to “fight Advance”.

Advance campaign spend ‘unprecedented’

Advance has operated in several election campaigns, to little success, since launching in 2019 with plans to be the “rightwing GetUp”. Its 2019 campaign to save Tony Abbott in Warringah failed, as did its 2022 campaigns against the Labor party, and independents David Pocock and Zali Steggall, all of whom were elected.

But Advance’s 2023 referendum campaign, portraying the Indigenous voice as an elitist and complicated proposal saw the group emerge as a powerful third-party force in Australian politics, despite the protests of voice supporters, who branded some parts of their campaign a “lie”.

Advance’s campaign has differed from its referendum push, but still retains some flavours of its first major success. The group homed in on comments from Labor’s candidate Jodie Belyea after last year’s referendum, when she called the no result “the display of what I can only describe as the worst of white privilege in this country”.

Dunkley voted no by a margin of 56% to 44%.

Advance posted several links to Belyea’s comments on social media, writing: “Labor thinks you voted No to the Voice of Division because of your ‘white privilege’. Does Albo’s cost of living crisis make you feel ‘privileged’? What a joke”.

It also dusted off and rebranded its Referendum News page, which lay dormant for months after its last post on 13 October, the day before the referendum vote. Its next online activity wouldn’t be until 29 January, when the page name was changed to Election News – 10 days after the Dunkley byelection date was announced, and the same day the writs for the poll were issued.

Advance posted four articles in quick succession about cost of living issues in Victoria: rising electricity bills, housing issues, a spike in shoplifting cases linked to the cost of living and economic pressures facing families. All four articles were weeks or months old – the most recent had been published in December 2023, the oldest in May 2023, about eight months before Advance posted it. A fifth article was also posted on 29 January, critical of the Albanese government’s handling of asylum seekers freed from indefinite detention.

Since the beginning of 2024, Election News has targeted every one of its posts solely at people living in the Frankston area, specifically blanketing postcodes and suburbs in the Dunkley electorate.

Labor sources said they were surprised, however, that Advance hadn’t leaned more heavily into Google and YouTube advertising. The ALP has strongly utilised the platforms, while Advance has only boosted Google ads with less than $1,000 in spending.

Labor sources say it is “unprecedented” for Advance to outspend the Liberals on advertising, as appears to be the case. Some question whether GetUp – which has run focused campaigns against Peter Dutton in Dickson and Abbott in Warringah at general elections – had ever poured such substantial resources into a byelection.

Veteran campaign experts say it’s unknown how effective a group like Advance might be in a normal electoral contest, but that its large campaign war chest, as well as techniques and supporter lists refined through the referendum, combine for a formidable political machine.

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Melbourne surgeon sued over jaw operation that patient claims left her with life-changing injuries

Melbourne surgeon sued over jaw operation that patient claims left her with life-changing injuries

Woman alleges Dr George Dimitroulis did not disclose his commercial interest in company that manufactures prosthethes, but he says he told her of his involvement in device’s creation and denies any negligence

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A Melbourne surgeon is being sued for negligence by a woman who alleges he did not fully advise her of the risks before an operation on her jaw which she claims left her with life-changing injuries.

In a statement of claim filed to the supreme court of Victoria, the patient, Bianca (who asked for her real name to be withheld), alleged her condition was not serious enough to warrant the procedure to replace both of her temporomandibular joints with prostheses, carried out by maxillofacial surgeon Dr George Dimitroulis. The temporomandibular joints, or TMJ, connect the jaw to the skull, with one on each side of the head.

Bianca also alleged Dimitroulis did not disclose his commercial interest in the company that manufactures the devices he inserted into her jaw, or that he was a director of that company, Maxoniq.

In her statement of claim she said her injuries since the operation included vertigo, severe pain in her jaw, speech difficulties, tinnitus, hypersensitivity to noise, and disfigurement. As a result, she told Guardian Australia, she had been forced to give up her job and move states to a quieter location closer to family support.

In his defence filed to the court, Dimitroulis denied wrongdoing and said Bianca was adequately advised of the risks and likely results of the procedure.

“At all relevant times he acted in a manner that was widely accepted in Australia by a significant number of respected practitioners as competent professional practice,” his defence statement said.

Dimitroulis said he advised Bianca of his involvement in the design and creation of the OMX TMJ prosthesis at their first meeting, and otherwise denied her allegation that he did not advise that he had a commercial interest in the company or that he was a director of Maxoniq.

“My understanding … was he was one of the specialists that worked collaboratively with researchers and gave specialist input,” Bianca told Guardian Australia.

Dimitroulis established Maxoniq in 2016 to commercialise the TMJ device he designed, according to Maxoniq’s website and his own website.

Dimitroulis denied any of Bianca’s injuries were caused by his negligence.

He did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

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In her statement of claim, Bianca said Dimitroulis diagnosed her with “category five” degenerative disease of her TMJ, which he acknowledged in his defence.

The Australian peak body, the Australian and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, told Guardian Australia there was no standard classification system used to diagnose TMJ patients and recommend surgery.

“Temporomandibular joint disorders is a large group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement,” a spokesperson said.

“As such, there are many causes and each cause may have a variety of different ways to treat it.”

In her statement of claim Bianca alleged Dimitroulis told her neither of her TMJs was salvageable, and that he did not discuss any non-surgical options with her.

She was 38 at the time, and she alleged in her statement that Dimitroulis told her the longer she waited to have surgery, the worse her degeneration would be.

In his defence, Dimitroulis denied he told her there was no option other than surgery. He said that at one meeting he discussed the option of a non-surgical splint but had said this would not have corrected one of her issues and was not recommended as she had previously had a splint that had not resolved her symptoms.

Dimitroulis told her the prostheses would be custom-fit to each side of her jaw – important to Bianca because she has a small face with delicate features.

But although the prostheses were a custom fit, Bianca told Guardian Australia, it “feels too big for my jaw”.

Dispute over tinnitus

Bianca told Guardian Australia she asked questions about the procedure in several subsequent appointments before deciding to go ahead. She said she was particularly concerned that “ear problems” were listed as a potential complication.

In her statement of claim she alleged Dimitroulis told her only one patient of his had temporary deafness following the procedure. In her statement she said she also raised concerns about tinnitus – a ringing, roaring or buzzing sound in the ear – and Dimitroulis advised that rather than causing tinnitus, the surgery could actually improve it.

Dimitroulis denied in his defence statement that he said the device could treat tinnitus, stating that he advised Bianca there was a less than 1% risk of tinnitus associated with the surgery, and that it was usually temporary and resolved with time.

He said he told her the risks of TMJ surgery could include ear problems, including ringing in the ear, transient or permanent hearing loss or ear drum damage, such as a burst ear drum. He denied that he failed to obtain her medical history, or to consult other specialists.

In her statement Bianca also claimed he did not tell her about other TMJ devices available and their risks and benefits. He admitted that was the case, but said that was because they were either not appropriate for her as they could not be customised, or were unapproved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and therefore would cost her more to import.

In her statement Bianca said she would not have consented to the surgery had she been made fully aware of the potential complications.

“The plaintiff was adequately advised of the risks and likely results of the procedure,” the defence document stated.

When Bianca woke up in intensive care following the surgery, she told Guardian Australia, she was unprepared for the immediate pain she felt from every sound.

“The pain was excruciating,” she said.

“I was sensitive to both volume and frequency. I was in a panic. They eventually agreed to move me to a room on the opposite side of the hospital. But it was right next to the main road, and I couldn’t close the door completely to my room to block out sound from the corridor.

“I also had extremely loud tinnitus in both of my ears and it was really distressing,” she alleged.

Following her surgery, Bianca said, she saw a different maxillofacial surgeon in New South Wales who advised her that to remove her implants and replace them with different prostheses would take two separate 12-hour operations.

“It’s complex surgery, and he said there is no guarantee the surgery will fix my problems,” she said. “If I went through another surgery only to be the same or worse, that would genuinely be the end of me.”

Bianca said she was now working with an audiologist, a psychologist and other specialists to treat her symptoms.

As a result of her health issues, Bianca said, she had to quit her job in the entertainment industry and leave Melbourne.

“I studied music, I’m a former dancer, and the whole arts world is so important to me, it brings me meaning and joy. And I can’t do it any more.”

She has moved to a quiet location in Western Australia into a property owned by her parents, where she can be closer to their support.

“My life now is very isolated,” Bianca said.

“Just day-to-day things like going to the grocery store or driving to an appointment or to visit one of my parents are difficult, because there are days when the pain is too much and I need absolute silence. When I lay on my pillow on my side, sometimes the pressure hurts.

“There’s no peace.”

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Thousands urged to evacuate as out-of-control blaze bears down

Victoria fires: thousands urged to evacuate as out-of-control blaze bears down

An emergency warning has been issued for 28 communities west of Ballarat, with conditions not expected to ease until about midnight

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Thousands of people in 28 communities are being urged to evacuate a large fire zone as an out-of-control blaze bears down on them in Victoria.

An emergency warning has been issued for the communities west of Ballarat with concerns about a wind change is expected to sweep the area between 6pm and 7.30pm.

Residents in another nine townships nearby have also been advised to leave.

Conditions are not expected to ease until about midnight, Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer, Jason Heffernan, told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

He said 1,000 firefighters were attempting to control the fire along Bayindeen-Rocky Road that ignited in bushland and “rapidly took off”.

No properties have yet been reported as damaged.

“I’m here to tell communities the fire situation will get worse before it gets better,” Heffernan said.

The Western Highway was closed in both directions between Ballarat and Ararat, with diversions set up using the Sunraysia Highway and Pyrenees Highway via Avoca.

People in the fire area have been urged to head east towards Ballarat, where a relief centre has been set up at a sports reserve in the suburb of Wendouree with another centre open at Ararat.

Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, said spot fires had started hundreds of metres ahead of the fire front and urged people to stay on top of emergency alerts.

“This is a fire situation that is continuing to evolve very quickly and there will be ongoing updates both to the broader Victorian community but particularly, too, to people in the local area as this fire continues to move,” she said.

V/Line services on the Ararat Line and 11 bus routes have been suspended but no school closures are expected on Friday.

At a snap press conference on Thursday afternoon, Allan said the out-of-control fire was cause for “grave concern”.

“With hot winds and predicted thunderstorms this evening with the wind change, it’s going to continue to be a difficult few hours ahead,” she said

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She said about 1,000 firefighters were on the ground – supported by 24 aircraft and 100 vehicles – battling the blaze, while 16,000 emergency alerts had been sent to mobile phones and landlines in the affected area.

Langi Kal Kal Prison is located near the fire and its emergency response plan has been activated, emergency minister, Jaclyn Symes, said.

She said prisoners with health conditions exacerbated by smoke had been moved and the facility’s general manager would work with authorities over the health of prisoners and staff.

More than 2,100 customers were left without power due to the conditions and a further 600 are still without electricity after storms last week, the state government said on Thursday evening.

29 students from schools in Beaufort and 31 patients from the town’s hospital have been taken to Ballarat.

Heffernan urged anyone driving in Melbourne to give way to fire trucks heading towards the blaze.

A week after bushfires and storms razed properties and left half a million homes and businesses in the dark, parts of the state recorded temperatures of more than 40C through Thursday. Storms are expected to bring 80km/h winds and dry lightning in the afternoon.

Extreme fire warnings have been also issued in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, where emergency services have been fighting blazes since early summer.

A watch and act warning is in place for a bushfire in central Tasmania, with emergency services urging those nearby to prepare to leave.

Last week, bushfires in the Grampians national park destroyed 46 properties and razed more than 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of bush and farmland.

In the east, wind gusts of up to 130km/h levelled major power lines and transmission infrastructure, cutting power to 530,000 homes and businesses and leaving 37 homes uninhabitable.

While fire risks across the country are expected to decline over the coming days, the Bureau of Meteorology expected severe storms to hit south-eastern New South Wales with damaging hail and winds on Friday.

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Thousands urged to evacuate as out-of-control blaze bears down

Victoria fires: thousands urged to evacuate as out-of-control blaze bears down

An emergency warning has been issued for 28 communities west of Ballarat, with conditions not expected to ease until about midnight

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

Thousands of people in 28 communities are being urged to evacuate a large fire zone as an out-of-control blaze bears down on them in Victoria.

An emergency warning has been issued for the communities west of Ballarat with concerns about a wind change is expected to sweep the area between 6pm and 7.30pm.

Residents in another nine townships nearby have also been advised to leave.

Conditions are not expected to ease until about midnight, Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer, Jason Heffernan, told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

He said 1,000 firefighters were attempting to control the fire along Bayindeen-Rocky Road that ignited in bushland and “rapidly took off”.

No properties have yet been reported as damaged.

“I’m here to tell communities the fire situation will get worse before it gets better,” Heffernan said.

The Western Highway was closed in both directions between Ballarat and Ararat, with diversions set up using the Sunraysia Highway and Pyrenees Highway via Avoca.

People in the fire area have been urged to head east towards Ballarat, where a relief centre has been set up at a sports reserve in the suburb of Wendouree with another centre open at Ararat.

Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, said spot fires had started hundreds of metres ahead of the fire front and urged people to stay on top of emergency alerts.

“This is a fire situation that is continuing to evolve very quickly and there will be ongoing updates both to the broader Victorian community but particularly, too, to people in the local area as this fire continues to move,” she said.

V/Line services on the Ararat Line and 11 bus routes have been suspended but no school closures are expected on Friday.

At a snap press conference on Thursday afternoon, Allan said the out-of-control fire was cause for “grave concern”.

“With hot winds and predicted thunderstorms this evening with the wind change, it’s going to continue to be a difficult few hours ahead,” she said

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She said about 1,000 firefighters were on the ground – supported by 24 aircraft and 100 vehicles – battling the blaze, while 16,000 emergency alerts had been sent to mobile phones and landlines in the affected area.

Langi Kal Kal Prison is located near the fire and its emergency response plan has been activated, emergency minister, Jaclyn Symes, said.

She said prisoners with health conditions exacerbated by smoke had been moved and the facility’s general manager would work with authorities over the health of prisoners and staff.

More than 2,100 customers were left without power due to the conditions and a further 600 are still without electricity after storms last week, the state government said on Thursday evening.

29 students from schools in Beaufort and 31 patients from the town’s hospital have been taken to Ballarat.

Heffernan urged anyone driving in Melbourne to give way to fire trucks heading towards the blaze.

A week after bushfires and storms razed properties and left half a million homes and businesses in the dark, parts of the state recorded temperatures of more than 40C through Thursday. Storms are expected to bring 80km/h winds and dry lightning in the afternoon.

Extreme fire warnings have been also issued in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, where emergency services have been fighting blazes since early summer.

A watch and act warning is in place for a bushfire in central Tasmania, with emergency services urging those nearby to prepare to leave.

Last week, bushfires in the Grampians national park destroyed 46 properties and razed more than 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of bush and farmland.

In the east, wind gusts of up to 130km/h levelled major power lines and transmission infrastructure, cutting power to 530,000 homes and businesses and leaving 37 homes uninhabitable.

While fire risks across the country are expected to decline over the coming days, the Bureau of Meteorology expected severe storms to hit south-eastern New South Wales with damaging hail and winds on Friday.

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Emails reveal why Australia shifted its position on Gaza

From a ‘pause’ to a humanitarian ceasefire: emails reveal why Australia shifted its position on Gaza

Exclusive: Documents obtained by Guardian Australia show confidential advice given to the foreign minister, Penny Wong, before she authorised ‘yes’ vote at UN

Australia voted for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza after officials privately advised the government the “unprecedented crisis on the ground” and “shifting positions” of allies could justify a policy change.

Guardian Australia has obtained documents revealing the confidential advice given to the foreign minister, Penny Wong, before she authorised a “yes” vote at the UN general assembly in December – a decision that continues to fuel tensions with the Israeli government.

The private advice reveals Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials felt that “it would be open to us to vote Yes this time” and that Australia would be in “good company”, six weeks after it abstained in a similar vote in October.

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The documents provide insights into the diplomatic manoeuvring behind scenes, at a time when centre-left political parties across the west are grappling with how to respond to the increasing death toll in Gaza without abandoning support for Israel.

Keir Starmer’s Labour party in the UK avoided a possible rebellion over its ceasefire position on Wednesday, while Joe Biden’s administration faces renewed domestic pressure after the US vetoed another UN security council ceasefire resolution on Tuesday.

Under pressure

In Australia, Labor has come under pressure from rank-and-file members and constituents to take a stronger stand. Dozens of Labor branches passed motions calling for a ceasefire in the lead-up to an emergency session of the UN general assembly in December.

The new documents show that on 12 December, Dfat officials informed the government of growing international support for a ceasefire.

“Overall, we assess the number of Yes votes will go up (from 120 on the last resolution),” said one of several internal emails obtained under freedom of information laws.

“Given the improvements in the text and shifting positions of some like-mindeds, we think it would be open to us to vote Yes this time.”

But the same email said a yes vote would need to be accompanied by a speech, known as an explanation of vote (EOV), that “was very firm in articulating the deficiencies in the text”.

An email the day before said: “What remains problematic is that the resolution does not reference the 7 October attacks nor condemn (or even mention) Hamas, which perpetuates a trend of erasing Hamas from the record in UN decisions on the crisis. If we were to vote yes in spite of this, we would need an EOV that was firm about our concern that Hamas’s actions weren’t recognised and condemned in the resolution.”

‘We could live with this text’

Despite these shortcomings, Dfat officials explained why the draft text of the resolution proposed by the Arab Group was “largely something we could support”.

“It includes language demanding the immediate and unconditional release of ‘all hostages’ (whereas the previous resolution only called for the immediate and unconditional release of ‘civilians who are being illegally held captive’); refers to protecting Palestinian and Israeli civilians; and calls on all parties to comply with [international humanitarian law],” said an email on 11 December.

The preliminary advice acknowledged that the call for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” was a policy shift for Australia, but officials played down the scale of the shift. They appeared to believe it was not a major change from Australia’s pre-existing calls for “pauses” in the fighting.

“While supporting such text would be a step forward for us, there appears little practical difference between a humanitarian ceasefire (as we understand it) and the extended humanitarian pause we saw recently,” the advice said.

“We think we could ultimately live with this text …”

Dfat officials noted the situation was “fast moving” and listed two competing options for the government to consider, without firmly recommending which one should be taken up.

One option was to vote in favour of the ceasefire resolution, noting the “strong and unanimous messaging across relevant UN agencies and many member states on the critical need for a humanitarian ceasefire” and the “unprecedented crisis on the ground”.

A second option was to abstain again, based on the resolution’s failure to condemn Hamas. An argument raised in favour of this course of action was that “it was not the [general assembly] resolution that led to humanitarian pauses last time, but careful mediation on the ground by Egypt, Qatar and the US”.

‘The foreign minister has decided’

At 7.29pm on Tuesday 12 December, Dfat received an email confirming Wong’s decision to back a ceasefire.

“After reviewing this advice, and in consultation with her colleagues, the Foreign Minister has decided that: Australia will vote Yes on this resolution.”

Wong also decided Australia would support two amendments, proposed by the US and Austria, to add condemnation of Hamas, even though officials had privately predicted that these attempts would fail.

Kate Wallace, a Dfat assistant secretary, reported back the following morning: “Both proposed amendments (by Austria and the US) failed to receive the required 2/3rd majority. Australia voted in good company for the resolution and both amendments.”

Wong defended the decision in public, saying more than 150 countries had voted in favour including close allies and partners Canada, New Zealand, Japan, India and France. However, the US and Israel were among 10 countries to vote against the resolution, while the UK abstained.

Australia’s stance prompted immediate criticism from the Coalition opposition and from Israel’s ambassador, Amir Maimon, who said a ceasefire would “embolden Hamas and enable it to resume its attacks on Israelis”.

The emails are the third set of documents obtained by Guardian Australia under FoI since the conflict erupted on 7 October.

An earlier tranche of documents showed Wong met with Maimon at 6.30pm on 25 October at Parliament House, although the contents of the talks were blocked from release.

On 27 October, Wong spoke with Australia’s ambassador to the UN, James Larsen, and “confirmed instructions to abstain” on a Jordanian-drafted ceasefire resolution that failed to mention Hamas.

Guardian Australia also applied for any advice provided by Dfat to Wong “in relation to Israel and/or Hamas’s compliance or non-compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) or other international laws”.

This revealed that Dfat’s legal division prepared a “briefing on international law principles relevant to the current conflict” at least twice in October, although the contents were redacted.

The FoI decision-maker cited multiple reasons for blocking some parts of the documents, including “legal professional privilege” and that disclosure “would be reasonably likely to cause damage to Australia’s foreign relationships”.

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Bleaching fears along 1,000km stretch of coast

Bleaching fears along 1,000km stretch of the Great Barrier Reef

Scientists are investigating reports of dying coral from Lizard Island in the north to Heron Island in the south

Scientists are reporting corals are bleaching white and dying from rising ocean temperatures across a more than 1,000km stretch of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science were preparing on Thursday to carry out surveys from a helicopter across the southern section of the reef.

The Guardian heard reports of bleaching at Lizard Island in the north and at Heron Island in the south – a distance of more than 1,100km (740 miles) along the Queensland coast.

The reef has been through six previous mass bleaching events caused by global heating where rising ocean heat has turned corals white across large sections of the reef. The most recent event, in 2022, was the first to occur in a usually cooler La Niña year.

The authority has not declared a mass bleaching event for 2024 and said it would wait for further monitoring and the helicopter survey before deciding if reef-wide surveys were needed.

Global heating is the biggest threat to the world’s coral reefs, including the health of the world’s biggest coral reef system.

Corals lose the algae that give them their colour and much of their nutrients if water temperatures climb too high. In extreme cases, bleaching can kill corals.

Scientists say corals that survive bleaching and regain their colour tend to be more susceptible to disease and do not reproduce as well.

Dr Maya Srinivasan, a scientist at James Cook University’s centre for tropical water and aquatic ecosystem research, surveyed 27 sites with colleagues at the Keppel islands off Rockhampton in the past two weeks. Most sites had bleached corals.

“I saw some dead and some dying corals that were starting to become overgrown by algae,” she said. “But the majority are still alive so there’s still a chance they will recover.”

Dr Anne Hoggett is director of the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island research station off far north Queensland – an area badly hit by bleaching in 2016.

She said over the last four years corals had regularly bleached but cooler weather conditions had come along “in the nick of time”.

“It’s happening again, but now it has progressed further than it has in the last few years,” she said. “We have a lot of corals that are flourescing [another sign of heat stress in some corals] and some are pure white. Today we noticed some coral death. They’re now beginning to die.

“We are desperately hoping for a change [in the weather] but the forecast is not looking good.”

Hillary Smith, a senior research scientist at James Cook University, is monitoring areas of Magnetic Island, off Townsville, where researchers are seeing if the removal of seaweed can help reefs rebound.

At one site at Arthur Bay, she said Cyclone Kirrily that struck earlier this year had destroyed most of the corals “and close to 90% of the survivors are bleached or diseased”, she said. Another nearby site at Florence Bay had fared much better.

The Guardian also heard reports of bleaching at the University of Queensland’s Heron Island research station near Gladstone. Corals across the reef flat and to a depth of five metres on the reef slope were bleaching.

A spokesperson for Aims said scientists from the institute and the park authority would carry out helicopter surveys across the southern region in the next two days.

“This information will help inform our decision on whether to conduct large scale aerial surveys across the reef.”

Aims was monitoring temperatures from satellites, underwater gliders, marine weather stations and sensors on research vessels.

The spokesperson added: “Aims teams have spent substantial time in the water since the beginning of the year conducting routine and additional field surveys. We have reports of bleaching, ranging in severity, across a range of reefs.

“These observations align with patterns we’d expect to see from the accumulation of heat stress over the past couple of months.”

The marine park authority said in a statement it would take time to assess how reefs and corals were responding to heat stress and how prevalent bleaching was.

The statement said: “While we have preliminary reports of coral bleaching from all regions of the marine park of varying severity, a more comprehensive assessment needs to take place before we categorise what is occurring.”

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Two very rare vaccine side-effects detected in global study of 99 million

Two very rare Covid vaccine side-effects detected in global study of 99 million

Results confirm how uncommon known complications are as researchers confirm benefits from vaccines still ‘vastly outweigh the risks’

Two new but exceptionally rare Covid-19 vaccine side effects – a neurological disorder and inflammation of the spinal cord – have been detected by researchers in the largest vaccine safety study to date.

The study of more than 99 million people from Australia, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand and Scotland also confirmed how rare known vaccine complications are, with researchers confirming that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines still “vastly outweigh the risks”.

Researchers working as part of the Global Vaccine Data Network used deidentified electronic healthcare data to compare the rates of 13 brain, blood and heart conditions in people after they received the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine with the rate that would be expected of those conditions in the population before the pandemic.

The study confirmed with a high level of accuracy known links between mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccines and the rare side-effects of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (swelling of the thin sac covering the heart). It also confirmed Guillain-Barré syndrome (where the immune system attacks the nerves) and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (a type of blood clot in the brain) as rare side effects linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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But a new rare side-effect, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis – an inflammation and swelling in the brain and spinal cord – was also identified in the data analysis as being linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The findings were published in the international journal Vaccine on Friday.

Prof Jim Buttery, co-director of the Global Vaccine Data Network, said the finding prompted researchers to independently confirm the side-effect by completing a second study, this time analysing a separate dataset of 6.8 million Australians who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Not only did the Australian study confirm acute disseminated encephalomyelitis as a rare side-effect, but the large amount of AstraZeneca-specific data also allowed them to detect a second new rare side-effect, known as transverse myelitis, or spinal cord inflammation.

Also published in Vaccine on Friday, the Australian study found the data translated to an extremely small risk of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis of 0.78 cases for every million doses, and 1.82 cases per million doses for transverse myelitis.

Buttery, who is also a senior research analyst with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, said; “for rare side effects, we don’t learn about them until the vaccine has been used in millions of people”.

“No clinical trial can ever have the size to answer those questions and so we only find out those questions after a vaccine has been introduced.”

Buttery said the risk of myocarditis, is even higher with natural Covid infection than it is following vaccination.

Both conditions are serious but patients usually recover from them, he said.

Prof Julie Leask, a vaccine expert at the University of Sydney, said it’s important to keep these findings in perspective and that a Covid infection increases the risk of some of these rare conditions “much more than a vaccine” does.

She said the studies also confirmed that “our vaccine experts are paying attention to when vaccines lead to serious side-effects, and they’re acting on it”.

“Being confident in a system that will detect problems and address them, is a very important part of a robust vaccination program.”

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Two very rare vaccine side-effects detected in global study of 99 million

Two very rare Covid vaccine side-effects detected in global study of 99 million

Results confirm how uncommon known complications are as researchers confirm benefits from vaccines still ‘vastly outweigh the risks’

Two new but exceptionally rare Covid-19 vaccine side effects – a neurological disorder and inflammation of the spinal cord – have been detected by researchers in the largest vaccine safety study to date.

The study of more than 99 million people from Australia, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand and Scotland also confirmed how rare known vaccine complications are, with researchers confirming that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines still “vastly outweigh the risks”.

Researchers working as part of the Global Vaccine Data Network used deidentified electronic healthcare data to compare the rates of 13 brain, blood and heart conditions in people after they received the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine with the rate that would be expected of those conditions in the population before the pandemic.

The study confirmed with a high level of accuracy known links between mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccines and the rare side-effects of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (swelling of the thin sac covering the heart). It also confirmed Guillain-Barré syndrome (where the immune system attacks the nerves) and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (a type of blood clot in the brain) as rare side effects linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

But a new rare side-effect, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis – an inflammation and swelling in the brain and spinal cord – was also identified in the data analysis as being linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The findings were published in the international journal Vaccine on Friday.

Prof Jim Buttery, co-director of the Global Vaccine Data Network, said the finding prompted researchers to independently confirm the side-effect by completing a second study, this time analysing a separate dataset of 6.8 million Australians who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Not only did the Australian study confirm acute disseminated encephalomyelitis as a rare side-effect, but the large amount of AstraZeneca-specific data also allowed them to detect a second new rare side-effect, known as transverse myelitis, or spinal cord inflammation.

Also published in Vaccine on Friday, the Australian study found the data translated to an extremely small risk of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis of 0.78 cases for every million doses, and 1.82 cases per million doses for transverse myelitis.

Buttery, who is also a senior research analyst with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, said; “for rare side effects, we don’t learn about them until the vaccine has been used in millions of people”.

“No clinical trial can ever have the size to answer those questions and so we only find out those questions after a vaccine has been introduced.”

Buttery said the risk of myocarditis, is even higher with natural Covid infection than it is following vaccination.

Both conditions are serious but patients usually recover from them, he said.

Prof Julie Leask, a vaccine expert at the University of Sydney, said it’s important to keep these findings in perspective and that a Covid infection increases the risk of some of these rare conditions “much more than a vaccine” does.

She said the studies also confirmed that “our vaccine experts are paying attention to when vaccines lead to serious side-effects, and they’re acting on it”.

“Being confident in a system that will detect problems and address them, is a very important part of a robust vaccination program.”

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Japan’s Nikkei and European shares hit record highs

Wall Street’s S&P 500 and Japan’s Nikkei hit record highs amid AI boom

European Stoxx 600 index also at fresh high as strong Nvidia results fuel optimism about tech stocks

Japan’s main stock index, European shares and Wall Street’s S&P 500 have hit all-time highs, as strong results from the chipmaker Nvidia stoked investor exuberance over an artificial intelligence investment boom.

The Nikkei rose 2.19% to end the day at 39,098.68. On the final trading day of 1989, it had closed at 38,915.87. The 34 years it has taken to regain its footing is a decade longer than it took Wall Street to recoup losses from the 1929 crash and Great Depression.

On Thursday, Europe’s Stoxx 600 index reached a fresh high of 495.77 points, surpassing the 495.46 reached in January 2022. In the US, the tech-heavy Nasdaq – where Nvidia is listed – was up by more than 2% at the open to 15,920. The Dow Jones rose nearly 250 points, or 0.6%, to 38,858, while the S&P 500 gained 82 points, or 1.6%, to hit a record high of 5,063.55.

Shares in Nvidia rose 15% as its shares started trading a day after the company reported bullish results. Booming demand for its AI chips – a key piece of infrastructure for companies building and operating AI tools – helped Nvidia forecast quarterly revenue much above Wall Street’s already high expectations on Wednesday, lifting tech stocks globally.

The gains mean Nvidia is close to hitting a market value of $2tn – increasing by more than $200bn to $1.9tn on Thursday – just nine months after reaching $1tn.

Although the strong Nvidia results and accompanying optimism about tech stocks helped drive the Nikkei to a record high, the Tokyo index has been bolstered over the past few years by other factors including hope that Japan is finally overcoming its historical problems with flat or falling prices – as well as benefiting from investor concerns about the Chinese economy.

A fall in the value of yen has also helped to tempt foreign investors to the Nikkei.

One analyst described Nvidia’s results as “the biggest moment for the market and tech sector in many years”.

“This was a ‘gamechanging moment’ for the tech bulls and puts jet fuel in the tech bull market thesis,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at the US financial firm Wedbush Securities.

Jensen Huang, the Nvidia chief executive, said on Thursday the AI market had hit “the tipping point”. He added: “Demand is surging worldwide across companies, industries and nations.”

Gains in Nvidia lifted its AI competitor Advanced Micro Devices by 10% in early trading, while Super Micro Computer climbed20% and the UK-based Arm Holdings rose 9%.

Soaring demand for Nvidia’s chips used by companies rushing to upgrade their AI offerings helped the Silicon Valley company forecast first-quarter revenue growth of 233%, ahead of Wall Street expectations of 208% .

The midpoint of the forecast was $24bn, which was above market expectations of about $22.2bn.

Josh Gilbert, a market analyst at eToro, said: “Nvidia continues to deliver in every way, and its results show there is still plenty of growth ahead. This isn’t just a flash in the pan, nor a bubble, but a business that continues to make serious cash.”

Expectations heading into the results were very high, with shares in Nvidia surging nearly 36% this year to become the best-performing S&P 500 stock and notching a record high just last week.

The share rise that fuelled the S&P 500’s climb to record highs this year had prompted fears that growth at Nvidia, seen as the bellwether for AI demand, could disappoint and potentially disrupt the market rally.

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TGA approves new medication for treatment of symptoms

TGA approves new medication for treatment of endometriosis symptoms

Australian drug regulator gives company green light for tablet – although it won’t be subsidised by Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

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The first new endometriosis treatment in 13 years – aimed at relieving the debilitating pain many with the condition suffer – has been approved by Australia’s drug regulator.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside it, affecting other organs and leading to inflammation, lesions and scar tissue.

The condition affects at least one in nine girls and women. About 15 out of every 1,000 hospitalisations among women aged 15–44 in Australia are endometriosis-related.

There is no cure, and diagnosis is often delayed for years.

While treatments include pain-relief medication, hormone therapy, surgery and combined treatments, not all of these are effective for all sufferers.

On Friday, pharmaceutical company Gedeon Richter Australia announced Ryeqo, a once-daily tablet, had been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for the treatment of symptoms associated with endometriosis.

It is the first oral tablet approved by the TGA for endometriosis pain and also works to prevent excess tissue growth.

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However, the drug will not be subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which means a prescription will cost patients $135 or more for a one-month supply. Eligible patients will need a prescription from their specialist and the drug can be prescribed for up to two years.

Gedeon Richter has made a submission to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee [PBAC] for the drug to be considered for reimbursement and a decision will be made at PBAC’s March meeting.

Ryeqo is already available in Australia, as it is approved to treat symptoms associated with uterine fibroids and doctors do already sometimes prescribe it “off-label” (when a drug is prescribed outside the conditions it is approved by the TGA to treat) for endometriosis.

Approval of Ryeqo means the TGA is satisfied there is enough evidence for its efficacy in treating endometriosis symptoms.

The director of Monash University’s women’s health research program, Prof Susan Davis, said “as an endocrinologist it is a great option to combine a treatment that blocks the normal ovarian cycle and provides a constant low dose estrogen-progestogen replacement to prevent or reduce estrogen deficiency symptoms”.

But she said it is important to note it may not work for every woman.

Prof Gino Pecoraro, a gynaecologist and endometriosis specialist with The Wesley hospital in Brisbane, said it nonetheless “provides another option for treating the life-impacting symptoms experienced by women living with this condition”.

“I often see patients who have been suffering unnecessarily for too long, they are fed up and looking for answers to manage their endometriosis pain,” he said.

CEO of Endometriosis Australia, Maree Davenport, said it is also important that a new drug that is not an oral contraceptive is now approved.

“This new drug is an is another tool to enable women with endometriosis to manage their pain, and while it might not suit everybody, for many from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, this drug means that the taboo issues relating to going on contraceptives to manage endometriosis pain is alleviated.”

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US and UK endorse Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next chief

US, UK and Germany endorse Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next Nato chief

Other members have signalled they would back Dutch leader as alliance faces major challenges

The US, UK and Germany have endorsed the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte’s, candidacy to become the next secretary general of Nato, at a time when the alliance faces major challenges amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and renewed questions about the future of the US commitment to the transatlantic relationship.

“President Biden strongly endorses PM Rutte’s candidacy to be the next secretary general of Nato,” a US official told Reuters on Thursday.

A UK official said London “strongly backs” Rutte to succeed Jens Stoltenberg. “Rutte is well respected across the alliance, has serious defence and security credentials and will ensure that the alliance remains strong and ready to defend and deter.”

Many other Nato members have signalled they would back the Dutch leader for the post, which requires unanimous support from all alliance members. On Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for the German government said the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also supported Rutte’s candidacy.

Rutte is one of Europe’s longest-serving heads of government, having been prime minister since 2010, and is considered a safe pair of hands who could be well positioned to grapple with the challenges of Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House.

Trump recently said he would not defend Nato allies that did not meet defence spending targets, renewing concerns in Europe about the strength of the transatlantic security alliance.

Rutte, speaking at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, made a thinly-veiled campaign declaration for the Nato job, saying that members should “stop moaning and whining and nagging about Trump” and “we have to work with whoever is on the dancefloor”.

A senior diplomat, however, cautioned that Rutte’s candidacy was not a done deal and that his endorsement by big countries did not mean all allies were onboard.

Turkey and Hungary, who in recent months have delayed key Nato decisions in other areas, have yet to say whether they support Rutte.

Supporters say the Dutch leader is one of the best connected politicians on the European stage as well as a low-key politician, known for cycling to meetings and teaching social studies at a local school. He has reportedly lived in the same modest house in The Hague for years and prides himself on never trading in the second-hand Saab he has had for more than a decade.

One Dutch official said: “Rutte’s strength lies in three things: his people skills, his pragmatic mind and his Nokia (recently an iPhone).

“A convinced Atlanticist and admirer of [Winston] Churchill, his phone book by now spans two generations of world leaders beyond the confines of the western world and with whom he has forged bonds and maintains good contact – also in private, even after their departure. [The former German chancellor Angela] Merkel and Rutte still meet up,” the official said.

“He had a great bond with [the former US president Barack] Obama but also maintained constructive ties with Trump. And whilst his domestic legacy is now perhaps called into question, his international credentials are excellent.”

After the collapse of his government last year, Rutte stepped down as leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and said he would leave politics.

The long Rutte era came to an end amid the increasing popularity of anti-establishment parties, culminating in far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) coming first in an election in November.

Over the past months Rutte has served as caretaker prime minister while coalition talks drag on and he has remained highly active in European politics – leading to growing speculation at Nato HQ that he was in the running for the top job.

In recent years there has been a push to diversify the leadership of Nato, which has always been held by men from western Europe. Some officials had hoped the alliance would finally have a female leader, or someone from its eastern flank.

Stoltenberg, who has been the secretary general since 2014, is Norwegian, while his immediate predecessor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is Danish. Dutch officials have already held the post three times – in 1961-64, 1971-84 and 2004-09.

Early on, as officials speculated about Stoltenberg’s successor, the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, was floated for the role. The Latvian foreign minister and former prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, has recently also expressed an interest.

Given Russia’s war and the highly sensitive nature of the job, which requires speaking on behalf of a large number of countries and building consensus, some governments have indicated that they see Baltic candidates as too hawkish for the role.

Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, has also been mentioned as a possible contender. Other names floated earlier in the race – including the UK’s Ben Wallace – failed to garner enthusiasm.

Russia’s war has shifted allies’ priorities – including when it comes to criteria for leadership.

“[It is not] geography [that] matters most,” said one senior European diplomat. “We need a candidate who can unite, who would pay the greatest attention to strong defence and deterrence policy, who is capable and willing to work on sustaining and stepping up military support to Ukraine.”

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Bobi the Portuguese mastiff stripped of record as world’s oldest ever dog

Bobi the Portuguese mastiff stripped of record as world’s oldest ever dog

Guinness World Records ‘no longer has the evidence’ that animal – 31 years and five months old when it died – was as old as claimed

Every dog has its day, they say, but Bobi the Portuguese mastiff’s reign as the “world’s oldest” hound has proven short-lived.

The once record-breaking dog has been stripped of his title by Guinness World Records (GWR) after officials declared there was no proof he was as long in the tooth as his owners claimed.

In a statement, GWR said it had concluded it “no longer has the evidence it needs to support Bobi’s claim as the record holder”.

It was claimed that Bobi was 31 and five months – a dog’s life spanning about 220 canine years – when he died in October, eight months after GWR declared him the world’s oldest living dog and the oldest dog ever.

The previous record-holder was Bluey, an Australian cattle dog who died in 1939 aged 29 years and five months.

However, no sooner was Bobi crowned than questions were raised by veterinary experts over whether it was biologically possible for a dog to live that long. Online photographs of Bobi in 1999 suggested he had different coloured paws to the dog that died in Portugal last year.

Sceptics pointed out that although his age had been registered on Portugal’s national pet database, this was based on the owners’ self-certification and chipping pets had only begun in 2008. Genetic testing established that Bobi was old but not exactly how old.

Just days after Bobi’s demise, Danny Chambers, a vet and council member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, suggested that claims the dog had lived more than three decades were false.

Chambers said that, of the 18,000 members of the Veterinary Voices group he runs, “not a single one” of his colleagues believed Bobi was actually 31 years old.

“This is the equivalent of a human living to over 200 years old which, given our current medical capabilities, is completely implausible. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no concrete evidence has been provided to prove his age,” he said.

A then “totally serious” investigation by the technology magazine Wired discovered the Portuguese database had “no registration or data that can confirm or deny” the owners’ claims he was born in 1992. Bobi’s owner, Leonel Costa, did not respond to Wired’s questions.

Announcing that Bobi had been scratched from the records, Mark McKinley of GWR, who conducted the review into the entry, said: “We take tremendous pride in ensuring as best we can the accuracy and integrity of all our record titles. Following concerns raised by vets and other experts, both privately as well as within public commentary, and the findings of investigations conducted by some media outlets, we felt it important to open a review into Bobi’s record.”

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