The Guardian 2024-03-05 22:32:03


West Gate Bridge climate protesters jailed; Greens propose plan for 360,000 homes

Two climate protesters are in jail for blocking traffic lanes on a major Melbourne freeway, causing significant rush-hour delays.

Deanna “Violet” Coco, 33, from NSW and 51-year-old Bradley Homewood from Williamstown pleaded guilty to two counts of public nuisance by obstructing motorists and obstructing police and emergency service workers on Tuesday.

Both were sentenced to 21 days imprisonment.

Their co-accused, Joseph Zammit, 68, from Melbourne, also pleaded guilty to the same charges.

He was released on bail on the condition that he not attend unlawful protests or undertake any unlawful actions during a protest and not associate with Coco and Homewood.

The members of environmental action group Extinction Rebellion parked a truck on the West Gate Bridge about 7.45am on Tuesday and climbed on top, unfurling banners which read “declare a climate emergency” and “climate breakdown has begun”.

Police alleged they set off flares while on top of the truck.

The protest caused a traffic gridlock with three city-bound lanes blocked and delays stretching about 30km.

Officers used a cherrypicker to arrest and lower the trio safely at 9.45am after they refused to get off the truck. Significant traffic delays persisted after the lanes were reopened.

“The ramifications of their actions caused massive catastrophic inconvenience and delay to thousands of members of the public,” a police prosecutor told court.

– Australian Associated Press

(More to come on this in the next blog post)

ExclusiveLord Howe island faces ‘major’ coral bleaching as ocean temperatures continue to break records

Lord Howe island faces ‘major’ coral bleaching as ocean temperatures continue to break records

Exclusive: Fears coral bleaching moving south to Lord Howe, Norfolk islands after southern Great Barrier Reef experiences worst heat stress since 1985

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Scientists fear excessive ocean heat – which is bleaching corals in parts of the Great Barrier Reef – is now hitting the world’s most southern coral reef at the world heritage-listed Lord Howe island.

There are also concerns ocean temperatures are reaching dangerous levels for corals at Australia’s remote Norfolk Island, which is about 1400km east of Queensland’s Gold Coast.

One scientist said Lord Howe and Norfolk had many corals that had yet to be described by science.

Scientists monitoring reefs at Lord Howe, about 600km east of Port Macquarie on the central coast of New South Wales, have recently recorded a dramatic jump in the numbers of corals either bleached or turning pale.

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Prof Bill Leggat, a coral scientist at the University of Newcastle who is helping co-ordinate long-term monitoring of corals at Lord Howe, said that over the past two weeks “the thermal stress has really ramped up and we are seeing bleaching coming on quite quickly”.

“We are seeing pretty much all the susceptible corals bleaching or paling all across the bay. It was quite confronting. This is the start of a major and quite severe bleaching event.”

Warmer than usual temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are threatening the corals, and in turn, whole marine ecosystems

Corals bleach if they are exposed to abnormally warm water for long periods. Some coral species are more resistant to bleaching than others, but severe bleaching can kill the animal. Experts say corals that “recover” are more susceptible to disease and don’t reproduce as well in following years.

The bleaching comes as global ocean temperatures continue to break heat records and follows a major bleaching outbreak at reefs across the Americas during the most recent northern hemisphere summer.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is preparing to carry out extensive aerial surveys of the world’s biggest coral reef after confirming extensive coral bleaching last week in the park’s southern section.

Data from the US government’s Coral Reef Watch shows the amount of heat stress accumulating on corals in the southern Great Barrier Reef is now the highest since its records began in 1985.

The authority has said some mild to moderate bleaching has been seen in all areas of the reef, but it will wait until full aerial surveys and further in-water monitoring are completed before assessing how severe the event is.

Lord Howe island’s corals stretch for about 4km across a bay on the island’s west. Leggat said there had been two recorded bleaching events in 2010 and 2019.

Coral Reef Watch data showed the level of heat stress accumulated on the corals so far this year had surpassed those seen in the 2019 event and were climbing towards the highest ever recorded in 2010.

“What’s scary is it’s already hot and there are predictions for another few weeks [of warm conditions]. It could exceed the 2010 event. That thermal stress will continue and it will only get worse.

“This is a really well managed reef system, but that is being overwhelmed by climate change. It’s really scary. We have this beautiful system isolated from other stressors, and it’s being hammered by coral bleaching.”

At Norfolk Island, Coral Reef Watch data shows heat stress has already surpassed the only previously recorded bleaching event in 2020.

The year 2010 saw higher levels of heat stress but Prof Tracy Ainsworth, a coral scientist at the University of New South Wales who is helping monitor corals at Norfolk island, said that event was not monitored by scientists.

“It’s going the way of 2020 again and we’re on track in the coming weeks to see bleaching,” she said.

“What’s concerning is that it could be a full month of continued heat stress and we could be looking at the most severe event for that reef.”

Prof Andrew Baird, a coral scientist at James Cook University, has been studying the corals at Lord Howe and Norfolk and estimates between 20% and 50% are still not formally described.

“If Lord Howe or Norfolk get badly bleached there will be species that disappear before we get a chance to describe them,” he said.

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Disability pensionClaims blew out to more than 80 days on average, data reveals

Disability pension claims blew out to more than 80 days on average at the end of last year, data reveals

Department of Social Services figures show some areas had average wait times of more than 200 days between September and December

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Claims for the disability support pension took more than 80 days on average in the final months of last year and some local government areas are experiencing average wait times of more than 200 days, data has revealed.

According to the data provided by the Department of Social Services in Senate estimates last month, disability support pension claims took an average of 82.2 days to be processed between September and December 2023.

In 2020-21, the average wait was 33 days, increasing to 40 in 2021-22 and 46 in 2022-23.

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The department did not answer questions about the longest amount of time people are waiting for their DSP claim to be processed. A breakdown of times by LGA between July and December last year showed that in some cases claims are taking almost 300 days to process.

The data shows some areas had an average wait time of more than 200 days. Those areas included Yalgoo in Western Australia, where the average processing time was 289 days; Wyalkatchem, WA, where it was 205; and Kent, WA, where it was 226.

The department has a “timeliness standard” – a target set by Services Australia and its partner agencies for 80% of DSP claims to be completed within 84 calendar days.

Last month, the social services minister, Bill Shorten, acknowledged the delays were “a real problem” caused by understaffing and said the government’s “priority is to blitz the payment backlog”.

Melbourne woman Megan, 58, who did not want her real name used, waited 114 days for her claim to be processed.

She has generalised anxiety disorder and persistent depressive disorder. She lost her husband to suicide in 2012. After that, she “struggled on” until her mental health deteriorated and she could no longer continue her career in tertiary education.

“I literally came home and closed the door. That was it,” she said.

Megan lived off her savings until the pandemic, when she went on to the jobseeker payment. She is now receiving care but cannot work and struggles to leave the house.

For more than a year she put in a medical certificate every six weeks so she would not have to perform mutual obligations, which require payment recipients to study, attend job interviews, improve literacy or work for the dole.

In October Centrelink said it would no longer accept Megan’s medical certificates. She broke down on the phone and the officer told her they would give her another two weeks’ exemption.

Desperate, she called the office of her local MP, independent Zoe Daniel. Three days later Centrelink told her she could start her claim without having all the proper DSP paperwork.

“Suddenly, this door opens that wasn’t there before that pauses your obligations until the claim has been resolved. No one had ever said that until I went through my MP,” Megan said.

She applied on 6 November and had her assessment on 30 January.

Megan tried to find out from Centrelink what was happening to her claim, but could not get an answer. She then contacted Daniel’s office to follow up.

“It was incredibly stressful,” she said. “It’s felt like everything was just set up to make things harder and to make you go away and not bother and not persist.”

She was told her claim was successful on 28 February.

The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union vice-president, Catherine Caine, who acts as an advocate for DSP claimants, said only a small proportion of the 41,000 people who were rejected last year would have been rejected because they did not qualify.

Caine said people on jobseeker go without critical things like medication while they wait for their claims or appeals to be processed.

“If jobseeker was at a living rate, this wouldn’t matter so much. If jobseeker was adequate, this would be less life and death,” she said.

Services Australia spokesperson Hank Jongen said the DSP is a “complex payment to process” and apologised to anyone waiting “longer than they should be”.

Each DSP claim requires careful consideration of the provided medical evidence by Services Australia’s health professionals, who are trained to assess the evidence against the program rules. This can take time,” he said.

“People aren’t alone in this process. We have specialist staff and social workers who can help people with more complex circumstances and who need extra assistance, especially to connect to other support services.”

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Meta news banMisleading clickbait is prevalent on Facebook and Instagram in Canada. Could it happen here?

Misleading clickbait is prevalent on Facebook and Instagram in Canada after Meta’s news ban. Could it happen in Australia?

‘A real-world, newsless Facebook turns out to be more toxic than I had anticipated,’ says Prof Jean-Hughes Roy

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Misleading viral clickbait dominates Facebook and Instagram in Canada after Meta pulled news from its platforms nine months ago, according to an expert. Now Australia could face a similar scenario online with the company preparing to battle the Australian government over payments to news organisations.

Last week Meta announced it would no longer pay Australian news publishers, prompting the Australian government to explore the use of legislative powers to force the platform to negotiate with news media for payment.

The dispute has raised the possibility Meta will block Australian news outlets from posting links to their content on Facebook and Instagram, as it did for six days in 2021, and has done in Canada since mid-last year.

Experts say the Canadian ban has done little to hurt the social media giant, but has inflicted damage on the news outlets Canada wanted to help most.

Canada’s federal government passed bill C-18, the Online News Act, in June 2023, with the aim of boosting revenues at Canadian journalism outlets by requiring Meta and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to compensate publishers for hosting and linking to their content.

Both tech companies initially balked at the prospect, but Alphabet eventually agreed to a deal with the government in November. Under the terms of the agreement, Google’s parent company would contribute C$73.6m (A$83m) a year to be distributed among Canadian news publishers. The deal came in part, experts have said, because C-18 targeted link sharing and indexing – a key aspect of Alphabet’s business model.

But Meta has resisted the constraints of the legislation, arguing it is “fundamentally flawed”. In response, it blocked all news-sharing on its platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. Ahead of the ban Meta also announced it would end its partnership with the Canadian Press wire service, an agreement that helped fund 30 reporting fellowships for early career journalists from 2020.

The ban came into effect in August amid the country’s worst wildfire season on record, and lawmakers feared it would prevent Canadians accessing up-to-date news in their communities and hamper evacuations. Broadcasters blasted the move as “anticompetitive conduct” and claimed it violated a provision of a federal law.

Meta said in a statement at the time: “The Online News Act is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true. News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line.”

Non-news content created by viral content makers has filled the space left by news stories.

“A real-world, newsless Facebook turns out to be more toxic than I had anticipated,” Quebec University journalism professor, Jean-Hughes Roy, said.

In 2022, Roy conducted a simulation of what users would see on Facebook if news was banned, but said he found the reality of the ban worse than his simulation predicted.

“Viral content producers feed on news content, make it more sensational by adding misleading or false details and publish it on their Facebook pages or Instagram accounts. Such content isn’t blocked by Meta, while actual news is.”

But the move does not appear to have dented how Canadians use Facebook.

Figures from two digital analytics companies, shared with Reuters, show the number of daily active users on Facebook, and time spent on the social network, are largely unchanged since the news block began.

Part of Meta’s argument against compensating Canadian journalism outlets was that news article links made up less than 3% of Facebook’s feed in the country – a claim it also made in relation to its Australian decision.

Chris Waddell of Carleton University’s school of journalism said Meta was increasingly wary of its place in the news industry.

“I don’t think they’ve lost any advertisers,” he said. “I don’t know if their decision has really made a huge amount of difference [to the company].

“I think Meta would like to get out of the news in other places. I can’t imagine the company really wants to get caught in the controversy of the US election coming up, with all the fake, AI-generated information that’s going to be on Facebook. It’s just a minefield for them. If they’re right, they’re only getting 3% to 4% of their revenues from news, I can see why they would just bail out of it.”

News Corporation’s CEO, Robert Thomson, told reporters on Monday that Meta’s 3% claim is “obviously a fiction – a preposterous figure”.

“I mean how much discussion is there around news? You have the core news and then I can tell you 100% of the contemporary factual information on Facebook is news. And so those are the numbers that… Facebook should be focused on, as well as being focused on its responsibility to all Australians.”

Large publications, have mostly found new ways of redirecting users to their sites. But Facebook’s refusal to share links on its platforms has had an outsized impact on smaller publishers.

Eden Fineday, the publisher of IndigiNews, an Indigenous-led online journalism outlet, said the site had lost 43% of its traffic since the ban.

“Facebook is a very Indigenous platform,” Fineday told the Toronto Star. “It is where a lot of native communities come to connect with each other. So it hurts us. Indigenous folks are the least thought-about demographic, especially by American companies. It’s sad to be just forgotten, and to have these companies not consider who’s being hurt by these changes.”

The New Brunswick Media Co-op said it lost 5,000 Facebook followers ahead of the ban from Meta.

In an attempt to offset the loss of traffic, 20 independent outlets, including the New Brunswick Media Co-op have banded together to form Unrigged. The aim is to both strengthen their negotiating position and to more effectively share news with readers.

Waddell said the smaller outlets had the most work to go regaining readers in order to survive.

“The people who have been hurt most, ironically, are the small startup publications or those that have been around for a while that were using Facebook as a promotional tool to try and bring a wider audience,” he said.

Roy said he feared what the disappearance of news from Meta’s platforms would mean for Canadian democracy.

“Forty-five percent of Canadians cite social media as a source of news, according to the latest Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News Report – the proportion is the same in Australia – I worry young citizens grow up in a digital world where news simply doesn’t exist anymore.”

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Two million hectares of Queensland forest destroyed in five years, new analysis shows

Land clearing: two million hectares of Queensland forest destroyed in five years, new analysis shows

Research finds almost all land cleared in the state between 2016 and 2021 in areas where threatened species habitat ‘likely to occur’

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More than 2m hectares (4.94m acres) of bushland in Queensland that included large swathes of possible koala habitat has been cleared over a five-year period, new analysis shows.

The research, commissioned by Greenpeace and conducted by the University of Queensland academic Martin Taylor, found almost all land clearing that occurred in the state between 2016 and 2021 was in areas where threatened species habitat was “likely to occur”.

Almost two-thirds of the cleared area, or 1.3m hectares, was marked by the Queensland government as “category x”, meaning it was exempt from state vegetation laws that regulate land clearing. Some 500,000 hectares of that land was koala habitat, the report said.

Taylor, an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland and former WWF-Australia conservation scientist, conducted the analysis by comparing state government land clearing data to federally mapped areas of environmental significance.

The majority of recorded land clearing occurred in regrowth forest that was more than 15 years old, which Taylor said made it capable of providing rich habitat for native animals.

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“Industry voices like to say this is just controlling knee-high regrowth, so it’s just vegetation management,” he said. “[But] a 15-year-old eucalypt forest can be at least 10 to 15 metres high – they are forests.”

Taylor said that while laws in Queensland allow for regrowth forests to be reclassified as remnant once they mature, the requirements to do so are unclear.

“A lot of regrowth 15 years and older could have already become what they define as remnant, making it more difficult to clear,” he said.

Gemma Plesman, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the report documented deforestation on a “frightening” scale. She said the state’s annual statewide land cover and tree study (Slats) shows land clearing was driven by beef production.

According to the beef industry, more than 10m cattle graze on Queensland pastures, making it the biggest beef producing state in the country.

“Fast food chains and retailers should be aware that the beef they are selling could come from properties that have bulldozed koala habitat with no government oversight,” Plesman said.

Plesman said environmental law reforms being developed by the federal government needed to address concerns around deforestation in Queensland to be effective.

“This shocking data should be a wake-up call,” she said. “They must address what has made Australia a global hotspot for deforestation.”

The Wilderness Society Queensland campaign manager, Hannah Schuch, said deforestation in Queensland was driving biodiversity loss.

“It’s having an impact on iconic native species like the koala, the greater glider, the red goshawk, it’s tearing down their homes and pushing them towards extinction,” she said.

“We know that erosion and sediment runoff from deforestation is another threat to the already at-risk Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

A spokesperson for the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said the government was in the consultation process to develop new national environment laws. However, three organisations familiar with the draft laws say they would continue to allow widespread deforestation.

Michael Guerin, the chief executive of Queensland farming body AgForce, questioned the accuracy of the Slats data which was used in Taylor’s analysis. He said deforestation rates were overstated.

He suggested there should be an on-the-ground survey to confirm deforestation rates.

“Let’s come out and ground truth it,” Guerin said. “Let’s get out on the landscape and spend the money and time so we’re confident about what’s happening. The industry and community is up for that.”

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Palestinians ‘beaten and sexually assaulted’ at Israeli detention centres, UNRWA analysis claims

Palestinians ‘beaten and sexually assaulted’ at Israeli detention centres, UN report claims

Internal analysis by UNRWA, based on interviews with released Palestinians, describes dog attacks and the prolonged use of stress positions

An internal UN report describes widespread abuse of Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention centres, including beatings, dog attacks, the prolonged use of stress positions and sexual assault.

The report was compiled by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) and is largely based on interviews of Palestinian detainees released at the Kerem Shalom crossing point since December, when UNRWA staff were present to provide humanitarian support.

The report, which has been circulated within the UN and seen by the Guardian, says that just over 1,000 detainees have been released since December. But it estimates that more than 4,000 men, women and children have been rounded up in Gaza since the start of the current conflict, triggered by Hamas raids into southern Israel on 7 October which killed about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians.

Israel denies the abuse allegations, which it described as Hamas-inspired propaganda. It has named 12 UNRWA staff it claims took part in the 7 October attack, and claims that 450 of the agency’s 13,000 workers in Gaza are members of Hamas or other militant groups.

The allegations, which are being studied by two separate UN inquiries, have so far not been substantiated. The UNRWA report says that its employees have been detained, many while carrying out aid work, subjected to abuse, and put under pressure to smear the agency.

Their Israeli jailers, it alleges, “through beatings and other mistreatment and threats, sought to elicit operational information and forced confessions”.

The UNRWA report said that among the 1,002 detainees released since December at the Kerem Shalom crossing, there were 29 children as young as six (26 boys and three girls), 80 women and 21 UNRWA staff. Some had chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s or were cancer patients.

“Detainees reported being taken on trucks to large makeshift ‘military barracks’ housing 100-120 people each, where they were held, often for weeks at a time, in between periods of interrogation at a nearby location,” the UNRWA document said, in allegations first reported by the New York Times. It claims the worst abuse occurs in these detention and interrogation centres before the detainees are transferred to the Israeli prison system.

Legislation passed by the Knesset since the Gaza offensive began and extended for three months in January, allows the security services to hold detainees for 180 days without providing access to a lawyer.

The UNRWA report says: “Methods of ill-treatment reported included physical beatings, forced stress positions for extended periods of time, threats of harm to detainees and their families, attacks by dogs, insults to personal dignity and humiliation such as being made to act like animals or getting urinated on, use of loud music and noises, deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilets, denial of the right to practice their religion (to pray) and prolonged use of tightly locked handcuffs causing open wounds and friction injuries.

“The beatings included blunt force trauma to the head, shoulders, kidneys, neck, back and legs with metal bars and the butts of guns and boots, in some cases resulting in broken ribs, separated shoulders and lasting injuries,” the report alleges.

“While in an off-site location, several individuals reported being forced into cages and attacked by dogs, with some individuals including a child exhibiting dog bite wounds on release.”

The allegations in the report could not be independently verified but are consistent with accounts given to the Guardian, and collected by human rights organisations.

The report included allegations of widespread sexual assault, although not rape. Women detainees reported being groped while blindfolded, and some male prisoners said they were beaten in the genitals.

“Another detainee reported being made to sit on an electrical probe, causing burns to his anus, the scars for which could still be seen weeks later,” the UNRWA report said. “He indicated that another detainee had also suffered the same treatment and died as a result of his infected wounds.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a blanket denial of the allegations in the UNRWA report.

“The mistreatment of detainees during their time in detention or whilst under interrogation violates IDF values and contravenes IDF orders and is therefore absolutely prohibited,” a written statement provided to the Guardian said.

It added: “IDF denies general and unsubstantiated claims regarding sexual abuse of detainees in the IDF’s detention facilities. These claims are another cynical attempt to create a false equivalency with the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war by Hamas.”

The statement denied any use of sleep deprivation and claimed that music was only played “at a low volume in a specific place where the detainees are waiting for questioning (in a place where guards are also present), in order to prevent the detainees from talking to each other while waiting for the questioning”.

It said that “concrete complaints” of abuse in detention were “forwarded to the relevant authorities for review” but did not say if any complaints had so far been upheld. IDF officials refused to provide any further clarification.

The IDF said it was aware of deaths in detention and that each case was being investigated. “The investigations are pending, and as such we cannot comment on any findings,” the statement said.

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CairoGaza ceasefire talks appear to stall days before Ramadan

Gaza ceasefire talks appear to stall days before Ramadan

Two days of negotiations in Cairo break up with Hamas accusing Israeli PM of not wanting to a deal

Negotiations aimed at brokering a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war appear to have stalled, days before an unofficial deadline of the beginning of Ramadan.

Two days of talks between Hamas and international mediators in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, have not yielded any significant breakthroughs, Palestinian officials said, after Israel declined to send a delegation to the latest round of negotiations.

“[Benjamin] Netanyahu doesn’t want to reach an agreement” and “the ball now is in the Americans’ court” to press the Israeli prime minister to come back to the table, Basem Naim, the head of Hamas’s political division in Gaza, told reporters in text messages.

Egypt’s Al-Qahera News, which is close to the country’s intelligence services, said the “negotiations are difficult but they are continuing”, citing an unnamed senior official.

The Hamas team, meeting with Egyptian, Qatari and US mediators, agreed on Tuesday to stay for at least one more day of talks.

Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A US official had said on Saturday that Israel had “more or less accepted” the deal presented to an Israeli delegation in Qatar.

International mediators have over the last two days put pressure on Hamas to produce a list of hostages to be released as the first step in a phased ceasefire agreement with Israel, according to officials familiar with the talks.

The US has also appeared to suggest that it was Hamas holding up the talks. “No excuses, we must get more aid into Gaza. Ceasefire is in the hands of Hamas right now,” Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday.

The US president suggested that failure to agree a deal could lead to unrest spreading to other Palestinian areas.

“There’s got to be a ceasefire because if we get into circumstances where this continues to Ramadan, Israel and Jerusalem could be very, very dangerous,” Biden said.

Israel did not send a delegation to the second day of talks in Cairo as hoped, demanding that Hamas present a list of 40 elderly, sick and female hostages who would be the first to be released as part of a truce that would initially last six weeks, beginning with the month of Ramadan, which starts on Sunday.

Hamas has demanded that all Israeli forces leave Gaza, large-scale humanitarian aid should be allowed in, and that Palestinians displaced from their homes in the north of the coastal territory be allowed to return.

Diplomatic sources in Washington said on Monday it was unclear what was stopping the Palestinian militant group from producing a list identifying the first batch of hostages, noting that similar uncertainties ended up collapsing the last successful truce in November after a week.

They suggested it could reflect communications issues between Hamas units inside and outside Gaza, that some hostages could be held by other groups, including the more hardline Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or that elements of Hamas were withholding the information as a way of obstructing a deal.

The US, jointly with Jordan, carried out a second airdrop of food over Gaza, dropping 30,000 meals from transport planes, but the White House national security spokesperson, John Kirby, acknowledged on Tuesday that the only way to deliver assistance on the large scale required was by road or sea.

“We’re looking at both military and commercial options to move assistance by sea, there’s still an awful lot of work that’s being done to flesh it out,” Kirby said. Even if a means of delivering aid by ship was organised, he pointed out, it would still have to be unloaded and put on trucks for distribution inside Gaza.

Kirby said that the US continued to press for more deliveries by road, which have slowed to a trickle, as a result of looting by criminals and hungry crowds, as well as Israeli red tape and lack of coordination.

The World Food Programme reported on Tuesday that a 14-truck convoy that had approval from the Israeli authorities to go to northern Gaza had been held up for three hours and then turned back by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint at Wadi Gaza, halfway up the coastal strip. After it was turned back, the convoy was looted.

While Washington’s rhetoric on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has strengthened over the last few days, critics say Biden has opted not to use Washington’s leverage as Israel’s principal arms supplier and most important international ally to bring Israel to the negotiating table, or get the country to increase the flow of aid to Gaza’s desperate civilians.

The US air force on Saturday began airdrops of aid in a joint operation with Jordanian planes, delivering a total of 38,000 meals, after an announcement from Biden the previous day.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 30,000 people, displaced 85% of the 2.3 million population from their homes, and left more than half of the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure in ruins, according to data from Gaza’s health ministry and the UN.

The World Health Organization estimated on Tuesday that at least 8,000 patients needed to be evacuated for treatment, which would relieve pressure on the few remaining functioning hospitals.

The war, now five months old, was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented surprise attack on communities across Israel in which, according to Israeli figures, about 1,200 people were killed and another 250 abducted.

About 100 hostages were exchanged for 240 Palestinian women and children held in Israel jails in November, but progress on a second deal has proved evasive.

While the start of Ramadan is not a hard deadline for a new ceasefire, the UN says a quarter of Gaza’s population are facing starvation, making a comprehensive ceasefire in which sufficient aid can reach all areas of the besieged territory crucial.

Child malnutrition is soaring in the besieged territory, with UN officials reporting on Monday that one in six children under the age of two in the northern half of Gaza are acutely malnourished.

The longer the fighting lasts, the greater the risk of conflagration: Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen have already been drawn into the conflict. Ramadan is often accompanied by an uptick in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even in quieter years.

Fighting continued in Gaza on Tuesday, with Hamas officials reporting dozens of Israeli airstrikes near the European hospital in Hamad, near the southern city of Khan Younis.

Bombing, shelling and ground fighting across Gaza had killed another 97 people in the past 24 hours, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said, which does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Israel said its jets had struck 50 targets over the past day.

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Gaza CityUN experts condemn Israeli ‘massacre’ of Palestinians collecting flour

UN experts condemn Israeli ‘massacre’ of Palestinians collecting flour

Special rapporteurs say ‘campaign of starvation and targeting of civilians’ must end after incident in Gaza on Thursday

UN experts have condemned the violence they say was unleashed by Israeli forces last week on Palestinians gathered in Gaza City to collect flour as a “massacre”.

In a statement, a group of UN special rapporteurs accused Israel of “intentionally starving the Palestinian people in Gaza since 8 October,” adding: “Now it is targeting civilians seeking humanitarian aid and humanitarian convoys.”

“Israel must end its campaign of starvation and targeting of civilians,” said the UN experts, who warned there was mounting evidence of famine in the Gaza Strip.

At least 112 people died and 760 were injured on Thursday when desperate crowds gathered to collect flour.

Witnesses in Gaza and some of the injured said Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd, causing panic. Israel said people died in a crush or were run over by aid lorries although it admitted its troops had fired on what it called a “mob”.

“The attack came after Israel has denied humanitarian aid into Gaza City and northern Gaza for more than a month,” said the experts, who described “a pattern of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians seeking aid”.

There have been at least 14 similar reported incidents between mid-January and the end of February of the shooting, shelling and attacking of Palestinians who had gathered to receive humanitarian aid from trucks or airdrops.

Since the start of the conflict, Israel has targeted Palestinian food sources and agriculture – bakeries, orchards and greenhouses – as well as blocked humanitarian supplies. On 26 January, the international court of justice recognised the plausibility of Israel committing genocide and ordered it to allow the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian services and aid to Palestinians. The number of trucks allowed to enter the Gaza Strip has since fallen to 57 a day – compared with an average of 147 a day before the ICJ ruling.

Last week, Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said that deliberating starving people amounted to war crimes and genocide under international law, for which the entire state of Israel was accountable.

At least 15 children have died from malnutrition at just one hospital, Kamal Adwan, in Gaza City. In January, one in six children under two in northern Gaza were found to be acutely malnourished, which leads to wasting, Unicef found.

The World Health Organization said child malnutrition in north Gaza was now “extreme”.

“When children start dying like this, you know that famine is probably already happening or just around the corner. We are alarmed to see an entire civilian population suffering such unprecedented starvation, so quickly and completely,” they said. “We have been saying for months that widespread famine is imminent in Gaza.”

On Tuesday, it was reported that an elderly Palestinian man identified as Abd al-Rahman al-Dahdouh was pronounced dead due to hunger and dehydration.

As desperation and malnutrition rises, the US, Israel’s closest and most powerful ally, has resorted to air dropping humanitarian supplies – an expensive and ineffective way of delivering aid.

“After months of Israel’s starvation campaign … recent airdrops will achieve little. The only way to prevent or end this famine is an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” said the UN experts on food, water, violence against women, and Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, among others.

Under international law, the unconditional provision of humanitarian supplies such as food, water, shelter and medicine is a basic obligation during conflict.

Yet recent reports on the talks between Hamas and Israel on a proposed 40-day ceasefire suggest that as part of the terms of the negotiations, Israel has pledged to allow the entry of trucks and the delivery of tents, caravans, essential fuel, and construction materials to fix critical infrastructure such as hospitals and bakeries.

“Humanitarian aid must not be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations,” the experts said. “We reiterate our earlier call for an arms embargo and sanctions on Israel, as part of all states’ duty to ensure respect for human rights and stop violations of international humanitarian law by Israel.”

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Life in Gaza without sanitary productsMy period has become a nightmare

‘My period has become a nightmare’: life in Gaza without sanitary products

With limited access to pads, medicine and toilets – not to mention privacy – Palestinian women talk about the extreme difficulty of managing their periods during Israel’s assault

Mona, 17, used to manage intense period pain by making hot drinks, swaddling herself in blankets and knocking back painkillers. Now, sheltering in a crowded refuge in Rafah, she cannot even rely on getting hold of sanitary pads or access to a toilet.

She often vomits because of acute menstrual cramps, and has to manage that as well as bleeding, in a small house crammed with 45 displaced people where there is no privacy.

“In the place we are sheltering, there is only one bathroom shared by men, women and children. I am embarrassed waiting in line when I have my period, and it causes me mental and physical distress,” she says.

Nearly five months into Israel’s assault on Gaza, almost everyone trapped in the territory is hungry, with little access to clean drinking water, sanitation or electric power. But for women, the war has brought an additional monthly horror.

“Israeli bombings and displacement have created an immense amount of stress, but experiencing menstruation in these circumstances feels like an entirely different kind of war,” Mona says.

The UN estimates that nearly 700,000 women and girls in Gaza have menstrual cycles, which they are trying to manage with little privacy or access to pads, toilets and clean water. In the shelters run by Unrwa, the UN aid agency for Palestinians, on average there is only one toilet per 486 people.

Sarah, 27, lives in Egypt but was visiting her aunts in the north of Gaza when the war started and she became trapped. She endured her first wartime period in central Deir al-Balah, where she stayed with school friends after being separated from her relatives during a frantic evacuation.

“I struggled to obtain sanitary pads and felt deeply humiliated that I couldn’t get hold of any,” she says. As Israel’s campaign moved south, she fled again to Rafah, where she has taken shelter in a tent that doesn’t even have basic sanitation.

“The impending arrival of my menstrual period has become a nightmare for me,” Sarah says. “I have to share a bathroom with more than 100 women and children.

“There are no sanitary pads or painkillers available in pharmacies and all the supermarkets here are closed because they have run out of goods.”

The cold in the tent and stomach pains from drinking contaminated water add to the misery of cramps. She considered trying to stop her flow with drugs but couldn’t find that medication either.

“The Israeli bombing is terrifying, but it becomes even more horrifying when I have my period,” she says. “I feel my mental health is deteriorating further due to the combination of the bombing and menstrual pain.”

Sanitary pads are so hard to find that one girl sheltering in an Unrwa school in Maghazi camp said she had been reduced to washing used pads, so she could use them again. The recycled pads or the soap she used to clean them caused irritation but she had no other options, she said.

Mona got some pads from an aid delivery, but they were of such poor quality she got an infection while using them. She then resorted to using torn up pieces of cloth, and has now turned to tissues even though they leak and aren’t up to the job.

“I have searched many pharmacies for sanitary pads, but unfortunately I haven’t found any,” Mona says. “Even when sanitary pads are available, the quality is exceptionally poor and prices are exorbitant.”

In a further grim twist to the horrors of managing her period at war, she now bleeds more often than she used to, which she ascribes to stress. Until October her main concern was getting good enough grades to get into medical school; now it is daily survival.

“I used to have regular periods, but now it comes twice a month,” she says. “I attribute this change to fear and tension.”

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British army to remove claim Princess of Wales will attend event in June

Army to remove claim Princess of Wales will attend event in June

Catherine’s reported appearance at trooping the colour published without Kensington Palace’s approval

The army is to remove a claim made on its website that the Princess of Wales will attend an event in June, it has been reported, after apparently publishing the information without approval from Kensington Palace.

Tickets were being sold for trooping the colour, which will take place on 8 June, advertising an appearance by Catherine, as of 8.30pm on Tuesday.

Event details were reportedly published due to the Princess of Wales’s role as colonel of the Irish guards, the regiment that is trooping its colour this year.

However, it is understood, the army did not seek approval from Kensington Palace, her official office, before publishing the page. The website is due to be updated shortly.

Catherine has been recovering from abdominal surgery for the past seven weeks and, while no confirmed date has yet been given for her return to public duties, she was due to be recuperating until at least Easter.

The army’s website names King Charles as attending the main ceremony – also known as the Birthday Parade, as it marks the sovereign’s official anniversary.

The princess has been spotted being driven close to her home in Windsor amid speculation about her health. An image circulating online showed the princess, wearing sunglasses, sitting in the front seat of a car being driven by her mother, Carole Middleton.

She left hospital on 29 January and is recuperating at her Adelaide Cottage home close to Windsor Castle.

Upon her discharge, a Kensington Palace spokesperson said: “She is making good progress. The prince and princess wish to say a huge thank you to the entire team at the London Clinic, especially the dedicated nursing staff, for the care they have provided.

“The Wales family continues to be grateful for the well wishes they have received from around the world.”

It was understood then that her return to official duties would depend on medical advice nearer the time.

The king, who is receiving treatment for cancer, has also postponed all public-facing duties. But he is continuing with behind-the-scenes work on his red boxes of state papers and some in-person meetings.

Charles was pictured on Tuesday during a pre-budget audience with the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, at Buckingham Palace, before the politician’s major financial statement on Wednesday.

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British army to remove claim Princess of Wales will attend event in June

Army to remove claim Princess of Wales will attend event in June

Catherine’s reported appearance at trooping the colour published without Kensington Palace’s approval

The army is to remove a claim made on its website that the Princess of Wales will attend an event in June, it has been reported, after apparently publishing the information without approval from Kensington Palace.

Tickets were being sold for trooping the colour, which will take place on 8 June, advertising an appearance by Catherine, as of 8.30pm on Tuesday.

Event details were reportedly published due to the Princess of Wales’s role as colonel of the Irish guards, the regiment that is trooping its colour this year.

However, it is understood, the army did not seek approval from Kensington Palace, her official office, before publishing the page. The website is due to be updated shortly.

Catherine has been recovering from abdominal surgery for the past seven weeks and, while no confirmed date has yet been given for her return to public duties, she was due to be recuperating until at least Easter.

The army’s website names King Charles as attending the main ceremony – also known as the Birthday Parade, as it marks the sovereign’s official anniversary.

The princess has been spotted being driven close to her home in Windsor amid speculation about her health. An image circulating online showed the princess, wearing sunglasses, sitting in the front seat of a car being driven by her mother, Carole Middleton.

She left hospital on 29 January and is recuperating at her Adelaide Cottage home close to Windsor Castle.

Upon her discharge, a Kensington Palace spokesperson said: “She is making good progress. The prince and princess wish to say a huge thank you to the entire team at the London Clinic, especially the dedicated nursing staff, for the care they have provided.

“The Wales family continues to be grateful for the well wishes they have received from around the world.”

It was understood then that her return to official duties would depend on medical advice nearer the time.

The king, who is receiving treatment for cancer, has also postponed all public-facing duties. But he is continuing with behind-the-scenes work on his red boxes of state papers and some in-person meetings.

Charles was pictured on Tuesday during a pre-budget audience with the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, at Buckingham Palace, before the politician’s major financial statement on Wednesday.

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Perpetrators ‘weaponising’ insurance policies to exert control, report finds

Domestic violence perpetrators ‘weaponising’ insurance policies in Australia to exert control, report finds

Centre for Women’s Economic Safety calls on insurance companies to redesign their products to protect victim-survivors

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Domestic violence perpetrators are “weaponising” insurance policies to exert financial control over their partners, according to a new report that urges insurance companies to redesign their products to protect victim-survivors.

The report from the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety found that victim-survivors of domestic violence were being denied insurance payouts when their property was damaged – including having their home burned down or car destroyed – because the damage had been done by their partner, who was also a policyholder, thereby voiding the insurance claim.

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“I think it feels particularly egregious that with general insurance – which of all the financial products is about protection when bad and unexpected things happen – perpetrators can close joint policies without consent or knowledge of victim-survivors and then they realise they’re not covered, oftentimes when there’s damage inflicted by the perpetrator themselves,” the centre’s chief executive, Rebecca Glenn, said.

“The injustice of that seems so wild.”

One in six women and one in 13 men in Australia have experienced cohabiting partner economic abuse, which involves a person using money and other economic resources to cause harm, control and coerce. Economic abuse is as prevalent as physical abuse in a domestic setting, and often occurs alongside physical violence.

Nadine’s* ex-partner, who was convicted of multiple domestic violence-related offences, set up all their insurance policies. She did not realise until they separated that her ex had not listed her on the insurance, despite the fact she had paid for the policies and the car and house were jointly in her name.

Because her name was not on the policies, two of the three insurance companies she contacted for assistance would not give her any information about them, meaning she did not know if her car or house were insured.

“At a time when I was already incredibly stressed and scared … I was making phone calls to financial institutions, getting placed on hold, then transferred from one person to another, having to explain my situation repeatedly,” she shared in the report. “I found it to be incredibly demeaning, stressful and unfair.

“Two of the insurance companies were so unhelpful; I was crying on the phone, explaining it was all part of a DV situation and I could prove that with my AVO but they showed no empathy … I really want to see insurance companies adjust their policies and procedures accordingly.”

The report recommends all insurance providers adopt a “conduct of others” clause, which allows them to provide payouts to a policyholder if the damage has been inflicted by their partner. The report commended Suncorp and Allianz, which have already done so.

“The introduction of that clause was incredibly important to us,” the customer advocate at Suncorp Group, Bernadette Norrie, said. “We’re still learning. Perpetrators are clever and it’s beholden on us to constantly … learn from those who have had lived experiences how these policies have been used [by perpetrators].”

Catherine Fitzpatrick, the report’s author and the director of Flequity Ventures, said there had been some positive engagement from the Insurance Council of Australia, which introduced a code of practice and guidelines around interacting with victim-survivors of domestic violence in 2021. The code has led to some insurers training up specialised customer service teams to deal with clients who report domestic violence.

“But that still relies on a woman to disclose that something terrible is happening to her,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whereas what the report is suggesting is that if companies start by looking at their product design and the fundamentals of the way the product is working, then go and close those loopholes, they provide better support for victim-survivors and send the message to perpetrators, to say: we don’t tolerate this and we’re not going to look past it.”

* Name has been changed

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Private school fails in legal bid to stop construction of mental health facility

Melbourne private school fails in legal bid to stop construction of mental health facility

Alphington Grammar school argued treatment centre would pose a risk to students’ safety and affect its future viability

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A Melbourne private school launched an unsuccessful legal bid to block a 24-hour mental health facility from being built next door, after it argued it posed a risk to students’ safety and would affect its future viability.

Last year, Yarra city council granted a planning permit for the construction of the facility next to Alphington Grammar school, about 7km north-east of the Melbourne CBD, after the proposal sparked backlash from parents of students.

The school then sought to overturn the decision in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Vcat).

But a Vcat decision handed down last month found that the facility had a “net community benefit” and the school’s argument it would present an unacceptable risk to students and its community were unfounded.

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“We find the operation of a mental health facility will have negligible risk to the school students and community provided it operates in accordance with the OMP [operational management plan] and conditions on the permit,” the tribunal found.

Alphington Grammar declined to comment.

The school had argued the facility – which would provide overnight and same-day treatment for people with mild to moderate psychiatric conditions – would put students at risk from potential interaction with clients as they made their way to school.

It also argued the risk and perception of risk would affect its economic viability.

“It submits the proposed use may have negative psychological impacts on its students due to exposure to patients who may be experiencing manic episodes, disturbed behaviour or low inhibitions,” the Vcat decision said. “It says this poses a security risk that has not been properly addressed.”

The school called Assoc Prof Peter Doherty, a psychiatrist, to address Vcat. He told the tribunal that suicidal acts and deliberate self-harm could occur outside the facility’s boundaries and expose students to distressing behaviour.

But private provider the Healthe Care Group, the operator of the proposed facility, argued the school’s concerns were overstated and resulted from a “misunderstanding of the nature of the facility, its proposed patients and operation”.

Vcat accepted the evidence of Prof Louise Newman, a psychiatrist called by the Healthe Care Group, who said clients receiving treatment would have low to moderate mental health issues and were “more likely to be reserved and unlikely to engage in disturbing public behaviour”.

They also agreed with her recommendation that students should be “supported in developing mental health resilience”, as opposed to the school’s argument that they needed to be protected from potential negative effects.

Vcat members Jane Tait and Nick Wimbush concluded that the concerns raised by the school about the effect on students were “unfounded”.

They also said the school had not provided any evidence that its enrolments had dropped since the planning permit application was submitted in support of its concerns about its economic viability.

Vcat ordered the planning permit be granted, subject to conditions including for the facility build a 1.8m-high fence along one of its boundaries and visiting hours to be limited to avoid clashing with school pickup times.

Healthe Care declined to comment on the legal proceedings.

The site for the facility was previously an aged care centre. It would have capacity for 30 inpatients and eight day patients and operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Its clients would be restricted to those on a voluntary basis and exclude people on compulsory treatment orders and those unable to consent to their treatment.

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Tesla accuses car lobby group of making ‘false claims’ about Labor’s vehicle emissions plan

Tesla accuses Australian car lobby group of making ‘false claims’ about Labor’s vehicle emissions plan

Exclusive: Electric car company says Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is running a ‘concerted public campaign’ by suggesting plan would push up price of popular cars

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Tesla has launched a scathing attack on Australia’s main auto industry lobby group, accusing it of attempting to delay climate action by repeatedly making “plainly false” claims to the public about an Albanese government clean car policy.

In a submission to the government about the design of a vehicle efficiency standard, Tesla sharply criticised the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), an organisation in which it holds a board seat and is an active member.

The Australian arm of Elon Musk’s electric car company said the lobby group had been running a “concerted public campaign” against the government plan, including claiming to multiple media outlets that it could increase the price of popular utes by up to $13,000 despite knowing this was not how the system worked.

Tesla said the FCAI was meant to represent the views of all its members, but on this issue it was “representing only one section of the industry: those companies who would continue to delay” action on the climate crisis. It said FCAI’s position was “discordant” with the public commitments of several of its members, including Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, which had all said they would stop selling combustion engine models in leading markets by 2035.

Tesla said the FCAI was instead arguing for a policy regime that does next to nothing, based on an existing voluntary program that it oversees. While the lobby group has described its proposal as “ambitious”, Tesla said it had been openly discussed within FCAI that it would not cut emissions before 2030.

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It estimated the FCAI’s preferred approach would lead to a 25% increase in vehicle emissions between 2024 and 2030. It said it had put this calculation to the FCAI before writing its submission and asked if it had “missed anything”. It alleged the FCAI replied: “You are missing the review process.”

Tesla took this to mean the FCAI was aware that the model it was arguing for would allow emissions to increase, but was suggesting the details could be changed years down the track.

“The FCAI knew that its targets would actually allow carmakers to increase emissions because of enormous loopholes that create hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles that only exist on paper,” Tesla said in its submission.

“Tesla is both a member of the FCAI and represented on its board, so it’s important that Tesla makes clear its disagreement with the submission made by the FCAI to this review, and with false claims it has made in the public discussion of vehicle standards.”

The FCAI’s claims that the price of the most popular petrol and diesel cars would jump by thousands of dollars under the government’s plan has been adopted by the federal Coalition, which describes the policy as a “family car and ute tax”.

A vehicle emissions standard is not a tax. It requires car companies to meet a per kilometre emissions target averaged across all the new cars it sells in a new year.

The target would lower each year. Under the government’s preferred model it would be cut by 60% by 2030. Suppliers can choose which cars they sell, but would need to offer enough fuel-efficient models to offset more polluting vehicles to meet their target.

Companies that emitted less than the required average would be rewarded credits that they could sell to cars that were above their average. Alternatively, companies that missed the required average could pay a penalty or make up the difference by selling more clean cars over the following two years.

Asked for its response to Tesla’s criticism’s, the FCAI said it had been encouraging successive governments to introduce an efficiency standard for more than a decade.

“The FCAI and its members, which includes manufacturers of vehicles ranging from battery electric through to petrol and diesel engines, want to continue to play their role in combating climate change and providing Australians with the zero and low emission vehicles they can afford, want to drive and … that meet their family, personal, recreation or work needs,” an FCAI spokesperson said.

Tesla’s submission included a critique of calculations the FCAI has given to media outlets including News.com.au, the Daily Mail and Channel 9’s Today Show that suggest the government’s preferred efficiency standard design would substantially push up the price of 18 of the country’s 20 top-selling car models. It said the FCAI had:

  • Based its calculations on the most polluting type of each car model only. For example, when looking at the Ford Ranger it chose only its most polluting variant, the Raptor, which emits 262 grams of CO2 per kilometre. But the government’s Green Vehicle Guide last year listed 42 variants of Ranger, including 20 that emitted less than 200g/km.

  • Misrepresented how an efficiency standard would work. It chose the most polluting variants of each car make, calculated how much they would emit above the allowed average, multiplied the difference by $100/g – the proposed penalty price – and added this amount to the car’s sticker price. In reality, penalties would not be applied to individual cars and companies would be expected to increase their range of clean vehicles to offset more polluting models.

  • Claimed two popular Tesla EV models would each fall in price by about $15,000 next year without checking with the company if this was the case.

Tesla said the claim its cars would become $15,000 cheaper was “a nonsensical claim made by FCAI without checking the facts with the car companies who actually set prices”.

The FCAI said it stood by its analysis of how vehicles sold in 2023 would be affected by the government’s preferred policy if last year’s sales patterns were repeated in 2025.

The government has said it wants a vehicle efficiency standard to start operating on 1 January next year.

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Tesla accuses car lobby group of making ‘false claims’ about Labor’s vehicle emissions plan

Tesla accuses Australian car lobby group of making ‘false claims’ about Labor’s vehicle emissions plan

Exclusive: Electric car company says Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is running a ‘concerted public campaign’ by suggesting plan would push up price of popular cars

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

Tesla has launched a scathing attack on Australia’s main auto industry lobby group, accusing it of attempting to delay climate action by repeatedly making “plainly false” claims to the public about an Albanese government clean car policy.

In a submission to the government about the design of a vehicle efficiency standard, Tesla sharply criticised the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), an organisation in which it holds a board seat and is an active member.

The Australian arm of Elon Musk’s electric car company said the lobby group had been running a “concerted public campaign” against the government plan, including claiming to multiple media outlets that it could increase the price of popular utes by up to $13,000 despite knowing this was not how the system worked.

Tesla said the FCAI was meant to represent the views of all its members, but on this issue it was “representing only one section of the industry: those companies who would continue to delay” action on the climate crisis. It said FCAI’s position was “discordant” with the public commitments of several of its members, including Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, which had all said they would stop selling combustion engine models in leading markets by 2035.

Tesla said the FCAI was instead arguing for a policy regime that does next to nothing, based on an existing voluntary program that it oversees. While the lobby group has described its proposal as “ambitious”, Tesla said it had been openly discussed within FCAI that it would not cut emissions before 2030.

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

It estimated the FCAI’s preferred approach would lead to a 25% increase in vehicle emissions between 2024 and 2030. It said it had put this calculation to the FCAI before writing its submission and asked if it had “missed anything”. It alleged the FCAI replied: “You are missing the review process.”

Tesla took this to mean the FCAI was aware that the model it was arguing for would allow emissions to increase, but was suggesting the details could be changed years down the track.

“The FCAI knew that its targets would actually allow carmakers to increase emissions because of enormous loopholes that create hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles that only exist on paper,” Tesla said in its submission.

“Tesla is both a member of the FCAI and represented on its board, so it’s important that Tesla makes clear its disagreement with the submission made by the FCAI to this review, and with false claims it has made in the public discussion of vehicle standards.”

The FCAI’s claims that the price of the most popular petrol and diesel cars would jump by thousands of dollars under the government’s plan has been adopted by the federal Coalition, which describes the policy as a “family car and ute tax”.

A vehicle emissions standard is not a tax. It requires car companies to meet a per kilometre emissions target averaged across all the new cars it sells in a new year.

The target would lower each year. Under the government’s preferred model it would be cut by 60% by 2030. Suppliers can choose which cars they sell, but would need to offer enough fuel-efficient models to offset more polluting vehicles to meet their target.

Companies that emitted less than the required average would be rewarded credits that they could sell to cars that were above their average. Alternatively, companies that missed the required average could pay a penalty or make up the difference by selling more clean cars over the following two years.

Asked for its response to Tesla’s criticism’s, the FCAI said it had been encouraging successive governments to introduce an efficiency standard for more than a decade.

“The FCAI and its members, which includes manufacturers of vehicles ranging from battery electric through to petrol and diesel engines, want to continue to play their role in combating climate change and providing Australians with the zero and low emission vehicles they can afford, want to drive and … that meet their family, personal, recreation or work needs,” an FCAI spokesperson said.

Tesla’s submission included a critique of calculations the FCAI has given to media outlets including News.com.au, the Daily Mail and Channel 9’s Today Show that suggest the government’s preferred efficiency standard design would substantially push up the price of 18 of the country’s 20 top-selling car models. It said the FCAI had:

  • Based its calculations on the most polluting type of each car model only. For example, when looking at the Ford Ranger it chose only its most polluting variant, the Raptor, which emits 262 grams of CO2 per kilometre. But the government’s Green Vehicle Guide last year listed 42 variants of Ranger, including 20 that emitted less than 200g/km.

  • Misrepresented how an efficiency standard would work. It chose the most polluting variants of each car make, calculated how much they would emit above the allowed average, multiplied the difference by $100/g – the proposed penalty price – and added this amount to the car’s sticker price. In reality, penalties would not be applied to individual cars and companies would be expected to increase their range of clean vehicles to offset more polluting models.

  • Claimed two popular Tesla EV models would each fall in price by about $15,000 next year without checking with the company if this was the case.

Tesla said the claim its cars would become $15,000 cheaper was “a nonsensical claim made by FCAI without checking the facts with the car companies who actually set prices”.

The FCAI said it stood by its analysis of how vehicles sold in 2023 would be affected by the government’s preferred policy if last year’s sales patterns were repeated in 2025.

The government has said it wants a vehicle efficiency standard to start operating on 1 January next year.

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Ukraine claims to have sunk another Russian warship in Crimea

Ukraine claims to have sunk Russian warship in occupied Crimea

Sinking of warship near Kerch strait would deal further blow to Moscow’s naval power and its control over Black Sea

Ukraine has sunk a Russian warship near the Kerch strait in occupied Crimea in a further blow to Moscow’s naval power and its control over the Black Sea, as The Hague accused two senior Russian commanders of carrying out war crimes.

Kyiv’s military intelligence agency said it attacked the Sergei Kotov early on Tuesday using naval drones. The vessel, which was on patrol, suffered damage to the stern, right and left sides, then sank, claimed the agency, known as the HUR.

Dramatic video footage appeared to confirm this version of events. It showed kamikaze drones closing in on the vessel, seen in ghostly silhouette. One hits its hull and there is a large explosion. More drones then target the jagged hole caused by the first impact. There are further detonations, according to images shared by Ukraine’s Group 13 special unit.

A second video published by pro-Kremlin channels records a major incident at sea. Gunfire and bright flashes can be seen as the ship apparently opens fire on the drones from a turret-mounted naval gun. There are loud booms and orange explosions.

Ukrainian military intelligence said seven Russian sailors drowned in the attack and six were injured. A further 52 crew members were “probably” evacuated from the stricken vessel, it suggested.

The intelligence agency released an intercepted conversation in which a Russian commander described the sinking as “a tragic night event”. The unnamed officer said that at 00.50am five “unmanned motor boats” approached the Sergei Kotov. The patrol ship was warned of an impending drone attack and spent 40 minutes “fighting” back. A Russian Ka-29 transport and combat helicopter on the ship’s deck was lost when it sank, the commander said.

The conversation could not be verified. The HUR said its operation was carefully planned and carried out with Ukraine’s naval forces and the digital transformation ministry. “The cost of the sunken ship is about $65m,” it said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the international criminal court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two top Russian commanders, Sergei Kobylash and Viktor Sokolov, who are accused of war crimes. The ICC said they were suspected of directing missile strikes between October 2022 and March 2023 against Ukraine’s national energy infrastructure.

The Kremlin’s winter campaign crippled the Ukrainian grid, causing widespread blackouts and leaving millions of civilians in the dark, without light and heating. The ICC has previously issued warrants for the arrest of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, for their alleged role in the abduction of Ukrainian children.

Kobylash, 58, was commander at the time of the so-called long-range aviation of the Russian air force. Sokolov, 61, was an admiral in the Russian navy who headed the Black Sea Fleet, the ICC said.

The sinking of the Sergei Kotov is a much-needed boost to Ukraine’s morale after recent losses. On land, Russian forces have been advancing across the eastern frontline and last month captured the salient city of Avdiivka after a five-month assault. At sea, Ukraine has had greater success, despite having no navy of its own. It has used sophisticated home-produced drones to pick off Russian warships.

On 14 February, Ukraine sunk a heavy assault ship, the Caesar Kuznikov, near the Crimean resort town of Alushka. The Magura V5 naval drones used to destroy the vessel were also used to sink the Sergei Kotov.

The losses have forced Moscow to relocate much of its Black Sea fleet to the safer Russian port of Novorossiysk. Last summer, Ukraine resumed exporting commercial grain shipments from Odesa and other ports.

Pro-Putin commentators expressed dismay on Tuesday at the loss of another warship. “I don’t want to comment on this. Because if this continues, the Black Sea Fleet will only have catamarans and rubber banana boats for tourists. [It’s] fucked up,” one posted on Telegram.

Ukrainian officials reacted with glee. The defence ministry tweeted that the Sergei Kotov – launched in 2021 – had become “a submarine” and had “joined the Moskva”, the fleet’s powerful flagship that was sunk in April 2022, at the beginning of Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

“Historic humiliation of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet continues,” tweeted Illia Ponomarenko, the former defence correspondent for the Kyiv Independent newspaper.

Ukraine’s long-term strategic objective is to degrade Russia’s military and naval assets on Crimea, and to blow up the Kerch bridge connecting the occupied peninsula with the Russian mainland.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked Berlin to give it Germany’s long-range Taurus missile system. Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has so far ruled this out. Earlier this week, the Kremlin released an intercepted phone call during which high-ranking German military officers discussed how Taurus could be used to destroy the crossing.

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Millions of voters head to polls across the US as Donald Trump appears likely to dominate Republican primary

Voters in more than a dozen states head to the polls on Tuesday for what is the biggest day of the presidential primaries of the 2024 election cycle.

Polls are now open in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia for voters to cast their ballots in the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday. All those states except Alaska are also holding their Democratic primary contests as well. In Iowa, where Democratic caucuses were held by mail since January, the results are expected this evening. (Republicans held their Iowa caucuses in January, when Trump easily won the first voting state.)

First polls will close at 7pm Eastern time. Here’s what to expect tonight, so you can plan your evening. Meanwhile, here’s a recap of the latest developments:

  • Nikki Haley once again rejected a third-party presidential bid, as she insisted she would stay in the race “as long as we’re competitive”.

  • “I don’t know why everybody is so adamant that they have to follow Trump’s lead to get me out of this race. You know, all of these people deserve to vote. Sixteen states want to have their voices heard,” she told Fox News.

  • Joe Biden aimed to shore up his standing among Black voters as he warned what would happen if Democrats lose the White House.

  • Biden is reportedly eager for a “much more aggressive approach” to the 2024 contest for the White House that would revolve going for Donald Trump’s jugular.”

  • Donald Trump has predicted he will sweep “every state” on Super Tuesday and said he is fully focused on the November election against his presumed opponent, Joe Biden.

  • Trump voiced support for the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza, and claimed the Hamas attacks of 7 October on Israel would have never happened if he had been president at the time.

  • Taylor Swift has urged her fans to vote on Super Tuesday in a post on her Instagram Story.

  • Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming has decided not to run for Senate Republican leader to succeed Mitch McConnell, and instead will run for the No. 2 position of whip.

Late-night eating culture poses mental health risk, says minister

Spain’s late-night eating culture poses mental health risk, says minister

Labour minister says it’s madness that people are still working in restaurants at 1am but opposition and tourism groups defend country’s nightlife

Working past 10pm can pose a risk to mental health, Spain’s leftwing labour minister, Yolanda Díaz, has warned, as she fended off criticisms for describing the country’s custom of keeping restaurants open until late into the night as “madness”.

The debate over Spain’s vibrant nightlife – and the long working hours needed to sustain it – was thrust into the spotlight on Monday after Díaz characterised the country’s late-night restaurant culture as out of step with the rest of Europe.

“A country that has its restaurants open at one o’clock in the morning is not reasonable,” she said. “It is madness to continue extending opening hours until who knows what time.”

The opposition People’s party and business associations were swift to respond. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional president of Madrid and a fierce critic of the central government, accused them of wanting people to be “bored and at home” in comments made on social media.

“Spain has the best nightlife in the world, with streets full of life and freedom. And that also provides employment,” continued Ayuso, whose political career was in part fuelled by her insistence on keeping bars and restaurants in Madrid open during the pandemic. “They want us to be puritans, materialists, socialists, without soul, without light and without restaurants because they feel like it,” she added.

Spain by Night, a federation representing leisure and entertainment groups, argued that the country’s nightlife was a tourist draw. “We reject any proposal that questions the Spanish lifestyle, which distinguishes and differentiates us in the tourism market,” it said in a statement.

At the heart of the row is the country’s long-running discussion over the gruelling Spanish work day, which can stretch past 11 hours, leaving many in the country tucking in to dinner as others in Europe head to bed.

In 2016 the People’s party promised to work to shorten the working day and improve work-life balance across the country. This week, however, the party’s politicians emerged as some of the most vociferous critics of Díaz’s comments.

When asked on Tuesday about the criticisms, Díaz said her sole aim was to protect the rights of workers.

Her party was “very much” in favour of leisure, said Díaz, who leads the leftist platform Sumar. “So much so that we want to reduce the working day … we want people to enjoy life,” she told Spanish broadcaster TVE.

“The nightlife that the regional president of Madrid boasts about forgets that shifts after 10pm are night shifts and, as such, carry certain risks such as mental health risks,” Díaz said, in what appeared to be a reference to the numerous studies that have linked shift work to an increased risk of poor mental health.

Díaz added: “So let’s stop trivialising these matters that are very serious for the lives of working men and women in our country.”

She stressed that those who work past 10pm must be compensated and said that labour inspections to date had suggested there was room for improvement when it came to the labour conditions for restaurant workers in several Spanish cities.

Earlier this year Díaz launched negotiations with labour unions and business associations in an attempt to reduce the country’s legal work week from 40 to 37.5 hours without any loss of pay. The measure could affect up to 12 million workers in the country, according to the government.

“Cutting working hours not only means working less, but working better,” Díaz said on social media at the time.

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Taylor Swift urges fans to vote in 2024 elections as Super Tuesday kicks off

Taylor Swift urges fans to vote in 2024 elections as Super Tuesday kicks off

Pop star says on Instagram Story ‘If you haven’t already, make a plan to vote today’

  • Super Tuesday – latest updates

Taylor Swift took time out on Super Tuesday to implore her fans to vote in the 2024 primary elections.

“Today, March 5, is the presidential primary in Tennessee and 16 other states and territories. I wanted to remind you guys to vote the people who most represent YOU into power. If you haven’t already, make a plan to vote today,” Swift shared in a post on her Instagram Story.

“Whether you’re in Tennessee or somewhere else in the US, check your polling place and times at Vote.org.”

Swifties around the globe, who have been waiting with bated breath for the pop sensation to speak out during this tumultuous political cycle, had mixed responses to the post.

Super Tuesday: read more

  • Everything you need to know about Super Tuesday

  • Key issues in the 2024 US election

  • What’s next in the 2024 election?

“I love Taylor Swift for still encouraging people to vote especially young people, but if she can do this – she can speak on a genocide right???!” one person wrote on X.

“WOW: Taylor Swift has officially begun interfering in the 2024 election. She tells her young female fans to vote the candidate that ‘most represents you into power’,” another person wrote.

Historically, Swift has been cautious about dipping her toes into political discourse. Her most pointed involvement has included a 2018 plea to fans to vote for Democrats in a Tennessee election, against the Republican Marsha Blackburn.

She endorsed Biden in 2020 and even spoke out against the then president, Donald Trump, that same year.

Outside of these instances, as she did on Tuesday, Swift has used her platform repeatedly to tell fans to vote. Notably, voter registration soars by the tens of thousands after each of her get-out-the-vote Instagram posts.

It remains unclear if Swift will use her platform this year to do more than tell her fans to vote, but there is certainly an appetite for her to do so – and an appetite for her to keep quiet.

In a poll conducted by the Guardian earlier this year, one Swift fan said “her stance and/or endorsement is one that I care about as much as my granddaughter does.

“I would like to hear her speak out in support of human rights for all, especially women. And to support the asylum-seeking refugees risking their lives to contribute their hard work to the US. That’s what actually makes America great.

“For me, Taylor Swift’s endorsement holds more influence than any man in DC or in the media. Why wouldn’t her opinion matter to me?”

Also this year, there have already been many rightwing conspiracy theories flourishing online that suggest Swift is a covert asset to bolster Biden and that she and her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, are a set-up to bolster Biden; allies of Trump even pledged a “holy war” against Swift if she sides with the Democrats in November.

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