The Guardian 2024-03-02 04:35:04


Hecklers interrupt Liberal candidate for Dunkley; Minns to become first NSW premier to join Sydney Mardi Gras parade

Hecklers have targeted the Liberal candidate for the seat of Dunkley as the major parties make their last-ditch pitch to byelection voters, AAP has reported.

Liberal senator Jane Hume joined opposition candidate Nathan Conroy at a primary school polling booth in Langwarrin for a press conference this morning, only to be frequently interrupted.

Conroy said as a protester interjected:

We don’t shout people down.

What we do have is a strong positive campaign.

Conroy said the rising cost of living was the number one issue for voters, while also promoting local infrastructure investment. He said:

We need to have more jobs, more business, more choice, more homes for people.

Then you look at crime, crime is on the rise and that’s because of the housing crisis and the cost-of-living crisis.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton did not make an appearance on Saturday but has previously said that while the vote won’t change the government, it could send a message to the prime minister he wasn’t doing enough.

Julia GillardFormer PM enters Dunkley byelection campaign as Labor and Liberals brace for close result

Julia Gillard enters Dunkley byelection campaign as Labor and Liberals brace for close result

Exclusive: The former PM has been enlisted to front a social media campaign to help Labor hold the Victorian seat

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Julia Gillard has been enlisted to help boost Labor’s chances in the Dunkley byelection, with Australia’s first female prime minister fronting a social media push aimed squarely at women in the Melbourne seat.

In a sign of Labor’s effort to shore up every last vote in what is expected by both major parties to be a close-run contest, Gillard’s election-eve endorsement praises Jodie Belyea as a “strong local voice”.

As the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, made their final pitches to voters, both sides are expecting a long night of counting on Saturday before a result is reached, and the possibility of no winner being definitively declared.

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In a message to be blasted out on Labor social media channels on Friday evening, Gillard tells voters of the importance of a Labor member for Dunkley “to continue Peta Murphy’s legacy … a seat named after a pioneering woman, Louisa Dunkley, who was also a champion of equality and fairness”.

Gillard, since quitting federal parliament in 2013, has largely stayed out of domestic politics – setting a different course to other recent former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, John Howard and Paul Keating, who have often aired their reflections on local and global affairs. Howard, for instance, put his name to a Liberal party fundraising email this week, asking supporters to donate cash and “send a powerful message”, and is regularly deployed by the Coalition in the final days of various campaigns.

Gillard’s relative reticence on electoral politics makes the occasional interventions more noteworthy, the most prominent of which was an appearance alongside Albanese in the final hours of his successful 2022 election campaign.

She called the Dunkley poll, triggered after the death of sitting Labor member Peta Murphy last year, an “important byelection”.

“My friend, the late Peta Murphy was one of a kind, a fierce advocate for her community and for the issue she was so passionate about. We will all miss her dearly,” Gillard said.

“That’s why it’s so important that we have a Labor member for Dunkley, who will continue to build on Peta’s legacy, and Jodie Belyea will be that strong local voice.”

Gillard, in a simple video filmed from a computer, highlighted Belyea’s community service, pointing to her founding of a not-for-profit group helping disadvantaged women. She also noted the history of Louisa Dunkley, the unionist and equal pay campaigner for whom the seat is named.

In his Friday campaign blitz, Albanese offered a similar gender-tinged message to Gillard, saying Belyea would – in contrast to the Liberal candidate Nathan Conroy – “not just be another bloke, sitting behind all the other blokes in Peter Dutton’s team. Opposing everything, being negative about everything, running fear campaigns”.

Dutton’s Friday campaigning focused on community safety and cost of living issues. He claimed in a radio interview that there was “a level of anger within the community” about living conditions and urged voters to “send the prime minister a message that the government needs to do better.”

Labor sources had initially been confident of safely holding the seat, but the last-minute campaign swing of the major party leaders points to both sides expecting a very close result. Labor and Liberal sources both noted the potential for counting to continue long into Saturday night or beyond.

The government has sought to highlight its cost of living relief, including the reframed stage-three tax cuts. However Albanese told the Labor caucus this week that some voters were still not aware of the much-vaunted changes.

Both sides have sought to manage expectations – Dutton claimed even a 3% swing against the government would be a strong result for the Liberals, while Albanese claimed on Friday “byelections are tough for governments”. He downplayed the prospect of a strong swing against the government being a blow to Labor’s momentum, noting the 2001 byelection in Ryan where the Liberals suffered a bad defeat before going on to claim a general election win later that year.

“I’m confident that we’ve run the right campaign and I’m confident that we are the political party in Australia that is being positive, that’s concerned about the future, that’s putting forward an agenda for the future,” Albanese said.

“You can’t change the country for the better by just running fear campaigns.”

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‘It feels like we lost brothers’Mardi Gras preparations take on sombre tone after alleged murders

‘It feels like we lost brothers’: Sydney Mardi Gras preparations take on sombre tone after alleged murders

Mixed emotions within the LGBTQ+ community as it reels from killings of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies allegedly by a serving police officer

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When Sydney transformed into a queer-utopia as the host of World Pride last year, Jojo Hall felt full of optimism.

“It felt like a new era in terms of the [LGBTQ+] community’s place in the wider community,” she says.

But for Hall and many others, this year’s Mardi Gras has been mired in grief, despair and anger. “It has been a wake-up call,” she says.

The alleged murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies – both members of Sydney’s queer community – has cast a shadow over the annual Mardi Gras celebrations. The couple were allegedly murdered on 19 February by serving New South Wales police officer Beau Lamarre, also a member of the queer community, using his police pistol.

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Police allege Lamarre planned to kill Baird, whom he allegedly stalked after they had a casual relationship, and murdered Davies as he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The tragedy has prompted a backlash over the police handling of the case and a debate over whether police should march in the Mardi Gras parade on Saturday, when an estimated 250,000 spectators are expected to turn out to watch 200 floats pass down Oxford Street.

As Ben Riley, who believes police marching in the parade is inappropriate, puts it: “Mardi Gras is this really sacred thing.”

“This time is when we get to come together and celebrate and care for each other,” he says. “It’s a really horrible, horrible thing that’s happened … finding space to hold both that and celebrating is really challenging.”

A parade with mixed emotions

Brisbane-based Kyle Laidlaw has travelled to Sydney to attend the Mardi Gras parade for the first time. He has mixed emotions – he knew Davies when he was living in Brisbane.

“It’s challenging, but it’s nice to be able to attend the vigil,” he says, referring to the vigil held on Friday night for Baird and Davies. “If I wasn’t here for the parade, I wouldn’t have been able to attend.

“The same sentiment that has been echoed by a lot of people is: while I didn’t know Jesse, they both would have wanted everyone to be out and enjoying themselves.”

Davies – a Qantas flight attendant – will be honoured in the parade as part of the airline’s float.

The New South Wales police will also be marching in plainclothes after negotiating with the Mardi Gras board after the force was uninvited in the wake of the alleged murders. The Australian federal police will not march, acknowledging “how some in the community are feeling about the blue uniform”.

The Mardi Gras events Hall has gone to so far have been a space to come together and share in grief. She had been considering going to the parade, but she’s upset the police are now marching, and plans to spend Saturday at home with a group of friends.

“The [alleged] murder of these two men who were so clearly loved, but the failure of the police writ large to understand the power dynamic at play – I think it’s just symbolic of the whole issue,” she says.

In Darlinghurst, the atmosphere at Friday night’s vigil seems a world away from Mardi Gras’ usual celebratory spectacle.

“This Mardi Gras is going to be different, because there are two bright souls who are not going to be here to celebrate,” Antonio Sneddon says. He is among hundreds attending a vigil for Davies and Baird in Green Park, where oppressive humidity and silent melancholy overwhelms the crowd.

“These two lovely bright people, they are part of the rainbow community,” Sneddon said. “It feels like we lost brothers.”

On large screens a slideshow featured snapshots from the lives of Davies and Baird set to music. As it came to a stop, silence stilled the crowd, embracing and wiping each others’ tears, before a procession of attendees began standing to lay flowers and candles by the condolences table. Among them were restaurateur Kylie Kwong, news presenter Narelda Jacobs, and MPs Allegra Spender and Tanya Plibersek.

Daniel Richardson-Clark attended the vigil not because he knew either Baird or Davies, but because he felt it is imperative for the queer community to support each other during both Mardi Gras and a time of grief.

“I’m here today because when I saw that they were missing and then murdered, I saw them as people who could be me, who were living the same quiet life that we all live, and who were murdered despite that.”

“That has rattled me,” Richardson-Clark said.

Memories of past failures

For Hall, and many others in the community, the mood has also been affected by the findings of the inquiry into gay hate crimes, which came out just before Christmas. The inquiry examined cases in NSW between 1970 and 2010, and found police failed to properly investigate potential gay hate crimes.

“[The inquest] has brought a lot of memories back for people … it’s just a little bit too much at the moment,” says Deb, who asked to be identified by her first name only. “While we’ve come along way with the police … it certainly hasn’t come as far as we thought.

“I didn’t know [Baird and Davies] but I know people who did, so it’s been difficult to see how this senseless tragedy has affected them.”

At the first Mardi Gras march in 1978, protesters were met with police brutality. When Deb went to the Mardi Gras parade in 1998 – the first in which police marched – she didn’t want police there.

Deb says she was the victim of a gay bashing in the mid-80s on Flinders Street in Melbourne, and says police at the time told her it had been her fault for kissing her girlfriend in public. But in the early 2000s, she decided police inclusion was a positive thing – and this year, she thinks allowing police to march in plainclothes was a good compromise.

“I have a few friends who either have been in the police force or who had been in the police force, and who are gay and what it means for them to be able to march … seeing how it affects them made me really change my view.”

Police and Mardi Gras

As revellers crowded Oxford Street on Friday night, activists from Pride in Protest were preparing to rally at nearby Taylor Square.

“The queer community for so long has seen so many instances of police failure to address violence against our community, and police committing that violence as well,” a protest spokesperson said.

They said the initial decision of the NSW Police to not from march in Sydney’s parade was “correct,” but the community see the change in plans for police to march out of uniform as a “backflip” response to “a deliberate pressure campaign from the NSW Police and from the NSW Labour Government to accept the police back against our will”.

“They may be re-invited by the Mardi Gras board, but they certainly aren’t welcome.”

Latoya Aroha Rule, a takatāpui (queer), First Nations and Māori person, said they usually attend the parade, but this year they are boycotting over fears how the protest will be policed.

“I feel sick to my stomach this Mardi Gras. Every Mardi Gras that passes symbolises another year of brutality against LGBTQ+ people … this year has intensified this truth,” they said.

“The ‘not all police’ tactic being applied in these circumstances is resonant of the ‘white lives matter’ and ‘blue lives matter’ rhetoric of 2020,” they said.

Others will still be attending. Brian Parkinson, who’ll be marching in the parade with Sydney Queer Irish, is thrilled that it is finally happening after six months of preparation.

“You feel like you own the city for the fortnight,” he says. “Everything is drenched in colour and you feel like you can be yourself and that you have your place in the middle of everything.”

But the joy is conflicted with the tragic deaths of Luke and Jesse: “It’s hard to try and celebrate while also mourning their loss.”

To him, police not marching would have been a step backwards. He’s pleased they will still be marching in plainclothes, although he knows some people in the community have had difficult experiences with police.

Ahead of Saturday’s parade, Sydney’s Mardi Gras co-chair Brandon Bear acknowledged the grief and pain felt by the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

“For some people this will be a more sombre event, for some people they might choose to sit this one out,” Bear said.

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Jesse Baird and Luke Davies‘Breakdown’ in processes may have allowed police gun to be used in alleged murders

‘Breakdown’ in processes may have allowed police gun to be used in alleged murders, former senior detective says

If police claims are correct, a gun appears to have been ‘largely unaccounted for’ the weekend before alleged murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies, Vincent Hurley says

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A former senior detective has raised concerns about an apparent “breakdown” in processes that may have allowed a force-issued firearm to be used in the alleged murder of two young men in Sydney.

Vincent Hurley, whose New South Wales police career spanned almost three decades, said he was troubled by police claims, made in the course of the ongoing homicide investigation, that suggested a Glock had been “largely unaccounted for” before being used to allegedly kill Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

Police allege Sen Const Beau Lamarre checked out a Glock pistol from Miranda police station on Friday 16 February so he could take it to a shift policing a “user pays” event on Sunday 18 February. Police have said it was an “operation shelter” rally regarding the Gaza conflict.

It is not known whether Lamarre showed up to work at the event, with police only saying his movements would be looked at as part of their ongoing homicide investigation. Lamarre has been charged with murdering Baird, 26, and Davies, 29 on Monday 19 February.

Under the NSW police “user pays” model, organisers of events such as music festivals or mass-participation sporting competitions pay for policing services.

NSW police call rallies or protests “user pays” events because officers are rostered to work at them in the same way as festivals and other events.

In reality, the force funds them from its own budget. The NSW government does not charge people to protest in the state.

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The NSW police deputy commissioner David Hudson earlier this week said it was “not unusual” for officers to check out firearms for “user pays” duties when deployed to locations beyond their normal attachment.

When they work a “user pays” shift, officers can store their firearm at an alternate police station or at home, if they have permission from a senior officer and meet “safe storage requirements”, a NSW police spokesperson said.

Hudson said Lamarre was approved to store the gun at “alternate locations including a premises with an approved gun safe”.

Hurley, a former detective who is now a criminology lecturer at Macquarie University, said he believed it would be unusual for an officer to be able to keep a Glock for the whole weekend.

“To my knowledge and my experience, it’s rare, because most police go and get their firearm on the morning of the user pays [shift],” Hurley said.

After the alleged murders, police claim Lamarre took the gun to Balmain police station and placed it in storage there. Lamarre returned the gun to Miranda police station on Tuesday 20 February, police have said.

If the claims were correct, Hurley said, “something’s gone terribly wrong. It has been largely unaccounted for. There’s clearly been a breakdown”.

Police have said they will argue in court that the alleged murder of Baird was premeditated by Lamarre who they claim then killed Davies because he happened to be at Baird’s house at the time.

Police also allege that a cartridge case was found in Baird’s Paddington sharehouse where the Network 10 presenter and his partner, Davies, a Qantas flight attendant, were allegedly shot.

More than six months before Baird and Davies were killed, the police watchdog urged the force to improve its record-keeping of service firearms in a report.

“One of the most significant risks we noted was deficiencies in record keeping in relation to the removal of firearms,” the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc) report stated.

The alleged use of a police handgun in the deaths of Baird and Davies will be the subject of an internal NSW police review with oversight from the Lecc as well as Victoria police.

The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, this week claimed that there had been a “failure” regarding the use of a police weapon.

Samantha Lee, a senior solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, said the review should be conducted by the NSW auditor general.

“We can’t allow this critical public safety review to happen behind closed doors and by another police force,” Lee said.

A police spokesperson said the review was expected to take six weeks and would examine authorisation, home storage, storage at other police stations, record management and governance.

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Crowdfunding campaign brings first Timor-Leste float to parade

Crowdfunding campaign brings first Timor-Leste float to Sydney Mardi Gras parade

It was only two weeks ago that the founder of Timor-Leste’s own pride march learned he and 10 others were coming to Australia

  • Live news: Minns to become first NSW premier to join Sydney Mardi Gras parade
  • ‘It feels like we lost brothers’: Sydney Mardi Gras preparations take on sombre tone after alleged murders

Natalino Guterres likens getting the chance to march down Oxford Street in pure queer pride to the feeling he had when he was 12 and Timor-Leste achieved independence after a brutal occupation.

“It’s really emotional for me,” he said. “It’s one of those moments when you’re really happy and get to look forward to having some momentum.”

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Guterres has travelled from Timor-Leste with 10 others to march in Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade as part of the first ever Timor-Leste float, which will be one of 200.

They only found out they were coming two weeks ago after a successful GoFundMe was set up by Nuno Carrascalão – who came to Australia in 1975 as a refugee from Timor-Leste – raised more than $6,500 to help cover expenses.

“It’s incredible how fast it moved; there were so many people that came on board with immense support,” Carrascalão said, who has a drag and entertainment career in Australia under the name Ashley Swift.

Guterres has been at the forefront of building acceptance for Timor-Leste’s queer community since he began an annual pride march in the country in 2017.

Numbers have grown from 500 marchers in the first year to more than 5,000.

“There is a conservative culture in the country with 97% of the population Catholic, many of us are also Catholic,” Guterres said. “There’s still a lot of stigma, a lot of discrimination, people still don’t really feel comfortable coming out.”

But there has been growing support among sections of the church. At the start of each pride march, the attendees begin with a Catholic prayer.

It was this synchronicity between the church and queer community that struck Carrascalão when he travelled to Timor-Leste last year to join the pride march.

The visit came shortly after his first trip to Timor-Leste since he fled with his family when Indonesia invaded in 1975.

As many as 200,000 people are thought to have perished in fighting, massacres and forced starvation during Indonesia’s occupation before a landmark referendum in 1999 in which 78.5% of the population chose independence.

“Timor-Leste, with all the trauma that it has been through to the fact that through grassroots coordination have been able to hold their own Mardi Gras, is quite remarkable,” Carrascalão said. “There is a common thread that the fight for independence is the same fight for equality.”

During Carrascalão’s visit, he met with the president – José Ramos-Horta and helped organise for the next year’s Timor-Leste pride parade to end at the presidential palace.

Despite these advances, LGBTQ+ people still face a frequent lack of acceptance, violence and discrimination, Guterres said, something he hoped having a Timor-Leste float as part of Sydney’s Mardi Gras could change.

“It’s just the visibility that we will get not just for the queer community from our country but the country in general.”

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First Test, day three – live

25th over: New Zealand 66-3 (Ravindra 25, Mitchell 4) After a quick drinks break, Pat Cummins has taken back the ball for a final blast. Australia have 20 overs left today to break this Black Caps batting order. Cummins has Mitchell playing and missing, hopping and propping. But he finally escapes with a single squirted on the leg-side.

Renowned New York designer and style icon, dies aged 102

Iris Apfel, renowned New York designer and style icon, dies aged 102

Fashion personality who found fame in her 80s went from a copywriter at Women’s Wear Daily to a design authority whose projects included the White House

  • Iris Apfel – a life in pictures

Iris Apfel, the interior designer and fashion tastemaker who found fame as an octogenarian, has died aged 102.

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for her estate, confirmed her death to multiple US outlets but did not give a cause of death. It is understood she died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday.

As an eminent authority on antique fabrics, Apfel consulted on restoration projects including work at the White House.

The subject of several museum exhibitions and a documentary, Apfel more recently starred in campaigns for H&M, eBay, Citroën and even had a Barbie doll made in her likeness.

The bespectacled New Yorker had carved out a vivacious, idiosyncratic personal style with a heavy dose of wit. Describing herself as “the world’s oldest living teenager” in her Instagram bio where she amassed more than 2 million followers, she wrote “more is more and less is a bore.”

In 2005, her personal collection of vintage and designer accessories and clothes became the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): the Irreverent Iris Apfel, it was the first time the Met had focused on a living female who wasn’t a designer. In another first, Apfel dressed the mannequins herself, styling them in her own unique and flamboyant manner.

Clashing colours, textures and prints, Apfel loved to mix designer pieces with more unique finds. Eighteenth century paste earrings and a Mexican hammered silver belt were shown with couture pieces from Dior and James Galanos.

The response, mainly through word of mouth, was unprecedented. Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld attended the opening night and Apfel was catapulted to fashion fame.

Following its success, the exhibition travelled to other museums including the Norton Museum of Art in Florida. In 2010, she bequeathed her entire Rare Bird of Fashion collection to the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts.

Born Iris Barrel in 1921 in Queens, New York, she studied art history at New York University and later attended art school at the University of Wisconsin.

Her first job was a copywriter at Women’s Wear Daily. She later worked for the interior designer Elinor Johnson and also the illustrator Robert Goodman.

In 1948, she married Carl Apfel. Two years later they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. Their work included restoration projects for clients including Greta Garbo and Estée Lauder alongside work at the White House for nine presidents including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton.

Specialising in fabric reproductions from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the couple travelled extensively, searching for textiles they could not source in the US.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2015, Apfel explained it was one of the reasons they didn’t have children. “I don’t believe in a child having a nanny, so it wasn’t what we were going to do, but also having children is like protocol. You’re expected to. And I don’t like to be pigeonholed.”

Aged 91, she became Dazed Magazine oldest cover star and in 2019 following advice from the designer Tommy Hilfiger she signed with one of the world’s biggest modelling agencies, IMG. At 101 she landed her first beauty campaign when she collaborated with Ciaté London on a makeup line.

When asked about ageing in a 2018 interview, Apfel said: “I wouldn’t want to stop the clock. No, that would be so boring. It would be like being caught in a time machine, a time warp. I don’t like that. I think variety is the spice of life.”

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Renowned New York designer and style icon, dies aged 102

Iris Apfel, renowned New York designer and style icon, dies aged 102

Fashion personality who found fame in her 80s went from a copywriter at Women’s Wear Daily to a design authority whose projects included the White House

  • Iris Apfel – a life in pictures

Iris Apfel, the interior designer and fashion tastemaker who found fame as an octogenarian, has died aged 102.

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for her estate, confirmed her death to multiple US outlets but did not give a cause of death. It is understood she died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday.

As an eminent authority on antique fabrics, Apfel consulted on restoration projects including work at the White House.

The subject of several museum exhibitions and a documentary, Apfel more recently starred in campaigns for H&M, eBay, Citroën and even had a Barbie doll made in her likeness.

The bespectacled New Yorker had carved out a vivacious, idiosyncratic personal style with a heavy dose of wit. Describing herself as “the world’s oldest living teenager” in her Instagram bio where she amassed more than 2 million followers, she wrote “more is more and less is a bore.”

In 2005, her personal collection of vintage and designer accessories and clothes became the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): the Irreverent Iris Apfel, it was the first time the Met had focused on a living female who wasn’t a designer. In another first, Apfel dressed the mannequins herself, styling them in her own unique and flamboyant manner.

Clashing colours, textures and prints, Apfel loved to mix designer pieces with more unique finds. Eighteenth century paste earrings and a Mexican hammered silver belt were shown with couture pieces from Dior and James Galanos.

The response, mainly through word of mouth, was unprecedented. Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld attended the opening night and Apfel was catapulted to fashion fame.

Following its success, the exhibition travelled to other museums including the Norton Museum of Art in Florida. In 2010, she bequeathed her entire Rare Bird of Fashion collection to the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts.

Born Iris Barrel in 1921 in Queens, New York, she studied art history at New York University and later attended art school at the University of Wisconsin.

Her first job was a copywriter at Women’s Wear Daily. She later worked for the interior designer Elinor Johnson and also the illustrator Robert Goodman.

In 1948, she married Carl Apfel. Two years later they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. Their work included restoration projects for clients including Greta Garbo and Estée Lauder alongside work at the White House for nine presidents including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton.

Specialising in fabric reproductions from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the couple travelled extensively, searching for textiles they could not source in the US.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2015, Apfel explained it was one of the reasons they didn’t have children. “I don’t believe in a child having a nanny, so it wasn’t what we were going to do, but also having children is like protocol. You’re expected to. And I don’t like to be pigeonholed.”

Aged 91, she became Dazed Magazine oldest cover star and in 2019 following advice from the designer Tommy Hilfiger she signed with one of the world’s biggest modelling agencies, IMG. At 101 she landed her first beauty campaign when she collaborated with Ciaté London on a makeup line.

When asked about ageing in a 2018 interview, Apfel said: “I wouldn’t want to stop the clock. No, that would be so boring. It would be like being caught in a time machine, a time warp. I don’t like that. I think variety is the spice of life.”

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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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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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Foundation for cyclist safety to close after federal funds cut off

Amy Gillett Foundation for cyclist safety to close after federal funds cut off

Set up to honour the Australian national team cyclist killed by a car, the group was behind the successful A Metre Matters campaign

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The Australian cycling safety advocacy body behind the successful A Metre Matters campaign is being wound up after federal government funding was discontinued.

The Amy Gillett Foundation was established in 2006 after the death of Gillett, a former Olympic rower who had switched to track and road cycling. The 29-year-old was training with the Australian national team in Germany when she and her teammates were hit by a car.

The foundation has been responsible for several cycling safety advocacy campaigns, including efforts to enshrine in law the requirement that drivers leave at least one metre’s distance while passing a cyclist. The campaign began in 2009 and ended in 2021, when Victoria became the final state to update its road laws.

The foundation has also overseen a scholarship program for emerging female road cyclists. Recent recipients have included former national champion Sarah Gigante and two-time world time trial silver medallist Grace Brown. It puts its name to an annual participation ride, Amy’s Gran Fondo, along the Great Ocean Road.

In a letter to stakeholders, seen by Guardian Australia, foundation chair Lisa Jacobs wrote that “regretfully, the board has concluded that ongoing operation of the foundation is no longer sustainable in the absence of new federal government funding”.

The news was first reported by cycling website Escape Collective.

The foundation received $6m in the 2022 budget, with a program of work formally launched in March last year by the assistant minister for infrastructure and transport, Carol Brown.

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Liquidators Shaun Matthews and Rachel Burdett of Cor Cordis have been appointed to wind up the foundation. In a statement, they said: “As has been the experience of many not-for-profits, the past few years have been lean, and securing philanthropic funding has become more complex.” They added that they would review the foundation’s financial position before “we commence winding up the affairs of the foundation in an orderly manner”.

The foundation was approached for comment but did not respond before publication. The Australian Sports Commission declined to comment.

The assistant minister, Senator Brown, said in a statement to the Guardian that to date $4.5 million had been paid out from the $6 million earmarked for the foundation’s delivery of the Safe Roads for Safe Cycling Program.

“Grants need to be spent in accordance with conditions agreed as part of the funding process. The Department has been in discussions with the foundation since before December over the provision of necessary information as part of the conditions of the grant. Those discussions have been ongoing.

“The Albanese Government is committed to creating safer environments for all road users nationwide.”

The foundation’s bright pink branding has become commonplace at cycling events, while it built strong relationships with federal, state and territory governments (assisted by influential board members, such as former chair and Liberal party heavyweight Mark Textor).

But in recent years questions have been raised over the foundation’s continued impact, particularly after the completion of the A Metre Matters campaign. Several other bodies operate in the advocacy ecosystem, including Bicycle Network and Bicycle NSW. In 2020, Bike Melbourne asked in a blog post: “Has the Amy Gillett Foundation outlived its use by date?

AusCycling, the peak body for the sport of cycling, told the Guardian it would consider the implications of the foundation’s closure for its own advocacy programs and initiatives. AusCycling and the foundation were partners on some projects, but did not have a financial relationship; AusCycling indicated on Friday it had not been approached by the foundation in relation to its financial situation.

AusCycling chief executive Marne Fechner said she was “disappointed” at the news, adding that the Metre Matters campaign would be “a continued reminder of the Foundation’s two-decade legacy”.

Amy Gillett Foundation data indicates that more than 20 cyclists are seriously injured and hospitalised across the country every day, while a cyclist is killed every 10 days on Australian roads.

In her letter, Jacobs implored continued efforts to address these statistics.

“While the work of our foundation will cease, the urgent need to improve cyclist safety continues,” she wrote. “Despite the advances that have been made in road safety, design, infrastructure and driver and cyclist behaviour, the goal of zero cycling fatalities is yet to be achieved.”

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Foundation for cyclist safety to close after federal funds cut off

Amy Gillett Foundation for cyclist safety to close after federal funds cut off

Set up to honour the Australian national team cyclist killed by a car, the group was behind the successful A Metre Matters campaign

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
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The Australian cycling safety advocacy body behind the successful A Metre Matters campaign is being wound up after federal government funding was discontinued.

The Amy Gillett Foundation was established in 2006 after the death of Gillett, a former Olympic rower who had switched to track and road cycling. The 29-year-old was training with the Australian national team in Germany when she and her teammates were hit by a car.

The foundation has been responsible for several cycling safety advocacy campaigns, including efforts to enshrine in law the requirement that drivers leave at least one metre’s distance while passing a cyclist. The campaign began in 2009 and ended in 2021, when Victoria became the final state to update its road laws.

The foundation has also overseen a scholarship program for emerging female road cyclists. Recent recipients have included former national champion Sarah Gigante and two-time world time trial silver medallist Grace Brown. It puts its name to an annual participation ride, Amy’s Gran Fondo, along the Great Ocean Road.

In a letter to stakeholders, seen by Guardian Australia, foundation chair Lisa Jacobs wrote that “regretfully, the board has concluded that ongoing operation of the foundation is no longer sustainable in the absence of new federal government funding”.

The news was first reported by cycling website Escape Collective.

The foundation received $6m in the 2022 budget, with a program of work formally launched in March last year by the assistant minister for infrastructure and transport, Carol Brown.

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

Liquidators Shaun Matthews and Rachel Burdett of Cor Cordis have been appointed to wind up the foundation. In a statement, they said: “As has been the experience of many not-for-profits, the past few years have been lean, and securing philanthropic funding has become more complex.” They added that they would review the foundation’s financial position before “we commence winding up the affairs of the foundation in an orderly manner”.

The foundation was approached for comment but did not respond before publication. The Australian Sports Commission declined to comment.

The assistant minister, Senator Brown, said in a statement to the Guardian that to date $4.5 million had been paid out from the $6 million earmarked for the foundation’s delivery of the Safe Roads for Safe Cycling Program.

“Grants need to be spent in accordance with conditions agreed as part of the funding process. The Department has been in discussions with the foundation since before December over the provision of necessary information as part of the conditions of the grant. Those discussions have been ongoing.

“The Albanese Government is committed to creating safer environments for all road users nationwide.”

The foundation’s bright pink branding has become commonplace at cycling events, while it built strong relationships with federal, state and territory governments (assisted by influential board members, such as former chair and Liberal party heavyweight Mark Textor).

But in recent years questions have been raised over the foundation’s continued impact, particularly after the completion of the A Metre Matters campaign. Several other bodies operate in the advocacy ecosystem, including Bicycle Network and Bicycle NSW. In 2020, Bike Melbourne asked in a blog post: “Has the Amy Gillett Foundation outlived its use by date?

AusCycling, the peak body for the sport of cycling, told the Guardian it would consider the implications of the foundation’s closure for its own advocacy programs and initiatives. AusCycling and the foundation were partners on some projects, but did not have a financial relationship; AusCycling indicated on Friday it had not been approached by the foundation in relation to its financial situation.

AusCycling chief executive Marne Fechner said she was “disappointed” at the news, adding that the Metre Matters campaign would be “a continued reminder of the Foundation’s two-decade legacy”.

Amy Gillett Foundation data indicates that more than 20 cyclists are seriously injured and hospitalised across the country every day, while a cyclist is killed every 10 days on Australian roads.

In her letter, Jacobs implored continued efforts to address these statistics.

“While the work of our foundation will cease, the urgent need to improve cyclist safety continues,” she wrote. “Despite the advances that have been made in road safety, design, infrastructure and driver and cyclist behaviour, the goal of zero cycling fatalities is yet to be achieved.”

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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 who was 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 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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Nikki Haley unsure Trump would follow constitution

‘I don’t know’: Nikki Haley unsure Trump would follow constitution

Trump’s last remaining Republican primary challenger says ‘I don’t think there should ever be a president that’s above the law’

Asked if she thought Donald Trump would follow the US constitution if he is elected for a second term as president, Nikki Haley said: “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know. I don’t – I don’t know,” the former South Carolina governor, Trump’s last opponent for the Republican presidential nomination, told NBC’s Meet the Press in an interview to be broadcast in full on Sunday.

“I mean … you always want to think someone will, but I don’t know.”

Trump has won every primary vote and heads into Super Tuesday on 5 March, when multiple states hold nominating contests, on the brink of securing the nomination.

Refusing to drop out, Haley has attacked Trump in steadily harsher terms. But though she has kept the twice-impeached former president from utterly dominating at the polls, she has not come close to winning a state.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric has been characteristically dark, including a wish to be a “dictator” on day one in office and promises to take “ultimate and absolute revenge” on his enemies. He has mused about “vindication” and about “terminating” the constitution.

Haley said: “You know, when you … go and you talk about revenge – when you go and you talk about, you know, vindication [and] when you go and you talk about – what does that mean? Like, I don’t know what that means, and only he can answer for that.

“What I can answer for is, I don’t think there should ever be a president that’s above the law. I don’t think that there should ever be a president that has total immunity to do whatever they want to do.”

The US supreme court this week stunned many observers when it said it would hear oral arguments over Trump’s claim, in his federal election subversion case, that he has absolute immunity for acts committed in office.

A federal appeals court roundly rejected the argument but it will be presented to a rightwing-dominated supreme court to which Trump appointed three justices in four years. Scheduling concerns mean any trial is likely to be close to or after the November election.

Facing 91 criminal charges – for election subversion (four federal, 13 state), retention of classified information (40) and hush-money payments (34), Trump has sought to delay each case, ultimately to be able to have them dismissed if he is re-elected.

Haley, who served the former president as ambassador to the United Nations, has said Trump cannot win a general election but also refused to rule out endorsing him and said she will not support Joe Biden.

Trump has roundly mocked Haley and demanded she drop out.

As president, Haley told NBC, “I think that we need to have someone that our kids can look up to, that they can be proud of.”

Trump’s hush-money trial – concerning payments to an adult film star who claimed an extramarital affair – will begin in New York at the end of March.

Haley added: “I think we need to have a country of law and order, a country of freedom, and a country that goes back to respecting the value of a taxpayer dollar, and we don’t have any of that right now.”

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US man breaks own record for most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime

US man extends record for most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime to over 34,000

Don Gorske, 70, becomes one of Guinness World Records’ longest-running holders with intake of two McDonald’s burgers a day

Don Gorske did not have many people betting on him to live into his 70s with his half-century-old habit of eating Big Mac hamburgers daily.

But cutting down his intake of the famous McDonald’s burgers to two a day (rather than his previous high of nine), skipping fries with his meals and walking six miles daily for exercise has not only helped him become a septuagenarian – it has also allowed him to extend his Guinness world record for most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime to more than 34,000.

“Many people thought I’d be dead by now,” the 70-year-old Gorske said on Thursday in an interview published by the organization which is known for maintaining a database of more than 40,000 world records. “But instead I’ve been … one of Guinness World Records’ longer-running record holders, so that’s pretty cool to me.”

It’s hard to overstate how central McDonald’s and its staple product have been to the identity of the retired prison officer from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. That’s the case despite longstanding warnings from experts who say regularly consuming fast food, including McDonald’s, can contribute to weight gain, obesity, heart disease and other health problems because the meals are densely packed with calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

Gorske recounted how his love affair with Big Macs began as soon as he had his first one on 17 May 1972. “In that moment, I said: ‘I’m going to probably eat these for the rest of my life,’” Gorske remarked to Guinness. “I threw the cartons in the back seat and started counting them from day one.”

He is not exaggerating. He has kept a receipt of every single Big Mac he’s eaten every day since that first one, and he’s retained each of the burgers’ containers.

Gorske said his mother grew worried as she saw his fascination with Big Macs blossom and tried to rein it in by making him promise to eat one non-Big Mac meal a day. But she gave up on making him fulfill that promise in 1981.

According to Gorske, “She said, ‘If they haven’t killed you by now, go ahead.’”

Gorske would drive to McDonald’s every day, order up to nine Big Macs and eat each of them at the height of his devotion. The one closest to his home displays his portrait on one of its walls, and he said he even proposed to his wife, Mary, in that restaurant’s parking lot.

But Gorske now usually goes to McDonald’s twice weekly, orders batches of Big Macs and – after eating a fresh one – takes them home to microwave when he’s hungry.

Gorske said he doesn’t stray very far from Big Macs, sometimes snacking on ice-cream, fruit bars or potato chips in the evenings.

The incarcerated people whom Gorske would guard at a maximum security prison in Wisconsin aimed “relentless” teasing at him if they ever saw him on television in connection with his McDonald’s habit. But he said his fellow guards were supportive, going so far as to sneak in Big Macs for him on the occasions he worked double shifts and couldn’t get them for himself.

Mary, too, supported him. “She has put up with a lot of obsessive compulsive things I do and hasn’t let my Big Mac thing get to her,” he told Guinness.

Gorske has kept himself in the best physical shape possible by foregoing breakfast, turning down fries or any other side serving with his Big Macs and walking a half-dozen miles daily.

Such efforts culminated in Guinness giving him his world record title for most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime in 1999. He had eclipsed the 25,000 mark in 2011, boasting to the Guardian then: “I plan on eating Big Macs until I die. I have no intention of changing. It’s still my favorite food.”

And throughout 2023, he ate 728 Big Macs – just below two daily – to push his total to 34,128.

No, he’s still not lost his appetite for the burgers, and yes, he has plenty of room for more, he maintained.

“When I like something, I stick with it all the time,” Gorske said to Guinness. “People who have watched me eating a Big Mac often comment that I look like I’m eating one for the very first time.”

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