The Guardian 2024-03-01 22:31:36


Russian opposition leader laid to rest amid police and protesters

Anything but normal: Navalny laid to rest amid police and protesters

Many of the late opposition leader’s close allies were absent, either arrested or fled, but thousands braved the barricades

Alexei Navalny lay in an open casket in a Moscow church on Friday under a bed of roses, carnations and chrysanthemums, his face pale in candlelight, surrounded by grieving relatives and supporters. Despite appearances, it was anything but a normal funeral. His mother, Lyudmilla, in a black headscarf and sunglasses, had just returned from wresting his body from Russian investigators in the Arctic. And many of those closest to the late opposition leader were not there at all.

Absent was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who has vowed to carry on her husband’s work, and can no longer be in Russia without risking charges of “extremism.” Her message of farewell was conveyed in an Instagram post, rather than in person. “Lyosha, thank you for 26 years of absolute happiness,” she wrote, and then alluding to his imprisonment: “Yes, even in the last three years of happiness.”

“I do not know how to live without you, but I will try to make you happy for me and proud of me up there,” she said. “I do not know if I can do it or not, but I will try my best.”

Nor were his two children there; they will probably grow up and live in exile, at least until Vladimir Putin leaves power. Nor were his closest supporters, many of whom have been arrested or fled abroad as his political organisation has been systematically ripped apart by the system over the past three years.

Thousands did brave the barricades and checkpoints established by police on Friday before the funeral, and an online live stream attracted more than 250,000 simultaneous viewers during the day, sharing scenes from the proceedings despite continued signal jamming by police. It was the largest public gathering of the opposition since the first days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, providing a dash of hope in an otherwise bleak picture for Russia’s future.

“Our livestream has frozen but thank you to the British journalists who managed to put a camera through the fences of the Borisovo cemetery and film the most terrible scenes that we could imagine because this is an image that never should have existed,” said a visibly affected Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny’s closest allies, describing “how [Navalny’s parents] say goodbye to their son, cover his face and close his coffin”.

“It’s doubly and triply important they be allowed to say goodbye because they are representatives of all of us,” he continued. “Because there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who cannot be there now.”

Navalny was a singular force in Russian opposition politics; few could withstand the continued pressure that he did over more than a decade of leading protests against the Kremlin. And yet he kept his sense of humour to the end, requesting that an orchestra play the final theme from Terminator 2 as his casket was lowered into the ground. In the film, the music plays as a robotic Arnold Schwarzenegger is lowered into molten steel in a teary goodbye, “The music from the film Terminator is very symbolic,” said Volkov. “Alexei loved this film very much.”

For some of those who attended, the funeral was a protest by another name. Some chanted “Navalny!”, risking arrest for holding an unsanctioned demonstration or supporting a convicted “extremist”. Others chanted “No to War!”, punishable by years in jail for discrediting the Russian armed forces or the “special military operation” in Ukraine. And others chanted “Putin is a murderer!”

As Navalny’s father and mother exited the Icon of the Mother of God “Assuage My Sorrows” Church, Navalny’s supporters hugged and comforted them. “Thank you, your son is a martyr,” one woman told them. As the hearse bearing his coffin travelled past, crowds behind metal barricades threw red carnations and roses in its path.

These are streets Navalny knew well; he lived in Marino, the bedroom community where his funeral service was held. Nearly a decade ago, Navalny also held a protest in the neighbourhood, alongside opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov (assassinated in 2015) and Ilya Yashin (jailed for eight-and-a-half years for criticising the war in Ukraine). The location was no accident. The Kremlin at the time was pushing the opposition out of central Moscow and would only permit a demonstration on the city’s outskirts.

On Friday, it also sought to push Navalny’s supporters out of sight, but despite the risks, they emerged in the thousands as a testament to the popularity and loyalty cultivated over more than a decade by the opposition leader. It is hard to imagine who will take up his mantle.

His supporters have vowed to continue his struggle. “You will be proud of us,” wrote his press secretary, Kira Yarmysh.

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‘Russia will be free’Crowds remember a ‘real leader’

Alexei Navalny funeral draws thousands to heavily policed Moscow church

Western diplomats attend as chanting crowd pays tribute to opposition leader who died in Arctic penal colony

Alexei Navalny funeral – latest updates

Funeral of Alexei Navalny – in pictures

Defying the Kremlin’s warning of arrests, thousands of mourners have gathered in Moscow to bid farewell to the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, two weeks after Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic died in an Arctic prison.

Crowds of people chanted “Putin is a murderer” and “No to war” as they marched, under heavy police presence, to the Borisovsky cemetery where Navalny, 47, was lowered into the ground on Friday to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

The public show of support turned Navalny’s last journey into a rare display of dissent in Russia at a time of unprecedented repression.

Accompanied by loud applause and chants of “Navalny”, the hearse carrying his coffin arrived at the Quench My Sorrows church in the Maryino district, where the late politician used to live before he was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent in 2020.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, who spent more than a week in Russia’s Arctic north to retrieve his body from IK-3 prison, and his father, Anatoly, were part of the small group of people attending the church ceremony that preceded the burial.

Navalny’s team published a photograph of the memorial service that showed Navalny’s body in an open casket covered in flowers with his parents sitting by his side.

“This is an image that should have never existed,” a tearful Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s longtime ally said during a livestream of the funeral on Navalny’s YouTube channel.

After the short religious procession, Navalny’s coffin was driven to the Borisovsky cemetery and lowered into a freshly dug grave. Footage from the cemetery showed his mother kissing him goodbye for the last time before his face was covered in white cloth.

The theme from Navalny’s favourite film, Terminator 2, was played after his coffin was lowered into the ground.

Many of the opposition leader’s family – including his wife, Yulia, his son, Zakhar, daughter, Dash, and his brother Oleg – live outside Russia and did not attend the funeral. They would risk arrest if they returned to the country.

Most of his closest allies, who have been forced to flee Russia after criminal charges were laid against them, are on Moscow’s wanted list and would face long-term prison sentences if they entered Russia.

Russian authorities claim Navalny fell unconscious and died suddenly after a walk. His widow has accused Vladimir Putin of murdering him.

In an emotional post on social media, Yulia bid farewell to her husband: “Thank you for 26 years of pure happiness … I don’t know how to live without you, but I’ll try to make you happy and proud of me up there.”

Western diplomats, including ambassadors from the US and Germany and Britain’s chargé d’affaires, Tom Dodd, attended the funeral.

Video footage showed mourners throwing flowers at the hearse as it drove away from the church towards the Borisovsky cemetery.

Many of the thousands who came to pay their respects said they understood the risks of attending amid warnings of possible arrests but decided to come anyway. The Kremlin had said any unsanctioned gatherings in support of the late Russian opposition leader would be met with arrests. Hundreds of people had already been detained in Russia while laying flowers at vigils for Navalny across the country in the days after his death last month.

At least 67 people were arrested during tributes to Navalny across Russia, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info. Human rights experts said those who attended the funeral could be added to a database and possibly punished at a later date.

Ivan, a Navalny supporter who attended the funeral, said: “I feel pain, like any other person who came here. I have come to say bye to a real leader. He was the best of us. He told us not to be scared, and it’s our duty to be here. I am not scared. My fear evaporated a long time ago.”

Some mourners were heard shouting: “He was not afraid, and neither are we”, and: “Russia will be free”.

Before the start of the ceremony, there were reports of arrests, with several Navalny supporters detained as they left their apartments to attend the funeral.

“I am scared, of course, of arrests,” said one mourner, who declined to give her name. “I feel pain that can’t be described. I have been following Navalny for a long time. My hope has died … How can you live without hope,” she said.

More than 250,000 people were watching the livestream of the funeral on YouTube that Navalny’s team set up, despite reports that the authorities had interrupted internet access around the church.

The Navalny team said the Kremlin was trying to prevent images of the funeral from circulating online, while one internet freedom group said mobile phone service data had been restricted.

The lead-up to the funeral was marked by controversy. Navalny’s family repeatedly accused the Kremlin of pressuring them into holding a closed ceremony without the public, and his mother was forced to battle for days to retrieve his body.

Investigators tried to blackmail her into holding a quiet funeral in the remote Arctic region where he had died.

Putin has yet to comment on Navalny’s death. In a call with reporters on Friday, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to give any assessment of Navalny as a political figure and said he had nothing to say to Navalny’s family.

Russian officials shunned the procession, but it was attended by the pro-peace politicians Yekaterina Duntsova and Boris Nadezhdin, both of whom were recently barred from running against Putin in the presidential elections later this month.

“We have come to say goodbye to a person who was a symbol of an era. There is still hope that everything will be all right and Russia will be free and peaceful as Alexei had dreamed,” Nadezhdin told the Russian independent TV channel Dozhd while standing outside the church.

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US CongressLegislature averts shutdown but deadlock remains over Ukraine aid

Analysis

US Congress averts shutdown but the deadlock remains over Ukraine aid

Chris Stein in Washington

House Republicans continue to block bipartisan Senate agreements on foreign aid and immigration

Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress managed to ward off a damaging federal government shutdown with a last-minute compromise reached this week – but remain deadlocked over approving further military assistance for Ukraine and Israel, and tightening immigration laws.

Congress was up against a Friday midnight deadline to reauthorize government spending or see a chunk of the federal departments cease much of their operations.

On Wednesday, top lawmakers including Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, and Mike Johnson, the Republican House speaker, announced they “are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government”, and the following day lawmakers passed a short-term spending measure that Joe Biden signed on Friday.

But similar agreement has proven elusive when it comes to funding both the continuation of Ukraine’s grinding defense against Russia’s invasion and Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Last month, a bipartisan Senate agreement that would have paired the latest tranche of military aid with measures to limit the number of undocumented people and asylum seekers crossing into the country from Mexico was killed by Republicans – reportedly so Donald Trump, who is on the cusp of winning the Republican presidential nomination, could campaign on his own hardline approach to immigration reform.

The Senate then approved a $95bn bill that would authorize aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without changing policy at the border, but Johnson has refused to put it to a vote in the House. Meanwhile, the government funding saga isn’t quite over. This week’s agreement pushed the funding deadlines for the two bills authorizing spending to 8 and 22 March. In their joint statement, the House and Senate leaders said lawmakers would vote on the 12 separate appropriations bills funding federal departments before these dates.

As Russia’s invasion enters its third year, enthusiasm for Kyiv’s cause has cooled among the American right. While it still has high-profile champions among the GOP, including the party’s top senator, Mitch McConnell, it is Democrats who have been loudest in sounding the alarm over the holdup of aid as Russia advances in the country.

“Every day that House Republicans refuse to hold a vote on the bipartisan National Security Supplemental, the consequences for Ukraine grow more severe,” Biden said on Thursday.

And though Biden’s administration faces intense criticism from some of his allies for his support for Israel – on Tuesday, a write-in campaign to protest his Middle East policy picked up 100,000 votes in vital swing state Michigan’s Democratic primary – the president insisted the aid would help both Israel’s fight against Hamas and the needs of Gaza’s civilians.

“This bill will help ensure that Israel can defend itself against Hamas and other threats. And it will provide critical humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and those impacted by conflicts around the world. Because the truth is, the aid flowing into Gaza is nowhere near enough, and nowhere fast enough. Innocent lives are on the line,” he said.

The biggest obstacle at this point appears to be Johnson, a rightwing lawmaker and Trump ally elevated to the speaker’s job in October after an unusual intraparty revolt cast Kevin McCarthy from the post. On Wednesday, a coalition of parliamentary leaders from European countries including France, Spain, Finland and Ukraine sent an open letter to Johnson asking him to allow a vote on Ukraine aid.

“While Speaker Johnson believes we must confront Putin, and is exploring steps to effectively do so, as he said at the White House, his immediate priority is funding America’s government and avoiding a shutdown,” the speaker’s office replied.

Centrist lawmakers in Congress’s lower chamber, which the GOP controls by a meager two seats, are reportedly planning to circulate a discharge petition, which, if signed by a majority of members, could force Johnson to put Ukraine aid up for a floor vote. Asked about that at a press conference, the Democratic House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, was not ready to endorse the idea.

“The most effective way to secure aid for our democratic allies, including, but not limited to, Ukraine, is to take the bipartisan bill that is pending before the House right now and put it on the floor,” Jeffries said, adding: “All legislative options remain on the table.”

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Russia-Ukraine warCatch up with the must-read news and analysis

What happened in the Russia-Ukraine war this week? Catch up with the must-read news and analysis

Volodymyr Zelenskiy faces his most difficult year; a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine is killed in Spain

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Every week we wrap up essential coverage of the war in Ukraine, from news and features to analysis, opinion and more.

Zelenskiy’s toughest year

Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed western leaders to Kyiv last Saturday on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, declaring that Vladimir Putin “must lose absolutely everything”. The prime ministers of Italy, Canada and Belgium – Giorgia Meloni, Justin Trudeau and Alexander De Croo – were present as well as the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen.

As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine enters its third year, Zelenskiy is facing what may be his toughest year yet, Shaun Walker wrote in an analysis; he must hold together an exhausted society and try to rally splintering international support that has led to a critical shortage of ammunition at the front.

“The decisive moment will be the elections in the United States and then we will be able to understand what is going to happen next,” Zelenskiy told a press conference, perhaps the closest he can come to publicly acknowledging that a Trump presidency is likely to be an absolute disaster for Ukraine.

It may also be a difficult year for Zelenskiy internally. While he still has high approval ratings among Ukrainians, he is no longer seen as untouchable.

Russian pilot killed in Spain

Maksim Kuzminov, a Russian pilot who defected with his helicopter to Ukraine, chose afterwards to take his $500,000 reward and start a new life in Villajoyosa on the Costa Blanca. The fantasy of escape ended on 13 February when gunmen shot the 28-year-old six times in his apartment complex’s underground car park, Luke Harding and Rory Carroll reported.

Kuzminov must have calculated he could blend into the Russian and Ukrainian communities that fill this corner of Spain with Slavic languages, food and faces. He had a new identity – a passport claimed he was Igor Shevchenko – and lived discreetly. But “we all know what happens when you anger Mr Putin”, said a neighbour in a block adjoining Kuzminov’s.

His killing, reportedly with Russian bullets, was met with undisguised glee in Moscow. Sources inside Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said they had warned Kuzminov that if he left the relative safety of Ukraine, Russian assassins could – sooner or later – come after him. The killers’ swift getaway and the lack of witnesses suggest professional surveillance and planning for what is the first Russian state killing in Spain and a case that may prove hard to unravel.

Macron suggests Europe could send ground troops

Emmanuel Macron made the intervention of the week when he suggested it might be necessary to send ground troops to Ukraine, Patrick Wintour, Angelique Chrisafis and Miranda Bryant reported. The French president spoke after calling a meeting in Paris of mainly European partners as Ukraine struggles to hold back Russian advances.

Macron said on Monday: “There is no consensus to officially back any ground troops. That said, nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we can to make sure that Russia does not prevail.”

Past shibboleths such as sending long-range missiles and planes had been cast aside, Macron said, adding that “people used to say give them just sleeping bags and helmets” – the later remark appearing to be a dig at Germany.

But allies were quick to distance themselves from the idea of sending combat troops – among them the US, Poland, Sweden, and Nato itself. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was blunt, claiming there was agreement at the Paris Ukraine conference “that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil” from European or Nato states.

Macron did find an ally in Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Lithuanian foreign minister, who said: “Europe’s fate is being decided on the battlefields of Ukraine. Times like these require political leadership, ambition and courage to think out of the box.”

‘Fedir will realise many things when he grows up’

“When I look back on two years ago, giving birth in a bunker, it seems unbelievable,” Ukrainian refugee Viktoria told Jem Bartholomew. “The day after Fedir was born, the shelling started very hard around Kyiv. After I saw a falling shell from my apartment window, we decided to leave. Fedir only got to sleep in his bed for four nights. We were so happy to have Fedir – he was our source of joy and happiness. We stayed in Lviv for three months, then went back to Kyiv, but when the blackouts began around October 2022 we decided to leave.

“In November 2022, we left for Poland, then France, but our car was stolen. Some friends in the UK helped us apply for the visa forms. By the time we arrived in London, even though he was very little, Fedir had already had a lot of life experience. He was walking and began picking up English words by himself. When we took the bus, he would wave at everyone and say: Hello! Bye!

“In January, unable to find somewhere to live in Britain, we came to Dortmund in Germany. We hope to return to the UK in a year or so when Fedir can go to kindergarten and I can work too. Fedir will realise many things when he grows up, but for now I don’t want to tell him scary things.”

As Ukrainian economy burns, Russia prospers

After two years of war, Ukraine’s economy remains on a knife-edge, Larry Elliott and Phillip Inman reported. It needs more than $40bn (£31bn) of western aid this year to balance the books and keep the military equipped. The costs of piecing the country back together again is put at $486bn over 10 years – up from $411bn a year ago. “The last two years have seen unprecedented suffering and loss for Ukraine and its people,” said Antonella Bassani, World Bank vice-president for Europe and central Asia.

By contrast, Russia has emerged from two years of war looking relatively unscathed. Soon after the war started, the International Monetary Fund said it expected the Russian economy to suffer a severe two-year recession – contracting by 8.5% in 2022 and a further 2.3% in 2023.

The economy did shrink in 2022, but only by just over 2%, and in 2023 it grew – according to the latest IMF estimates – by 3%. There is no hard evidence that the war effort has forced ordinary Russians to tighten their belts.

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Cricket Australia paid to promote affiliate of controversial gambling company during Boxing Day Test

Cricket Australia paid to promote affiliate of controversial gambling company during Boxing Day Test

Exclusive: Sporting body featured 1xBat logo in broadcast despite receiving warnings from Pakistan the week before

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Cricket Australia was paid to promote the “surrogate” of a controversial offshore gambling company that is banned by several nations and accused of accepting bets on children’s sport, cockfights and promoting topless casinos.

The sporting body immediately removed the 1xBat logo from its international broadcast of the Boxing Day test match once it confirmed the brand was an affiliate of the controversial gambling company, 1xBet, and the subject of an official warning from the Pakistan government.

The gambling company 1xBet, which is licensed in Curacao, was suspended in the UK in 2019 after the gambling regulator launched an investigation into allegations of regulatory breaches.

Multiple English Premier League clubs including Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs severed ties with 1xBet after the Sunday Times reported it had accepting betting on live streams of cockfighting and promoted online casinos featuring topless women.

The online bookmaker was also among several companies sanctioned by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, due to its alleged Russian links.

1xBet has been blocked in Australia, where it does not hold a licence to operate.

Late last year, Cricket Australia signed a commercial deal with 1xBat to superimpose its logo on the field of play during the Australia v Pakistan Test series. The ad was broadcast in Pakistan, where gambling was banned and the promotion of so-called surrogate betting companies – where a gambling operator uses another brand for advertising – was illegal.

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Shortly before the Boxing Day test, Pakistan’s ministry of information and broadcasting issued a warning about the “unambiguous” presence of surrogate gambling advertising during local coverage of the Perth test match in mid-December. It said the state broadcaster, PTV, had lodged a complaint with Cricket Australia.

But the 1xBat ad continued to be broadcast into Pakistan during the Boxing Day Test match a week later, prompting PTV to stop broadcasting the match until Cricket Australia provided a version without the 1xBat logo.

“Any potential betting partnerships are subject to our integrity process and companies that do not meet the necessary standards are not considered,” a Cricket Australia spokesperson said.

“In this case, the company’s betting affiliation was not immediately revealed to us and the advertising was withdrawn when we were alerted to reputational concerns.”

Cricket Australia initially believed 1xBat was a clothing and content company with no affiliation to offshore gambling.

The deal with 1xBat was struck by an advertising agency, but the sporting body had oversight. Cricket Australia was reviewing its internal processes.

“When we became aware that a betting advertisement in our world feed used by PTV could cause potential regulatory issues for PTV, the advertisement was removed to ensure that the coverage was reinstated and fans in Pakistan could continue to watch the series,” a Cricket Australia spokesperson said.

According to the Indian government, subsidiaries of 1xBet have been used to promote the brand among cricket fans in the subcontinent. The government has noted the company logos often “bear striking resemblance”.

1xBet and 1xBat were contacted for comment but did not respond before deadline. After the Sunday Times outlined allegations of wrongdoing, 1xBet said it abided by all relevant laws and regulations and cooperated with the UK gambling regulator.

Jack Kerr, a gambling researcher and investigative journalist who has written about 1xBet, said it was “one of the most controversial bookmakers in the world”.

“The minister for sport should be asking Cricket Australia why it is getting schooled in the basics of sports integrity by a cricket association synonymous with match-fixing,” Kerr said, referencing previous scandals involving Pakistan cricket.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief executive, Carol Bennett, praised Cricket Australia for removing the ads once it realised the link to 1xBet. She said the mistake demonstrated why a national gambling regulator was needed.

“The gambling industry are known to use questionable tactics to push their product in their endeavours to find new markets and without a cop on the beat covering all jurisdictions, its far too easy for these companies to hide in the shadows undetected,” Bennett said.

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Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about the NRL – I can safely say that as an Australian in the US

Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about the NRL – I can safely say that as an Australian in the US

Peter Mitchell

Disappointment awaits if the league expects large numbers of sports-loving locals to watch the season opener and become enthusiastic fans

NRL fans, please don’t get angry. I’m not an NRL hater or a Negative Nigel. I understand why the Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Roosters and Broncos have descended on Las Vegas this weekend for the NRL’s season-opening double-header.

It’s part of chief executive Andrew Abdo’s job to look for new markets and the US, with its 330 million residents, is the holy grail of sports markets. But there’s one problem for Abdo and the NRL – and it’s a huge problem.

Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about our beloved sport. The NRL double-header will come and go this weekend with most locals unaware it even took place.

If the NRL foray into the US is about increasing sports wagering profits, fair enough. Going to Vegas, the gambling capital of the world, is the obvious place to hold season openers for the next few years. However, if the NRL and rugby league fans expect large numbers of sports-loving Americans to become enthusiastic fans of the game, disappointment awaits.

Plenty has been made about the games being aired in US “prime time” on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Sports 1 cable channel. Saturday night is not “prime time” in the US and TV ratings are traditionally low at this time.

More Americans watch TV on Sunday nights, which is why the NFL Super Bowl, Academy Awards and other major live events are held then while aired on major free-to-air networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and, Murdoch’s flagship network, FOX. Fox Sports 1 is just one of many cable sports channels.

The US time zones will also limit viewership, with the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs broadcast beginning in Las Vegas (and other west coast locations) at 6.30pm on Saturday. In New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami and other US east coast cities – where most Americans live – the game will start at 9.30pm. The second game, between the Roosters and Broncos, will kick off at the sleepy hour of 11.30pm on the east coast and end in the wee hours of Sunday.

Visually, expect plenty of tight shots of the field and players during the TV broadcast, to avoid showing large areas of empty seats. Ticket sales have nudged past 40,000 for the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium.

On the positive side, Australian, New Zealander and British expatriates living in the US, along with the 15,000 Australians expected to fly over, will have a great weekend in Vegas. New bonds will be formed while watching their NRL heroes in between gorging themselves at the all-you-can-eat buffets, and watching Carrot Top, Thunder from Down Under or one of U2’s final concerts at The Sphere.

Why am I not drinking the NRL Kool-Aid? It’s because I’ve seen ventures like the NRL double-header in Vegas many times before. I’ve lived in the US for almost 25 years and for most of that time was the North American correspondent for Australian Associated Press.

I’ve written countless articles about Australians with great ideas that Americans should love. But Americans, for multiple reasons, aren’t interested. Just ask the many meat pie companies that have tried to set up shop in the US thinking a hot pie on a cold winter’s day would be gobbled up by Americans. A “pie” in America is a pizza, or has fruit in it. A “pot pie” in the US comes close to an Aussie meat pie, but it’s not something Americans would eat at a Dodgers or Yankees game.

It’s the same problem with rugby league and the NRL. Americans are comfortable with their ample servings of NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NCAA basketball and football, and Nascar.

We can also look to other lukewarm rugby league adventures in the US. There was the State of Origin game in 1987 at Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, that drew 12,000 spectators. In 2008, Russell Crowe did his best to promote his Rabbitohs playing the Leeds Rhinos in Florida and a crowd of 12,500 showed up. In 2018, England played New Zealand in a sparsely populated Mile High Stadium in Denver.

The NRL faces the same problems as cricket. I was there in 2015 when Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendukar, Wasim Akram, Brian Lara and other cricketing greats brought T20 exhibition games to New York, Houston and Los Angeles for the inaugural “Cricket All-Star Series.” As a cricket lover, it was sensational sitting in the New York Mets’ Citi Field or LA’s hallowed Dodger Stadium watching my childhood heroes.

One of my tasks was to find Americans at the games and ask what they thought about the spectacle. I discovered few Americans showed up. The crowds were mostly filled with Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Australian, New Zealander and British expats. After a lot of searching, I found two Americans at Citi Field and they weren’t ready to convert to cricket.

“It’s a fun experience and I would go to a game for that, but I don’t think I could follow the game,” one of the Americans, Dan Taneski, told me.

Perhaps the best example of how hard it is to become relevant in the US sports world is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s attempt to make his fledgling American football league, the XFL, viable. Johnson is arguably Hollywood’s biggest star and has a legitimate background in American football after playing for the University of Miami. He also has a huge fan base from professional wrestling and 17.1 million followers on X alone, but has struggled to etch a significant foothold for the XFL in the US. Johnson just announced a merger between XFL and another beleaguered American football league, the USFL.

Let’s talk about the NRL’s identity problem in the US. Most Americans don’t know the difference between rugby league, rugby union and Australian rules football. They presume they are the same sport and brand it simply as “rugby”. It has been a running joke in my interviews over the years with the likes of Australian NFL punters Ben Graham, Michael Dickson, Lou Hedley, Mitch Wishnowsky, and many others who grew up kicking a Sherrin. Their American coaches, teammates and fans often presume they played “rugby”. It was a similar situation for Jarryd Hayne and Valentine Holmes, with Americans presuming they played in the AFL.

So, let’s be constructive. How could Abdo and ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys elevate the NRL so the American media and sports fans from coast to coast actually talk about rugby league? There is a way but it includes megastars, and lots and lots of cash.

The best US examples are David Beckham and Lionel Messi joining America’s Major League Soccer. Beckham’s arrival at the LA Galaxy in 2007 and Messi joining Inter Miami last year resulted in ESPN and America’s other NFL/NBA/MLB-obsessed media focusing more on the MLS.

Beckham’s LA Galaxy five-year deal was worth US$250m, and Messi is expected to pocket $US150m in salary, equity in the club and other compensation for his two-and-a-half years in Miami.

So, there you have it. If the NRL wants to be relevant and sell millions of subscriptions to the Watch NRL app, it just needs LeBron James to sign with the Rabbitohs as their new rampaging second rower.

About US$250m should close the deal with James, and Negative Nigel and tens of millions of Americans would watch that at 11.30pm on a Saturday.

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Peter Dutton’s pre-Dunkley detainee scare blew up, but cost of living is the real electoral dynamite

Peter Dutton’s pre-Dunkley detainee scare blew up, but cost of living is the real electoral dynamite

Paul Karp

The opposition leader’s line of attack in question time came unstuck, but it was an irresponsible ploy all the same

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The scare campaign was going so well.

It was question time on Thursday, two days out from the Dunkley byelection. Victoria Police had just confirmed the arrest of a man released from immigration detention had been issued with four assault and stalking charges.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, made the alleged incidents in Richmond the centrepiece of the Coalition’s question time attack; soon after his deputy, Sussan Ley, tweeted an inflammatory claim about “foreign criminals”.

But just hours later, Victoria Police conceded they had got the wrong man. After reviewing footage, they no longer believed the person involved was someone released from immigration detention.

The Coalition campaign – supported by negative ads from right-wing campaign group Advance to try to make a four-month-old high court decision a central issue in Saturday’s byelection – had come unstuck.

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Dutton defended his actions on the basis he was entitled to rely on a Victoria Police statement. Fair enough, as far as concerns believing the narrow fact of an arrest and charges.

But that’s not an excuse for Coalition questions implying that Labor had endangered the community by releasing someone who had since reoffended, a premise that would reverse the presumption of innocence and proved to be incorrect.

It wouldn’t really have mattered if the man were let off charges two hours, two days, or two weeks later, it was still an irresponsible line for Dutton to have pursued. First, because as the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, noted there was potential prejudice to a court process.

And second, because the smear only really works if there were some alternative to letting 149 people out of detention. There wasn’t. The government was required to conform with a high court order and the threshold of evidence required to apply to re-detain someone pre-emptively hasn’t been reached.

By contrast, Labor’s question time strategy was to boast about its income tax cut package, more generous for low and middle income earners.

The mantra of repeating key messages until you’re sick of hearing them went well, so well that independent MP Allegra Spender accused Labor of “tedious repetition”.

Labor asked who won from the tax cut package so many times and so many different ways that the industry minister, Ed Husic, was allowed to vamp about how much a marine biologist called George stood to save – a reference to a Seinfeld.

Labor’s bold move to break its election commitment to stage three to help those earning $147,000 or less gives it another weapon in its arsenal in the cost of living battle, an argument to Dunkley voters, that although they are hurting, the government has done something.

But both sides believe the government is still vulnerable going into Saturday’s poll, despite a 6.3% buffer. Cost of living is the major issue, but because there is no chance of changing the government, the Coalition and Advance campaigns can frame the vote as a consequence-free way to send a message to Albo that he hasn’t done enough.

Never mind that the Coalition voted against many of Labor’s cost of living measures, never mind that grumbling as they waved through the income tax cuts they weren’t able to articulate an alternative. If you hate rent and interest rate rises, power price rises, grocery and petrol prices (who doesn’t?) – vote Liberal. Potent stuff.

Despite agreeing that the result is basically a coin toss, both sides seem relatively relaxed going into the byelection.

For the Coalition, they seem confident of a swing toward the opposition even if they fall short, thus validating the cost of living campaign and its latest scare about fuel efficiency, falsely labelled a new car and ute tax. On Thursday Dutton suggested anything more than a 3% swing would be disastrous for the government, so that’s a good indication he’s expecting at least that.

As for the government, Labor is acutely aware of where the byelection fits in the electoral and economic cycle. The once-in-a-century Aston byelection win was early in the cycle, during Albanese’s honeymoon period. This one comes midterm, after 13 interest rate rises. With inflation softening, the hope is that the Reserve Bank will have started cutting interest rates by the time of the next election, due by May 2025.

Even if the Liberals achieve a 7% swing and win Dunkley, there’s no sense panicking about a one seat snapshot months before the water hose that would be income tax and interest rate cuts are applied to the cost of living fire.

But Labor will have its work cut out for it: this week’s Essential Poll shows the Coalition is actually favoured on handling the cost of living, despite its lack of policy.

To an extent, the dynamics of byelections can encourage a protest vote. But a big swing to the Coalition would be a proof of concept about negative campaigns that will reappear in the next federal election.

Opposition leaders – even unpopular ones, even in the first term of government – can do great damage: think of Tony Abbott pushing the Gillard government into minority at the 2010 election or how Bill Shorten’s Mediscare pushed Malcolm Turnbull to the brink in 2016.

Framing Dutton as a man with no solutions is a smart move in the medium term. But relentless negativity, even without a well-defined alternative platform, has worked before.

A win on Saturday would put Dutton one step closer to the Lodge, which would be cause for concern, if not panic, for Labor.

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Peter Dutton’s pre-Dunkley detainee scare blew up, but cost of living is the real electoral dynamite

Peter Dutton’s pre-Dunkley detainee scare blew up, but cost of living is the real electoral dynamite

Paul Karp

The opposition leader’s line of attack in question time came unstuck, but it was an irresponsible ploy all the same

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

The scare campaign was going so well.

It was question time on Thursday, two days out from the Dunkley byelection. Victoria Police had just confirmed the arrest of a man released from immigration detention had been issued with four assault and stalking charges.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, made the alleged incidents in Richmond the centrepiece of the Coalition’s question time attack; soon after his deputy, Sussan Ley, tweeted an inflammatory claim about “foreign criminals”.

But just hours later, Victoria Police conceded they had got the wrong man. After reviewing footage, they no longer believed the person involved was someone released from immigration detention.

The Coalition campaign – supported by negative ads from right-wing campaign group Advance to try to make a four-month-old high court decision a central issue in Saturday’s byelection – had come unstuck.

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

Dutton defended his actions on the basis he was entitled to rely on a Victoria Police statement. Fair enough, as far as concerns believing the narrow fact of an arrest and charges.

But that’s not an excuse for Coalition questions implying that Labor had endangered the community by releasing someone who had since reoffended, a premise that would reverse the presumption of innocence and proved to be incorrect.

It wouldn’t really have mattered if the man were let off charges two hours, two days, or two weeks later, it was still an irresponsible line for Dutton to have pursued. First, because as the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, noted there was potential prejudice to a court process.

And second, because the smear only really works if there were some alternative to letting 149 people out of detention. There wasn’t. The government was required to conform with a high court order and the threshold of evidence required to apply to re-detain someone pre-emptively hasn’t been reached.

By contrast, Labor’s question time strategy was to boast about its income tax cut package, more generous for low and middle income earners.

The mantra of repeating key messages until you’re sick of hearing them went well, so well that independent MP Allegra Spender accused Labor of “tedious repetition”.

Labor asked who won from the tax cut package so many times and so many different ways that the industry minister, Ed Husic, was allowed to vamp about how much a marine biologist called George stood to save – a reference to a Seinfeld.

Labor’s bold move to break its election commitment to stage three to help those earning $147,000 or less gives it another weapon in its arsenal in the cost of living battle, an argument to Dunkley voters, that although they are hurting, the government has done something.

But both sides believe the government is still vulnerable going into Saturday’s poll, despite a 6.3% buffer. Cost of living is the major issue, but because there is no chance of changing the government, the Coalition and Advance campaigns can frame the vote as a consequence-free way to send a message to Albo that he hasn’t done enough.

Never mind that the Coalition voted against many of Labor’s cost of living measures, never mind that grumbling as they waved through the income tax cuts they weren’t able to articulate an alternative. If you hate rent and interest rate rises, power price rises, grocery and petrol prices (who doesn’t?) – vote Liberal. Potent stuff.

Despite agreeing that the result is basically a coin toss, both sides seem relatively relaxed going into the byelection.

For the Coalition, they seem confident of a swing toward the opposition even if they fall short, thus validating the cost of living campaign and its latest scare about fuel efficiency, falsely labelled a new car and ute tax. On Thursday Dutton suggested anything more than a 3% swing would be disastrous for the government, so that’s a good indication he’s expecting at least that.

As for the government, Labor is acutely aware of where the byelection fits in the electoral and economic cycle. The once-in-a-century Aston byelection win was early in the cycle, during Albanese’s honeymoon period. This one comes midterm, after 13 interest rate rises. With inflation softening, the hope is that the Reserve Bank will have started cutting interest rates by the time of the next election, due by May 2025.

Even if the Liberals achieve a 7% swing and win Dunkley, there’s no sense panicking about a one seat snapshot months before the water hose that would be income tax and interest rate cuts are applied to the cost of living fire.

But Labor will have its work cut out for it: this week’s Essential Poll shows the Coalition is actually favoured on handling the cost of living, despite its lack of policy.

To an extent, the dynamics of byelections can encourage a protest vote. But a big swing to the Coalition would be a proof of concept about negative campaigns that will reappear in the next federal election.

Opposition leaders – even unpopular ones, even in the first term of government – can do great damage: think of Tony Abbott pushing the Gillard government into minority at the 2010 election or how Bill Shorten’s Mediscare pushed Malcolm Turnbull to the brink in 2016.

Framing Dutton as a man with no solutions is a smart move in the medium term. But relentless negativity, even without a well-defined alternative platform, has worked before.

A win on Saturday would put Dutton one step closer to the Lodge, which would be cause for concern, if not panic, for Labor.

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Australia news live: Labor and Liberal parties prepare for judgment day in Dunkley byelection

Anthony Albanese, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan and Labor candidate Jodie Belyea officially opened the Peta Murphy Breast Imaging Suite at Frankston Hospital on Saturday, AAP has reported.

The suite is named in honour of former Labor MP and member for Dunkley, Peta Murphy, whose death in December 2023 after a four-year battle with breast cancer triggered the by-election.

Albanese revealed the government will spend $1.5 million to accelerate the creation of a national registry for metastatic cancers, those which have spread to other parts of the body. He said:

When it comes to cancer, the more we know, the better our understanding.

That’s the key to better treatment and, ultimately, better outcomes for Australians with cancer.

The coalition has preselected Frankston mayor Nathan Conroy, with Peter Dutton also turning up in the seat on Friday, promising locals a significant rail upgrade if his party wins the next federal election.

Billionaire sues OpenAI accusing it of putting profit before humanity

Elon Musk sues OpenAI accusing it of putting profit before humanity

Lawsuit says chief executive Sam Altman’s deal with Microsoft has broken organisation’s mission

Elon Musk has filed a lawsuit accusing OpenAI and its chief executive, Sam Altman, of betraying its foundational mission by putting the pursuit of profit ahead of the benefit of humanity.

The world’s richest man, a founding board member of the artificial intelligence company behind ChatGPT, claimed Altman had “set aflame” OpenAI’s founding agreement by signing an investment deal with Microsoft.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco on Thursday, claims OpenAI is now developing artificial general intelligence (AGI) – a theoretical form of AI that can perform a range of tasks at or above a human level of intelligence – for profit rather than for the benefit of humankind.

“OpenAI Inc has been transformed into a closed-source, de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft. Under its new board, it is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI to maximise profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit opens with Musk’s often-stated warning that AGI poses “a grave threat to humanity”.

“Where some like Mr Musk see an existential threat in AGI, others see AGI as a source of profit and power,” said the lawsuit, adding that in the hands of for-profit companies such as Google, AGI poses a “particularly acute and noxious danger to humanity”.

Musk and other tech experts are concerned that an AGI could evade human control and take actions that endanger the planet.

The suit claims Altman purported to share Musk’s concerns over AGI and in 2015 proposed forming a non-profit AI lab that would be “the opposite of Google”, now known as OpenAI. Together with Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, who is also being sued by Musk, the three men agreed to create a lab whose principles would be enshrined in a founding agreement.

The lab would be “for the benefit of humanity”, would be a not-for-profit company and would be open-source, the term for making the technology freely available.

The lawsuit claims that Musk, who stepped away from OpenAI in 2018, was a “moving force” behind the creation of OpenAI and supplied a majority of its funding in its early years. Microsoft is now the biggest investor in OpenAI’s profit-making arm, which Altman runs, after a deal struck in 2020.

The lawsuit claims that OpenAI, Altman and Brockman “set the founding agreement aflame” in 2023 after releasing GPT-4, the powerful model that underpins OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot. GPT-4’s design was kept secret and such behaviour showed a radical departure from OpenAI’s original mission, the lawsuit said.

“This secrecy is primarily driven by commercial considerations, not safety,” says the lawsuit, which is claiming breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair business practices.

It added that GPT-4 was an AGI technology effectively owned by Microsoft, an arrangement that is allegedly outside the scope of the company’s licensing agreement with OpenAI. The lawsuit also claims OpenAI is developing a model know as Q* [Q star] that has an even stronger claim to be AGI.

The lawsuit goes on to claim that the tumultuous period of events in November 2023, when Altman was sacked as OpenAI’s CEO and then reinstated, showed Microsoft had “significant leverage” over the company. The new board introduced after Altman’s reinstatement does not have the expertise to ascertain whether the company has achieved AGI and thus whether it has produced a product outside the scope of Microsoft’s licence, the lawsuit adds.

“This case is filed to compel OpenAI to adhere to the founding agreement and return to its mission to develop AGI for the benefit of humanity, not to personally benefit the individual defendants and the largest technology company in the world,” the lawsuit claims.

OpenAI’s deal with Microsoft is being scrutinised by competition authorities in the US, the EU and the UK.

Brian Quinn, a professor at Boston College law school in the US, said there were multiple issues with the lawsuit. He said Musk did not have the standing to sue for breach of the OpenAI board’s certificate of incorporation because he was not a board member. The suit addresses this by claiming that a 2015 email between Musk and Altman setting out the founding agreement, together with the certificate, constitutes a contract. Quinn said this fell “far short” of being a viable legal argument.

A demand for return of money that Musk invested in OpenAI was also likely to fail because the suit claimed OpenAI veered from its mission in 2023 – long after Musk stopped supporting the non-profit.

“It’s hard to see that he has any standing to attempt to enforce his ‘founding agreement’ or the certificate,” said Quinn.

OpenAI, Microsoft and Google have been approached for comment.

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Ticketing company denies responsibility for refunds to postponed Australian tour

Ticketing company denies responsibility for refunds to Donald Trump Jr’s postponed Australian tour

Ticketbud says money was sent directly to organisers Turning Point Australia, but it says money is only received after events are completed

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A ticketing company has denied claims by the organiser of Donald Trump Jr’s postponed Australian tour that it is responsible for processing refunds, arguing Turning Point Australia received the money.

The eldest son of the former US president and Republican frontrunner for the 2024 US presidential election was due to speak at events in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in July last year, but the event was initially postponed to September amid claims of visa difficulties.

Organisers, Turning Point Australia, said in September the event had been postponed to December because of a “scheduling conflict” with Trump Jr. In early December, ticket holders received another email stating the event would be moved to 2024.

Guardian Australia reported this week that some ticket holders were still waiting for requested refunds and the company had failed to respond to emails for a month.

Turning Point Australia’s founder, rightwing influencer Joel Jammal, said this week the responsibility for ticketing and refunds was with the ticketing companies, saying all money was held by those organisations until after the event.

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“We have had several complaints from ticket holders that ticketing agencies are being slow in refunding tickets, and we are doing our best to investigate each case,” he said. “We have given each request an undertaking that their case will be dealt with and are holding the ticketing agencies to account on each case. We have successfully resolved and refunded over 2,000 individual cases to date.”

While Ticketek has processed refunds for the Sydney show, some customers for Brisbane and Melbourne shows who bought through Ticketbud had reported not receiving refunds despite multiple requests to Turning Point Australia.

A spokesperson for Ticketbud refuted Jammal’s claim on Thursday, stating the payments through the Ticketbud system go through Stripe and are paid to the organisers.

“Unfortunately, Ticketbud is not responsible for issuing refunds,” a spokesperson said.

“Event funds are processed by the payment processor Stripe, and sent directly to the organiser of the event. Event funds are never held or processed by Ticketbud directly. The funds are held by Stripe and the event organiser.”

The spokesperson also disputed the claim that Turning Point Australia does not get the funds until after the event.

“Refunds are the sole responsibility of the organiser. Ticketbud, as an event registration and ticketing platform, does not control how the event is run and does not issue refunds on the event organisers’ behalf.”

Jammal and Stripe were approached for comment.

Jammal said this week that he is in the process of working through Trump Jr’s availability for this year, as well as the logistics for venues, and will make an announcement in March.

Turning Point Australia has not posted on its social media accounts since November. Jammal has not posted on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, X/Twitter or TikTok since November.

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Ticketing company denies responsibility for refunds to postponed Australian tour

Ticketing company denies responsibility for refunds to Donald Trump Jr’s postponed Australian tour

Ticketbud says money was sent directly to organisers Turning Point Australia, but it says money is only received after events are completed

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

A ticketing company has denied claims by the organiser of Donald Trump Jr’s postponed Australian tour that it is responsible for processing refunds, arguing Turning Point Australia received the money.

The eldest son of the former US president and Republican frontrunner for the 2024 US presidential election was due to speak at events in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in July last year, but the event was initially postponed to September amid claims of visa difficulties.

Organisers, Turning Point Australia, said in September the event had been postponed to December because of a “scheduling conflict” with Trump Jr. In early December, ticket holders received another email stating the event would be moved to 2024.

Guardian Australia reported this week that some ticket holders were still waiting for requested refunds and the company had failed to respond to emails for a month.

Turning Point Australia’s founder, rightwing influencer Joel Jammal, said this week the responsibility for ticketing and refunds was with the ticketing companies, saying all money was held by those organisations until after the event.

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

“We have had several complaints from ticket holders that ticketing agencies are being slow in refunding tickets, and we are doing our best to investigate each case,” he said. “We have given each request an undertaking that their case will be dealt with and are holding the ticketing agencies to account on each case. We have successfully resolved and refunded over 2,000 individual cases to date.”

While Ticketek has processed refunds for the Sydney show, some customers for Brisbane and Melbourne shows who bought through Ticketbud had reported not receiving refunds despite multiple requests to Turning Point Australia.

A spokesperson for Ticketbud refuted Jammal’s claim on Thursday, stating the payments through the Ticketbud system go through Stripe and are paid to the organisers.

“Unfortunately, Ticketbud is not responsible for issuing refunds,” a spokesperson said.

“Event funds are processed by the payment processor Stripe, and sent directly to the organiser of the event. Event funds are never held or processed by Ticketbud directly. The funds are held by Stripe and the event organiser.”

The spokesperson also disputed the claim that Turning Point Australia does not get the funds until after the event.

“Refunds are the sole responsibility of the organiser. Ticketbud, as an event registration and ticketing platform, does not control how the event is run and does not issue refunds on the event organisers’ behalf.”

Jammal and Stripe were approached for comment.

Jammal said this week that he is in the process of working through Trump Jr’s availability for this year, as well as the logistics for venues, and will make an announcement in March.

Turning Point Australia has not posted on its social media accounts since November. Jammal has not posted on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, X/Twitter or TikTok since November.

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First Test, day three – live

15th over: Australia 47-2 (Khawaja 8, Lyon 36) Edge! Lyon gets away with one that flies in the gap between third slip and gully and finds the fence. And again – Lyon throws the bat at another length ball and this time the edge flies pas the right hand of Glenn Phillips in the gully. Three in a row, too wide from Southee and Lyon throws his hands at it, a big edge flies over point and away for another four! Lyon has never hit a Test fifty… a single sees him keep strike as Southee beats Khawaja with a beauty that zips outside off to finish the over.

Single orca seen killing great white shark off South African coast

Single orca seen killing great white shark off South African coast

Attack on juvenile is thought to be first known time a lone orca has hunted down a great white

It is a smash and grab that has stunned scientists: in less than two minutes, a killer whale attacked and consumed a great white shark before swimming off with the victim’s liver in its mouth.

Experts say the event off the coast of Mossel Bay in South Africa offers new insights into the predatory behaviour of orcas.

While orcas have previously been documented hunting sharks, dolphins and even whales solo, the newly reported event is thought to be the first known time a lone orca has hunted down the world’s largest predatory fish.

“Killer whales, or orcas, usually team up when they hunt, although they can hunt solitarily,” said Dr Alison Towner, of Rhodes University, who led research into the discovery. “The unusual aspect was witnessing Starboard, the killer whale, hunting a white shark alone and in a remarkably rapid timeframe.”

The events, which occurred on 18 June 2023, are documented in the African Journal of Marine Science. It is a sequence that would not be out of place in a Spielberg movie.

The team report how a boat was launched shortly after 2pm in response to sightings of Starboard and another killer whale known as Port. As the vessel crossed the water to follow the pair, the researchers describe how a smell of shark liver and the sight of diving kelp gulls indicated a recent kill.

The subsequent attack was rapid: at 3.02pm a juvenile white shark appeared at the surface of the water. Starboard appeared directly after it.

The whale “gripped the left pectoral fin of the shark and thrust forward with the shark several times before eventually eviscerating it”, the report says. Minutes later Starboard was seen with “a bloody piece of peach-coloured liver in its mouth”.

The attack was also documented by researchers and tourists onboard another vessel that had been involved in shark cage diving activities.

The researchers report that all other recorded events in the region involving orcas preying on sharks involved two to six orcas, and typically took about two hours.

However, while Starboard was able to kill the juvenile great white shark – estimated to have been about 2.5 metres in length and to have weighed about 100kg – alone, the team suggest he may need to cooperate with others to tackle larger prey. Adult great white sharks can grow to 6.5 metres and 2.5 tonnes.

Previous research by the team revealed how Port and Starboard – so-called because their dorsal fins are bent in opposite directions – have been hunting together off the coast of South Africa in recent years.

The pair appear to have a predilection for energy-rich shark livers, although the researchers say it remains unknown how orcas open large sharks to feed on these organs.

Their activities have raised concerns that various shark species, including great white sharks, could be displaced from coastal sites.

Dr Primo Micarelli, a co-author of the new study from the Shark Studies Centre and Siena University, who witnessed the attack by Starboard, said seeing the orca carry the liver of a great white shark past the vessel he was on was unforgettable. But he added: “Despite my awe for these predators, I’m increasingly concerned about the coastal marine ecology balance.”

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Thomas Kingston died from ‘traumatic head wound’ and gun found, inquest told

Thomas Kingston died from ‘traumatic head wound’ and gun found, inquest told

Gun was near body of Lady Gabriella Kingston’s husband in outbuilding at his parents’ home, coroner’s court hears

Thomas Kingston, the husband of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent’s daughter, Lady Gabriella Kingston, died from a “traumatic head wound” and a gun was found near his body, an inquest has heard.

Kingston, who married the king’s second cousin in 2019, was found dead in an outbuilding at his parents’ home in the Cotswolds last week, the inquest was told as it opened at Gloucestershire coroner’s court on Friday.

“I have received evidence of the brief circumstances surrounding this tragic incident also in written format, which complies with rule 23 of the Coroners Rules 2013,” the senior coroner Katy Skerrett said.

“These brief circumstances are as follows: Mr Kingston was visiting his parents’ home in the Cotswolds. On 25 February 2024 he ate lunch with his parents. His father went out to walk the dogs. On his return, Mr Kingston was not in the house, and after approximately 30 minutes his mother went to look for him. His father forced entry on a locked outbuilding when no reply could be gained.

“He found Mr Kingston deceased with a catastrophic head injury. A gun was present at the scene. Emergency services were called. Police are satisfied the death is not suspicious. A postmortem has been undertaken by Dr Jones, a consultant histopathologist, and a provisional cause of death has been given as a traumatic wound to head.”

The coroner said she was satisfied with identification, initial cause of death and the brief circumstances surrounding Kingston’s death, and adjourned proceedings to a date yet to be fixed.

Kingston, a financier, married Gabriella at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in 2019 with Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, among the guests. Prince Michael is the late queen’s cousin.

Gabriella paid tribute to her husband in a joint statement with his family, describing him as an “exceptional man who lit up the lives of all who knew him”. They described his death as a “great shock to the whole family”.

The king and queen sent their “most heartfelt thoughts and prayers” to Gabriella, who is known as Ella, and Kingston’s parents and siblings.

A statement released on behalf of Gabriella, Martin and Jill Kingston, Joanna Connolly and Emma Murray, said: “Tom was an exceptional man who lit up the lives of all who knew him. His death has come as a great shock to the whole family and we ask you to respect our privacy as we mourn his passing.”

Gabriella released a personal photo she took of her husband, showing him smiling and dressed in a casual pink shirt as he stood near a stretch of water in the sunshine.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “The king and the queen have been informed of Thomas’s death and join Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and all those who knew him in grieving a much-loved member of the family.

“In particular, their majesties send their most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Gabriella and to all the Kingston family.”

Gabriella and the king are both great-grandchildren of King George V.

Kingston was a director of Devonport Capital, which provides finance for companies in “frontier economies”.

The University of Bristol graduate had also worked in Baghdad, Iraq, to procure the release of hostages after joining the diplomatic missions unit of the Foreign Office. He was a close friend of Pippa Matthews, the Princess of Wales’s sister, and the pair were said to have dated in 2011.

Gabriella, who has worked as an arts and travel director for a brand company, is a writer and contributing editor. She is also a singer-songwriter and released two bossa nova-inspired tracks in 2020 to raise money for charity.

Although she is not a working member of the royal family, she and Kingston’s family are being supported by the royal household. No funeral plans have been released.

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