The Guardian 2024-03-04 16:31:40


Trump was wrongly removed from Colorado ballot, supreme court rules

Trump was wrongly removed from Colorado ballot, US supreme court rules

Court’s decision overturns ruling from state supreme court that disqualified Trump from primary over January 6 attack

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Donald Trump was wrongly removed from Colorado’s primary ballot last year, the US supreme court has ruled, clearing the way for Trump to appear on the ballot in all 50 states.

The court’s unanimous decision overturns a 4-3 ruling from the Colorado supreme court that said the former president could not run because he had engaged in insurrection during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. The Colorado decision was a novel interpretation of section 3 of the 14th amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding office.

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion. Congress, the court said, had to enact the procedures for disqualification under Section 3.

“State-by-state resolution of the question whether Section 3 bars a particular candidate for President from serving would be quite unlikely to yield a uniform answer consistent with the basic principle that the President … represent[s] all the voters in the Nation,” the court added.

Colorado’s presidential primary is Tuesday and Trump had been allowed to appear on the ballot while the case was pending. Maine and a judge in Illinois had also excluded Trump from the ballot – decisions that are now likely to quickly be reversed.

All nine justices agreed with the central holding in the case: that the Colorado supreme court had wrongly barred Trump from appearing on the ballot. But agreement did not extend beyond that.

The majority opinion went on to say that the only way to enforce section 3 was by specifically-tailored congressional legislation to determine which individuals should be disqualified for insurrection.But Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson all said that finding went beyond the scope of the case, with the liberal justices specifically saying the court was shielding insurrectionists from accountability.

“The Court continues on to resolve questions not before us. In a case involving no federal action whatsoever, the Court opines on how federal enforcement of Section 3 must proceed,” the liberal justices wrote. ‘“These musings are as inadequately supported as they are gratuitous.”

The court’s conservative majority, the liberal justices said, had made it nearly impossible to hold insurrectionists accountable. The court “forecloses judicial enforcement” of the provision, they wrote, and was “ruling out enforcement under general federal statutes requiring the government to comply with the law”.

“By resolving these and other questions, the majority attempts to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office,” they wrote.

Barrett, a conservative also appointed by Trump, also didn’t fully embrace the majority’s opinion. “I agree that States lack the power to enforce Section 3 against Presidential candidates. That principle is sufficient to resolve this case, and I would decide no more than that,” she wrote.

But she went on to rebuke her liberal colleagues for amplifying disagreement on the court.

“In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency. The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up,” she wrote.

None of the opinions addressed a central and politically charged issue in the case – whether Trump engaged in insurrection on January 6.

“While the supreme court allowed Donald Trump back on the ballot on technical legal grounds, this was in no way a win for Trump. The supreme court had the opportunity in this case to exonerate Trump, and they chose not to do so,” Noah Bookbinder, the president of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, the left-leaning group that backed the Colorado case, said in a statement. “The supreme court removed an enforcement mechanism, and in letting Trump back on the ballot, they failed to meet the moment. But it is now clear that Trump led the January 6 insurrection, and it will be up to the American people to ensure accountability.”

Enacted after the civil war, section 3 of the 14th amendment says that any member of Congress or officer of the United States who engages in insurrection after taking an oath to the constitution is barred from holding office. It has never been used to bar a presidential candidate from office.

During oral argument in February, nearly all of the justices signaled skepticism of Colorado’s authority to remove Trump from the ballot. They worried about the chaos it would cause if states had the unilateral authority to determine a candidate had engaged in insurrection and worried it could result in a chaotic, partisan tit-for-tat.

“I would expect that a goodly number of states will say whoever the Democratic candidate is, you’re off the ballot, and others, for the Republican candidate, you’re off the ballot. It will come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election. That’s a pretty daunting consequence,” the chief justice, John Roberts, said during oral argument.

The Colorado supreme court reached its conclusion after a Denver trial court judge held a five-day hearing and ruled that Trump had engaged in insurrection on January 6, but was not disqualified from the ballot because he was not an officer of the United States.

At the end of their opinion, the three liberal justices offered a full-throated defense of why section 3 was still needed.

“Section 3 serves an important, though rarely needed, role in our democracy. The American people have the power to vote for and elect candidates for national office, and that is a great and glorious thing. The men who drafted and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, however, had witnessed an “insurrection [and] rebellion” to defend slavery. They wanted to ensure that those who had participated in that insurrection, and in possible future insurrections, could not return to prominent roles,” they wrote.

“Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President.”

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Joe BidenI’ll beat Trump, says president, but polls say otherwise

Biden says in rare print interview he’ll beat Trump but polls say otherwise

US president tells New Yorker he is ‘the only one who has ever beat’ Trump but clear majorities think he is too old for second term

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In a rare print interview, Joe Biden addressed fears over his chances of victory in the coming US presidential election and said he was “the only one who has ever beat” his likely Republican challenger, Donald Trump, adding: “And I’ll beat him again.”

But the president was voicing a conviction at odds with most polling, in which clear majorities think that at 81 he is too old for a second term and narrow majorities put Trump ahead in a general election match-up.

Biden was in conversation with Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, whose short biography of Biden was published in 2020, the year the former senator and vice-president secured the Democratic nomination at his third attempt and then beat Trump.

Osnos wrote: “Now, having reached the apex of power, [Biden] gives off a conviction that borders on serenity – a bit too much serenity for Democrats who wonder if he can still beat the man with whom his legacy will be forever entwined.

“Given the doubts, I asked, wasn’t it a risk to say, ‘I’m the one to do it’?

“He shook his head and said: ‘No. I’m the only one who has ever beat him. And I’ll beat him again.’”

Poised to secure the Republican nomination after the Super Tuesday primaries this week, Trump is only three and a half years Biden’s junior. But even amid public slips and gaffes every bit as glaring as those by Biden, fewer Americans think Trump is too old to return to office.

Trump also faces unprecedented legal jeopardy, arising from his conduct in business, on the campaign trail and in office.

Of 91 criminal charges, 17 concern election subversion, 40 arise from Trump’s retention of classified information and 34 are related to hush-money payments to an adult film star who claimed an affair.

Trump also faces multimillion-dollar civil fines, over his business affairs and a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”. Attempts to keep him off the ballot for inciting the January 6 insurrection, by supporters of his lie about electoral fraud in his defeat by Biden, failed on Monday with the rejection by the US supreme court of a case in Colorado.

Osnos noted that regardless of such unprecedented challenges for a (near-certain) presidential challenger, “by the usual measures” on which incumbents are judged – falling violent crime, unemployment below 4%, record stock-market highs – “Biden should be cruising to re-election”.

And yet, even amid warnings from pundits that conventional polling means little so far out from election day, Trump is generally ahead.

This weekend, a rash of polls made bad reading for Biden, though some said the same for Trump.

  • The New York Times and Siena College put Trump up 48%-43% and said Democrats were split on whether Biden should be their nominee, with young voters, likely to disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, expressing particular doubt.

  • CBS News and YouGov said most voters favoured Trump on the economy, regardless of such conditions as outlined by Osnos and also Trump’s record, thanks to Covid-19, of leaving office 2.9m jobs down and with unemployment at 6.3%.

  • Fox News put Trump up two points in a general election match-up and ahead with voters on the economy and immigration, the latter issue one on which he recently forced congressional Republicans to tank a hardline bipartisan deal.

  • The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said 60% of respondents were “not very or not at all confident in Biden’s mental capability to serve effectively as president”, up from about 50% in January 2022. Nearly 60% said the same of Trump.

Biden became a senator in 1973 and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008. He was vice-president to Barack Obama between 2009 and 2017 before securing the presidential nomination in 2020 with a campaign built on the threat he said Trump posed to American democracy itself.

Such messaging has been central to Biden’s re-election bid but David Axelrod, formerly chief strategist to Obama and a prominent Biden critic, told Osnos: “I’m pretty certain in Scranton [Pennsylvania, Biden’s home town] they’re not sitting around their dinner table talking about democracy every night.”

“The Republican message is: the world’s out of control and Biden’s not in command. That’s the entire message – Trump, the strongman, is the solution. I think you have to be thinking about how you counter that, and how you deal with fears about Biden’s condition.”

Calls for Biden to step aside for a younger candidate have been rejected by the White House and most progressive pundits. In conversation with Osnos, Biden remained resolute.

For the president, Osnos wrote, “the offense of the contested election [in 2020] was clearly personal. Trump had not just tried to steal the presidency – he had tried to steal it from him.”

Biden said: “I’d ask a rhetorical question. If you thought you were best positioned to beat someone who, if they won, would change the nature of America, what would you do?’

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Allen WeisselbergFormer Trump Organization CFO pleads guilty to perjury

Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg pleads guilty to perjury

Longtime loyal associate of ex-president faces five months in jail after reaching agreement with New York prosecutors in fraud case

Allen Weisselberg, a longtime lieutenant to Donald Trump, faces five months in jail after reaching an agreement with prosecutors in New York to plead guilty to perjury in the former US president’s recent civil fraud trial charges.

As the former chief financial officer in the Trump Organization, Weisselberg was key in helping Trump record his net worth. A defendant in the fraud trial, Weisselberg was accused of helping to inflate Trump’s net worth on government financial documents, misleading lenders.

That trial ended with a judge imposing a huge financial penalty of more than $450m including interest on Trump. Weisselberg, 76, was ordered to pay $1.1m and permanently banned from serving in the financial control function of any New York business.

Weisselberg also faces five months in jail after pleading guilty to perjury.

On the witness stand in October, Weisselberg was evasive, often saying he did not recall the real estate valuations that were at the center of the trial.

But a key moment of his testimony came when Weisselberg insisted he did not notice a discrepancy on Trump’s financial statements: that Trump’s triplex apartment was listed as being 30,000 sq ft when in reality, it is closer to 11,000 sq ft.

“It was de minimus, in my mind,” he said at the time.

Forbes magazine disputed the claim he made on the stand, saying it had emails and notes that proved Weisselberg had actively tried to convince the magazine for years that the triplex was bigger than it actually was, denying what was listed on real estate documents. Weisselberg abruptly ended his testimony after Forbes published an article accusing him of lying on the stand.

In exchange for pleading guilty to perjury in the fraud trial, Weisselberg is not expected to implicate his old boss in Trump’s upcoming hush-money criminal case, according to the New York Times. For that case, Trump is being accused of falsifying business records, falsely reporting hush-money payments to the adult film star Stormy Daniels as “legal fees” on records.

Weisselberg left the Trump Organization last year but has remained loyal to his former boss. The company agreed to pay him severance of $2m.

In 2022, Weisselberg pleaded guilty to allegations of tax fraud at the heart of the former president’s real estate empire. He spent 100 days in New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison after testifying against the Trump Organization.

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Donald TrumpAI-generated images with Black voters being spread by supporters

AI-generated images of Trump with Black voters being spread by supporters

No evidence to tie fake images, including one created by Florida radio host, to Trump campaign, BBC Panorama investigation finds

  • Supreme court allows Trump to stay on Colorado ballot – live updates

Dozens of fake, artificial intelligence-generated photos showing Donald Trump with Black people are being spread by his supporters, according to a new investigation.

BBC Panorama reported that the images appear to be created by supporters themselves. There is no evidence tying the photos to Trump’s campaign.

One photo was created by the Florida-based conservative radio show host Mark Kaye.

“I’m not out there taking pictures of what’s really happening. I’m a storyteller,” Kaye told BBC. “I’m not claiming it is accurate. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, look, Donald Trump was at this party with all of these African American voters. Look how much they love him.’”

Artificial intelligence has already caused problems in the 2024 election campaign, with robocalls that used AI to mimic Joe Biden’s voice urging voters not to vote in the New Hampshire primaries.

The latest AI-generated media to emerge show Trump posing on a porch with Black men. Captions shared on social media falsely stated that Trump stopped his motorcade to pose. The BBC noted that some commenters online pointed out that the photos were fake, but many others were convinced they were real.

A taxi driver in Atlanta named Douglas told the outlet that he initially believed one of the photos was real, and that it bolstered his view that Trump was supportive of the Black community.

“Well, that’s the thing about social media. It’s so easy to fool people,” he said.

The co-founder of Black Voters Matter, Cliff Albright, said the AI-generated photos appear to be part of a resurgence of disinformation tactics used in the 2020 election targeted toward the Black community.

“There have been documented attempts to target disinformation to black communities again, especially younger black voters,” Albright told the BBC.

A recent NYTimes and Siena College poll found only 71% of Black voters in six key swing states would vote for Biden, compared with 92% in 2020. Make America Great Again Inc, the main political action committee backing Trump, is set to launch an advertising campaign this week aimed at Black voters in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

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Management consultant Simon Kennedy wins fight to contest Cook byelection

Liberals pick management consultant Simon Kennedy for Cook byelection

The party misses the chance to have a female candidate in the safe seat vacated by former prime minister Scott Morrison

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Simon Kennedy will contest Scott Morrison’s seat of Cook for the Liberals in the byelection triggered by the former prime minister’s resignation.

Kennedy, a consultant and the former candidate for Bennelong, won preselection in the first round on Monday night with 158 out of 296 votes, beating the mayor of Sutherland shire, Carmelo Pesce, and war widow and veteran family advocate commissioner, Gwen Cherne.

Morrison announced his resignation in January to take on “new challenges in the global corporate sector” and formally resigned in late February, although no date has yet been set for the byelection.

Kennedy will be prohibitive favourite in the poll, given Morrison’s 12.5% margin, the inclination within Labor not to field a candidate, and the lack of a strong independent challenge.

In the preselection stoush Cherne fell short, winning just 35 votes, despite backing from the moderate faction and former prime minister John Howard.

Morrison largely sat out the preselection, despite expressing in 2021 that he would “would love to see a woman follow me as the member for Cook when I choose to retire from politics”.

Kennedy is a former partner at McKinsey who moved from Maroubra in south Sydney to contest Bennelong in 2022. He lost the northern Sydney seat to Labor’s Jerome Laxale by 1,954 votes, or 49-51% in two-party preferred terms.

Earlier on Monday the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said Labor hasn’t “made a final decision” on whether or not to contest the election, a call to be made by the New South Wales branch.

“Cook is not a seat that it would be expected that we would win, but we’ll wait and see,” he told ABC Sydney.

“I noticed that the Liberal party have the opportunity to finally select a woman candidate today for Cook.

“But we’ll wait and see whether they actually do or whether it’s yet another bloke sitting behind Peter Dutton just saying no to everything.”

A Liberal party review into the 2022 election recommended a target of 50% female representation in parliament within 10 years or three terms, but the party has made little progress at boosting women in its ranks.

After Roshena Campbell lost the Aston byelection, the Liberals preselected Cameron Caldwell in Fadden, who went on to win the seat, and Nathan Conroy in Dunkley, who lost Saturday’s byelection but will re-contest the seat at the federal election after achieving a moderate swing of more than 3%.

In February the independent MP for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, said the Coalition “can’t just say we’d love to see women – they need to take action on this”.

“You’re seeing in the House of Representatives about one in five Liberal MPs are women, so … the electorate [will] judge whether that turns into action in terms of pre-selection,” Spender said.

Simon Holmes à Court, the founder of the Climate 200 fundraising body for independent candidates, has been spruiking for months for a local campaign group to approach seeking support in Cook.

A Climate 200 spokesperson told Guardian Australia that “nobody has approach for our support yet”.

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Twin babies among 14 killed in airstrike on house in Rafah

Twin babies among 14 killed in Israeli airstrike on house in Rafah

Five-month-old boy and girl born after 10 years of trying died in blast at home that also killed their father

Five-month-old twins who were conceived after three rounds of IVF have been killed in an Israeli airstrike on their family home in Rafah, southern Gaza.

Naeim and Wissam Abu Anza were among 14 Palestinians – including six children – killed in the strike at the weekend, according to survivors and health officials. The babies’ father was among the dead. Another nine people are still missing under the rubble.

The twins, a boy and a girl, were born less than a week after the start of the Israel-Gaza war. Their parents had spent 10 years trying to conceive.

Rania Abu Anza had woken up at about 10pm on Saturday to breastfeed her son. She went back to sleep cradling the babies and with her husband beside them. An hour and a half later, the house collapsed in an explosion.

“I screamed for my children and my husband,” she told the Associated Press, sobbing and cradling a baby’s blanket to her chest. “They were all dead. Their father took them and left me behind.”

Dr Marwan al-Hams, the director of the hospital where the bodies from Saturday’s airstrike were taken, said six children and four women were among the 14 people killed. As well as her husband and children, Abu Anza lost a sister, a nephew, a pregnant cousin and other relatives.

Farouq Abu Anza, a family member, said about 35 people were staying at the house, some of whom had been displaced from other areas. He said they were all civilians, mostly children, and that there were no militants among them.

“I lost the people who were dearest to me,” said Rania Abu Anza. “I want to get out of this country. I’m tired of this war.”

Israeli airstrikes have regularly hit crowded homes since the start of the conflict. The strikes often come without warning, usually in the middle of the night.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on the Hamas militant group because it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in dense residential areas.

The military did not comment on this attack but said it “follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm”.

Israel declared Rafah a safe zone in October but the town is now the next target of its devastating ground offensive.

The war began after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, rampaging through communities, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

Israel responded with a military campaign in which more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. More than 40% of them were children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

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WFP pleaAid ‘needed urgently’ to prevent famine in north Gaza

Aid corridor needed urgently to prevent famine in north Gaza, says WFP official

Agency’s Gaza director says deaths near aid convoy last week were avoidable and north of territory needs to be flooded with aid

The deaths of more than 100 people when Israeli forces opened fire near an aid convoy in Gaza was a tragedy that should have been foreseen and could have been prevented, the World Food Programme director for Gaza has said.

Matthew Hollingworth also said an aid corridor into northern Gaza was needed urgently to prevent a “man-made” famine there after Palestinians were starved of food at terrifying speed and scale.

“To have a situation today with half a million people facing famine in just five months is extraordinary at that scale,” he said. “There’s nowhere else in the world today with this many people at risk of famine. Nowhere. And it’s all man-made.”

The WFP halted food deliveries to north Gaza in late February, despite looming starvation, because Israeli forces had twice shot at desperate Palestinians trying to get food from WFP trucks in the same place, Hollingworth said.

“Sadly, from our perspective, the entire reason why we came to a temporary suspension is because we feared something like that would happen,” he said in an interview at the WFP’s Jerusalem office. “We had been in two situations, over two consecutive days, where shots were fired when people got too close to the military checkpoint and when people rushed the trucks.”

The decision taken on 19 February “was founded on a fear that further beneficiaries would be killed attempting to get assistance directly off the trucks we took in,” he said.

The UN, the EU and witnesses in Gaza say many people rushing to get aid from trucks last Thursday were shot by Israeli forces. Israel’s military says its troops opened fire in self-defence, did not target hungry crowds, and that most of the dead were killed in a crush or run over by panicked drivers.

Hollingworth said the north of the territory would need to be flooded with aid to stabilise the situation. People would only stop risking their lives for aid when they had got several days’ or weeks’ worth of food and knew that an aid pipeline is functioning, he said.

He estimated that would require a daily minimum of 600 tonnes of food aid, or 30 trucks, for 10 days, starting immediately.

The WFP has been in talks with communities in Gaza City and the Israeli military about resuming deliveries safely, although the deaths last week set them back. “I’m still confident we can restart, and we will restart. We have to. People are genuinely facing starvation in Gaza City,” Hollingworth said.

Airdrops of food, which the US has begun as a measure of last resort, cannot deliver enough to prevent a famine in Gaza City. A C-130 Hercules cargo plane can carry less than 5 tonnes of food, or about a quarter of a truckload.

But they will save some lives and help tackle the widespread sense in Gaza City that people there have been abandoned to their fate by the rest of the world.

“Every time they look up in the sky and see a parachute falling down, it’s a reminder that the world hasn’t forgotten. And don’t underestimate how important that is,” Hollingworth said.

At present the WFP feeds about 1.1 million people a month in Gaza, working closely with UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine, which also feeds about 1.1 million people.

But only very small portion of food aid shipped into southern Gaza from the Egyptian border has reached the north, where hunger is most extreme, Hollingworth said.

About 300,000 people there have in effect been living off what was in place before Israel launched its operation in Gaza on 7 October in response to cross-border attacks by Hamas.

Five months on, this means supplies of everything edible, including animal feed, have been largely exhausted in Gaza City.

On a late February visit, Hollingworth saw people “cutting grass and picking leaves from trees” to eat, children wasting away from hunger, and adults who said they had not eaten for days so that their children could have a few mouthfuls daily.

One man who came to collect WFP food aid was so weak from hunger that he had to open the box and eat a can of beans to get the strength to carry the rest home. Eerie markets had flip-flops and plastic food containers on sale but not a single edible item.

Hollingworth said the WFP had 550 trucks in El Arish loaded with food and ready to go as soon as there was better access. The number of trucks of aid crossing into Gaza dropped to about 100 a day in February, less than half of January’s levels.

He said aid shipments were being held up by bottlenecks at Israeli checkpoints for aid entering Gaza, security problems in a lawless 4km stretch between the border and Rafah, and the logistical challenges of moving food north on bombed-out streets crowded with refugees and through communities where hunger is also widespread, if less extreme than in the north.

“We have trucks that have been queueing to cross for a week or 10 days, and then they do cross and that can take 24 hours to 48 hours” to go through Israeli checks, he said.

These delays are partly because the cargo goes through six loading and unloading processes. All supplies must be unloaded from Egyptian trucks into “sterile” trucks that only operate in the crossing area, then taken to a checkpoint where the contents are unloaded again for detailed inspection.

If they pass – and one item rejected by Israeli authorities means a whole truck is sent back – they must be loaded again on to sterile trucks, taken to the Gaza border, unloaded again and reloaded on to trucks that drive inside Gaza.

Once on those trucks, there is a supply corridor to the edge of Rafah where neither the Israeli military nor civilian authorities in Gaza have control.

“It’s a 4km no-man’s-land corridor where there is no security other than the UN and our only security is our ability to try and persuade people not to steal from us,” Hollingworth said. Drivers have been attacked by criminals armed with box cutters, machetes and axes, and some days refuse to travel this short distance.

“It takes seven to 10 days between departing from, let’s say, the port of El Said or the hub in El Arish to actually crossing into Rafah,” he said. Demonstrations by Israelis who oppose aid supplies to Gaza also close the crossing for periods.

The supply lines are further snarled by a lack of supervision of shipments, with two trucks carrying Covid tests recently taking up vital space.

Inside Gaza, the trucks then have to navigate the streets of Rafah, which are so crowded with refugee tents that some are now barely wide enough for a donkey cart, and drive slowly north through communities also desperate for food.

Hollingworth said a crossing into northern Gaza would be the most effective route for direct aid access. But if Israeli public pressure meant the government would not agree to this, a secure corridor inside the Gaza border, leading directly to the north, would be a stopgap measuring make it much easier to deliver aid there.

Ultimately though, Palestinians need the fighting to stop, to allow aid in on a meaningful scale. “The one thing we want to call for more than anything else is a cessation of hostilities. If there’s a ceasefire tomorrow, that’s a gamechanger,” Hollingworth said.

“You can then work in a completely different way … to improve the situation and start rebuilding people’s lives and hope and dignity.”

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US electionsHow Gaza activists are continuing the wave of ‘uncommitted’ votes

How Gaza activists in Minnesota are pushing the US wave of ‘uncommitted’ votes

Inspired by Michigan, organizers in state with high voter turnout are urging ‘uncommitted’ ballot option to protest Biden’s support of Israel

Dozens of families turned up to a Minneapolis park on Sunday to hear why they should cast an “uncommitted” protest vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary and how that could affect the Israel-Gaza war.

Kids played on the playground or made signs to support Palestine while their caregivers listened as organizers shared an “easy action”: show up at your local polling place on Tuesday, ask for a Democratic ballot and check the box that says “uncommitted”.

Minnesota organizers, inspired by the strong turnout for an uncommitted vote in Michigan, quickly put together a coalition to get out the word that Minnesota voters should follow Michigan’s example.

In Michigan, Democrats set a goal to get 10,000 uncommitted votes; more than 100,000 people instead voted uncommitted, a message to Joe Biden that Democratic voters demand his action on Palestine. The Israel-Gaza war serves as a key liability for the US president in his re-election bid, and his positions on the issue have turned some Democrats away from him during what is shaping up to be a close race with Donald Trump.

After Michigan’s success, organizers in other progressive states that have uncommitted options on their ballots have started working on local efforts to keep the pressure on Biden for a ceasefire. Minnesota, a Super Tuesday state, has a few factors that give it potential for a good turnout for the uncommitted vote: high voter turnout overall, a progressive history, a large Muslim community. Minnesota’s campaign could further buoy the movement and boost the protest vote in other states, organizers hope.

“We vote in Minnesota. Number one in the country for turnout,” said Jaylani Hussein, a co-chair of the Abandon Biden campaign in Minnesota. “And when it comes to minorities and immigrants, we also have historically high, record turnout.”

At the Minneapolis park, Amanda Purcell of MN Families for Palestine led the audience in a chant: “Gaza kids! Our kids!” The organization has worked for months to reach out to elected officials to support a ceasefire by using small actions that people with kids can easily do.

“We’re really starting to feel the momentum here,” Purcell said. “And we’re hoping that what we do here will just continue to push the wave of uncommitted across the United States.”

Supporters passed out a flyer with a QR code where people could fill out a form to pledge to vote uncommitted, which calls on those pledging their support to also send the form to three other families to share the message.

Over the past week, Minnesota activists have called and texted voters to push out the “uncommitted” message. They’ve gone to mosques around the state to share the idea, targeting Minnesota’s Muslim population. They’ve held rallies. They’ve reached out to college students, families, people who’ve attended protests in the past.

Groups around Minnesota have protested and worked to move their local members of Congress on Palestine. They’ve shown up on Democratic governor Tim Walz’s lawn, calling on him to get the state to divest from Israel. The progressive state with a history of grassroots organizing saw existing groups work together to quickly stand up an uncommitted campaign.

Some Democratic voters in the state had seen what happened in Michigan and already planned to vote uncommitted, said Asma Mohammed, one of the organizers behind Vote Uncommitted MN. To others, supporters explained the idea of “uncommitted” being a protest vote. Some voters had shared that they’d felt there was no reason to show up for the presidential primary because their voices weren’t being heard in a contest dominated by a sitting president; “uncommitted” gives them an option to send a message, Mohammed said.

Mohammed is against a Trump presidency, as are, she says, the rest of the organizers. But there is real disapproval and discontent with Democrats and Biden among the communities who want to see a ceasefire. People are “really angry”, and she hopes the primary vote for uncommitted helps Biden understand that he and the party are losing longtime Democrats, perhaps permanently, because of this.

“I’m hoping that President Biden listens, because I don’t want to have to organize my community out of becoming Republicans or just sitting at home,” Mohammed said. “And it’s not just my community.”

Minnesota’s campaign doesn’t have a number goal like Michigan did. Instead, organizers want to keep Michigan’s first step going in Minnesota, then help people in other states stand up their own efforts. But, most importantly, they want Biden to act. And they believe the only way they can get him to listen now is through their votes.

A win for the uncommitted campaign would be a permanent ceasefire, Mohammed said.

“We don’t want any more empty claims,” she said. “Another win for us is that this will embolden some of our members of Congress and Senate to take action because there are a lot of them who have not been on the right side of this either, who have taken votes that have angered the community and have really been hurting their chances at re-election.”

The Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor party (DFL), the state’s Democratic party, has said it expects Biden to easily win the state. (Another Minnesotan, congressman Dean Phillips, is running for president and on the state’s presidential primary ballots, though his campaign has been virtually non-existent in the state in the lead-up to Super Tuesday.) The party’s chair, Ken Martin, has sought to remind voters of the contrast between Biden and Trump.

After Minnesota’s vote on Tuesday, organizers here plan to share what they learn from the rapid move for an uncommitted campaign with other states. Already, Washington state has an uncommitted campaign underway that received an endorsement from the state’s United Food and Commercial Workers, its largest labor union.

“This is a national movement,” Mohammed said. “It doesn’t stop with Michigan. It doesn’t stop with Minnesota. All of us have to be all in to get the attention of the president.”

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Fury after Exxon chief says public to blame for climate failures

Fury after Exxon chief says public to blame for climate failures

Darren Woods tells Fortune consumers not willing to pay for clean-energy transition, prompting backlash from climate experts

The world is off track to meet its climate goals and the public is to blame, Darren Woods, chief executive of oil giant ExxonMobil, has claimed – prompting a backlash from climate experts.

As the world’s largest investor-owned oil company, Exxon is among the top contributors to global planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions. But in an interview, published on Tuesday, Woods argued that big oil is not primarily responsible for the climate crisis.

The real issue, Woods said, is that the clean-energy transition may prove too expensive for consumers’ liking.

“The dirty secret nobody talks about is how much all this is going to cost and who’s willing to pay for it,” he told Fortune last week. “The people who are generating those emissions need to be aware of and pay the price for generating those emissions. That is ultimately how you solve the problem.”

Woods said the world was “not on the path” to cut its planet-heating emissions to net zero by 2050, which scientists say is imperative to avoid catastrophic impacts of global heating. “When are people going to willing to pay for carbon reduction?” said Woods, who has been Exxon’s chief executive since 2017.

“We have opportunities to make fuels with lower carbon in it, but people aren’t willing to spend the money to do that.”

Experts say Woods’s rhetoric is part of a larger attempt to skirt climate accountability. No new major oil and gas infrastructure can be built if the world is to avoid breaching agreed temperature limits but Exxon, along with other major oil companies currently basking in record profits, is pushing ahead with aggressive fossil-fuel expansion plans.

“It’s like a drug lord blaming everyone but himself for drug problems,” said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia business school.

“I hate to tell you, but you’re the chief executive of the largest publicly traded oil company, you have influence, you make decisions that matter. Exxon are at the mercy of markets but they are also shaping them, they are shaping policy. So no, you can’t blame the public for the failure to fix climate change.”

Troves of internal documents and analyses have over the past decade established that Exxon knew of the dangers of global heating as far back as the 1970s, but forcefully and successfully worked to sow doubt about the climate crisis and stymie action to clamp down on fossil fuel usage. The revelations have inspired litigation against Exxon across the US.

“What they’re really trying to do is to whitewash their own history, to make it invisible,” said Robert Brulle, an environment policy expert at Brown University who has researched climate disinformation spread by the fossil-fuel industry.

A 2021 analysis also demonstrated that Exxon had downplayed its own role in the climate crisis for decades in public-facing messaging.

“The playbook is this: sell consumers a product that you know is dangerous, while publicly denying or downplaying those dangers. Then, when the dangers are no longer deniable, deny responsibility and blame the consumer,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard historian of science and co-author of the 2021 paper.

Last year, another study co-authored by Oreskes found that Exxon’s own scientists “correctly and skillfully” predicted the trajectory of global warming, then spent decades sowing doubt about climate science and policies in order to protect its business model.

In the Tuesday interview, however, Woods says the world “waited too long” to develop carbon-free technologies. He said Exxon “recognized the need to decarbonize” and that a carbon tax would help achieve this, while also defending the oil giant’s comparatively meager investment in renewable energy, pointing to focus upon more nascent technologies, such as carbon capture and hydrogen fuels.

Exxon does not “see the ability to generate above-average returns for investors” from established clean energy generation such as wind and solar, Woods said.

“We recognize a need for that. We just don’t see that as an appropriate use of ExxonMobil’s capabilities,” he added.

Woods does not mention that his company lobbied to fend off provisions in an earlier version of the legislation that would have levied heavy taxes on polluting companies to pay for climate efforts, or that a top Exxon lobbyist was filmed saying that the firm’s support for a carbon tax was a public relations strategy meant to stall more serious climate policies.

“For decades, they told us that the science was too uncertain to justify action, that it was premature to act, and that we could and should wait and see how things developed,” said Oreskes. “Now the CEO says: oh dear, we’ve waited too long. If this isn’t gaslighting, I don’t know what is.”

Wagner said that Exxon was touting its ambition to slash the emissions of its own operations while also betting that the rest of the world won’t do the same, in order to continue selling oil.

“He can’t have it both ways in saying ‘we are an energy company’ but then basically ignoring the cheapest source of electricity in history as something Exxon should be investing in,” he said.

The video interview comes as Exxon is pursuing a lawsuit against activist shareholders who are aiming to push Exxon to take up stricter environmental standards. Those shareholders, Woods said, were trying to stop Exxon’s central business model of selling oil and gas, which it won’t accede to.

“We want to cater to the shareholders who are real investors, who have an interest in seeing this company succeed in generating return on their investments,” he said. “We don’t feel a responsibility to activists that hijack that process … and frankly, abuse it to advance an ideology.”

Exxon has received subsidies to build out its clean energy business from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, Fortune chief exceutive Alan Murray pointed out in the interview. But Woods argued that “building a business on government subsidy is not a long-term sustainable strategy”.

“The way that the government is incentivized and trying to catalyze investments in this space is through subsidies,” he said. “Driving significant investments at a scale that even gets close to moving the needle is going to cost a lot of money.”

But the vast majority of Exxon’s own investments are still being put toward fossil fuel expansion, said Brulle.

“This is what they do: they’re going to basically blame the victim, the American public,” he said.

“They spend on fossil fuels and they spend billions trying to influence public opinion, but we’re supposed to foot the bill for the damage.”

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Fury after Exxon chief says public to blame for climate failures

Fury after Exxon chief says public to blame for climate failures

Darren Woods tells Fortune consumers not willing to pay for clean-energy transition, prompting backlash from climate experts

The world is off track to meet its climate goals and the public is to blame, Darren Woods, chief executive of oil giant ExxonMobil, has claimed – prompting a backlash from climate experts.

As the world’s largest investor-owned oil company, Exxon is among the top contributors to global planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions. But in an interview, published on Tuesday, Woods argued that big oil is not primarily responsible for the climate crisis.

The real issue, Woods said, is that the clean-energy transition may prove too expensive for consumers’ liking.

“The dirty secret nobody talks about is how much all this is going to cost and who’s willing to pay for it,” he told Fortune last week. “The people who are generating those emissions need to be aware of and pay the price for generating those emissions. That is ultimately how you solve the problem.”

Woods said the world was “not on the path” to cut its planet-heating emissions to net zero by 2050, which scientists say is imperative to avoid catastrophic impacts of global heating. “When are people going to willing to pay for carbon reduction?” said Woods, who has been Exxon’s chief executive since 2017.

“We have opportunities to make fuels with lower carbon in it, but people aren’t willing to spend the money to do that.”

Experts say Woods’s rhetoric is part of a larger attempt to skirt climate accountability. No new major oil and gas infrastructure can be built if the world is to avoid breaching agreed temperature limits but Exxon, along with other major oil companies currently basking in record profits, is pushing ahead with aggressive fossil-fuel expansion plans.

“It’s like a drug lord blaming everyone but himself for drug problems,” said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia business school.

“I hate to tell you, but you’re the chief executive of the largest publicly traded oil company, you have influence, you make decisions that matter. Exxon are at the mercy of markets but they are also shaping them, they are shaping policy. So no, you can’t blame the public for the failure to fix climate change.”

Troves of internal documents and analyses have over the past decade established that Exxon knew of the dangers of global heating as far back as the 1970s, but forcefully and successfully worked to sow doubt about the climate crisis and stymie action to clamp down on fossil fuel usage. The revelations have inspired litigation against Exxon across the US.

“What they’re really trying to do is to whitewash their own history, to make it invisible,” said Robert Brulle, an environment policy expert at Brown University who has researched climate disinformation spread by the fossil-fuel industry.

A 2021 analysis also demonstrated that Exxon had downplayed its own role in the climate crisis for decades in public-facing messaging.

“The playbook is this: sell consumers a product that you know is dangerous, while publicly denying or downplaying those dangers. Then, when the dangers are no longer deniable, deny responsibility and blame the consumer,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard historian of science and co-author of the 2021 paper.

Last year, another study co-authored by Oreskes found that Exxon’s own scientists “correctly and skillfully” predicted the trajectory of global warming, then spent decades sowing doubt about climate science and policies in order to protect its business model.

In the Tuesday interview, however, Woods says the world “waited too long” to develop carbon-free technologies. He said Exxon “recognized the need to decarbonize” and that a carbon tax would help achieve this, while also defending the oil giant’s comparatively meager investment in renewable energy, pointing to focus upon more nascent technologies, such as carbon capture and hydrogen fuels.

Exxon does not “see the ability to generate above-average returns for investors” from established clean energy generation such as wind and solar, Woods said.

“We recognize a need for that. We just don’t see that as an appropriate use of ExxonMobil’s capabilities,” he added.

Woods does not mention that his company lobbied to fend off provisions in an earlier version of the legislation that would have levied heavy taxes on polluting companies to pay for climate efforts, or that a top Exxon lobbyist was filmed saying that the firm’s support for a carbon tax was a public relations strategy meant to stall more serious climate policies.

“For decades, they told us that the science was too uncertain to justify action, that it was premature to act, and that we could and should wait and see how things developed,” said Oreskes. “Now the CEO says: oh dear, we’ve waited too long. If this isn’t gaslighting, I don’t know what is.”

Wagner said that Exxon was touting its ambition to slash the emissions of its own operations while also betting that the rest of the world won’t do the same, in order to continue selling oil.

“He can’t have it both ways in saying ‘we are an energy company’ but then basically ignoring the cheapest source of electricity in history as something Exxon should be investing in,” he said.

The video interview comes as Exxon is pursuing a lawsuit against activist shareholders who are aiming to push Exxon to take up stricter environmental standards. Those shareholders, Woods said, were trying to stop Exxon’s central business model of selling oil and gas, which it won’t accede to.

“We want to cater to the shareholders who are real investors, who have an interest in seeing this company succeed in generating return on their investments,” he said. “We don’t feel a responsibility to activists that hijack that process … and frankly, abuse it to advance an ideology.”

Exxon has received subsidies to build out its clean energy business from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, Fortune chief exceutive Alan Murray pointed out in the interview. But Woods argued that “building a business on government subsidy is not a long-term sustainable strategy”.

“The way that the government is incentivized and trying to catalyze investments in this space is through subsidies,” he said. “Driving significant investments at a scale that even gets close to moving the needle is going to cost a lot of money.”

But the vast majority of Exxon’s own investments are still being put toward fossil fuel expansion, said Brulle.

“This is what they do: they’re going to basically blame the victim, the American public,” he said.

“They spend on fossil fuels and they spend billions trying to influence public opinion, but we’re supposed to foot the bill for the damage.”

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Australia to launch $2bn fund to ‘turbocharge’ trade with south-east Asia

Australia to launch $2bn fund to ‘turbocharge’ trade with south-east Asia

Anthony Albanese plans to boost clean energy and infrastructure exports, and increase visas for travellers from the region

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Australia will set up a $2bn fund to “turbocharge” trade and investment in south-east Asia, with a focus on clean energy and infrastructure.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will announce the fund in Melbourne on Tuesday when he addresses a gathering of 100 chief executives from Australia and south-east Asia.

Albanese will say in a speech that he is pursuing “the most significant upgrade of Australia’s economic engagement with Asean for a generation”, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

He will also promise to improve access to longer term visas for south-east Asian travellers, saying this “demonstrates unequivocally that Australia is open for business, tourism, and trade”.

The $2bn south-east Asia investment financing facility is to be managed by Export Finance Australia. It is expected to provide loans, guarantees, equity and insurance to increase Australian trade and investment in south-east Asia.

“The government I lead has made it clear: more than any other region, south-east Asia is where Australia’s future lies,” Albanese will tell business leaders, according to speech notes distributed to media in advance.

He will say Australia’s two-way trade with Asean member states topped $178bn in 2022 – and two-way investment was worth $307bn – “but we want to do more to support regional growth and to realise mutual benefits”.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said he would speak to the same gathering of investors on Tuesday “because we really believe we can turbocharge these relationships with Asean countries”.

Chalmers said Asean was “the hope of the side when it comes to two-way trade”. As a bloc, he said, it was already Australia’s second-biggest trading partner.

“[It is] bigger than the US, bigger than Japan, bigger than the EU, second only to China,” Chalmers told Sky News.

“This is where the action is – in Asean – and we want to get a bigger slice of that action.”

On Tuesday the government will also earmark $140m over four years to extend the Partnerships for Infrastructure Program. The program has helped fund transport, clean energy and telecommunications projects since launching in 2021.

Australia will set up regional “landing pads” in Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City to “provide on-the-ground support to help Australian businesses to boost technology services exports to south-east Asian markets”.

Trade and investment are a major focus of this week’s special summit in Melbourne, held to mark 50 years since Australia became Asean’s first dialogue partner.

But security and great power rivalry between China and the US also loom large.

China – like Australia – is not a member of Asean but is a dialogue partner to the regional bloc.

Some Asean members have tensions with China over competing maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea, but the regional bloc resists taking sides in the strategic contest between Beijing and Washington.

The Australian foreign minister, Penny Wong, warned on Monday that “the region’s character” was under challenge, including in the South China Sea.

In a veiled reference to China, Wong said: “We face destabilising, provocative and coercive actions, including unsafe conduct at sea and in the air and militarisation of disputed features.”

Addressing a maritime cooperation forum at the special summit, Wong called for a regional balance “where no country dominates and no country is dominated” and “where each country can pursue its own aspirations”.

Wong welcomed the resumption of leader-level and military-level dialogue between China and the US as “important steps on the path towards stability that the region has called for”.

But said she all countries, not just the major powers, must “shape habits of cooperation that sustain the character of our region”.

She said all countries should “insist differences are managed through dialogue, not force” and “insist that communication never be withheld as a punishment or offered as a reward”.

“We want to support Asean member states to ensure, collectively, we all have the practical tools we need to be able to rapidly and effectively deescalate tensions and crises.”

Wong said the government would commit $64m over the next four years to help Asean countries “increase resilience to coercion and ensure waterways that serve us all remain open and accessible”.

Albanese met the Malaysian prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, in Melbourne on Monday and promised closer collaboration on issues like cyber security and nuclear non-proliferation.

Malaysia was an early critic of Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, but Anwar avoided direct criticism of the Aukus pact at his joint press conference with Albanese.

Anwar expanded on his recent comments about a rise of “China-phobia” in the west.

“We are an independent nation. We are fiercely independent. We do not want to be dictated by any force,” Anwar told reporters.

He said Malaysia remained “an important friend to the US and Europe and here in Australia” but that “should not preclude us from being friendly to one of our important neighbours, precisely China”.

“And if they have problems with China, they should not impose it upon us. We do not have a problem with China.”

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Program to eradicate red fire ants is a ‘shambles’, Senate inquiry told

Australian program to eradicate red fire ants is a ‘shambles’, Senate inquiry told

Invasive species could be worse than rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats combined, committee hears

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A Senate inquiry into the spread of fire ants in Australia has heard that the government program tasked with their elimination is an “absolute shambles” and that an independent eradication body is urgently needed.

The highly invasive insect is believed to have entered Australia in the 1990s and was discovered at Brisbane port in 2001. A program spanning state, territory and federal governments was created to eradicate red imported fire ants and it has received more than $1.2bn of federal and state funding. Of that, $593m covers 2023 to 2027.

But the program was heavily criticised by stakeholders, academics, local government and community members on the first day of public hearings in Brisbane on Monday, with delays in funding blamed for allowing the insects to spread to more than 700,000 hectares in south-east Queensland and for recent outbreaks in northern New South Wales.

A lack of transparency and wastefulness within the program were also detailed, with a 2021 strategic review not made public until two years after its completion, the committee, chaired by Nationals senator Matt Canavan, heard.

When asked by Peter Whish-Wilson of the Greeens why the report’s publication – which mentioned the word “urgent” 18 times – was delayed until 2023, Dr Helen Scott-Orr, who led the review, said she had “no idea” and was “extremely frustrated”.

“My understanding is it would not have been released at all had there not been the threat it would be leaked,” said Whish-Wilson.

The ants are native to parts of South America and can kill people and livestock, as well as causing damage to infrastructure and ecosystems. Platypus, echidna and koalas are particularly vulnerable, according to the federal environment department.

Stephen Ware, executive director of the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association, described learning that the program bought 85 new vehicles during the Covid pandemic because of social distancing rules.

The scope of the problem was immense, the committee heard. Should the ants spread through Australia’s habitat, the impact would be worse than the combined effects of rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats. Up to 650,000 Australians could be stung each year and the beef industry could be slashed by 40%.

The eradication objective is so large, said Richard Shannon, who formerly worked on the program, that “it’s the equivalent of putting man on the moon”.

“We are further away from eradication than we were five or six years ago when I was part of the program,” he said, adding that it was “too clandestine”.

“The national fire ant eradication program has been a complete shambles,” Dr Pam Swepson told the committee.

The inquiry is the first time stakeholders have been able to give formal feedback on the program.

Officials from the Gold Coast said the ant was “the greatest existential threat” top the city’s lifestyle and that aspects of the program had been “diabolical.”

Attempts by Gold Coast council to share data around the location and treatments of nests with the program had been unsuccessful, the committee heard. According to the city’s submission, the number of Gold Coast suburbs infested by the ants had risen from 17 in 2016 to 76 in 2023.

Jack Gough of the Invasive Species Council saidthe ants “will probably go down in history as one of the most devastating” invasive species.

He is one of a number of witnesses who called for local government funding for fire ants eradication, as well as the formation of a fire ants authority that sits separately to government and has full independence, similar to an Olympics delivery authority.

It should work with environment, health and agriculture ministers around the country, as well as advocate for itself and be transparent, the council urged.

When asked why the ants had notbeen eradicated, Ashley Bacon, program executive from the national program, said the matter was “really complicated”.

“It’s a highly complex program and we’re dealing with something that is biological and evolves,” he told the panel.

Lessons learnt from the past 20 or so years were being put into practice and eradication was “the only option to maintain the Australian way of life”, he said.

“Things are happening [in the program] that we don’t understand – and we are allies,” the Invasive Species Council’s Reece Pianta said after he was heard by the committee on Monday. “The program needs an overhaul – we’re here to help, let us help.”

Hearings will continue in Newcastle on Tuesday and in Canberra later in the month.

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ACT government considers response after court rules calls with journalist gave rise to impression of bias

ACT government considers response after court rules Sofronoff’s calls with journalist gave rise to impression of bias

Judge overturns one finding against former ACT director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold

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Shane Drumgold, the former ACT director of public prosecutions, is “looking forward to moving on with his life” after a supreme court ruled Walter Sofronoff’s extensive communications with a columnist at The Australian newspaper gave rise to an impression of bias against him during an inquiry into the Bruce Lehrmann trial.

Drumgold’s partial win on Monday afternoon marks the end of the battle between the territory’s former top prosecutor and Sofronoff after the latter made “serious findings of misconduct” against him in his inquiry, leading to Drumgold’s resignation.

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Justice Stephen Kaye handed down his judgment in Drumgold’s case against Sofronoff and the ACT government on Monday afternoon, finding the inquiry head’s 273 interactions with the columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, gave the impression he “might have been influenced by the views held and publicly expressed” by her.

Sofronoff had been tasked with examining whether the investigation and trial were subject to political influence. His final report – which was leaked to select media before being handed to the ACT government – made adverse findings against Drumgold, including that he “at times … lost objectivity and did not act with fairness and detachment”.

The ACT government says is still considering how it will respond to the court’s ruling but released a holding statement saying it observed “the report’s findings in relation to other persons and the recommendations in relation to the criminal justice system remain undisturbed”.

Ian Meagher, Drumgold’s solicitor, said his client is “delighted” with the court’s decision and is “now looking forward to moving on with his life”. Guardian Australia has contacted Sofronoff’s legal team.

Drumgold had alleged last August Sofronoff’s inquiry failed to give him a fair hearing, denied him natural justice, breached the law and “gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias”.

Drumgold’s legal team attempted to overturn eight of Sofronoff’s “serious findings of misconduct”, but was only successful in striking off one.

Sofronoff’s finding that Drumgold had acted with “grossly unethical conduct” during his cross-examination of retiring Liberal senator Linda Reynolds was found “legally unreasonable” by Kaye.

The judge also determined Drumgold had not been afforded natural justice in another of Sofronoff’s findings, which alleged the former ACT director of public prosecutions had given a false statement about his understanding of a freedom of information request for a letter he had written.

In late 2022, Guardian Australia published parts of the letter – which had been released under freedom of information – sent by Drumgold to the Australian federal police accusing Reynolds of “disturbing conduct” during the Lehrmann trial.

Reynolds sued Drumgold and the ACT government for defamation, which was settled on Monday morning for $90,000.

The judge ordered the ACT government pay for the proceedings. The exact figure will be determined at a later date.

Drumgold argued that a series of “private and secret” text messages between Sofronoff and Albrechtsen demonstrated “preferential treatment” and a “closeness” that could lead to an impression of bias.

The two had 273 interactions over the inquiry’s seven months, including 51 phone calls, text messages, emails and a private lunch meeting in Brisbane. The former judge also spent seven-and-a-half hours on the phone to The Australian newspaper during the probe, many of which were with Albrechtsen.

Dan O’Gorman, Drumgold’s lawyer, argued in February’s hearings that Albrechtsen was an “advocate” for Lehrmann who may have “infected” Sofronoff with bias against his client, leading the inquiry head to “deal with matters other than on their legal and factual merits”.

“What Mr Drumgold alleges is that Mr Sofronoff’s association with Ms Albrechtsen in particular might be thought by the fair-minded observer to have possibly diverted Mr Sofronoff from deciding the issues in his terms of reference on their merit,” O’Gorman said.

Kate Eastman, a lawyer representing the ACT government, a party to the proceedings, said it was not clear the pair’s extensive communications had any effect on Sofronoff’s conduct.

Brendan Lim, who represents Sofronoff and the board of inquiry, said the former Queensland judge discussed practical matters about the inquiry with Albrechtsen, including when documents would become available.

“[Sofronoff] engaged with any journalist who approached him with legitimate requests for information and explains that Ms Albrechtsen was the most persistent of the journalists, but that did not reflect preferential treatment on his part,” Lim said last month.

“The fact that Ms Albrechtsen asked more questions than other journalists is really beside the point.”

Lehrmann has denied raping his then colleague, Brittany Higgins, and pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent. His criminal trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct and a second trial did not proceed due to prosecutors’ fears for Higgins’ mental health.

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ACT government considers response after court rules calls with journalist gave rise to impression of bias

ACT government considers response after court rules Sofronoff’s calls with journalist gave rise to impression of bias

Judge overturns one finding against former ACT director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold

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

Shane Drumgold, the former ACT director of public prosecutions, is “looking forward to moving on with his life” after a supreme court ruled Walter Sofronoff’s extensive communications with a columnist at The Australian newspaper gave rise to an impression of bias against him during an inquiry into the Bruce Lehrmann trial.

Drumgold’s partial win on Monday afternoon marks the end of the battle between the territory’s former top prosecutor and Sofronoff after the latter made “serious findings of misconduct” against him in his inquiry, leading to Drumgold’s resignation.

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

Justice Stephen Kaye handed down his judgment in Drumgold’s case against Sofronoff and the ACT government on Monday afternoon, finding the inquiry head’s 273 interactions with the columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, gave the impression he “might have been influenced by the views held and publicly expressed” by her.

Sofronoff had been tasked with examining whether the investigation and trial were subject to political influence. His final report – which was leaked to select media before being handed to the ACT government – made adverse findings against Drumgold, including that he “at times … lost objectivity and did not act with fairness and detachment”.

The ACT government says is still considering how it will respond to the court’s ruling but released a holding statement saying it observed “the report’s findings in relation to other persons and the recommendations in relation to the criminal justice system remain undisturbed”.

Ian Meagher, Drumgold’s solicitor, said his client is “delighted” with the court’s decision and is “now looking forward to moving on with his life”. Guardian Australia has contacted Sofronoff’s legal team.

Drumgold had alleged last August Sofronoff’s inquiry failed to give him a fair hearing, denied him natural justice, breached the law and “gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias”.

Drumgold’s legal team attempted to overturn eight of Sofronoff’s “serious findings of misconduct”, but was only successful in striking off one.

Sofronoff’s finding that Drumgold had acted with “grossly unethical conduct” during his cross-examination of retiring Liberal senator Linda Reynolds was found “legally unreasonable” by Kaye.

The judge also determined Drumgold had not been afforded natural justice in another of Sofronoff’s findings, which alleged the former ACT director of public prosecutions had given a false statement about his understanding of a freedom of information request for a letter he had written.

In late 2022, Guardian Australia published parts of the letter – which had been released under freedom of information – sent by Drumgold to the Australian federal police accusing Reynolds of “disturbing conduct” during the Lehrmann trial.

Reynolds sued Drumgold and the ACT government for defamation, which was settled on Monday morning for $90,000.

The judge ordered the ACT government pay for the proceedings. The exact figure will be determined at a later date.

Drumgold argued that a series of “private and secret” text messages between Sofronoff and Albrechtsen demonstrated “preferential treatment” and a “closeness” that could lead to an impression of bias.

The two had 273 interactions over the inquiry’s seven months, including 51 phone calls, text messages, emails and a private lunch meeting in Brisbane. The former judge also spent seven-and-a-half hours on the phone to The Australian newspaper during the probe, many of which were with Albrechtsen.

Dan O’Gorman, Drumgold’s lawyer, argued in February’s hearings that Albrechtsen was an “advocate” for Lehrmann who may have “infected” Sofronoff with bias against his client, leading the inquiry head to “deal with matters other than on their legal and factual merits”.

“What Mr Drumgold alleges is that Mr Sofronoff’s association with Ms Albrechtsen in particular might be thought by the fair-minded observer to have possibly diverted Mr Sofronoff from deciding the issues in his terms of reference on their merit,” O’Gorman said.

Kate Eastman, a lawyer representing the ACT government, a party to the proceedings, said it was not clear the pair’s extensive communications had any effect on Sofronoff’s conduct.

Brendan Lim, who represents Sofronoff and the board of inquiry, said the former Queensland judge discussed practical matters about the inquiry with Albrechtsen, including when documents would become available.

“[Sofronoff] engaged with any journalist who approached him with legitimate requests for information and explains that Ms Albrechtsen was the most persistent of the journalists, but that did not reflect preferential treatment on his part,” Lim said last month.

“The fact that Ms Albrechtsen asked more questions than other journalists is really beside the point.”

Lehrmann has denied raping his then colleague, Brittany Higgins, and pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent. His criminal trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct and a second trial did not proceed due to prosecutors’ fears for Higgins’ mental health.

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Greens pledge to turn racecourse site into housing

Greens aim to turn Eagle Farm racecourse site into housing if they win Brisbane city election

Mayoral candidate Jonathan Sriranganathan says council would compulsorily acquire the site if party wins poll

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The Greens could compulsorily acquire the Eagle Farm racecourse site to make way for council-owned housing if elected at this month’s local poll.

The party has previously released plans to build 4,000 homes on the 49-hectare site. It neighbours Doomben racecourse and the Ascot and Doomben railway stations.

The Greens’ candidate for Brisbane lord mayor, Jonathan Sriranganathan, said they would compulsorily acquire the site for an estimated cost of at least $40m, based on current state government land valuation.

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“Our plan for 4,000 new rent-capped public homes at Eagle Farm, built and owned by Brisbane city council, would represent a historic change for Brisbane,” Sriranganathan said.

Horses have galloped around the heritage-listed racecourse – Brisbane’s busiest – since 1865. It is managed by the Brisbane Racing Club, which hosts more than 70 races a year, including at Doomben.

The redeveloped site would also contain about 25 hectares of parkland, sports fields and native forest, plus space for schools and other community facilities, under the Greens’ plan. They would also rezone the area for medium-density residential, to make housing “far cheaper” than at other sites.

The Greens said they would also aim to buy other sites around the city.

Local government does have the power to compulsorily acquire land, under the Acquisition of Land Act 1967.

The party hopes a levy on vacant housing would encourage “land-banking” developers to sell up, it said. Brisbane vacancy rates are at record lows of less than 1%.

“Every suburb needs more affordable homes, but our first major project would be bringing the Eagle Farm racecourse into public hands, transforming the site over time into public green space, housing, schools, services and facilities,” Sriranganathan said.

All 4,000 homes would be offered at below market rate, half of them to people on the state government social housing waiting list, rented at 25% of household income. The other half would be available to any Brisbane resident, offered at 30% below market rents.

The New South Wales government announced similar plans for Rosehill racecourse, in Sydney’s west. But the plan for 25,000 houses – part of a much larger strategy for hundreds of thousands of homes around metro stations and other public transport infrastructure – is dependent on a vote by members of the Australian Turf Club.

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Shock as great white shark washes up on NSW beach

‘Haven’t seen anything like it’: shock as great white shark washes up on NSW beach

Four-metre shark euthanised after becoming beached on shore at Kingscliff on Tweed Coast

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A great white shark washed up on to a beach on the New South Wales north coast, shocking locals and attracting a crowd of beachgoers.

The 4m shark was seen swimming close to shore near Kingscliff beach on the Tweed Coast on Monday morning, with lifeguards tracking its progress until it was beached.

The female shark had been thrashing along the shore before washing up on the beach, with authorities attending soon after.

A veterinary team from Sea World on the Gold Coast went to the scene and found the shark struggling.

The shark was euthanised on the beach, and a bulldozer was brought in to safely move it off the sand.

“Sadly, the shark was in a poor condition after beaching and the Sea World veterinary team administered medications to make the shark comfortable while it was humanely euthanised,” a Sea World spokesperson said.

“The shark appeared to have underlying health issues, with the thrashing behaviour seen in the shallows prior to the beaching not typical for the species.”

There were “no unusual marks on the shark”, but the NSW Department of Fisheries would conduct a necropsy to try to identify a cause for the beaching, the spokesperson said.

While sharks have been spotted in the waters around Kingscliff beach, it was highly unusual to see one on the beach.

The general manager at Cudgen Headland surf life saving club, Greg Swift, said he had never seen anything like it in his life.

“I noticed the shark, which was quite large, rolling around the surf directly in front of the club. It brought a great deal of commotion as it was in shallow water and you could see its fins sticking up,” he said.

“I haven’t seen anything like it in my 35 years at the club, and certainly nothing like this has happened in living memory. It was a shock.”

Swift said between 60 and 70 people surrounded the shark as it was beached, with many people stopping on their morning walks.

“It was in the middle of the beach, so lots of people stopped to watch and help if they could,” he said.

“It’s a majestic creature, it was very sad to see it that way.”

Local mortgage broker Suzy Martin saw the shark as she was having her morning coffee with her husband, and could barely believe her eyes.

“We thought it was dolphins at first, but as it got closer, we saw it was a shark. Our first reaction was honestly fear, but it became clear it wasn’t doing too well. It was thrashing about quite aggressively,” she said.

“It was a bit surreal to be honest. It was massive, and it was shocking to see it that way.”

The shark’s remains were taken to Coffs Harbour for the necropsy.

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British soldiers ‘on the ground’, says German military leak

British soldiers ‘on the ground’ in Ukraine, says German military leak

Kremlin claims audio of officers discussing UK help with missiles shows involvement of ‘collective west’

British soldiers are “on the ground” in Ukraine helping Kyiv’s forces fire long-range Storm Shadow missiles, according to a leak in Russian media of a top-secret call involving German air force officers.

The Kremlin said the leak demonstrated the direct involvement of the “collective west” in the war in Ukraine – while former British defence ministers expressed frustration with the German military in response to the revelations.

Released on Friday by the editor of the Kremlin-controlled news channel RT, Margarita Simonyan, the audio recording – confirmed as authentic by Germany – captures Luftwaffe officers discussing how Berlin’s Taurus missiles could be used to try to blow up the Kerch Bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

During the conversation, Lt Gen Ingo Gerhartz, the head of the Luftwaffe, describes how Britain works with Ukraine on deploying Storm Shadow missiles against targets up to 150 miles behind Russian lines.

“When it comes to mission planning,” the German commander says, “I know how the English do it, they do it completely in reachback. They also have a few people on the ground, they do that, the French don’t.”

Reachback is a military term to describe how intelligence, equipment and support from the rear is brought forward to units deployed on the front, but Gerhartz suggests the British approach is deeper, involving support on site.

The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the leaked conversations “once again highlight the direct involvement of the collective west in the conflict in Ukraine” – although on Sunday Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, accused Moscow of waging “an information war” against the west.

Nevertheless, the authenticity of the 38-minute conversation, which took place a fortnight ago on the relatively insecure Webex platform, is not being doubted. It appears to have been hacked and recorded by Russian actors who passed it on to the editor of RT to release on Telegram on Friday.

Tobias Ellwood, a former UK junior defence minister, said the leak was embarrassing to Berlin, although he told the BBC that Russia probably knew about the British presence given the intensity of its espionage activities.

But that should “not prevent some serious conversations taking place in the diplomatic corridors between Germany and Britain and indeed Nato, as well as to why this happened in the first place”, Ellwood added.

Britain confirmed the presence of a “small number of personnel” in Ukraine on Tuesday last week, although it did not say what tasks they were undertaking amid concerns that any potential combat involvement could be considered as escalatory by Moscow.

That followed a surprise statement by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, last Monday, who said he would not provide Taurus missiles to Ukraine because it would require the presence of Germans to match the British and French and be engaged in “the way of target control and accompanying target control”.

That, he warned, risked making Berlin a “participant in the war” even if such soldiers were based in Germany. “German soldiers can at no point and in no place be linked with the targets that this system [the Taurus] reaches,” he added.

On the recording, Gerhartz and three other German officers are discussing the chancellor’s refusal, and how it may be possible to get around it, before a 30-minute meeting the air force chief has with the defence minister, Pistorius. They complain that a German journalist, said to be close to Scholz, had been briefed that Taurus is not effective.

They come to the conclusion that a speedy delivery and the use of the missiles in the immediate future would only be possible if German soldiers were involved. Taurus training for Ukrainian soldiers to avoid putting German soldiers on Ukraine soil was a possibility, but would take months of preparation.

Taurus missiles have a longer maximum range than Storm Shadow and Scalp, their French equivalents, of 300 miles. On the call, the German officers discuss potential target types for the Taurus including a “bridge in the east” that is said to be difficult to reach with pillars that are “relatively small”.

The description matches the strategic Kerch Bridge, a key supply route to Russian occupied Crimea, and which despite numerous attempts to bomb it, the Ukrainians have so far been unable to destroy. They conclude it would be technically feasible to blow up the bridge, but it may take “10 to 20 missiles”.

Roderich Kiesewetter, the opposition Christian Democrats’ defence expert, said Russia had leaked the meeting at this moment in time to specifically “undermine a German Taurus delivery”. He suggested the leak was carried out “in order to divert public conversation away” from other issues, including the death of Alexei Navalny.

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Four dead after masked men open fire at party

Four dead after masked men open fire at party in California

Four others injured in shooting at outdoor party in King City on Sunday evening

A group of masked men opened fire at an outdoor party in central California, killing four people and injuring three others on Sunday evening, police said.

Officers responded to a reported shooting at about 6pm in King City and found three men with gunshot wounds who were pronounced dead in a front yard, the King City police department said.

Four other people sustained gunshot wounds, including a woman who died after being transported to Mee Memorial hospital, about 106 miles (170km) south of San Jose.

The three men were transported to Natividad hospital in Salinas, police said.

Several people were at the party outside a residence when three men in dark masks and clothes got out of a silver car and fired at the group. The suspects, who were not immediately identified, fled the scene in the vehicle.

The investigation was ongoing, police said.

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