The Guardian 2024-03-12 01:01:20


Australian fruit and vegetable growers have launched a scathing attack on the major supermarkets, telling a Senate inquiry that low produce prices are decimating family farms.

Orchard owner Guy Gaeta told the public hearing today that produce was often rejected without valid reason. He said high markups were imposed on fruit that was accepted, leading to steep prices for shoppers:

There won’t be any family farms left within five to 10 years; all you are going to have are corporate farms.

If you think that consumers are paying a lot of money for the fruit now, you wait for when we are gone.

The Senate inquiry, designed to investigate how big supermarkets set prices and use their market power when dealing with suppliers, is holding public hearings across the country.

Coles and Woolworths have consistently defended their pricing practices and relationships with the agricultural sector, pointing to supply chain costs to help explain some of the difference between wholesale and retail prices.

Farming groups have disclosed, often for the first time, the large differences between prices paid to suppliers and those charged to shoppers.

For example, the inquiry heard that a poultry farmer received 75 cents per chicken, before a tenfold markup was imposed on customers by the supermarkets “to cook it”.

Apple and cherry producer Ian Pearce told the inquiry he recently received just over $2.50 a kilo for gala apples – almost an identical price for the same produce in 2011 despite a sharp rise in production costs.

It’s just a terrible situation. What’s going to happen? You don’t reinvest, you can’t reinvest and I can’t see a future.

Almost half of cane growers sceptical of science behind laws protecting Great Barrier Reef

Review found ongoing ‘mistrust’ among farmers, including many who remain unconvinced by need for pollution regulations

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A review of the Queensland government’s Great Barrier Reef protection regulations has found that almost half the affected farmers still believe there is little or no scientific evidence to support pollution reduction rules.

The laws, passed in 2019, were based on scientific advice that limits on sediment and chemical runoff were needed in the reef catchment, amid concerns about water quality.

Some opponents of the laws – including groups representing cane growers and graziers – at the time sought to discredit the consensus science, including by backing a speaking tour of north Queensland by the contrarian scientist, Peter Ridd.

A review of the regulations published last week found that the combined effect of the regulations and other programs had resulted in positive “practice change” in the agriculture sector within the reef catchment. Data shows compliance rates improving across the catchment.

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But the review also raised concern about ongoing “scepticism, mistrust [and] resistance” among farmers, including many who remain unconvinced by the need for the regulations.

There remains concern within farming communities, including that some requirements were “confusing” or “vague and contradictory”, and that record-keeping requirements had been costly and time-consuming.

Stakeholder consultation undertaken as part of the review found that many farmers still did not accept the science.

“Some respondents expressed scepticism about the science and data underpinning the reef regulations and the relationship between practice change and water quality, or whether the reef was at risk at all, leading to doubt about the need for the reef regulation,” the review found.

A survey found 40% of respondents believed the evidence for the regulations was “weak” and that 7% thought there was no evidence. Only 5% believe there was “strong evidence” to back the regulations.

Sugar cane (61%) and grain producers (57%) were the most likely to believe evidence was weak.

“Stakeholder feedback, particularly from sugarcane producers, suggested that mistrust in government may present as a barrier to compliance and may be further fuelled by disbelief in the underpinning rationale for the reef regulations,” the review found.

The review also noted significant concerns about compliance activities and that the government had made changes to its compliance program as a result.

“Some respondents … felt that their practices (and constraints) are not well understood by the department and compliance officers, and as a result feel they must justify and explain their operations,” the review found. “It was suggested this has resulted in losing confidence in the process and regulations.”

Water quality is considered the second most serious threat to the health of the reef – after global heating.

Last week, the Great Barrier Reef marine park’s government authority confirmed the another mass coral bleaching event driven by global heating – the fifth in only eight years.

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TGA investigating telehealth websites prescribing nicotine vaping products for exclusive pharmacies

GPs say patients should be able to fill scripts at any pharmacy and that a health professional should be consulted first

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Australia’s drugs regulator is investigating several telehealth platforms that offer prescriptions only for nicotine vaping products, which experts warn could compromise patient care.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) confirmed it was assessing the vaping prescription telehealth sites medicalnicotine.com.au, myduke.com.au, quitmate.com.au and a site related to quitmate, medmate.com.au.

“Although these services are not illegal, advertising them could, depending on the context, amount to encouraging patients to request a particular prescription medicine and may therefore amount to unlawful advertising of that prescription medicine,” a TGA spokesperson said.

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“We do not provide information on active investigations.”

MyDuke provides patients with a nicotine vaping product script that can be used only at the MyDuke online pharmacy. The pharmacy offers patients Veev vape products, which are owned by the tobacco company Philip Morris International. The company did not respond when asked whether it also stocked any other brands.

As Guardian Australia reported last year, PMI made a deal with some Australian pharmacies to supply its Veev products below cost, offering them at an 80% margin on condition they sign a supply agreement with the tobacco giant.

MyDuke is owned by MEPH Pharmacy Ltd, which was previously fined $39,960 for unlawful advertising of nicotine vaping products.

Patients who use medicalnicotine.com.au are provided with an online script which must be used at the online pharmacy QuickRx (now known as Quitmed). When Guardian Australia used the service in late February, patients were directed to enter their email address, tick a box declaring they were over the age of 16, and were then directed to a credit card payment page. After paying $40 to receive a script for a six-month supply of vapes, and filling in a short questionnaire, they were sent the script.

The entire process takes just a few minutes.

After laws introduced on 1 March, vapes are now available to Australians only with a prescription.

In a February email from medicalnicotine.com.au acknowledging “March 1 looms ever closer,” the platform told customers “there are already some excellent online pharmacy options for ordering products, with delivery anywhere in Australia within days”.

The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RAGCP), Dr Nicole Higgins, said patients should be able to use their prescription at any pharmacy of their choosing.

“To all people using nicotine products, I encourage you to have a chat to your GP about quitting,” she said.

“We can talk through a full range of options, rather than just pushing you towards one particular product or service. Remember too, GPs provide holistic care and will take full account of your circumstances and medical history.”

The Medical Board of Australia also has concerns about prescriptions that are offered without a consultation.

It says: “Prescribing or providing healthcare for a patient without a real-time direct consultation, whether in-person, via video or telephone, is not good practice and is not supported by the Board.”

A customer who left a review of the MyDuke prescribing service on the productreview.com.au website said she filled in the online form for a vape script on behalf of an NDIS client seeking help to quit smoking.

“Within 30 minutes of applying, we received an email from a doctor (no phone call) saying the prescription had been approved … never spoke with this doctor,” she wrote.

“No medical history taken, no discussion about weaning off cigarettes.” The reviewer wrote that when she tried to view the prescription online, she couldn’t open it.

“I called MyDuke Pharmacy and was told that you don’t get to have a copy of the prescription. Only THEIR pharmacy gets to see it because YOU CAN ONLY BUY FROM THEIR SHOP!” she wrote.

The Medmate website offers telehealth appointments for a range of conditions, but has partnered with the vaping telehealth platform Quitmate to provide all nicotine cessation consults and prescriptions.

The Quitmate website has been advertising heavily on social media platforms, with the ads highlighting “price hikes of cigarettes” and the “tobacco tax” to encourage people towards the prescription service.

A spokesperson for My Duke and My Duke Pharmacy said: “Doctors provide tens of thousands of telehealth consultations in Australia every day and smoking cessation is no different.

“We are unaware of any assessment by the regulator.”

Neither quitmate.com.au, medmate.com.au nor medicalnicotine.com.au responded to requests for comment.

A Pharmaceutical Society of Australia spokesperson said: “The PSA’s view remains firm in that it is not the role of health professionals, including pharmacists, to recommend unregulated products purporting to be therapeutic goods to patients.

“Nicotine vaping products are not a first-line option for smoking cessation,” they said.

“The body of scientific evidence points to registered Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and other prescription-only medicines as being the most effective way to quit, in combination with supports such as Quitline or health professional consultations.”

The chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum, Dr Elizabeth Deveny, said she was concerned a patient’s regular doctor might not know about telehealth prescriptions from online-only providers.

“If you’ve had this conversation with your health professional, and they haven’t been supportive of you trying vaping as a means of quitting, there may be good clinical reasons for that, and these may not be understood or not disclosed at the time of going to the telehealth vendor,” she said.

“We are concerned this model, ‘quickly go over here and get a service’ where you might pay upfront, means you get it quickly but without the same questions asked [as your own GP would ask].

“We’re not sure that model necessarily ticks all the boxes that we want to see in a safe, person-centred, high quality model of care.”

Do you know more? melissa.davey@theguardian.com

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Explainer

Critical or troublesome? All you need to know about Naplan and its impact

The literacy and numeracy tests taken by students across Australia are both loved and loathed. So what are they, when are results released and should they continue?

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More than a million students are just one sleep away from sitting this year’s Naplan tests – an event loved by statisticians and loathed by many education experts.

From Wednesday 13 March, testing will begin for all Australian students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The testing will run over two weeks at more than 9,400 schools across the country.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Naplan?

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (Naplan) tests students on their reading, numeracy, spelling, grammar and punctuation.

It’s Australia’s largest nationwide standardised test, established in 2008 to help governments, education authorities and schools determine whether students are meeting performance targets.

On an individual level, the tests are also meant to help teachers tailor their classes according to the strengths and weaknesses of their students and give parents information on how their child is progressing.

More than 2,500 questions have been set this year, testing skills taught in previous years of schooling.

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What’s new in 2024?

Schools will receive individual results earlier than ever this year, in a bid by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (Acara) to help teachers implement findings as soon as possible.

Under the changes, preliminary results in all domains except writing (which takes longer to mark) will be accessible in early term 2, about four weeks after the testing period ends on 25 March.

That’s eight weeks earlier than last year and a term earlier than previous years after education ministers agreed to move testing to term 1. Parents and carers will receive their child’s results at the start of term 3, with national results to follow in August.

Stephen Gniel, the acting Acara chief executive, said getting the results sooner was a “key benefit” of moving the assessment from May to March and moving the tests completely online.

What did the latest results show?

Last year’s Naplan results found one in 10 students were not meeting standards in literacy and numeracy and students with high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage were even less likely to be keeping up.

The 2023 Naplan test was the first held with tougher proficiency levels and a new measurement scale, which experts said could have contributed to the poor results.

The “time series” dataset was also fully reset with the new testing methods, meaning results couldn’t be compared with previous years.

This year’s results will be comparable, with education experts likely to take a keen interest in whether the 33% of students in the “needs additional support” and “developing” categories have caught up.

Are we too focused on Naplan?

Naplan has been criticised for placing undue pressure on students and schools, which is exacerbated by media hyping up top performers and pointing the finger over poor results.

Australian Catholic University research released last year suggested Naplan had “strayed from its original purpose” of identifying struggling students by “insidiously infiltrating everyday teaching and learning practices”.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Rafaan Daliri-Ngametua, said the test had become so embedded in school-level decision making that it was undermining student learning.

Teachers interviewed for the research said their programs were now aligned with Naplan testing topics, while staffing decisions were also determined by who was best suited to Naplan’s testing years.

“When performance and policy decisions are dictated by a narrow measure such as Naplan scores, it severely inhibits the capacity for educators to do things differently,” Daliri-Ngametua said.

“Naplan has become a dictating force in curriculum development, teaching priorities and resource allocation, making it a troublesome and influential policy driver.”

How should results be interpreted?

ACU professor of educational assessment and measurement Claire Wyatt-Smith said what governments and schools were deciding to do with Naplan results was the “critical part” – more so than the outcome itself.

“The results reflect a point in time on any given day,” she said. “It doesn’t give adjustments or advise how to direct learning.

“Tracking a student over time alone is insufficient, but as part of a larger picture, it’s critical.”

Wyatt-Smith said there was no need for parents to get tutors or place stress on children undertaking the assessments. Instead, they should remember the point of the tests – to inform schools and teachers about where learning could be improved.

Gniel said Naplan was an important measure, but needed to be kept in perspective as “one assessment tool” that supplemented school assessments and teacher knowledge.

“There’s no need for students to undertake extra practice for Naplan and they should not feel apprehensive about the assessment,” he said.

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‘Scary’ and ‘violent’: NZ considers investigation into Latam mid-air plane drop that injured dozens

Latam Airlines flight LA800 was headed to Auckland when plane’s ‘gauges just blanked out’ due to technical problem, pilot reportedly told passengers

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New Zealand authorities are weighing an investigation into a sudden mid-air drop on an Auckland-bound flight that left passengers bloodied, hospitalised dozens and “felt like an earthquake had just hit the ship”.

Latam Airlines flight LA800 departed Sydney at 11.35am on Monday with 263 passengers and nine flight and cabin crew headed for Auckland. About two thirds of the way into the three hour flight, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – which was eight years old according to flight tracking data – “experienced a strong shake”, the airline said.

The incident occurred after a “technical problem”, the Chilean carrier said, as it continues to investigate the incident. Passengers on board the flight told NZ-news site Stuff that once the plane landed, the pilot was in “shock” and said his “gauges just blanked out”. Without the instrument panel, passengers claimed the pilot said he briefly lost the ability to fly his plane.

Fifty people were treated by 14 ambulance crews who were waiting for the flight when it landed safely at Auckland airport on Monday at about 4.30pm local time.

Thirteen of those were hospitalised, including one in a serious condition. Those hospitalised included four passengers from Australia, two passengers from Brazil and two from New Zealand, as well as one French and one Chilean passenger. Three cabin crew were also taken for further treatment.

As of Tuesday morning, four patients remained at Middlemore Hospital. In a statement on Tuesday morning, Latam said there were no life threatening risks to those still hospitalised.

Also on Tuesday morning, New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission was “gathering information to inform a decision as to whether to open an inquiry” into the incident.

The mid-air drop has been described as lasting for about a second or so.

Lucas Ellwood, a passenger on board who had his seatbelt on at the time of the drop, said the lunch service had just finished when “suddenly the jolt took us all by surprise”.

“It was over [in] under a second so it was a very quick jolt,” Ellwood told ABC News. “It felt like an earthquake had just hit.”

“It just felt like it just dropped straight down and everything and everyone not fastened to the plane hit the roof,” he said.

“It was scary and it was violent and it sent all of the belongings scattered throughout the plane, it was very hectic,” Ellwood said. “People were scared…people were in fear for their lives and praying and crying,” he said.

Brian Jokat, another passenger on board the flight, said “all of a sudden, the plane just dropped out of the sky”.

Jokat had been sleeping with his seartbelt on at the time of the drop, but woke up to find the passenger who had been sitting next to him with “his back on the ceiling” of the plane. “Then he drops down and hits his head on the armrest. The whole plane is screaming.”

Jokat said he then felt the plane “taking a nose dive” and that he was “just thinking ‘OK this is it, we’re done’.”.

“The ceiling’s broken from people’s heads and bodies hitting it. Basically neck braces were being put on people, guys’ heads were cut and they were bleeding. It was just crazy,” Jokat told Stuff.

The flight was making a scheduled stop in New Zealand on its way to Santiago, Chile. The next flight leg was cancelled, with passengers offered onward travel to Santiago on a flight on Tuesday evening.

Latam said it “is working in coordination with the respective authorities to support the investigations into the incident”.

“Latam Airlines Group’s priority is to support the passengers and crew members of the flight, and apologize for any inconvenience and discomfort that this situation may have caused. They also reiterate their commitment to safety as an uncompromising value within its operational standards,” the airline said in a statement.

The national director of hospital and specialist services for Health NZ, Fionnagh Dougan, said “this was a significant event”.

“Our staff worked incredibly hard with our partner agencies to ensure there was a seamless transfer of patients, and that everyone got the best possible care,” Dougan said.

Boeing told Reuters it was working to gather more information and will provide any support to the airline. The Guardian contacted Boeing for comment.

Boeing shares closed down about 3%, after the latest incident involving one of its aircraft. The US Federal Aviation Administration in January barred the troubled planemaker from expanding production of its best-selling 737 MAX narrowbody planes, following “unacceptable” quality issues.

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Analysis

Palace dismay as attempt to dispel Princess of Wales rumours misfires

Caroline Davies

Royals’ latest release of a DIY photo was meant to offer reassurance but instead proved manna for conspiracy theorists

  • The sleeve, the hand, the knee: the royal photo’s signs of editing

The Prince and Princess of Wales have long eschewed the services of professional photographers when it comes to the intimate and informal family portraits they like to release through social and mainstream media.

With Kate a keen amateur photographer, the couple’s Christmas cards and the birthdays of their three children are often marked by photographs taken by her. It is a break with tradition stemming from when the princess’s father, Mike Middleton, took the first official photograph of a newborn Prince George.

Aides would argue these delightful family snaps offer an informality that a professional would find difficult to replicate.

Another undoubted bonus of taking it in-house is that the couple get complete control over the images and copyright, bypassing mainstream media for these personal moments.

Clearly, however, no matter how talented an amateur, there is the risk of falling short of the highest professional standards – especially those required by news media.

For this to have happened when the photograph in question was meant to convey such an important message is a huge embarrassment for Kensington Palace.

It will have caused no little dismay at Buckingham Palace, too, with the “manipulation” debacle overshadowing the Commonwealth Day service, one of the most important events in the royal diary, and threatening to drown out the king’s Commonwealth Day message.

The photograph, on this occasion taken by Prince William, shows his wife smiling and surrounded by their three children, and was the first official picture of Kate since she was admitted to hospital for planned abdominal surgery almost two months ago.

As such, it was intended to offer reassurance and dispel wild speculation on the internet over her health and the condition that necessitated surgery.

Conspiracy theorists generally need very little to fuel their feeding frenzy. Clumsy pixel manipulation was manna.

Social media was immediately flooded with comments about the unnatural shape of Princess Charlotte’s cardigan sleeve. Others pointed to Prince Louis’ fingers, which appeared awkwardly positioned. Some noted that the tree leaves in the background looked too green for a photograph said to have been taken at Windsor last week. There was speculation over why Kate was not wearing her wedding rings. In all, the photograph prompted more questions than it answered.

Experienced picture editors at the international agencies Getty, Reuters, Associated Press, EPA and AFP, to whom the photograph was released through the Kensington Palace communications teams, took the rare – if not unprecedented – step of issuing “kill notices” and withdrawing the photograph from their wire services.

Though the picture was believed genuine, they cited possible digital manipulation of the image around Charlotte’s sleeve. With no immediate comment or clarification forthcoming from Kensington Palace, they pulled the image. The UK-based PA later followed suit after seeking and failing to get “urgent clarification” from the palace.

At a time when almost every smartphone has sophisticated picture editing facilities, by which objects can be erased, inserted and moved around, news media organisations have exceptionally tight protocols to guard against manipulation. Such protocols are vital in maintaining trust.

And trust is what was at stake here for the royal couple. The late Queen Elizabeth II used to say she had to be “seen to be believed”. Now the public, and media, were questioning whether they could believe what they were seeing.

The princess held her hands up as the clamour refused to die down, with the story having made headlines in the international media as well as in the UK.

In a post on X, she wrote: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day. C”

A Kensington Palace source sought to dampen down the row by stressing the princess had made only “minor adjustments”.

Mark Borkowski, a public relations and crisis consultant, described it as a “massive own goal”. Of Kate’s statement, he said: “It’s plausible she’s at home playing with the computer and using an AI tool, but if they’re really going to regain any sort of trust they should release the unedited photo. It can’t be that bad if they just made a few tweaks.

“I find they have risen to the challenge, provided the statement as an explanation – the question is, with all the conspiracy theories running around, whether people believe it, and I’m not sure that they will.”

Kensington Palace said it would not be issuing the unedited photograph. The couple will be hoping Kate’s statement is enough, and will want to move quickly on.

But there will be dismay, and great frustration, that what was meant to be a feelgood message after the darker days of ill health has so spectacularly misfired.

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Explainer

‘Multiple frames were likely used’: the royal photo’s telltale signs of editing

Guardian’s imaging team identifies 20 anomalies with the picture that may require further inquiry

  • Analysis: Attempt to dispel Princess of Wales rumours misfires

The release of the first official picture of the Princess of Wales and her three children since her operation was undoubtedly meant to end speculation about her recovery. But that has backfired spectacularly after the princess was forced to admit she had edited it.

Catherine apologised on Monday after the manipulation of the picture led international picture agencies to refuse to distribute it on grounds of editorial standards.

PA Media, the UK’s largest agency and an important outlet for royal news, initially left the image on its picture service. On Monday morning, a spokesperson said: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday.

“We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace. In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

The Guardian imaging team has since conducted its own annotated analysis of the image and has found as many as 20 anomalies with the image that may require further inquiry.

David McCoy, the imaging manager at the Guardian, said: “The first step in analysing this image is reading through the file’s embedded metadata to determine the photographic settings of the base camera image. In this case, we can see that a Canon 50mm f1.2 lens was used for this initial image, set to an aperture of f3.2, which will give moderately shallow depth of field.

“This leads me to believe that no one image would have had optimum sharpness across the required detail areas, so multiple frames were likely used to composite a more intended final result. Naturally, this also allows for idealised expressions from all members of the group.

“Once these technical photographic limitations of the image are determined, we can then zoom in as closely as possible to every edge of the subjects, in order to highlight where detail has been altered, knowing what should be sharp and what shouldn’t.

“As per the annotations, this reveals sharp transitions of detail, usually from hard edged selections [in the image editing programme Adobe Photoshop], which can be either straight or worked around curved areas of detail.

“It’s the juddering of straight-line detail that is the biggest telltale sign of multiple frames being composited together. This can be seen extensively around the hair, arms, and especially at the zip midway down the princess’s jacket. Seeing repetition of detail in the finer areas also reveals the likely use of the cloning tool in Photoshop.

“The other two main offenders are the hands and knee of Princess Charlotte, with the now famous hand mismatching her jumper sleeve, and her knee slipping out of focus too readily compared to the expected depth-of-field sharpness.”

20 anomalies

The Guardian imaging team has identified 20 potential issues with the photograph:

1. Jumper cuff does not match wrist edge.
2. Blurred edge detail jolts from one line to another.
3. Definitively inconsistent detail at base of jumper.
4. Strong horizontal line running through hair and jacket zip, indicating different focus and detail.
5. Visible selection lines within lower hair areas.
6. Edge of knee detail potentially blurs too quickly for the depth of field.
7. Suspect/soft bend of hair leading to the shoulder.
8. Abrupt hair detail.
9. Cloning repetition detail.
10. Visible selection lines and hard edges with the hair interacting with the soft blue jumper.
11. Rogue cloning detail.
12. Suspect vertical detail transitioning at edge of red jumper.
13. Sharp horizontal line running through soft window frame detail.
14. Sharp horizontal and vertical patches on window pane.
15. Inside finger “V” edge does not match.
16. Visible selection lines and hard edges with the hair interacting with the soft blue jumper.
17. Rogue sharp detail on soft arm area.
18. Ambiguous edge detail above thumbnail.
19. Sharp vertical line running through soft jumper detail.
20. Ambiguous due to shallow depth of field, hand and jumper detail softer than immediately surrounding areas.

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Analysis

Princess of Wales photo furore underlines sensitivity around image doctoring

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

AI makes the challenge of spotting manipulated or faked media even greater

At a time when suspicion of manipulated media has reached a new pitch of concern, the Princess of Wales photo furore underlines the sensitivity around image doctoring.

Catherine was the subject of an image editing row in 2011 when Grazia adapted a photo of her on her wedding day – but that was before breakthroughs in artificial intelligence put everyone on edge.

There has been a deluge of AI-generated deepfakes in recent years, from a video of Volodymyr Zelenskiy telling his soldiers to surrender, to explicit images of Taylor Swift. Historical examples of image manipulation can be clunky – from Argentine footballers clutching handbags to Stalin’s missing underlings – but there is now an alarming credibility to AI-generated content.

Catherine’s attempts to adjust a family photo, amid frenzied social media speculation about her wellbeing, have run straight into widespread concerns about trust in images, text and audio in a year when half the world is going to the polls.

“This photo is a prime example of why 2024 is a crucial year for spotting – and stopping – manipulated media,” says Shweta Singh, an assistant professor of information systems at Warwick Business School.

“Whilst this may have been some low-level photoshopping, much of the edited media currently circulating can be more sinister. With elections in both the UK and the US this year, the importance of media being genuine has never been higher. Suspect photoshopping like this only undermines the faith of the public in the media they are presented with, and risks seriously damaging public trust.”

Michael Green, a senior lecturer in digital media at the University of Kent, says the Wales family photo is “clearly amateur-level editing” using software such as Adobe Photoshop, although the princess has not confirmed what tools she used after admitting on Monday she had altered the photo.

Green says Catherine’s changes “go beyond a touch-up” and represent significant edits, although he adds that the end result underlined her inexperience with whatever software she was using.

Aided by an online uproar, some of the world’s biggest picture agencies withdrew the photo after it was found to be clearly in breach of guidelines. Associated Press, which pulled the image, says a photograph “must not be altered in Photoshop or by any other means”, while Agence France-Presse says photos must not be “manipulated or edited”.

Despite these guidelines, the picture got through. Nic Newman, a senior research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, says the Wales snap is a reminder that media institutions will have to vet all their stories more strongly in an age of high technological sophistication.

He says: “For years these agencies have been really focusing on verifying pictures that have come through less reliable sources. This is a reminder that we have to be careful about all sources going forwards because everyone has these tools now.”

Experts have also lined up to rule out the photo being AI-generated, in the kind of double-check that is becoming standard now.

“There is no evidence that this image is entirely AI-generated,” says Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California in Berkeley and a specialist in deepfake detection.

AI makes the challenge of spotting manipulated or faked media even greater, not least because of its sophistication, but also the ability to mass-produce convincing content at alarming speed. Speaking at a tech conference in London on Monday, the tech secretary, Michelle Donelan, admitted that in tackling AI-generated deepfakes there was “no one technological solution that is the answer to everything”.

Instead, there will be a patchwork approach to spotting AI-made disinformation from disruptors whose arsenal now includes an array of ruses from fake Joe Biden robocalls to newscaster avatars.

Efforts to combat the problem include the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, a grouping whose members include Adobe, the BBC and Google, and which is developing technical standards for identifying AI-generated disinformation. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta has announced it will label AI-generated photos on Facebook, Instagram and Threads, while Google is trialling a technology that flags AI-generated images made by its own image-making tools.

Dame Wendy Hall, a professor of computer science at the University of Southampton and a member of the UN’s advisory body on AI, adds that the Wales family photo story is not about deepfakes and AI but about a longstanding issue that is here to stay.

She says: “It is about who we can trust in the telling of the story as it unfolds. This is an issue that is old as time, it’s just the technology that is different these days.”

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Princess of Wales says she edited family photo recalled by picture agencies

Catherine apologises for any confusion over Mother’s Day photograph, saying she occasionally experiments with editing

  • The sleeve, the hand, the knee: the royal photo’s signs of editing
  • Analysis: Attempt to dispel Princess of Wales rumours misfires

The Princess of Wales has issued a public apology and said she was responsible for digitally editing a Mother’s Day family photograph released to the media but withdrawn by international picture agencies over suspicions it had been “manipulated”.

The photo of Catherine and her three children, taken by the Prince of Wales last week and the first of the princess since she underwent abdominal surgery in January, caused widespread speculation on social media, with the incident used to raise questions over public trust in the royal family.

Released at a time when conspiracy theories over her illness and absence flooded social media, it sought to reassure the public of her recovery but backfired spectacularly, fuelling claims it could be faked.

With the debacle threatening to overshadow the king’s Commonwealth Day message, the princess released a brief statement on social media, which said: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day. C.”

Five international picture agencies that initially distributed the image sent to them by Kensington Palace took the rare – if not unprecedented – step of issuing so-called “kill” notices to withdraw it after concerns about manipulation, in particular with regard to Princess Charlotte’s cardigan sleeve. The UK-based PA Media later also withdrew it, after seeking and failing to get “urgent clarification” from the palace.

A royal source later said Catherine had made “minor adjustments” to the image. “This was an amateur, family photograph taken by the Prince of Wales. Their Royal Highnesses wanted to offer an informal picture of the family together for Mother’s Day.

“The princess made minor adjustments as she shared in her statement on social media, the Wales family spent Mother’s Day together and had a wonderful day,” the source said.

Despite calls for the original to be published, Kensington Palace said it would not be reissuing the unedited photograph.

Claims of digital manipulation led to a feeding frenzy on social media, with comments calling into question the positioning of Catherine’s zip and the fact she was missing her wedding rings, the positioning of Prince Louis’s fingers, even the leaves of the background trees being too green for early March.

The debacle has led to the palace facing controversy over the issue of trust, and raised questions over whether – or to what extent – the images have been altered in the past.

Under the licensing agreement issued to photo agencies for use of official photos, royal households usually stipulate: “This image must not be digitally enhanced, cropped, manipulated or modified in any manner or form.”

Sky News said an examination of the photo’s meta data revealed it was saved in Adobe Photoshop twice on an Apple Mac on Friday and Saturday and that the picture was taken on a Canon camera.

The row erupted before William and Queen Camilla were due to join the Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey in the absence of the king, who is continuing treatment for cancer.

Kensington Palace later confirmed that Catherine left Windsor in a car with William, who was driven to the service in London. She is not attending the proceedings but is understood to have a private appointment.

Mark Borkowski, a public relations consultant, called the photo fiasco a “massive own goal” and said the unedited image should be released to regain trust.

The independent factchecking website Full Fact said it exemplified how greater transparency was crucial in preserving trust in images online.

In today’s information environment, any manipulation of an image, even relatively minor edits done with no intention to mislead, can raise suspicions,” said its chief executive, Chris Morris. “The rapid spread of image manipulation tools has changed the rules of the game. Conspiracy theories thrive in information vacuums, so if you want to be trusted, you have to be transparent.”

Graham Smith, of the campaign group Republic, said: “This kind of dystopian behaviour you might expect from Soviet Russia, not modern Britain. The monarchy has always sought to manipulate and manage its image, but if they have tried to fake a photograph to silence online conspiracy theories, that is disgraceful.”

The royal author Omid Scobie, seen as a cheerleader for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, wrote on X that if it was an isolated incident, it was an “unfortunate error”.

He added: “But with the palace’s long history of lying, covering up, and even issuing statements on behalf of family members without their permission (cc: Prince Harry), it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the public to believe a word (and now photo) they share. Gaining that back at this point is an almost impossible task.”

Catherine underwent surgery at the London Clinic on 16 January but details of her condition have been kept private and she is not expected to return to official duties until after Easter.

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Oscars 2024: Al Pacino says he was told not to name best picture nominees

Actor, whose abrupt announcement of Oppenheimer confused some in the room, says he understands that ‘to not be fully recognised is offensive and hurtful’

  • Oscars 2024: full list of winners
  • Full report: Oppenheimer wins best picture

Al Pacino says he was following the instructions of the Oscars producers when he did not name any of the other best picture nominees while announcing Oppenheimer as the winner of the show’s biggest category.

The Oscar-winning actor was Sunday night’s final presenter and announced Oppenheimer as the best picture winner without naming the full slate of nominees, as is tradition.

“I just want to be clear it was not my intention to omit them, rather a choice by the producers not to have them said again since they were highlighted individually throughout the ceremony,” Pacino said in a statement Monday afternoon.I was honoured to be a part of the evening and chose to follow the way they wished for this award to be presented.

“I realise being nominated is a huge milestone in one’s life and to not be fully recognised is offensive and hurtful. I say this as someone who profoundly relates with film-makers, actors and producers so I deeply empathise with those who have been slighted by this oversight and it’s why I felt it necessary to make this statement.”

Pacino is a nine-time acting nominee, and won the Oscar for best actor for 1992’s Scent of a Woman.

The 10 nominated films – American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Barbie, The Holdovers, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Past Lives, Poor Things and The Zone of Interest – all had individual montages shown during the ceremony.

But Pacino’s abrupt delivery of the winner – saying “Best picture … uh, I have to go to the envelope for that. And I will. Here it comes. And my eyes see Oppenheimer?” – left many in the room and viewers at home confused.

Best picture was not the only category to omit a reading of the nominees. The nominated original songs were all performed during the show, and the announcement that What Was I Made For? from Barbie had won was made without listing them all again.

Oscars producer Molly McNearney told the trade publication Variety that skipping the reading of the best picture nominees was intentional.

“It was a creative decision we made because we were very worried that the show was going to be long,” she said. “By the time you get to the end of the show, you’ve seen all 10 best picture clip packages. People just want to hear who wins and they’re pretty ready for the show to be over. At least that’s what we anticipated.

“I apologise if our decision to not have to read through all those nominations put [Pacino] in a tough spot.”

McNearney said Pacino’s decision not to use the traditional phrase – “And the Oscar goes to …” – did make things “a little confusing”, although she added: “But listen, that’s the excitement of live television. You never know you’re going to get exactly!”

After the ceremony ended, host Jimmy Kimmel said of Pacino’s presentation style: “I guess he’s never watched an awards show before. It seems like everyone in America knows the rhythm of how it’s supposed to go … down to the ‘And the Oscar goes to …’ But not Al Pacino! God bless him.”

After the Oscars ceremony finished, Pacino announced his memoir, Sonny Boy, will be published in October. The highly anticipated book, years in the making, will cover the 83-year-old actor’s childhood in New York, his upbringing with his “fiercely loving but mentally unwell mother and her parents”, his troop of young friends in the South Bronx and his time at New York’s fabled High School of Performing Arts.

It will then cover his work in New York’s avant garde theatre scene in the 1960s and 70s before his major movie break with The Panic of Needle Park, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon.

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Oscars 2024: Al Pacino says he was told not to name best picture nominees

Actor, whose abrupt announcement of Oppenheimer confused some in the room, says he understands that ‘to not be fully recognised is offensive and hurtful’

  • Oscars 2024: full list of winners
  • Full report: Oppenheimer wins best picture

Al Pacino says he was following the instructions of the Oscars producers when he did not name any of the other best picture nominees while announcing Oppenheimer as the winner of the show’s biggest category.

The Oscar-winning actor was Sunday night’s final presenter and announced Oppenheimer as the best picture winner without naming the full slate of nominees, as is tradition.

“I just want to be clear it was not my intention to omit them, rather a choice by the producers not to have them said again since they were highlighted individually throughout the ceremony,” Pacino said in a statement Monday afternoon.I was honoured to be a part of the evening and chose to follow the way they wished for this award to be presented.

“I realise being nominated is a huge milestone in one’s life and to not be fully recognised is offensive and hurtful. I say this as someone who profoundly relates with film-makers, actors and producers so I deeply empathise with those who have been slighted by this oversight and it’s why I felt it necessary to make this statement.”

Pacino is a nine-time acting nominee, and won the Oscar for best actor for 1992’s Scent of a Woman.

The 10 nominated films – American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Barbie, The Holdovers, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Past Lives, Poor Things and The Zone of Interest – all had individual montages shown during the ceremony.

But Pacino’s abrupt delivery of the winner – saying “Best picture … uh, I have to go to the envelope for that. And I will. Here it comes. And my eyes see Oppenheimer?” – left many in the room and viewers at home confused.

Best picture was not the only category to omit a reading of the nominees. The nominated original songs were all performed during the show, and the announcement that What Was I Made For? from Barbie had won was made without listing them all again.

Oscars producer Molly McNearney told the trade publication Variety that skipping the reading of the best picture nominees was intentional.

“It was a creative decision we made because we were very worried that the show was going to be long,” she said. “By the time you get to the end of the show, you’ve seen all 10 best picture clip packages. People just want to hear who wins and they’re pretty ready for the show to be over. At least that’s what we anticipated.

“I apologise if our decision to not have to read through all those nominations put [Pacino] in a tough spot.”

McNearney said Pacino’s decision not to use the traditional phrase – “And the Oscar goes to …” – did make things “a little confusing”, although she added: “But listen, that’s the excitement of live television. You never know you’re going to get exactly!”

After the ceremony ended, host Jimmy Kimmel said of Pacino’s presentation style: “I guess he’s never watched an awards show before. It seems like everyone in America knows the rhythm of how it’s supposed to go … down to the ‘And the Oscar goes to …’ But not Al Pacino! God bless him.”

After the Oscars ceremony finished, Pacino announced his memoir, Sonny Boy, will be published in October. The highly anticipated book, years in the making, will cover the 83-year-old actor’s childhood in New York, his upbringing with his “fiercely loving but mentally unwell mother and her parents”, his troop of young friends in the South Bronx and his time at New York’s fabled High School of Performing Arts.

It will then cover his work in New York’s avant garde theatre scene in the 1960s and 70s before his major movie break with The Panic of Needle Park, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon.

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Yemen: at least 11 killed by US-UK airstrikes on Houthi targets

Nearly 20 strikes reported in port cities and small towns in western Yemen, days after commercial shipping vessels attacked

Airstrikes attributed to a US-British coalition hit port cities and small towns in western Yemen on Monday, killing at least 11 people and injuring 14 while defending commercial shipping, a spokesperson for Yemen’s internationally recognized government told Reuters.

At least 17 airstrikes were reported in the country, including in the principal port city of Hodeidah and at Ras Issa Port, according to Al Masirah, the main Houthi-run television news outlet.

The strikes come just days after the first civilian fatalities and vessel loss since the Iran-aligned Houthis began attacking commercial shipping in November in solidarity with the Palestinians under attack by Israel.

The strikes also coincide with the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting for Muslims.

Despite reprisals from the US-British coalition and other navies, the Houthis have escalated their campaign of attacks on commercial vessels in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The Houthis killed three crew of the Barbados-flagged, Greek-operated True Confidence on Wednesday in an attack off the port of Aden.

That came days after the sinking of the cargo ship Rubymar, which went down about two weeks after being hit by a Houthi missile on 18 February.

Many ships are now making the longer, more expensive trip around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to avoid the dangerous route through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to the Suez Canal – sharply raising shipping costs.

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Airbnb bans hosts from using indoor security cameras in rentals

Platform said change will take effect by the end of next month as it seeks to ‘simplify’ security policy while prioritizing privacy

Airbnb said Monday that it’s banning the use of indoor security cameras in rentals around the world by the end of next month.

The San Francisco-based online rental platform said it is seeking to “simplify” its security-camera policy while prioritizing privacy. The change will take effect 30 April.

“These changes were made in consultation with our guests, Hosts and privacy experts, and we’ll continue to seek feedback to help ensure our policies work for our global community,” Juniper Downs, Airbnb’s head of community policy and partnerships, said in a prepared statement.

Airbnb had allowed the use of indoor security cameras in common areas like hallways and living rooms, as long as the locations of the cameras were disclosed on the listings page. Under the new policy, hosts will still be allowed to use doorbell cameras and noise-decibel monitors, which are only allowed in common spaces, as long as the location and presence of the devices are disclosed. The policy also bars hosts from using outdoor cameras to surveil indoors spaces.

Airbnb guests have reported finding hidden cameras in their rentals. Downs said she expects the policy update to impact a small number of hosts because the majority of Airbnb listings do not report having indoor security cameras. If a host is found to violate the new policy against indoor cameras, they risk losing their Airbnb account.

In its fourth-quarter earnings report last month, Airbnb said its bookings and revenue rose, and the company said demand remains strong.

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Man dead after shooting at Greenvale home in Melbourne’s north

Victoria police say the man was found in Buchanan Place just after 4.30am but could not be revived

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A man has been shot dead outside a home in Melbourne’s north early on Tuesday morning.

Victoria police said the man was found outside a home in Buchanan Place in Greenvale, about 20km north of the Melbourne CBD, just after 4.30am on Tuesday.

Paramedics attempted to revive him but he was declared dead at the scene.

The circumstances around the shooting death are yet to be determined as detectives established a crime scene.

The quiet and leafy street was blocked off as police examined the crime scene Tuesday morning. Two women were escorted through police tape at the crime scene by detectives.

The man is yet to be formally identified and no arrests have been made.

Police were expected to provided an update on the shooting later on Tuesday morning and have asked anyone with any information to contact Crime Stoppers.

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Man dead after shooting at Greenvale home in Melbourne’s north

Victoria police say the man was found in Buchanan Place just after 4.30am but could not be revived

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A man has been shot dead outside a home in Melbourne’s north early on Tuesday morning.

Victoria police said the man was found outside a home in Buchanan Place in Greenvale, about 20km north of the Melbourne CBD, just after 4.30am on Tuesday.

Paramedics attempted to revive him but he was declared dead at the scene.

The circumstances around the shooting death are yet to be determined as detectives established a crime scene.

The quiet and leafy street was blocked off as police examined the crime scene Tuesday morning. Two women were escorted through police tape at the crime scene by detectives.

The man is yet to be formally identified and no arrests have been made.

Police were expected to provided an update on the shooting later on Tuesday morning and have asked anyone with any information to contact Crime Stoppers.

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Two New Zealand skiers killed after avalanche in Japan

Third person injured after small group were backcountry skiiing in Hokkaido on Mount Yotei when an avalanche struck on Monday

Two New Zealanders, including a 21-year-old ski guide, have been killed in avalanche while backcountry skiing in Japan.

New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade confirmed to the Guardian two people had died in “a tragic accident” in Hokkaido. A third New Zealander was also injured.

According to local media reports, a group of six were backcountry skiing on Mount Yotei in the northern Hokkaido region on Monday morning when an avalanche struck at an elevation of 650 to 700 meters on the northern side of the 1,898 metre mountain.

The nearby Kutchan fire department was told around 11am that three members of the group had been caught in the avalanche, the Japan Times reported. A man and a woman were taken to hospital unresponsive and later were pronounced dead, while a third person sustained a shoulder injury, but was conscious, it reported.

In a statement to local New Zealand media, the family of Isabella Bolton confirmed she was a victim of the accident.

“It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the passing of our beloved Isabella Bolton, 21, in an avalanche accident in Hokkaido, Japan on Monday 11th March,” Radio New Zealand reported, citing the family statement.

Bolton was born in England and grew up in Christchurch’s Diamond Harbour and Heathcote Valley, her family said. She had worked on ski fields in New Zealand, Canada and most recently as a ski guide in the Hokkaido ski resort Niseko.

“Isabella was full of vitality and passion for life,” and had an “adventurous spirit and love for skiing and the outdoors”, they said.

“Our family would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of her fellow colleague and friend whose life was also tragically lost. And to extend our gratitude to those who tried to save Isabella, and the local authorities.”

According to the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory, no avalanche warning had been issued for the Mount Yotei area, nor was it snowing heavily around the time of the incident, the Japan Times reported.

The New Zealand embassy in Japan has offered consular support to the families of those involved.

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Wealthy older Australians should pay more for aged care services, expert panel recommends

‘Strong case’ to increase co-contributions for people with means, as there will always be some who need more government support, report says

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Older Australians with more wealth should have to pay more for the cost of their aged care, a government-appointed expert panel has recommended, potentially from their superannuation balances.

But the government will not pursue a new levy or tax to pay for rising care costs, including ruling out changes to tax treatment of the family home, after the report of the aged care taskforce urged against such reforms.

In a bid to keep the system sustainable as the proportion of elderly people increases, the group of aged care experts recommended a set of changes in various parts of the system – including phasing out the accommodation deposit that residents are expected to pay and incentives to accept less-wealthy residents – to keep the industry afloat.

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“The government confirms today it will not impose any increased taxes or a new levy to fund aged care costs or change to the means testing treatment of the family home for aged care,” the aged care minister, Anika Wells, said.

“There is universal acceptance that something must change in order to ensure all Australians can age with the dignity, safety and high-quality care they deserve.”

Tuesday’s release of the taskforce report, anticipated for months by industry sources, sketches potential reforms which could be pursued federally. The Albanese government is expected to give its formal response to the report in coming weeks, after considering the recommendations.

In releasing the report, Wells confirmed the government would heed the recommendation of no new tax. Prime minister Anthony Albanese had already ruled out changes to tax treatment of the family home in parliament.

Wells gave no signal about how the government would approach calls for greater user contributions, but has previously indicated she thought people were open to the idea of paying more if they wanted to.

Noting an ageing population with greater wealth than previous generations, the report said the number of elderly people with superannuation balances would “grow considerably” over coming decades, “with a greater proportion of people having significant funds available”.

“As a result, there is more scope for older people to contribute to their aged care costs by using their accumulated wealth than in previous generations.”

“Given the increasing wealth of many older people and the declining working age (that is tax paying) population, there is a strong case to increase participant co-contributions for those with the means to contribute,” the report said, “noting that there will always be a group of participants who need more government support.”

“Over the next 40 years, the number of people over 80 years of age is expected to triple to more than 3.5 million,” it said.

“Government spending on aged care as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to grow from 1.1% in 2021–22 to 2.5% in 2062-63.”

The number of people aged over 65, compared with the working-age population, is also expected to sharply rise over the same period.

The report says the government must continue to be the “major funder” of aged care, particularly in “thin markets” where there are few services available, with a focus primarily on the costs of delivering care.

But it suggested that personal co-contributions be encouraged for upgraded accommodation or living costs. One example given was if a user wished to pay extra to get additional subscription TV services in their room.

“It is appropriate older people make a fair co-contribution to the cost of their aged care based on their means,” the report stated.

It stressed there would be “a substantial number of people with limited means”, including pensioners or those who don’t own a home, who the government must continue to support.

The report said public funding was “essential” for such residents, and went further in suggesting incentives for facilities who catered to less-wealthy people, to avoid homes focusing on those making additional contributions.

“Older people with limited means need to be protected.”

Other recommendations included the phasing out by 2035 of refundable accommodation deposits, a large fee residents pay when entering care and have refunded when they leave, and instead moving to a rental-only system. This was recommended to make fees simpler for residents and avoid providers having to quickly pay out large sums when a resident leaves.

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California officer shoots and kills boy, 15, holding gardening tool

Civil rights advocates call for release of police bodycam video after Ryan Gainer killed on Saturday by deputy responding to 911 call

A sheriff’s deputy in southern California shot and killed a 15-year-old boy who was holding a gardening tool, officials said.

The San Bernardino county sheriff’s department was responding to a 911 call on Saturday from a family reporting that a boy, identified as Ryan Gainer, was attacking his family at their home in Apple Valley, east of Los Angeles. The department said he was holding a 5ft gardening tool and approaching the first deputy who arrived at the scene when the deputy shot him. Gainer was later taken to a hospital where he died.

A lawyer for the family said Gainer was a cross-country runner who had autism and said the fatal shooting did not appear to be warranted.

The sheriff’s department released 911 audio and partial body-camera footage to the Guardian on Monday, but the clips do not capture the moment of the shooting, and a spokesperson declined to release additional video.

On the call, a woman reported that her brother was attacking one of their sisters and trying to break a window and door. The audio captured yelling in the background, and the woman told the dispatcher: “They gotta take him in.”

During the roughly five-minute call, the woman said the other relatives were trying to keep their distance from him. At one point, she said: “He’s talking to my dad right now. He said he’s going to run away and then he came back to the house.” She also said he had a piece of glass.

The department released two roughly 15-second body-camera clips, but both clips end before the shooting. Footage from one deputy showed him arriving at the home, where the front door was open. A man inside could be heard saying: “He’s got a stick in his hand.” Gainer then appeared and started quickly walking out of the home toward the deputy, who pointed his gun toward the boy and shouted: “Get back, get back, or you’re going to get shot.”

The deputy appeared to be walking backward, then running away from the boy, pointing his gun at him. The other clip captured that same moment from another deputy who was arriving and standing at a distance. Gainer appeared to be holding the tool over his head, but it is unclear what he was doing as he was shot.

A department spokesperson said it would not be releasing full body-camera footage on Monday and declined to say where Gainer was shot, how many bullets were fired and if multiple deputies had shot him. The spokesperson also declined to name the deputies on scene and said the case was still under investigation.

“There are great questions as to whether it was appropriate to use deadly force against a 15-year-old autistic kid who was having an episode,” said DeWitt Lacy, a civil rights lawyer representing the family. “We need to see the video and the moment of the shooting … but it doesn’t seem like anyone was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury.”

Lacy said it appeared Gainer was potentially hit with three bullets, including in his torso and abdomen. He said he was concerned that the department had refused to disclose the footage of the final moments of the shooting and the aftermath: “We understand the gamesmanship that is involved when municipalities error and kill people unnecessarily.”

The family also reported that the deputies delayed helping Gainer after he was shot, Lacy said. He said: “They have to give medical aid to this 15-year-old they just shot and it certainly seems they failed to do that.” The sheriff department’s initial press release said deputies “quickly rendered medical aid” before paramedics arrived.

Lacy said the family also reported that after the shooting, the family was forced out of the home while officers “rummaged through their house looking for any justification for shooting and killing Ryan”.

In addition to his involvement on a cross-country team, Gainer also wanted to be an engineer, Lacy said.

Shannon Dicus, the elected San Bernardino sheriff, defended the use of lethal force in a statement, saying: “Our social safety net for those experiencing mental illness needs to be strengthened. Our deputies handle seemingly insurmountable calls daily. Most of these calls do not end in violence. However, this one ended in tragedy for Ryan, his family, and for the deputies who responded.”

“Rapidly evolving, violent encounters are some of the most difficult, requiring split-second decisions,” Dicus continued. “While these decisions are lawful, they are awful in terms of our humanity. I feel for both Ryan’s family and my deputies who will struggle with this for their entire lives.”

The shooting comes amid growing scrutiny over how police officers and sheriff’s deputies respond to people who are facing mental health crises. The San Bernardino sheriff’s department was sued last year for fatally shooting Tony Garza amid a mental health episode. Lawyers for Garza’s family alleged that he was shot a dozen times as he fled.

The department has faced other recent scandals. In February last year, a jury awarded $375,000 to a truck driver who sued for wrongful arrest; the man was taken into custody after making a snide remark to a San Bernardino deputy who stopped him outside a grocery store. And in December, a deputy resigned after the department investigated a tip that he and a former deputy were “involved in drug activity”.

There have also been growing concerns about how police rush to use lethal force against people holding objects that are not weapons. In February, the Los Angeles police department fatally shot a man who was holding a plastic fork, which followed a string of incidents in which LAPD officers shot people with harmless objects in their hands, including a phone, a bike part and a car part.

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Guardian Essential poll: 38% of Australians agree with Paul Keating’s view on country’s position in Asia

Exclusive: Twice as many share former PM’s opinion that Australia should be a middle power in Asia than those who back US alliance

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Almost twice as many Australians believe the government should position the country as a middle power in Asia – a view touted by the former prime minister Paul Keating – than those who say it should be “an ally of the US”.

That is the result of Guardian’s latest Essential poll of 1,126 voters, which also found that twice as many Australians support Israel withdrawing from Gaza (37%) than believe Israel is justified in continuing its military action (18%).

The poll was conducted as Melbourne played host to leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a meeting that stirred debates about whether Australia has aligned itself too closely with the United States in opposition to China through the Aukus nuclear submarine acquisition.

Asked what Australia’s role in global affairs should be, 38% said it should be “an independent middle power with influence in the Asia-Pacific region”, a view often associated with Keating, who in 1995 said Australia must find security “in” not “from” Asia.

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Just one in five (20%) said Australia should be “primarily an ally of the US”. One quarter (25%) said it should “do its best not to engage in world affairs” and a further 17% were unsure.

After the foreign minister, Penny Wong, raised concerns about destabilising and dangerous actions in the South China Sea, Keating said the Malaysian prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, had “dropped a huge rock into Wong’s pond by telling Australia not to piggyback Australia’s problems with China on to Asean”.

In the poll, two-thirds (67%) of Australians said the relationship with China is “complex” and must be “managed”, 20% said it is a “threat to be confronted” and 13% described it as a “positive opportunity to be realised”.

A majority of respondents described themselves as “concerned” about actual and possible events including:

  • China’s expansion into the South China Sea and Taiwan (65%);

  • Israel’s military action in Gaza (63%);

  • Donald Trump winning the 2024 US election (57%); and

  • The death of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s main political rival, Alexei Navalny (56%).

Most respondents agreed that global instability made trade more expensive (68%) and would undermine efforts to solve problems including climate change (57%). Fewer than half said it had a negative impact on their own wellbeing (46%).

Asked about Israel’s military action in Gaza, just 18% supported it continuing, 20% said Israel should agree to a temporary ceasefire, 37% said Israel should withdraw “permanently” and 24% were unsure.

Respondents aged 18 to 34 were more likely to say Israel should withdraw permanently, the view of 44% in that age bracket, and were less likely to support continuing military action, the view of just 13%.

More voters favoured Labor to handle Australia’s relationship with the Asia-Pacific, 34% to the Coalition’s 29%, and 38% said there was no difference between the major parties.

The Coalition enjoyed a large advantage on protecting Australia’s borders and national security, 36% to Labor’s 28%, with 37% saying there is no difference.

The two major parties were about even on handling conflicts including Ukraine and Gaza – 29% favouring the Coalition, 27% favouring Labor and 44% saying it made no difference.

When respondents were told Australia spent $55.6bn on defence, the fourth-highest budget item, exactly half (50%) said this was “about the right amount”. Slightly more said it was “too much” (29%) compared with those who said it was “not enough” (20%).

Two-thirds of Australians (66%) say the world is either very divided (29%) or somewhat divided (37%). A quarter (24%) said it was neither united nor divided, and just 10% described it as united.

Voters continue to report financial difficulties with 14% describing themselves as in “serious difficulty” and 40% “struggling a bit”. Just 32% described themselves as “secure”, down three points from February, with 13% responding they are “comfortable”.

After carving up stage-three tax cuts to benefit low- and middle-income earners, the government has signalled it will continue to offer cost-of-living relief in the lead-up to the May budget.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian foreign policy
  • Australian politics
  • Paul Keating
  • Penny Wong
  • Asia Pacific
  • Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
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