The Guardian 2024-02-23 16:31:16


New hopes of ceasefire as Israeli negotiators head to Paris

New hopes of Gaza ceasefire as Israeli negotiators head to Paris

Pressure mounts on Israel and Hamas to make a deal before threatened Rafah offensive

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An Israeli negotiating team arrived in Paris on Friday for talks about a potential ceasefire in Gaza in the latest sign of tentative progress towards an agreement that might end the five-month-old war.

The Israeli delegation, which includes the heads of its internal and external intelligence services, will meet the director of the CIA, Qatar’s prime minister and Egypt’s most senior intelligence official for talks over the weekend in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting.

Pressure on Hamas and Israel to conclude a deal is mounting. There are widespread concerns among observers that an imminent Israeli offensive on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza will cause further extensive civilian casualties and that the start of Ramadan in less than three weeks could ignite widespread unrest in the occupied West Bank as well as exacerbate risks of a regional conflagration.

Israel says Hamas have four battalions of militants in or around Rafah and that its offensive will go ahead if no ceasefire deal is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to launch an assault on a city packed with more than a million people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza.

Rafah is also the entry point for much of the desperately needed aid that is reaching Gaza, and any further disruption to the already inadequate flow of assistance would worsen an acute humanitarian crisis.

Hamas is now waiting to see what mediators from the US, Qatar and Egypt bring back from the weekend talks with Israel in Paris, an official from the militant group said on Friday.

“We discussed our proposal with [the Egyptians] and we are going to wait until they return from Paris,” he said.

About 150 of 250 hostages seized by Hamas during its attack on southern Israel in October were released in a swap for Palestinian prisoners during a weeklong ceasefire in November. The attack, which triggered the Israeli offensive in Gaza, also killed 1,200 civilians, mostly in their homes or at a music festival.

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed and 69,616 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since the beginning of the war, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Friday. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007, saying it uses residents as a human shield.

Though talks on a new deal involving a series of phased ceasefires – each involving the release of a batch of the about 100 hostages still held by Hamas – have repeatedly broken down, both sides may now make concessions, observers say.

Hamas has seen that allied groups such as Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant Islamist movement, are not ready to risk all out war with Israel to support them and have suffered significant casualties, even if no senior leaders have yet been killed in the Israeli onslaught.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, needs to improve increasingly fractious relations with Washington and answer accusations inside Israel that he has sacrificed the return of hostages for his own political survival, analysts say. Between 30 and 50 of the hostages are now thought to be dead and representatives of relatives say time is running out for the remainder.

But a deal would involve painful concessions by Israel – such as the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners from its jails – and a withdrawal from Gaza so would be opposed by far-right politicians whose support allows Netanyahu to remain in power.

Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, a mass-market newspaper, columnist Nahum Barnea said the chances of a reaching an agreement were about 50%.

“No agreement has been reached yet about an exchange deal – responsible sources put the chances at 50% – but a resumption of negotiations appears to be near at hand. After almost a month of impasse, there is hope,” Barnea said.

Throughout the conflict, Netanyahu has said military pressure on Hamas would force concessions and the early return of the hostages.

Israeli planes and tanks continued airstrikes and bombardment overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza after the war.

According to the document, Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza – territories where Palestinians want to create an independent state. Any rehabilitation of Gaza, much of which has been reduced to ruins during the war, is conditional on “complete demilitarisation”.

Netanyahu proposes Israel have a presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the territory and cooperates with Egypt and the United States in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing.

To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, the plan proposes working with local representatives “who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them” and calls for shutting down UNRWA, the UN Palestinian refugee agency, and replacing it with other international aid groups, emphasising that Israel expects to maintain security control over the territory.

The proposed new administration might involve local clan or community leaders but there is no role for the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank – the preferred option of Washington.

A spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told Reuters that Netanyahu’s proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza.

The last time similar ceasefire talks were held in Paris, around the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the war, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli rime minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as “delusional”.

The current talks in the French capital are aimed at establishing procedural rules for further negotiations that will hammer out a deal, Israeli media reported.

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Taylor Swift defies huge storm to wow Sydney crowd

Taylor Swift Sydney Eras concert: main show goes on but opener Sabrina Carpenter does not perform amid huge storms

Predicted thunderstorm arrives at Homebush venue less than an hour before show’s scheduled 6.20pm start, prompting a short evacuation

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Taylor Swift fans were briefly evacuated from the floor and lower bowl of Accor Stadium in Sydney after a huge storm with nearby lightning strikes hit the area less than an hour before the show was to begin on Friday evening.

Accor Stadium posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the start time had been delayed, and asked fans in the venue to stay undercover until “further notice”.

The delay meant support act Sabrina Carpenter did not perform her opening act but around 7.45pm Swift took the stage to a huge roar.

However, Carpenter did appear later to perform a song with Swift.

Earlier the stadium said Swift’s first Sydney Eras concert would go ahead “rain or shine”, unless the expected severe weather threatened people’s safety.

The prediction of severe storms meant Airservices Australia limited the number of Sydney arrivals and departures during the day, leading to cancellations and delays.

Qantas put on an Airbus A380 from Melbourne to Sydney – carrying about three Boeing 737 flights’ worth of passengers – to get more people to Sydney on time.

That 5pm flight replaced three 4pm flights, so Qantas said it was unlikely passengers were travelling to Sydney for the 6.20pm concert, but that it would help deal with Friday’s high demand.

Qantas said in a statement that all customers affected had been contacted and customers travelling from other airports might be able to switch to an earlier flight.

Airservices Australia said it was “delighted to be assisting our key customer Qantas in ensuring Swifties can get to Sydney before the inclement weather impacts the airport”.

“Airborne and ground delays are expected. It is recommended that passengers reach out to their airlines,” the spokesperson said.

Sydney Airport arrivals information showed Jetstar flights from the Gold Coast and Melbourne on Friday afternoon had been cancelled, alongside Virgin flights from the Gold Coast and Canberra, and Qantas flights from the Gold Coast and Port Macquarie.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicted “possibly severe” thunderstorms for Friday afternoon and evening, and emergency services warned people to be careful while travelling.

Swift’s hotly anticipated gig was scheduled to kick off at 6.20pm, with gates opening at 4.30pm.

The forecast was for a hot day with a maximum of 36C at nearby Parramatta. “A thunderstorm likely during this afternoon and evening, possibly severe with damaging winds, heavy falls and large hail,” the BoM forecast said.

Qantas said all its passengers affected by cancellations had been booked on to alternative flights.

Jetstar said in a statement it had added two extra flights from Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday morning, and was offering free moves to earlier flights or alternative flights from other airports.

“We’re doing everything we can to get affected customers on their way as soon as possible,” Jetstar said.

Virgin said they were trying to let customers know in advance of any rescheduling, but that guests should check their flight status.

No umbrellas are allowed in the stadium but jackets or rain ponchos are fine.

BoM meteorologist Helen Reid said the storms were likely to hit just as crowds were settling in for the show.

“For the crowds heading to Olympic Park, the afternoon will still be hot after temperatures get to around 36C in the early afternoon,” she said.

“Thunderstorm development during the afternoon will become more widespread with timing at Olympic Park likely to coincide with crowds settling into the concert.

“A cool southerly change is expected as the sun is disappearing over the horizon, with some more rain to come with it. Today’s thunderstorm activity will ease overnight.”

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The New South Wales State Emergency Service has urged people to make “safe and sensible decisions”.

“We may see some very poor weather this afternoon and evening across parts of Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Illawarra, parts of the South Coast and eastern parts of the Southern Tablelands,” chief superintendent Dallas Burnes said.

“The weather expected may make things like travelling hazardous, with high end heavy rain and flash flooding a possibility.

“We hope everyone has a very enjoyable time at these events but ask people to plan ahead so they can get there safely.”

The SES was preparing for an increase in incidents, he said, and advised people to download the Hazards Near Me app to get warnings about severe weather, floods, tsunami and fires.

Swift has form singing in the rain – in November, she performed during a deluge in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro.

At that show she paid tribute to a fan who had died at her concert two days earlier, during an intense heatwave. The next night’s concert was cancelled because of the heat, and the night after that the rains came.

Reid said the weather would be better for Swift’s next three shows, which will be attended by a total of about 300,000 fans.

“Conditions for the concerts over the weekend and Monday will be more stable with cooler temperatures,” she said.

“Saturday itself will start with some rain but this will clear in time for the concert. Sunday and Monday will be mostly sunny with little chance of rain.”

Narelle Yeo, who teaches voice and stagecraft at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, said Swift was a true professional with good training who could cope with difficult conditions. Any physical danger aside, the weather could still affect parts of her performance, she said.

“The only issue, really, is that storms change barometric pressure and that makes physiological changes,” she said. “You can still sing but the condition in which you sing slightly changes.

“When you climb a mountain, your voice does go up in pitch so changes in atmospheric pressure do impact your voice, but not so much you’d notice.

“Her voice sounds very healthy, so there’s no risk to her voice – I’m not at all concerned for her to do a gig under hard conditions.”

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The case of two missing men that horrified Sydney

A grim find led to a worse end: the case of two missing men that horrified Sydney over three days

Police officer Beau Lamarre has been charged with two counts of murder, but the bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies are yet to be found

It began when some blood-covered clothes, a phone, watch and wallet were discovered in a skip in the beachside suburb of Cronulla in Sydney’s south on Wednesday morning.

Two days after announcing that the find had raised “grave concerns” for two missing men in a relationship, New South Wales police charged one of their own constables – a former partner of one of the men – with two counts of murder.

Ballistic tests showed he had used a force-issued handgun, police alleged. They believe he then hired a white van to dispose of their bodies.

Beau Lamarre, 28, turned himself in to colleagues at a local police station and was charged with the murder of Jesse Baird – his ex-boyfriend and a former Channel Ten presenter – and Baird’s new partner, 29-year-old Qantas flight attendant Luke Davies.

But police said Lamarre had not assisted them as they sought more information.

The bodies of Baird and Davies had not been found by Friday evening, as Lamarre appeared in court for the first time.

The selfie-enthused former celebrity blogger turned member of a specialist police force spoke only once during the five-minute hearing – to clarify the date of his next court appearance.

He did not apply for bail and will remain behind bars for the next eight weeks while police prepare a brief of evidence and search for the bodies of his alleged victims.

‘Grave concerns’

Baird, a 26-year-old AFL goal umpire, had previously presented on the morning program Studio 10, but finished up at Channel Ten in January.

He had only recently entered into a relationship with Davies – police believe Baird and Lamarre had broken up only a couple of months ago. Baird’s former workplace, Channel Ten, reported Lamarre had struggled with Baird’s decision to end their relationship.

Photos from the social media accounts of Baird and Davies show them enjoying life together in Sydney, including at a Pink concert in February.

Another snap of the pair, taken at the lighthouse at Palm Beach earlier this month, reads: “Perfect start to a long weekend.”

Police did not get wind of the couples’ disappearance until Wednesday morning, but they believe the alleged murders took place on Mondayin Baird’s Paddington terrace share house in the city’s east.

At about 9.30pm that night, Lamarre is alleged to have hired a white van from the southern suburb of Mascot to move their bodies.

“From the evidence we’ve gleaned today we believe that the fate of both Luke and Jesse was at the house in Paddington and at some stage the white van was [allegedly] used to transport their bodies to another location,” Det Supt Daniel Doherty, of the New South Wales homicide squad, told reporters on Friday.

Lamarre did not report for duty on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Police have now located the van – a white Toyota HiAce – but are still seeking CCTV footage or other information about where it was between Monday evening and when it was found at Grays Point, not far from Cronulla, on Friday.

“It’s important we get the movements in relation to that van, as hopefully we can find the bodies, and this is important for the family,” Doherty said.

Exactly what happened between Monday evening and Friday is still the subject of investigation.

Officers arrived at Baird’s Paddington home – a 30km drive from Cronulla – shortly after the bloodied possessions were found.

There police found “a large amount of blood” as well as the casing of one bullet, and by 1pm had established a crime scene.

Police alleged ballistic tests later showed the firearm that had allegedly been discharged was owned by police, and had been returned to a storage locker at a station after Monday’s alleged murder.

Locals interviewed on Wednesday reported having heard shouting from the vicinity of the house on Monday morning, police alleged.

That afternoon, investigators searched Davies’ home in nearby Waterloo, but found no trace of him or Baird.

Neither had used their bank accounts in recent days. Baird’s WhatsApp account had shown as active on Tuesday night, which led police on Wednesday to issue a plea for him to come forward.

It would prove fruitless.

By Thursday, police said they were looking for a third person in connection with the couple’s disappearance. They suspected it was someone known to the couple, announcing investigators would “continue to look at all past relationships and associations” of the pair.

That evening, reports emerged that a police officer was involved.

Detectives executed a search warrant at a home in Balmain, which property records suggest was Lamarre’s family home.

Officers seized a number of items during the raid just before midnight.

On Friday, waking up to a 36C and humid Sydney with his face all over the newspapers as a suspect, Lamarre turned himself in.

He reported to Bondi police station at 10.30am wearing a black T-shirt and cap, footage later released by police shows.

Hours later, police charged Lamarre with two counts of murder, announcing they believed they had sufficient evidence.

Unorthodox route

The path of Beaumont Lamarre-Condon, as he is formally known, to the NSW police force was unorthodox.

He ran a now defunct celebrity website called That’s The Tea and another called the Australian Reporter, which was deregistered in 2016.

In videos posted online he can be seen interviewing celebrities, including Russell Crowe, at red carpet events.

Social media photographs depict Lamarre with a range of show business personalities including Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.

On one occasion in 2013, he attended a media call for a Qantas gala dinner, interviewing celebrities such as Miranda Kerr about her love for the airline and career plans.

“What is it that you love about Qantas airways?” he asked John Travolta at the event. “Well, uh, everything,” Travolta told Lamarre.

His first notable brush with fame came in 2014, when he was a teenager.

Lamarre was at a Lady Gaga concert in Sydney when he reportedly threw a note on the stage in which he came out as gay. He was later invited backstage by the singer, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“Through your music, you have helped and will continue to set free many people. If possible, I would love to come and personally give you a hug and thank you backstage for finally setting me free. My life will then be forever complete,” Lamarre wrote to the pop star. “Gaga, you’re not just my idol but LITERALLY my saviour,” he said.

Lamarre did not shy away from his identity as a gay man or a police officer. He was pictured in the police contingent marching in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade in 2020.

Lamarre appeared before Waverley local court for an initial hearing on Friday afternoon, accompanied by two police officers.

He was expressionless, blinking slowly, as he sat in the dock.

Meanwhile, the family of Baird and Davies are “devastated”, police said.

“His talent was undeniable and energy infection,” one of Baird’s former colleagues, Channel Ten reporter Lachlan Kennedy, said on Friday. “For years we chatted footy, utes and country music,” he said of Baird who “had the brightest of futures stolen from him”.

Qantas said it was providing support to Davies’s colleagues.

Davies’s brother, Jermaine, paid tribute to the couple on X.

“Jesse … You would’ve fit in so well as a friend of the household,” he wrote. “Rest, darling.”

The case will next be heard on 23 April.

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Beau LamarreNSW police officer charged with murder of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies

Sydney police officer Beau Lamarre charged with murder of TV presenter Jesse Baird and his partner Luke Davies

Police allege ballistic testing reveals police firearm was discharged and they claim white van used to ‘dispose of the bodies’ has been located

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A 28-year-old serving police officer has been charged with two counts of murder during an investigation into the disappearance of former Channel Ten presenter Jesse Baird and his Qantas flight attendant partner, Luke Davies.

Police on Friday alleged that ballistic testing at the Paddington home of Baird – a partner of Sen Const Beau Lamarre until a couple of months ago – found evidence a police firearm had been discharged. This included the discovery of one cartridge case, as well as a large amount of blood at the home.

The firearm used was later placed in a police gun safe, detectives alleged.

Lamarre, a former celebrity blogger, handed himself in at Bondi police station about 10.30am on Friday.

He appeared before Waverley local court on Friday afternoon, dressed in a black t-shirt and escorted by two police officers.

He was expressionless, blinking slowly as he looked around the courtroom.

He didn’t apply for bail, and the matter has been adjourned to 23 April to give police time to prepare a brief of evidence.

Lamarre’s lawyer did not answer questions outside court.

Det Supt Daniel Doherty of the New South Wales homicide squad said Lamarre was part of a specialist team within the police force.

A white van sought by police was located on Friday morning. Investigators believe it was hired from Mascot about 9.30pm on Monday.

Doherty said it would be alleged in court that the van was used “to transport the bodies and dispose of the bodies”.

Timeline of the disappearance of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies. Graphic Mike Hohnen

Doherty said the 28-year-old officer “hasn’t assisted us to date” as investigators sought information. The bodies of the two men have not been located.

“From the evidence we’ve gleaned today we believe that the fate of both Luke and Jesse was at the house in Paddington and at some stage the white van was [allegedly] used to transport their bodies to another location,” Doherty said.

“That’s why we’re keen to find out where that location is. It’s important we get the movements in relation to that van as hopefully we can find the bodies and this is important for the family.”

Doherty said the families of Baird and Davies were “devastated by the news”.

Beverley McGarvey, head of Paramount in Australia and New Zealand, said: “Our hearts go out to Jesse Baird’s family and friends at this devastating time.

“Jesse’s genuine kindness, warmth and sincerity cannot be overstated as well as his innate ability to make people feel special and valued.”

Police earlier raided a home in the Sydney suburb of Balmain – understood to be Lamarre family home – after announcing they were searching for a third person potentially linked to the disappearance of Baird, 26 and now an AFL goal umpire, and Davies, 29, who vanished from Sydney’s east on Monday.

Their disappearance was treated as suspicious after bloody possessions belonging to both men were found in a skip bin in Cronulla on Wednesday. Police then examined Baird’s blood-stained sharehouse 30km away in Paddington.

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Lamarre ran a now-defunct celebrity website called the Australian Reporter which was deregistered in 2016.

In videos posted online, he can be seen interviewing celebrities including Russell Crowe.

Social media photographs depict Lamarre with a range of showbiz personalities including Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.

In 2014, when he was a teenager, Lamarre was at a Lady Gaga concert in Sydney when he reportedly threw a note on the stage in which he came out as gay. He was later invited backstage by the singer, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2014.

Lamarre was also identified as the police officer who Tasered a man at close range during an arrest in 2020, an incident that was filmed and later went viral online.

The incident was investigated and Lamarre was cleared of wrongdoing.

On Thursday night, NSW police said a third person could be involved.

Police executed a search warrant and “seized a number of items” from the Balmain home at about 11.30pm on Thursday.

Shouting had been heard by neighbours of Baird’s home in Paddington on Monday but that was not reported to police until they arrived on Wednesday afternoon.

Baird’s WhatsApp account was active as late as Tuesday night, leading detectives to appeal for him to come forward if he were able to.

Police said on Thursday evening: “Detectives will continue to look at all past relationships and associations.”

Det Supt Jodi Radmore told reporters on Thursday she was open to the possibility that someone else was involved in the couple’s disappearance.

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

As well as presenting on the morning program Studio 10, Baird had taken to the field of AFL and VFL games as a goal umpire.

Photos from his and Davies’ social media accounts show them together at a Pink concert in Sydney the previous week.

One snap of the pair taken at the lighthouse at Palm Beach earlier this month reads: “Perfect start to a long weekend.”

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Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Paul Karp

Australian truth in advertising laws might help weed out absolute howlers and set a norm – but the media has a role to play too

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Have you heard the one about the new car and ute tax? What about $600m of funding cuts weakening Australia’s borders?

If you did, then the joke is on our political system – because these are the latest two opposition lines of attack, completely untethered from reality, infecting the discourse.

The first is Peter Dutton’s claim that fuel efficiency standards amount to a tax on less efficient cars.

While it’s true that carmakers could be penalised if they exceed a yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia, this isn’t a tax. Claims of cars costing thousands more are based on an assumption of no change in behaviour.

The Federal Chamber of Automative Industries has contradicted the basis of the fear campaign in its own briefing paper, projecting that cars will get greener even without the new standards. When standards are improved the result is using less petrol and consumer savings.

The second claim, about Operation Sovereign Borders, has been comprehensively debunked: funding is up relative to the Coalition’s last budget, not down, and the $600m cut is an illusion conjured by comparing projected funding with one expensive reference year.

A reduction in surveillance flights is due to issues with the contractor, crew shortages and aircraft maintenance, not decisions of government.

The Albanese government is getting better at calling out lies.

This was difficult in the referendum campaign because Dutton sowed doubt before settling on outright opposition, and Labor wanted to preserve bipartisanship as best it could.

But this week the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, warned that matters of fact such as border force funding “should not be the subject of any further conjecture by politicians or journalists around this country”.

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was similarly sharp – arguing that Dutton was encouraging boats, and on Thursday that the fear and negativity were designed to distract from tax cut defeat.

We and several other outlets ran factchecks on the border cut claim but others settled in for the usual round of he-said-she-said that rewards wreckers who don’t care if facts are not on their side.

Relentless negativity and even outright porkies are nothing new in politics.

Remember claims about a $100 roast due to carbon pricing? Or that time is running out to save Medicare from privatisation? Or Labor’s plans to introduce a death tax?

But the potency of such campaigns is growing in a world where people get more news from social media, and alienation and political polarisation mean they’re encouraged to respond emotionally rather than seek common ground with others, or at least common facts.

The electoral matters committee wants truth in political advertising laws to tackle the problem, giving a tick to an idea also backed by the special minister of state, Don Farrell.

It’s better than nothing, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up too far.

The South Australian truth in political advertising laws – on which a federal law is likely to be based – doesn’t apply to statements of opinion. In previous rulings, claims a political opponent is “soft on crime” have been given the green light. So Labor is “weak on borders”-type rhetoric would probably still be fine.

Advance Australia is advertising in the Dunkley byelection, warning the Albanese government “let loose 149 criminals” and “paid for lawyers to argue for their release”.

It’s un-nuanced, ignoring the fact the former was done to comply with the high court’s order in the NZYQ case, and the latter was an intervention by the independent Australian Human Rights Commission, not the commonwealth’s position. But it would be allowable even under a tougher regime.

I’m not sure statements about the future would be caught either. Was it possible to say, at the time the claim was made, that the $100 roast, privatised Medicare and a death tax would not come to pass?

Any regime that attempted to block those as lies might also have done the same with warnings before the 2022 election that Labor would not implement the stage three tax cuts.

After all, the tax cuts were legislated and Labor had committed not to repeal or reform them – what more evidence could be needed to disprove a claim about the future?

Except the Albanese government did eventually change its position and change the tax cuts. Surely political opponents should have the freedom to warn about that possibility in advance.

Nevertheless, truth in political advertising laws would still be worthwhile – to try to weed out absolute howlers, and to try to set a norm.

But better discourse will take more than a souped up Australian Electoral Commission truth unit seeking court orders to remove false political ads.

It requires a media ethic to move past superficial, horse-race journalism towards seeking truth, or else we will be complicit in serving up misleading nonsense like the mythical $100 roast.

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Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Paul Karp

Australian truth in advertising laws might help weed out absolute howlers and set a norm – but the media has a role to play too

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Have you heard the one about the new car and ute tax? What about $600m of funding cuts weakening Australia’s borders?

If you did, then the joke is on our political system – because these are the latest two opposition lines of attack, completely untethered from reality, infecting the discourse.

The first is Peter Dutton’s claim that fuel efficiency standards amount to a tax on less efficient cars.

While it’s true that carmakers could be penalised if they exceed a yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia, this isn’t a tax. Claims of cars costing thousands more are based on an assumption of no change in behaviour.

The Federal Chamber of Automative Industries has contradicted the basis of the fear campaign in its own briefing paper, projecting that cars will get greener even without the new standards. When standards are improved the result is using less petrol and consumer savings.

The second claim, about Operation Sovereign Borders, has been comprehensively debunked: funding is up relative to the Coalition’s last budget, not down, and the $600m cut is an illusion conjured by comparing projected funding with one expensive reference year.

A reduction in surveillance flights is due to issues with the contractor, crew shortages and aircraft maintenance, not decisions of government.

The Albanese government is getting better at calling out lies.

This was difficult in the referendum campaign because Dutton sowed doubt before settling on outright opposition, and Labor wanted to preserve bipartisanship as best it could.

But this week the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, warned that matters of fact such as border force funding “should not be the subject of any further conjecture by politicians or journalists around this country”.

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

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was similarly sharp – arguing that Dutton was encouraging boats, and on Thursday that the fear and negativity were designed to distract from tax cut defeat.

We and several other outlets ran factchecks on the border cut claim but others settled in for the usual round of he-said-she-said that rewards wreckers who don’t care if facts are not on their side.

Relentless negativity and even outright porkies are nothing new in politics.

Remember claims about a $100 roast due to carbon pricing? Or that time is running out to save Medicare from privatisation? Or Labor’s plans to introduce a death tax?

But the potency of such campaigns is growing in a world where people get more news from social media, and alienation and political polarisation mean they’re encouraged to respond emotionally rather than seek common ground with others, or at least common facts.

The electoral matters committee wants truth in political advertising laws to tackle the problem, giving a tick to an idea also backed by the special minister of state, Don Farrell.

It’s better than nothing, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up too far.

The South Australian truth in political advertising laws – on which a federal law is likely to be based – doesn’t apply to statements of opinion. In previous rulings, claims a political opponent is “soft on crime” have been given the green light. So Labor is “weak on borders”-type rhetoric would probably still be fine.

Advance Australia is advertising in the Dunkley byelection, warning the Albanese government “let loose 149 criminals” and “paid for lawyers to argue for their release”.

It’s un-nuanced, ignoring the fact the former was done to comply with the high court’s order in the NZYQ case, and the latter was an intervention by the independent Australian Human Rights Commission, not the commonwealth’s position. But it would be allowable even under a tougher regime.

I’m not sure statements about the future would be caught either. Was it possible to say, at the time the claim was made, that the $100 roast, privatised Medicare and a death tax would not come to pass?

Any regime that attempted to block those as lies might also have done the same with warnings before the 2022 election that Labor would not implement the stage three tax cuts.

After all, the tax cuts were legislated and Labor had committed not to repeal or reform them – what more evidence could be needed to disprove a claim about the future?

Except the Albanese government did eventually change its position and change the tax cuts. Surely political opponents should have the freedom to warn about that possibility in advance.

Nevertheless, truth in political advertising laws would still be worthwhile – to try to weed out absolute howlers, and to try to set a norm.

But better discourse will take more than a souped up Australian Electoral Commission truth unit seeking court orders to remove false political ads.

It requires a media ethic to move past superficial, horse-race journalism towards seeking truth, or else we will be complicit in serving up misleading nonsense like the mythical $100 roast.

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Rescue services search for 15 people missing after tower block fire in Valencia

Death toll from Spanish tower block blaze climbs to 10

Emergency services still searching for missing people after fire in Valencia on Thursday afternoon

The death toll from a devastating fire that tore through a 14-storey block of flats in Valencia in eastern Spain has risen to 10, local authorities have said, as firefighters continue to search for as many as 15 people reported missing.

“In a first inspection we can confirm that the scientific police have located 10 fatalities,” Pilar Bernabé, the Spanish government’s representative in the Mediterranean port city, told Spanish media on Friday.

Four of the victims were members of the same family, including a father and mother, a three-year-old girl and a newborn baby, authorities said, adding that firefighters were still working their way up the floors of the charred building.

Experts said the block was covered with highly flammable cladding, possibly – along with high winds – accounting for the rapid spread of the fire, which broke out on the fourth floor at 5.30pm on Thursday and engulfed the building within 30 minutes.

By Friday morning, the entire 138-flat block in the Campanar district was a blackened shell. Firefighters wearing masks and breathing apparatus worked their way through the charred structure.

Visiting the scene on Friday, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez , said residents had “lost everything in this terrible fire”. He encouraged people to “show empathy, affection and solidarity with the victims, with their families, and with those who still do not know exactly what has happened” to their loved ones.

“I want to thank the public servants for their outstanding work, even risking their lives,” he said. “We are here to help you, to show our commitment and the solidarity of Spanish society as a whole.”

At least 15 people, including seven firefighters, were injured. Nine remained in hospital on Friday, reportedly all in a stable condition. Survivors, who included Ukrainian refugees, were given emergency accommodation in nearby hotels after what the city’s mayor María José Catalá called “a sad day for Valencia”.

Luis Ibanez, who lives nearby, told the national broadcaster TVE that he had looked out of his window and seen flames engulfing the building within minutes. It was as if the block was made of cork, he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The whole side of the building was on fire, from the first floor to the sixth and seventh floor.”

Sergio Perez, who also lives nearby, said the block burned as if someone had poured petrol on it.

In dramatic scenes broadcast live on television on Thursday night, firefighters used a crane to lift a father and his daughter from a balcony where they were trapped, and a man jumping several floors onto an inflatable mat to escape the flames.

About 100 soldiers from Spain’s military emergency unit and 40 firefighting vehicles were deployed to the scene, where crews used drones to search the building for bodies and survivors once the flames’ initial ferocity had subsided.

Catalá said 131 temporary homes were being prepared for residents, who would receive money for daily costs and rent. The cause of the fire was still not known and it was still too early to comment on reports suggesting the materials used in the building’s construction might have fuelled the blaze, she said.

Esther Puchades, an industrial engineer who once inspected the building, said the fire had spread so rapidly because the block, which was completed in 2009, was covered with highly combustible polyurethane cladding.

When the material is heated “it is like plastic and it ignites”, she said, adding that it was the first fire of its type in Spain but that others involving the material have been similarly destructive in the UK and China.

Faustino Yanguas, of the Valencia fire brigade, called for an investigation into the material used on the facade because it “was a factor that contributed a lot” to the rapid spread of the flames, which were also fanned by 40mph (60kmph) winds.

A 2007 promotional video for the building, which comprises two towers linked by what its developers described as a panoramic lift, highlighted the “innovative material” used to clad the building’s exterior, which it said had passed “rigorous quality checks”.

The tragedy recalled the 2017 fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in London, which killed 72 people after it spread rapidly because of highly combustible cladding on the block’s exterior walls. A public inquiry into the disaster has yet to publish its final report.

The president of the Valencia college of architects, Luis Sendra, said that when the block was built “there weren’t restrictions on the types of cladding material, nor on the terrace furniture”. The design of the block also led to a chimney effect, he said.

European regulations on cladding materials were upgraded after the Grenfell disaster, and Puchades said polyurethane was no longer widely used in buildings without extra safety measures to offset its flammability.

Valencia announced three days of mourning and postponed the start of a month-long annual festival, while the Spanish football federation called for a minute’s silence before the kick-off of a Spain v Netherlands women’s international match on Friday.

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Nationals deputy leader could face official complaint over apparent slurring in Senate

Nationals deputy leader Perin Davey could face official complaint over apparent slurring in Senate

Exclusive: Davey says she is aware complaint may be lodged, which could lead to her party membership being cancelled or suspended if upheld

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The Nationals’ deputy leader, Perin Davey, is facing the prospect of an official complaint from a party member over an incident in which she slurred and stumbled over words in a Senate hearing.

According to the NSW Nationals’ constitution, complaints that a member’s “general behaviour, public utterances, or writings, have been such as to bring or attempt to bring discredit or undue embarrassment to the party” can be grounds to cancel or suspend their membership.

Guardian Australia understands that Steve de Gunst, a Nationals member in New England, notified Davey that he intends to make the complaint with the New South Wales Nationals.

Gunst and members of the NSW Nationals ethics committee contacted on Friday declined to comment.

Davey has said she had two drinks at a social function before the hearing, but denied being drunk and blamed residual effects from a medical incident in 2019 for her speech difficulties.

A spokesperson for Davey said: “The Senator has been made aware by the complainant that a complaint may be lodged, in which case, The Nationals have confidential processes in place and it would be inappropriate for her to comment further.”

“As part of our complaints handling process the NSW Nationals will not confirm or deny if a complaint has been received on any particular matter.”

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The party’s constitution states that its central council may call upon the person facing the complaint to “show cause why membership should not be cancelled or suspended”. “After due consideration, during which the person may be heard in defence, Central Council may cancel or suspend forthwith the membership, or dismiss the complaint or deal with the Member or Associate Member in any other way.”

On Tuesday Davey told 2BS Bathurst Radio that her apparent slurring was the result of two emergency operations and an 11-day stint in hospital after an abscess erupted behind her tonsils in 2019.

“I acknowledge when I’m tired or if I’ve had a glass of wine, or if I’m stressed, my throat catches, I can, sometimes a bit of mucus will fall down my throat and I’ll have a coughing fit, sometimes I slur words,” Davey said.

Davey said she felt personally attacked by the saga and claimed someone “selectively” clipped a video of her appearance to imply she had been incoherent throughout the hearing.

The Davey incident followed another in which Barnaby Joyce was filmed lying face up on the pavement with his feet on a planter box swearing down his phone.

Joyce, the shadow veterans affairs minister, admitted he made a “mistake” and blamed the incident on Lonsdale Street in the Canberra suburb of Braddon on the combination of medication and alcohol.

Joyce said this week he has given up alcohol for lent, but so far has stared down encouragement by the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, to take leave after the incident.

The Joyce incident sparked criticism in the Nationals party room and a crossbench push spearheaded by independent MP Zali Steggall for random alcohol and drug testing in parliament.

Earlier in February Joyce told Guardian Australia he was walking from parliament to his accommodation late on Wednesday 7 February when he fell over next to a planter box while on the phone with his partner, Vikki Campion.

“If I knew someone was filming me I probably would have got up quicker before I walked home. I was swearing at myself,” Joyce said.

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Ex-president warns of enemies ‘within our country’ to Christian media gathering

Trump warns of enemies ‘within our country’ to Christian media gathering

The ex-president told the National Religious Broadcasters that ‘the greatest threat’ to the US is ‘people from within our country’

Donald Trump told a warmly receptive gathering of religious broadcasters on Thursday that “it’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside”, in his latest effort to mobilize Christian fundamentalists who have swung dramatically behind him in recent years.

Trump’s speech in Nashville, Tennessee, to the National Religious Broadcasters presidential forum gala offered him a chance to pitch himself to hundreds of Christian media figures whose approval – and willingness to carry his message on air – could drive huge turnout in November.

“The greatest threat is not from the outside of our country – I really believe it is from within,” said Trump, whose fire-and-brimstone speech focused largely on his political enemies. “It’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside.”

The former president’s relationship with the religious right has shifted since his unlikely bid for the presidency in 2016, when his campaign was met with deep skepticism from conservative Christian leaders who had initially thrown their support behind Ted Cruz.

Trump has since consolidated support among Christian fundamentalists. In 2016, in exchange for the support of prominent conservative pastors, he offered them a direct hand in policymaking through an evangelical advisory board, giving rightwing Christian religious leaders unprecedented access to the White House.

“In my first term I fought for Christians harder than any president has ever done before,” said Trump. “And I will fight even harder for Christians with four more years in the White House.”

In his speech, Trump promised to create a new taskforce to counter “anti-Christian bias” by investigating “discrimination, harassment and persecution against Christians in America”. He vowed to appoint more conservative judges, reminded the audience of his decision to break with decades of international consensus and move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and assured them a future Trump administration would take particular aim at transgender people – for example, by endorsing policies to restrict access to gender-affirming healthcare.

The event brought together key figures in the former president’s coalition, from the president of the Heritage Foundation to the hard-right former head of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Michael Harris.

A non-profit and tax-exempt organization, National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is prohibited from campaigning directly for any candidate for public office, a fact that its president, Troy Miller, mentioned during his opening remarks. Trump was nevertheless the star of the show, with speakers lavishing him with praise in an atmosphere similar to one of his campaign rallies.

“Appearing on a stage before Donald Trump is like opening for the king himself, George Strait,” said the Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, to laughter and applause. “If you do well, everyone will be very nice. If you do poorly, no one will remember anyway.”

The event spotlighted the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a “presidential transition project” that envisions reshaping the executive branch to maximize the president’s power. Many fear Trump’s first acts should he win office would be to enact revenge on his political enemies, deport immigrants en masse and roll back legal protections for LGBTQ+ people.

It also highlighted the central role that Christian fundamentalism would play in Trump’s second term in office, with Miller declaring: “One of the most dangerous falsehoods spread today is the separation of church and state.”

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Ex-president warns of enemies ‘within our country’ to Christian media gathering

Trump warns of enemies ‘within our country’ to Christian media gathering

The ex-president told the National Religious Broadcasters that ‘the greatest threat’ to the US is ‘people from within our country’

Donald Trump told a warmly receptive gathering of religious broadcasters on Thursday that “it’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside”, in his latest effort to mobilize Christian fundamentalists who have swung dramatically behind him in recent years.

Trump’s speech in Nashville, Tennessee, to the National Religious Broadcasters presidential forum gala offered him a chance to pitch himself to hundreds of Christian media figures whose approval – and willingness to carry his message on air – could drive huge turnout in November.

“The greatest threat is not from the outside of our country – I really believe it is from within,” said Trump, whose fire-and-brimstone speech focused largely on his political enemies. “It’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside.”

The former president’s relationship with the religious right has shifted since his unlikely bid for the presidency in 2016, when his campaign was met with deep skepticism from conservative Christian leaders who had initially thrown their support behind Ted Cruz.

Trump has since consolidated support among Christian fundamentalists. In 2016, in exchange for the support of prominent conservative pastors, he offered them a direct hand in policymaking through an evangelical advisory board, giving rightwing Christian religious leaders unprecedented access to the White House.

“In my first term I fought for Christians harder than any president has ever done before,” said Trump. “And I will fight even harder for Christians with four more years in the White House.”

In his speech, Trump promised to create a new taskforce to counter “anti-Christian bias” by investigating “discrimination, harassment and persecution against Christians in America”. He vowed to appoint more conservative judges, reminded the audience of his decision to break with decades of international consensus and move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and assured them a future Trump administration would take particular aim at transgender people – for example, by endorsing policies to restrict access to gender-affirming healthcare.

The event brought together key figures in the former president’s coalition, from the president of the Heritage Foundation to the hard-right former head of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Michael Harris.

A non-profit and tax-exempt organization, National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is prohibited from campaigning directly for any candidate for public office, a fact that its president, Troy Miller, mentioned during his opening remarks. Trump was nevertheless the star of the show, with speakers lavishing him with praise in an atmosphere similar to one of his campaign rallies.

“Appearing on a stage before Donald Trump is like opening for the king himself, George Strait,” said the Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, to laughter and applause. “If you do well, everyone will be very nice. If you do poorly, no one will remember anyway.”

The event spotlighted the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a “presidential transition project” that envisions reshaping the executive branch to maximize the president’s power. Many fear Trump’s first acts should he win office would be to enact revenge on his political enemies, deport immigrants en masse and roll back legal protections for LGBTQ+ people.

It also highlighted the central role that Christian fundamentalism would play in Trump’s second term in office, with Miller declaring: “One of the most dangerous falsehoods spread today is the separation of church and state.”

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Cat-killing woman guilty of murdering man as he walked home in Oxford

Cat-killing woman guilty of murdering man as he walked home in Oxford

Scarlet Blake, 26, brutally attacked Jorge Martin Carreno, 30, and left him to drown in July 2021

A cat killer obsessed with violence and death has been convicted of murdering a man whom she deliberately targeted before brutally attacking him and leaving him to drown in a river.

Scarlet Blake, 26, singled out Jorge Martin Carreno, 30, as he walked home from a night out in Oxford in July 2021.

She led him to a secluded riverbank where he was hit on the back of the head with a vodka bottle, strangled and then pushed into the River Cherwell where he drowned, Oxford crown court heard.

The defendant, of Crotch Crescent, Oxford, denied murder but was convicted on Friday. Blake showed no emotion as the verdict was returned.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Chamberlain, will sentence her on Monday morning.

Prosecutors said Blake killed the BMW worker because she had a “fixation with violence and with knowing what it would be like to kill someone”.

The murder came four months after Blake livestreamed the sadistic killing of a cat. Blake told the family pet: “Here we go my little friend. Oh boy, you smell like shit. I can’t wait to put through the blender.”

After the killing, Blake dissected the animal, removed its fur and skin, and placed its body in a blender.

During the horrific video, the New Order song True Faith played in the background, which the court heard was in homage to the Netflix documentary Don’t F*** with Cats, in which a man kills kittens before filming the murder of a human.

Blake “boasted” about the killing to others and “her desire to open up a person like her ‘little cat friend’”.

Prosecutors said Blake had an “extreme interest in death and in harm” and got sexual gratification from violence and killings.

Jurors watched a disturbing video of Blake consensually tying a ligature around her then partner’s neck from behind and pulling it tight until she appeared to fall unconscious.

During the trial, the court heard Martin Carreno had been out with work colleagues in Oxford city centre and was trying to get home when Blake found him sat in the street.

She was captured on CCTV walking the streets of Oxford wearing a heavy military-style hooded jacket, face mask and carrying a rucksack, looking for a victim.

Prosecutors suggested she was carrying a “murder kit” in her rucksack, including a garotte and leopard-print dressing gown cord, which she rejected. Giving evidence, Blake denied she was looking for a victim and instead had gone for a walk because she could not sleep.

She said she walked with Martin Carreno to Parson’s Pleasure at the riverside and left him there alive to go home. “I don’t know how he died. I assumed he drowned. It wasn’t something I did. As to how, I still don’t know, I wasn’t there,” she told the jury.

It was suggested Martin Carreno may have taken his own life, but any hint he was suicidal was rejected by his friends. An empty vodka bottle was found in the river and the bottle top was nearby on the bank, which had traces of the defendant’s DNA on it.

The Home Office pathologist Dr Brett Lockyer said he did not believe it likely the Spanish national could have died accidentally. He ruled out the possibility he died immediately after being strangled with a broad ligature or neck hold and said he drowned.

The court heard Blake confessed to her former partner Ashlynn Bell, who lives in the US, that she had killed Martin Carreno with a homemade garotte before throwing his body in the water.

Blake told jurors she had made up the details of the killing because Bell wanted her to kill someone after making her livestream the killing of the cat.

“I wasn’t interested or willing – it was an awful thought to me,” she said. “In the interest of keeping her happy, because I wanted her to kill me one day, because it’s sexually stimulating for me, that idea.

“She was wanting to make me do this thing and I was pretty much … well at a limit after going through the killing of the cat.”

During her evidence, Blake claimed she had a fragmented personality, which included being a cat, and miaowed at the jury to show how she would interact with friends. “There’s a part that is just a cat, which is strange and that seems to me what the happy part of me is. In that they come out when I am happy,” she said.

“With friends I know quite well who are aware of this part of me I miaow at them in greeting. It is quite strange, it is very prominent when I am expressing certain emotions. For example, the cat has a pretty strong association with joy, and I suppose the innate goodness. It is a kind of childhood innocence.”

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Sunak urged to act against predecessor for spreading conspiracy theories

Sunak urged to act against Truss for spreading rightwing conspiracy theories

Ex-PM appears with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and talks of ‘deep state’ ousting her from power

Rishi Sunak should take action against Liz Truss for appearing alongside the far-right commentator Steve Bannon and spreading conspiracy theories about the “deep state” ousting her from power, Labour has said.

During appearances at the Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac), the former prime minister, who spent only seven weeks in power in 2022, appeared to be making the case for a comeback and relaunching her career in the UK.

She told a rightwing audience in Maryland in the US that her wing of UK conservatives needed a “bigger bazooka” to take on the “hostile environment” in which they were operating, taking aim at institutions that she claimed had thwarted her.

Truss also appeared alongside Bannon, a former strategist to Donald Trump, on Real America’s Voice, a far-right TV channel, in a hallway outside the main conference auditorium.

When Bannon raised recent comments by Nigel Farage warning of a radical Islamic party gaining seats in the British parliament, Truss replied: “There’s going to be a byelection in the next few weeks, and it could be a radical Islamic party win in that byelection. So that is a possibility.”

The Conservative MP, who is releasing a book called Ten Years to Save the West, argued that the left had infiltrated public and private institutions in “the deep state” and sabotaged her efforts to cut taxes and reduce the size of government.

Truss was forced out of office by her own party after her chancellor presented a budget of £45bn in unfunded tax cuts, which unleashed economic chaos, sent interest rates soaring and caused people to pay more for their mortgages.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, said Sunak should address Truss’s comments and take action. “After crashing the economy and sending mortgages rocketing, Liz Truss is now spreading conspiracy theories with Steve Bannon and spearheading a wacky fringe group to take over the Tory party again.

“If Rishi Sunak had any backbone he would stand up and take action against her and Tory MPs indulging this sort of damaging nonsense.

“While Rishi’s recession bites across Britain, it’s clear that the biggest danger to family finances is the Conservative party. Only Labour has a plan to bring security back to family finances.”

The Liberal Democrats called for Truss to give back the £115,000 allowance for post-ministerial life she was given after leaving office.

“This Conservative party love-in for rightwing American politics is like watching a slow-moving car crash. These bizarre conspiracy theories pedalled by Truss and her cabal should have no place in British politics. Blue wall voters will run a mile from this nonsense,” said Daisy Cooper, the party’s deputy leader.

“Liz Truss was never fit to be prime minister and certainly is not fit to be given a six-figure allowance of taxpayers’ money. It represents another slap in the face to all those paying hundreds of pounds more a month on their mortgages due to her disastrous policies and should be stripped immediately.”

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Kyiv appeals to Australia and France for more ammunition as conflict enters third year

Ukraine appeals to Australia and France for more ammunition as it marks two years since Russian invasion

Ukrainian ambassador to Australia also urges west not to succumb to ‘fatigue’ in its support for Ukraine

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Ukraine is appealing to Australia and France to deliver more ammunition to the country as it marks the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, also urged western leaders not to succumb to “fatigue” over the protracted war, saying: “I think the only country which can feel fatigue can be Ukraine, actually, because we are the ones who are being killed.”

France and Australia announced early last year that they would jointly provide 155-millimetre ammunition to Ukraine, although they never disclosed the quantities to be delivered through the multimillion-dollar deal.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Myroshnychenko said this has proven to be “very good cooperation between Australia and France in terms of Australia providing explosives and manufacturing being done in France”.

Myroshnychenko confirmed that this project had been completed and the ammunition had “already been delivered to Ukraine”.

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Pressed on whether Ukraine was now asking for that same channel to be used again to deliver more ammunition, he said: “Yes, absolutely.”

He said if the Australian and French governments renewed the program, it would make “a meaningful contribution to improve Ukraine’s defence capabilities”.

“If there is a possibility to continue this kind of cooperation, we would really appreciate it, because I think it was very practical and something that Australia could do and could probably continue doing,” he said.

Saturday marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, although the conflict began in 2014 with Moscow’s invasion and annexation of Crimea and fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Myroshnychenko conceded that Ukraine was “concerned” about events in the US Congress, where approval of a $60bn package was being stalled as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives pushes for more border funding.

He said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was “betting on that potential fatigue which can come”, but Ukrainians had demonstrated they could “fight capably if we are duly equipped”.

He said his country was grateful for Australia’s support, including “really effective” Bushmaster vehicles.

The Albanese government last week announced a further $50m grant to the UK-administered International Fund for Ukraine. This brought Australia’s total overall support to Ukraine to $960m, including $780m in military aid.

But Myroshnychenko said the dismantling of Australia’s grounded fleet of MRH90 Taipan helicopters was a “missed opportunity” for Ukraine.

He hoped Ukraine would be considered for access “if there is any other equipment which will be surplus to the defence needs of Australia”, adding that it would be in Australia’s interests to “make a decisive difference towards ending this war”.

“If this war continues, we will see further impact on Australians’ cost of living, including through the prices of fuel, fertiliser and food, as well as more instability in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Myroshnychenko said he hoped Australia’s ambassador to Ukraine would be able to be based in the country “soon”, while acknowledging it was up to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make the decision based on security assessments.

“Definitely that would of huge help, because when you have somebody on the ground, somebody who would have access to all the stakeholders in Ukraine, it provides for better communication.”

On Saturday the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said the government should “reinstate an Australian embassy in Kyiv and join the more than 67 other diplomatic missions which have already returned”.

Dutton, together with his opposition frontbench colleagues Simon Birmingham and Andrew Hastie, also called on the government to “reverse their decision and donate Australia’s out of service MRH-90 Taipan helicopters to Ukraine”.

“The Coalition has given bipartisan support to every announcement made subsequent to Australia’s change in government,” they said in a joint statement.

“Regrettably, the Albanese Labor government has not maintained the standard the Coalition set.”

However, government sources said Australia continued to “work with our partners about providing meaningful support for Ukraine”.

A spokesperson for the deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, said Australia stood with Ukraine “in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion”.

“Two years on, we honour the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people and its government in the face of Russia’s aggression,” the spokesperson said.

World Vision said more than 3.3 million children had been displaced or caught in the crossfire as violence worsened in Ukraine.

“Children are faced with attacks, blackouts and uncertainty – they’re going to school in bomb shelters and their days are punctuated by air raid sirens and the stress of explosions,” the World Vision chief executive, Daniel Wordsworth, said.

“Children shouldn’t have to grow up like this, having to deal with very real fears of what could happen tomorrow.”

In an interview with the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson earlier this month, Putin described US support for Ukraine as “harmful and mistaken” and praised former president Donald Trump for casting a shadow over Nato’s long-term future.

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US man accused of making $1.8m from listening in on wife’s work calls

US man accused of making $1.8m from listening in on wife’s remote work calls

Regulator charges Tyler Loudon with insider trading in case that could fuel arguments about working from home

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US regulators have accused a man of making $1.8m (£1.4m) by trading on confidential information he overheard while his wife was on a remote call, in a case that could fuel arguments against working from home.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it charged Tyler Loudon with insider trading after he “took advantage of his remote working conditions” and profited from private information related to the oil firm BP’s plans to buy an Ohio-based travel centre and truck-stop business last year.

The SEC claims that Loudon, who is based in Houston, Texas, listened in on several remote calls held by his wife, a BP merger and acquisitions manager who had been working on the planned deal in a home office 20ft (6 metres) away.

The regulator said Loudon went on a buying spree, purchasing more than 46,000 shares in the takeover target, TravelCenters of America, without his wife’s knowledge, weeks before the deal was announced on 16 February 2023. TravelCenters’s stock soared by nearly 71% after the deal was announced. Loudon then sold off all of his shares, making a $1.8m profit.

Loudon eventually confessed to his wife, and claimed that he had bought the shares because he wanted to make enough money so that she did not have to work long hours anymore.

She reported his dealings to her bosses at BP, which later fired her despite having no evidence that she knowingly leaked information to her husband. She eventually moved out of the couple’s home and filed for divorce.

Eric Werner, the regional director of the SEC’s Fort Worth office in Texas, said: “We allege that Mr Loudon took advantage of his remote working conditions and his wife’s trust to profit from information he knew was confidential. The SEC remains committed to prosecuting such malfeasance.”

The case is expected to fuel arguments – particularly at US companies – for workers to return to the office, reversing the boom in home working prompted by the pandemic lockdowns. Banks such as Goldman Sachs have been forcing some staff to come in five days a week, while others such as Google are factoring office attendance into their regular staff performance reviews.

Concerns about security and confidential information could end up trumping studies that show working from home can deliver big health benefits, allowing people to eat more healthily, feel less stressed and have lower blood pressure.

Loudon did not deny the allegations outlined in the SEC complaint, which was filed at the US district court for southern Texas, and instead agreed to a partial judgment, subject to court approval. That partial judgment will ban him from taking company leadership roles, force him to repay the money he made from the trade – with interest – on top of an extra fine to be determined by the court.

He is facing criminal charges from the US attorney’s office for the southern district of Texas.

The SEC filing said Loudon, who is in his early 40s, is employed with an unnamed publicly listed company but is not in a sector supervised by the regulator.

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