The Guardian 2024-03-09 16:01:14


Melbourne’s Moomba parade cancelled due to heat as festivalgoers in Victoria advised to leave amid fire warnings

Pitch music and arts festival attenders urged to delay arrival, with those already on site advised to head home

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Festivalgoers at a music festival in Victoria’s Grampians have been advised to leave amid the extreme heat and fire danger, while Melbourne’s iconic Moomba Parade has been cancelled due to soaring temperatures.

Residents across four states have been experiencing stifling conditions, with high temperatures forecast over the long weekend in many parts of the country.

Moomba Parade organisers said the difficult decision was made “to ensure the health and safety” of performers, spectators, workers and volunteers. The wider festival will still go ahead, with some interruptions.

In an Instagram post, Pitch music and arts festival said the Country Fire Authority had advised the safest option for those already on site was to leave on Saturday morning due to the bushfire risk. The festival – which is due to run from 8 to 12 March – is at Moyston, where temperatures are forecast to reach 38C on Saturday and 39C on Sunday.

“If you are arriving on Saturday we recommend delaying your arrival until further notice,” the post read.

“The forecast tells us to expect hot weather each day of the festival. In addition, overnights will also be warm.”

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The CFA said its general advice for people in an area with an extreme fire danger rating, like the Pitch festival, is to leave early in the day as the safest option.

There are no extreme fire danger ratings forecast across the state on Sunday.

The festival had organised free shuttle buses running from Pitch to Ararat station on Saturday, for those wishing to leave. Organisers said they were working closely with authorities and that there were no active fires in the region.

In a statement, Pitch festival organisers said programming would commence at 6pm on Saturday and will continue as scheduled for the remainder of the event. Organisers said they are working “through the specifics” in relation to refunds, and ticket holders would “receive an update as more information becomes available”.

Prior to the program resuming at 6pm, the festival will offer “light entertainment under the shade”, including yoga, to ensure patrons “are not remaining in their campsites in the heat of the day”.

Pitch’s Instagram post has more than 800 comments, with some questioning why the festival had not been cancelled.

One person at the festival commented that they had to pay for wifi at a food stall to access the information.

“All of the sets at the stages stopped without warning and I had to walk around and ask people if they knew what was going on,” they wrote.

Another said their group had left the festival on Saturday morning and were feeling “incredibly frustrated” about missing the performances, but also about the money they had spent.

Artist Bailey Ibbs confirmed on social media he would not be playing his set on Saturday night as planned.

“Due to advice from the CFA, I’m incredibly upset and gutted but that’s life,” he wrote on Instagram.

In a post to Facebook, the local Moyston CFA brigade said it is meeting daily with event organisers.

“We continue to work with [and] wish the festival all the best for a safe [and] successful event,” it wrote.

The Golden Plains festival, which is taking place just under two hours away from Pitch, says it is going ahead. Gates opened at 8am on Saturday.

Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales were set to experience stifling conditions from Saturday through to Monday.

A total fire ban was in place across five districts in Victoria on Saturday. The ban applies to the Wimmera, west and south Gippsland, central, north central and southwest regions.

Across the state, Melbourne is tipped to reach a top of 39C on Saturday, while conditions are set to hit 41C at Warrnambool, Torquay and Avalon. The state’s central district is slated to reach 41C and 40C is forecast for popular holiday towns along the Murray River. The south-west is expected to record its sixth-highest maximum temperatures on record in some areas.

“We have only seen three consecutive days of above 38C in Melbourne three times during March in the past 100 years,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Lincoln Trainor said.

Dangerous fire conditions are forecast to ease across Victoria from Sunday.

Meanwhile, the mercury is set to reach the low 40Cs in South Australia as severe heatwave conditions extend farther west of the Eyre Peninsula over the long weekend.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned of a prolonged run of heat from Ceduna to Port Lincoln, Adelaide, the Barossa Valley, Narracoorte and Mount Gambier.

The state government activated a code red response late on Friday, with additional services available to people sleeping rough.

Adelaide is in the midst of its busy festival period and many have triggered heat plans, including the Fringe festival, the South Australian athletics championship and the Adelaide Cup horse race.

Extreme and severe heatwave conditions have also hit Tasmania, with warnings or much of the state’s north and northeast. Areas affected include Burnie, Devonport, Launceston, Richmond, Swansea and Whitemark.

Hobart is expected to reach at least 35C on Saturday, and may break its minimum March temperature record of 21.1C on Sunday, Trainor said. There will be relief for King Island on Sunday but that’s not expected to flow through to the rest of the state until Tuesday.

Southern NSW is also experiencing a severe heatwave with temperatures set to reach the high 30s in several areas including the Riverina, Lower Western, Upper Western and South West Slopes.

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Melissa Caddick’s luxury Sydney penthouse sells for undisclosed amount

Proceeds from sale – which is believed to be below $5 million – will be used to pay back some of the money stolen from investors

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Conwoman Melissa Caddick’s luxury Sydney penthouse is finally off the market and the proceeds will be used to pay back some of the money stolen from dozens of investors, many of whom were her close friends and family.

The apartment atop the Eastpoint Tower at Edgecliff in Sydney’s eastern suburbs was listed for auction on 10 October for an estimated $5.5m.

However, it was withdrawn and put on the market for private sale, liquidators Jones Partners said at the time.

Firm principal Bruce Gleeson confirmed the penthouse had been sold in a statement on Saturday.

“We have informed the creditors for Maliver Pty Ltd [in liquidation] and out-of-pocket-investors for Melissa Caddick of the sale,” he said.

“Sydney Sotheby’s assisted in selling the penthouse with settlement expected in April.”

The price has not been disclosed but it is believed to be below the $5m mark.

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The apartment was previously occupied by Caddick’s parents, Ted and Barbara Grimley, and boasts sweeping panoramic views of Sydney’s city skyline and eastern suburbs.

She bought the apartment for the Grimleys in 2016, paying $2.55m.

The couple later said they paid their now-dead daughter almost $1.2m toward the mortgage on the apartment on the condition they could live there rent-free until they died.

But in the end, the Grimleys agreed to leave after a long-running court battle in exchange for a $950,000 payout from Caddick’s estate.

“Spacious throughout and stylishly presented with understated contemporary finishes, this is the perfect opportunity for downsizers, executives and families who seek undeniable quality and convenience,” the online listing for the property said.

Caddick, a self-styled financial adviser, lived a life of luxury on the back of about $23m stolen mostly from family and friends via an investment scam.

The 49-year-old disappeared in November 2020, just days after her Sydney eastern suburbs home was raided by Asic investigators.

A coroner in May ruled Caddick was dead but could not determine the cause.

The fraudster’s badly decomposed right foot, which was still attached to a running shoe, washed up on a beach on the south coast of NSW in February 2021, but the rest of her body has not been found.

Investors received a share of $3m recouped by liquidators Jones Partners in August last year after the sale of Caddick’s share portfolio and Dover Heights cliff-top mansion.

At the time, Gleeson said it was not unusual for investors to receive nothing back from Ponzi schemes.

He said the sale of the Edgecliff apartment would allow for further significant distributions to investors.

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Houthi forces step up Red Sea attacks as US and Denmark shoot down drones

Iran-backed group is attempting to strike ships it claims have links to Israel, in solidarity with Gaza

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Houthi forces in Yemen claim to have launched one of their largest attacks on US shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, saying they sent 37 drones to hit US navy war ships and a commercial ship.

The US Central Command said it had stopped the attack, which it attributed to Iranian-backed Houthi forces. The US spoke of only shooting down 15, not 37, drones.

The Houthis in a statement issued by the group’s military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the attack had been a success, but provided no evidence.

Among those repelling the Houthi attacks was a Danish frigate Iver Huitfeldt, which shot down four Houthi drones in the Red Sea on Friday night.

The commander on the Iver Huitfeldt, Capt Sune Lund, said: “At a little after 4am local time we recognised a drone which was heading towards Iver Huitfeldt and the surrounding ships. After making sure it was an enemy, we engaged and defeated it. Over the next hour this happened three more times.”

The commercial ship that was targeted, the Propel Fortune, was Singapore flagged. It had issued messages that it had no connection with Israel, but the Houthis claimed it was linked to the US.

The Houthis, who captured the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in 2015, have said they are mounting the attacks on Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Their stance has propelled the group into a form of international notoriety.

Central Command said: “Between 4am and 6:30am (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists conducted a large-scale uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) attack into the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. CentCom and coalition forces identified the one-way attack (OWA) UAVs and determined that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels, US navy, and coalition ships in the region. US navy vessels and aircraft along with multiple coalition navy ships and aircraft shot down 15 OWA UAVs.

“These actions are taken to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure.”

The severity of the Houthi dual attack – regardless of its precise size – will be disturbing to the US-UK force, which has been patrolling the Red Sea and seeking to destroy the source of the Houthi land attacks.

Earlier in the week, a Houthi attack on a Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence led to the deaths of at least three sailors, the first civilian casualties caused by the Houthi missile and drone strikes.

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Aid ship expected to leave Cyprus for Gaza faces logistical delays

Open Arms vessel, loaded with humanitarian supplies, is waiting for approval from Israel before leaving

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A Gaza-bound aid ship expected to make the maiden voyage along a new maritime corridor from Cyprus has yet to set sail because of logistical challenges.

Government officials confirmed on Saturday that while a vessel belonging to Open Arms, a Spanish search and rescue group, had been loaded with food, water and other supplies and was ready to depart the Mediterranean island, it was unlikely to leave before Sunday.

“We are still waiting for the green light from Israel,” Yiannis Antoniou, the deputy government spokesperson, told the Guardian. “And the weather will also play a role … the boat is going to move very slowly, it will take twice the time it would normally take, around 50 hours, to get there.”

Where “there” was also remained unclear. Although Israel’s foreign ministry has said shipments will be subject to inspection “according to Israeli standards”, who will distribute the aid and what the destination of boats will be has still not been revealed because of security concerns.

“It is going to Gaza but at this stage we cannot say where it will offload,” Antoniou added, explaining that the mission is being seen as a test run by officials.

The Spanish-flagged vessel docked three weeks ago in the port of Larnaca in Cyprus, the closest EU country to the Gaza Strip. In a post on the social media site X, the US charity World Central Kitchen wrote: “Teams are in Cyprus loading pallets of humanitarian aid on to a boat headed to northern Gaza. We have been preparing for weeks alongside our trusted NGO partner Open Arms for the opening of a maritime aid corridor that would allow us to scale our efforts in the region.”

Visiting Cyprus on Friday, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, had announced the pilot operation would “hopefully” take place later that day. Amid mounting fears of famine it was clear the war-stricken territory was facing “a humanitarian catastrophe”, she said.

The besieged coastal strip lies barely 210 nautical miles from Larnaca. Aid supplies coordinated by the United Arab Emirates are to be collected, stored and loaded on vessels at the port.

Cyprus’s foreign minister, Constantinos Kombos, also made clear that while there was still optimism the operation would be activated “over the weekend”, there were issues that had to be clarified.

Speaking to the Cyprus News agency, he said “speed should not affect efficiency, there has to be balance”.

“There are various issues and that’s why we say the window is this weekend [for the launch of the mission] as long as there isn’t an incident in Gaza, Israel or on the borders with Lebanon which could cause unrest and affect the operation, even the weather could cause problems.”

A US plan to establish a “temporary offshore maritime pier” in Gaza – first announced by US president, Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address – would take up to 60 days and would probably involve more than 1,000 US personnel, the Pentagon clarified on Friday. The floating harbour is vital as there are no functioning ports in Gaza.

Touring port facilities in Larnaca, the EU chief warned it would be a “key challenge” to get food to people on the ground at a time of growing alarm over the spread of hunger among the territory’s 2.3 million residents.

“We are here because Palestinians, and in particular those in Gaza, need all our help. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with innocent Palestinian families and children desperate for basic needs,” she said.

A statement released by the EU, US, UK, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates – all of whom are involved in the mission – also warned that the operation was likely to be complex. Aid delivery efforts would have to be continually “assessed and adjusted”, the statement said, to ensure the assistance was dispatched “as effectively as possible”.

Tellingly, the EU Commission spokesperson, Balazs Ujvari, said on Friday the Open Arms ship’s direct route to Gaza had raised a number of “logistical problems”, which were still being worked out.

The Cypriot government had in October proposed establishing a maritime aid corridor – named the Amalthea Initiative after the life-giving foster mother of Zeus in Greek mythology – but Israeli security concerns had repeatedly scuppered the plan.

Israeli agents who had previously inspected facilities in Larnaca had expressed concerns of Hamas militants hiding weapons among aid shipments.

Cyprus’s president, Nikos Christodoulides, had unveiled the five-point plan at the international Gaza aid conference held in Paris in November saying Cyprus should exploit its proximity to the territory. The UK is also believed to have played a key role in advocating the corridor as the conflict in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000, worsens.

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Meghan says she suffered ‘hateful’ online abuse while pregnant

Duchess of Sussex finds the ‘cruel’ hatred being ‘spewed’ online disturbing and keeps her distance for her wellbeing

The Duchess of Sussex has said she received hateful abuse on social media while she was pregnant with Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.

Meghan gave a keynote speech as part of a panel that included the US actor Brooke Shields at the annual SXSW Conference in Texas to mark International Women’s Day.

When asked how she tackled the “seemingly endless toxicity” aimed at her online, Meghan said: “It is really interesting as I can reflect on it, I keep my distance from it right now for my own wellbeing, but the bulk of the bullying and abuse that I was experiencing on social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili.

“You just think about that and really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful – it is not catty, it is cruel.”

The former Suits actor said she found it disturbing that women were “spewing” hatred at each other online, adding: “I cannot make sense of that. If you’re reading something terrible about a woman, why are you sharing it with your friends?

“Why are you choosing to put it out in the world, what if it was your friend, or your mum or your daughter, you wouldn’t do it.

“I think that is the piece that is so lost right now [with] what is happening in the digital space and in certain sections of the media – we have forgotten about our humanity and that has got to change.”

Meghan said when she was 11 she wrote to Procter & Gamble and got an advert changed, from saying dishwashing liquid was for women to instead for people all over America.

She said: “It’s funny to look back at it now as it was before social media, where you had a reach that was so much greater, it was just an 11-year-old with a pen and paper, but goes to show if you know there is something wrong and you’re using your voice to advocate for what is right, that [can] really land and resonate with people. Your voice is not small, it just needs to be heard.”

Shields joked: “This is one of the ways we’re different, when I was 11 I was playing a prostitute,” recalling her starring role in 1978 film Pretty Baby.

During the session, Meghan also emphasised that “representation matters”.

“The key thing that I think needs to be focused on in terms of equity is it’s not a zero-sum game, just because someone else has the same advantage that you do doesn’t mean that you’re losing anything, and actually create an environment that is so inclusive, where people feel as if they have a seat at the table – as they should,” she said.

Meghan’s made the comments as the Princess of Wales recovers from abdominal surgery in the UK, and after Kate’s maternal uncle Gary Goldsmith became the first housemate to be evicted from Celebrity Big Brother.

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The Duchess of Sussex has revealed that she was targeted by hateful abuse on social media while she was pregnant with Prince Archie and again when she was pregnant with Princess Lilibet.

During a panel discussion on Friday, Meghan said: ‘You just think about that. And you have to really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty, it’s cruel. Why you would do that? And certainly when you’re pregnant or you have a newborn, we all as mums, you know it’s such a tender and sacred time.’

The duchess added that social media tended to depict unrealistic portrayals of motherhood: ‘We all know it’s not perfect. We all know that it’s messy’

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‘Nothing redeemable in him’: Robert De Niro says he would never play Donald Trump

The actor also implored voters in the US to choose Biden in the upcoming presidential election

He’s played mobsters, murderers, vigilantes and psychopaths. But the one person Robert De Niro said was too irredeemable to play? Donald Trump.

The outspoken Hollywood actor spoke about why he would not want Trump to become president again during an appearance on the Real Time With Bill Maher chatshow, in which he urged voters to vote for Joe Biden.

“The bottom line is, it’s Biden versus Trump. We want to live in a world that we want to live in and enjoy living in, or live in a nightmare,” De Niro said. “Vote for Trump and you’ll get the nightmare, vote for Biden and we’ll be back to normalcy.”

He continued: “I just don’t want to feel the way I did, and many of us don’t, after the election in 2016 where we couldn’t believe that it happened. The guy is a total monster.”

De Niro then went on to state that he would never play Trump.

“I’d never play him as an actor because I can’t see any good in him. Nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing redeemable in him,” De Niro said.

Trump is the last remaining leading candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination for president after Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador, announced that she was pulling out of the race on Wednesday.

De Niro has frequently criticised Trump in the past, using his speech at the Gotham awards in December to speak out about the former president’s lies. “The former president lied to us more than 30,000 times during his four years in office, and he’s keeping up the pace with his current campaign of retribution,” he said. Trump responded on Truth Social by calling the two-time Oscar winner “a total loser” whose acting talents “have greatly diminished”.

De Niro is nominated for best supporting actor at this year’s Academy Awards for his role in Killers of the Flower Moon, in which he plays a cattle rancher who orchestrates the murders of wealthy individuals of the Osage tribe.

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‘Nothing redeemable in him’: Robert De Niro says he would never play Donald Trump

The actor also implored voters in the US to choose Biden in the upcoming presidential election

He’s played mobsters, murderers, vigilantes and psychopaths. But the one person Robert De Niro said was too irredeemable to play? Donald Trump.

The outspoken Hollywood actor spoke about why he would not want Trump to become president again during an appearance on the Real Time With Bill Maher chatshow, in which he urged voters to vote for Joe Biden.

“The bottom line is, it’s Biden versus Trump. We want to live in a world that we want to live in and enjoy living in, or live in a nightmare,” De Niro said. “Vote for Trump and you’ll get the nightmare, vote for Biden and we’ll be back to normalcy.”

He continued: “I just don’t want to feel the way I did, and many of us don’t, after the election in 2016 where we couldn’t believe that it happened. The guy is a total monster.”

De Niro then went on to state that he would never play Trump.

“I’d never play him as an actor because I can’t see any good in him. Nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing redeemable in him,” De Niro said.

Trump is the last remaining leading candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination for president after Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador, announced that she was pulling out of the race on Wednesday.

De Niro has frequently criticised Trump in the past, using his speech at the Gotham awards in December to speak out about the former president’s lies. “The former president lied to us more than 30,000 times during his four years in office, and he’s keeping up the pace with his current campaign of retribution,” he said. Trump responded on Truth Social by calling the two-time Oscar winner “a total loser” whose acting talents “have greatly diminished”.

De Niro is nominated for best supporting actor at this year’s Academy Awards for his role in Killers of the Flower Moon, in which he plays a cattle rancher who orchestrates the murders of wealthy individuals of the Osage tribe.

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Asif Ali Zardari elected Pakistan president for second time

Zardari played a key role in talks to form a coalition government after February’s disputed parliamentary election

Pakistan’s lawmakers have elected Asif Ali Zardari as the country’s president for the second time.

Zardari is the widower of the assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto and the father of former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Zardari secured 411 votes from national and provincial lawmakers. His opponent, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who is backed by the party of imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan, received 181 votes.

The Pakistani presidency is a largely ceremonial role. Zardari was previously in the job between 2008 and 2013. Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, or PML-N, party of prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and his other political allies.

He was the favourite to win on Saturday because of his alliance with Pakistan’s other political dynasty, the Sharifs, and his key role in talks to form a coalition government after the disputed national parliamentary election on Febuary 8.

Sharif congratulated Zardari on becoming the country’s new president with a majority vote.

Zardari “will be a symbol of the strength of the federation,” Sharif said.

He said he hoped that Zardari would fulfil his constitutional responsibilities in an efficient manner.

Zardari’s rival Achakzai also congratulated him on his victory, saying the vote was held in a free and fair manner. Zardari is known for handling complicated political and other issues in a cool manner.

Last month’s poll was overshadowed by militant violence, an unprecedented mobile phone shutdown and vehement claims of vote-rigging from Khan’s party.

Khan was kicked out of office in 2022 and has faced several legal challenges since then. He is serving multiple prison terms.

Zardari has also been dogged by criminal cases. He spent 11 years behind bars before becoming president but was never convicted and has denied any wrongdoing. He has been arrested and indicted on various charges in recent years.

He will take the oath of office on Sunday.

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Biden criticises Trump’s Mar-a-Lago meeting with Orbán

US president told supporters Hungary’s premier was looking for dictatorship

Joe Biden has criticised his election rival Donald Trump for meeting Viktor Orbán, saying the Hungarian premier was “looking for dictatorship”.

Orbán travelled to Florida on Friday to meet his “good friend” Trump. Orbán has frequently expressed hope for the Republican’s return to power.

“You know who he’s meeting with today, down in Mar-a-Lago?” Democrat Biden told supporters in a campaign rally that repeatedly criticised Trump.

“Orbán of Hungary, who stated flatly he doesn’t think democracy works and is looking for dictatorship.”

He added: “I see a future where we defend democracy, not diminish it.”

Orbán on Friday posted a Facebook picture of himself and the former US leader outside what appeared to be Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

“Make America great again, Mr President!” Orbán wrote in English.

He added: “President Trump was a president of peace, he commanded respect in the world, and thus he created the conditions for peace. During his presidency there was peace in the Middle East and peace in Ukraine. And there would be no war today if he were still President of the United States.

“We agreed that there will be peace when there are world leaders who want peace. I am proud that Hungary is one of those countries. We also agreed that there is still much potential in US-Hungarian economic relations.

“Here in America the campaign is in full swing, and indeed is rushing ahead. It is up to Americans to make their own decision, and it is up to us Hungarians to frankly admit that it would be better for the world – and better for Hungary, too – if President Donald Trump were to return to power.”

Footage also showed Trump speaking. “There’s nobody that’s better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orbán. He’s fantastic,” Trump said.

“He’s a non-controversial figure because he says, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ and that’s the end of it. Right? He’s the boss,” he said, to laughter from the audience.

Biden referred to the Orbán meeting immediately after criticising Trump for having encouraged the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to invade Nato countries that did not pay their financial dues.

Hungary is the only EU member that has maintained close ties with the Kremlin after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Orbán regularly advocates for immediate ceasefire and peace talks, arguing Trump, who has previously expressed admiration for Putin, is best qualified to find a way out of the conflict.

The Hungarian leader angered fellow EU leaders by meeting Putin in September and has previously spoken out against western sanctions on Moscow.

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‘Devastated’: the Samantha Murphy case weighs heavy on a small Australian community

Despite a murder charge being laid, the search for the Ballarat woman’s body continues

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It was not just in the streets of the regional Australian city of Ballarat where the unanswered question of what had happened to Samantha Murphy weighed heavy.

For more than a month, the case of the missing runner – a beloved mother of three who never returned home – rippled through political and legal circles, and around dinner tables across the nation.

The historic gold-mining town, about a 90km drive north-west of Melbourne, became engulfed in a missing person’s case that captivated the country and became drenched in speculation and rumour.

On Thursday, the mood changed.

Early that afternoon, police announced they had charged a 22-year-old man, Patrick Stephenson, with her murder. The son of a former Australian rules footballer lived about 20km from Murphy but was not known to her family, police allege.

The breakthrough came nearly five weeks since Murphy left for an early-morning 14km run in the dense bushland around her home.

In the 32 days since she was last captured on CCTV in her driveway, the ground search has spanned hundreds of hectares and included police, locals and emergency services.

Volunteers banded together online to connect those eager to help search for her, and coordinated a large-scale search almost two weeks ago that attracted people from around the country. They combed through the dense bushland in search of any clues that could help find the missing woman.

Ballarat woman Tori Baxter, an organiser of the volunteer-led searches, says the community is “devastated” by the police allegations.

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“No one ever wants to hear something so horrific has happened to anyone, let alone someone that we’ve been actively trying to find to help get answers for Samantha’s family,” she says.

“There’s a lot of grief in the community at the moment.”

‘Unanswered questions’

The Ballarat mayor, Des Hudson, describes this week as providing some sort of “devastating closure” to a case that “resonated around Australia”.

“There are still lots of unanswered questions that are in the hearts and minds of community members,” he says.

“It’s important also that we don’t let Sam’s memory go.”

Police allege Murphy was murdered on the day she disappeared, in the Mount Clear area – where mobile phone data allegedly led police to return to the area previously searched.

But her body has not been found.

Hudson says it is important for women to know “they should be able to go out … and do those things that they would expect to be able to do”.

He offered an explanation to the ABC as to why this case seemed to attract so much emotion and intrigue. “I think the fact that Sam was a mum, had young kids, or young teenagers, and just disappeared without any trace, it really sparked the emotion of our community and communities from everywhere.”

While social media groups were used to coordinate ground searches for Murphy, they quickly became littered with rumours, unfounded speculation and theories from overseas-based psychics.

The speculation became more wild when, two weeks ago, police confirmed they were doubtful Murphy was alive and suspected one or more parties were involved in her disappearance.

During that press conference, when a renewed ground search was announced, reporters peppered acting Det Supt Mark Hatt, who fended off wide-ranging questions.

By Monday, police said they were trying to sort through more than 770 individual tips and other pieces of information as part of the investigation.

‘Trying to be brave for everybody’

There appeared palpable relief from Murphy’s husband, Michael, on Thursday. He described news of an arrest as feeling “like someone’s just let the pressure valve off”.

His voice shaking, he told reporters: “God, the adrenaline with everything that’s been going on, it’s just trying to be brave for everybody.”

“It’s something that you wouldn’t want anyone to experience,” he said.

The state’s police commissioner, Shane Patton, said on Thursday the Murphy family had been under “intense scrutiny” from the outset, and stressed they had “no involvement whatsoever in this matter”.

Patton thanked the Ballarat and wider community for assisting the investigation, saying the case has had a “profound impact” on locals.

“Some cases, some disappearances … bring out outpourings of grief. We’ve seen that here,” he said.

At a vigil on Friday night, the Ballarat community paid tribute to Murphy, who some locals knew only through her smile and the “hellos” she would offer on her regular walks through the bushland on the edge of the town.

Weeks after they first came together to form search parties, the Ballarat community was united to offer condolences to Murphy’s loved ones, who still wait for her to be brought home.

As Hudson told the ABC on Friday: “For Sam’s family and close friends, they can never move on, there will always be a hole in their lives.”

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‘We need all of them back’: brother of freed Gaza hostage pleads for rest to be returned

Gili Roman recalls ‘worst days of my life’ while sister was missing and relief after her release in November

For five days, Gili Roman waited for a phone call to bring news of his sister’s release among the first group of hostages freed from Gaza in November, after weeks of relentless violence in the war between Israel and Hamas.

When the call came at two in the morning, he cycled from Tel Aviv to his father’s home in a neighbouring town. There they waited, and when morning came he told his three-year-old niece of her mother’s return, watching as she ran through the apartment smiling and laughing.

“She’s very young but she saw everything so we could not lie to her, she knew her mother is missing,” said Roman, 39, speaking to the Guardian at the Israeli embassy in London. “I waited for all these days to be able to look at her and know that we have positive news for her. Seeing them hug and reunite, that was so moving.”

Now that his sister Yarden has returned home after 54 days in captivity, Roman is pleading for the return of the 134 remaining hostages in Gaza, including Yarden’s sister-in-law, Carmel Gat. On Thursday he sat alongside other relatives of those taken captive by Hamas. On the embassy lawn, white flowers were affixed with photographs of those taken captive when Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October.

Yarden and her husband and daughter were taken by fighters from a family home in Kibbutz Be’eri into a car, and managed to escape just before the border, said Roman. As they ran away it became too difficult for Yarden to carry her daughter, who she passed to her husband in a decision she later described to the US news programme 60 Minutes as a “no-brainer”.

It was about 10 in the morning on 7 October when Roman stopped receiving messages from his sister after news of the attack. The next day, his brother-in-law called saying he had been able to escape with their daughter but had no idea of Yarden’s whereabouts. For nearly a week, Roman searched the outskirts of the kibbutz for his sister alongside Israeli Defense Force troops.

“That is really the worst days of my life,” Roman recalled. “I felt that I’m the only one responsible to save my sister’s life because maybe she’s just waiting in the ditch, wounded and waiting for me to come and find her.”

In November, Qatar, Egypt and the US helped to broker a diplomatic breakthrough that led to a temporary ceasefire and the release of dozens of hostages held by militants, and of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

In January, Roman was invited alongside others to meet Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and said there was a “cautious optimism” that talks were more concrete and that officials were nearing a prospective deal for another ceasefire.

“It was a very reassuring meeting at that point,” Roman said. “When we met them we already felt there was something on the table.”

Now, with negotiations aimed at brokering another ceasefire under way, Hamas has demanded Israel end its offensive in the territory, withdraw its forces, ensure entry for aid and facilitate the return of internally displaced people back to their homes.

Israel has demanded 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, and on Friday it said it would push forward with its offensive in Rafah, where more than 1 million people are sheltering.

Roman said: “There’s a possibility to see Carmel back, and to see hostages back, and for me also I want to see a better humanitarian situation as a whole for everyone.”

When asked about the death toll in the Gaza Strip, which has surpassed 30,000 after five months of intense Israeli aerial bombardment, and mounting international criticism against Israel, he said: “First of all, it’s very important to say that it is devastating, it is heartbreaking. And it’s hard for me, I don’t shy away from it, I see the photos, I follow the reports. I just cannot completely agree to the way that you describe it.

“I think that is a result of Hamas actions. I don’t see it as an act of anger, I think it is an act of war against an enemy, and the enemy is not the Palestinians.”

Looking back at the photos and videos from the time when his sister was held captive, Roman said he could barely recognise himself. Now he feels “more of a normal person again”, able to look at his phone and see his sister’s name knowing that he can call and she will answer.

“But at the same time, I’m also still very worried about other family members,” he said.

The last update they received of Carmel, he said, was from two others who were held captive with her and have since been released, describing the circumstances as harsh and violent. “At this point, we need to see all of them back,” Roman said.

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Officers who shot and killed woman caught stabbing mother in Melbourne faced ‘terrible dilemma’, police say

Police say they ‘acted appropriately’ when they shot a 26-year-old woman who fatally stabbed her 53-year-old mother

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A Victorian woman shot and killed by police officers on Friday evening was caught in the process of stabbing her mother, police say.

Police revealed details about the incident on Saturday, saying that an officer was called to a home in Melbourne’s north-east at about 6.30pm after neighbours mistakenly reported that a young woman was trying to set her mother on fire.

Victoria police acting Supt Scott Colson said the officers then saw a 26-year-old women over a fence in the process of attacking her 53-year-old mother, but when they asked the younger women to stop, she continued the assault.

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One of the officers then shot the younger woman, who died at the scene.

Colson said that by the time the officer opened fire, the older woman had already died after being stabbed in the torso and neck.

“From what I know from attending the scene last night, they were confronted with a terrible dilemma and they’ve acted absolutely appropriately, within their training and within the guidelines,” Colson said.

“They have my full support along with the broader organisation.

Colson said it was not known how many shots were fired but the officer involved had about four years’ experience, and his colleague had six.

The homicide squad, under oversight from Victoria police’s professional standards command, would investigate the incident, he said.

The daughter was on bail for an unrelated matter at the time of her death, and someone unrelated to her family had an intervention order out against her.

The incident happened at the mother’s home but there was no court order stopping the daughter from being there.

“The members were surrounded by and given as much support as we can yesterday,” Supt Colson said.

“They were feeling it tremendously … they don’t go to work expecting to draw their firearms and be involved in these sorts of tragedies.”

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