The Guardian 2024-03-31 10:03:37


Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial: Network Ten asks to reopen its defence, citing ‘fresh evidence’

Justice Michael Lee will hear an urgent application from Network Ten at 5pm on Tuesday

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Network Ten will ask the federal court to reopen its defence on Tuesday at an emergency hearing scheduled less than two days before the judgement in the Bruce Lehrmann defamation case is due to be handed down.

Justice Michael Lee was scheduled to deliver his judgment in the federal court in Sydney at 10.15am on Thursday 4 April in the defamation case Lehrmann brought against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson.

Now Lee will hear Ten’s argument for reopening its case in light of “fresh evidence”, according to the interlocutory application filed on Sunday afternoon.

Ten’s barrister, Dr Matt Collins KC, is seeking “leave to re-open the First Respondent’s case for the purpose of adducing fresh evidence”, the application said.

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Lee will hear the interlocutory application at 5pm on Tuesday when he will rule on whether to allow the fresh evidence to be presented by the defence.

The sensational development at the 11th hour comes more than three months after the five-week trial wrapped up in late December.

If Lee allows the fresh evidence to be adduced it will almost certainly see the judgement date rescheduled.

Lee will rule on whether the former Liberal staffer was defamed by Wilkinson and Ten when The Project broadcast an interview with Brittany Higgins in 2021 in which she alleged she was raped in Parliament House

The Project did not name Lehrmann as the Liberal staffer at the heart of the allegation, but he claims he was identifiable in the broadcast.

Lehrmann maintains his innocence. In a criminal trial in 2022 he pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent, denying that any sexual activity had occurred.

In December of that year, prosecutors dropped charges against him for the alleged rape of Higgins, saying a retrial would pose an “unacceptable risk” to her health.

Lee, who said he would begin writing the judgment the day after the trial ended, had to consider more than 15,000 pages of transcript and 1,000 separate exhibits, including hours of CCTV footage as well as audio and video recordings.

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United Nations secretary general condemns explosion that injured UN observers in southern Lebanon

António Guterres expresses ‘grave concern’ over ongoing clashes at border after a shell exploded near the observers

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has condemned an explosion that left three UN military observers and a Lebanese interpreter wounded when a shell exploded near them while they were patrolling the southern Lebanese border.

The blast came as clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah militants escalated in recent weeks.

Both sides have been exchanging fire since war broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Three UN Truce Supervision Organization (Untso) “military observers and one Lebanese language assistant on a foot patrol along the Blue Line were injured when an explosion occurred near their location”, UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said in a statement on Saturday.

The wounded were “evacuated for medical treatment”, Tenenti added.

Peacekeepers from Unifil patrol the so-called Blue Line, the border demarcated by the UN in 2000 when Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon.

The Untso supports the peacekeeping mission.

Norway’s defence ministry said a Norwegian UN observer was “lightly injured” and had been admitted to hospital.

“The circumstances surrounding the attack are unclear,” defence ministry spokesperson Hanne Olafsen told Norwegian news agency NTB.

Tenenti told AFP that the other two observers were from Australia and Chile, adding that all four wounded were in “stable” condition while Australia’s defence department said the Australian’s injuries were not life-threatening.

Local Lebanese media, citing security officials, said an Israeli drone strike targeted the observers in the southern village of Wadi Katmoun near the border town of Rmeich.

But the Israeli military posted on social media platform X: “Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a @UNIFIL vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning.”

Tenenti said Unifil had informed all warring parties of their patrols as usual and the observers’ vehicle was carrying clear UN markings. The three military observers were unarmed, he said.

Unifil is “investigating the origin of the explosion” but it was difficult to put investigators on the ground immediately because of the ongoing exchange of fire, added Tenenti.

“Safety and security of UN personnel must be guaranteed,” Tenenti said, urging “all actors to cease the current heavy exchanges of fire before more people are unnecessarily hurt.”

A UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said António Guterres condemned the explosion and expressed “grave concern” at the daily exchanges of fire between armed groups in Lebanon and Israeli forces.

“These hostile actions have not only disrupted the livelihoods of thousands of people, but they also pose a grave threat to the security and stability of Lebanon, Israel, and the region,” Dujarric said.

Guterres urges all action to refrain from further violations of the 2006 cessation of hostilities “and to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis”, Dujarric said, adding that the UN chief stands ready to support such efforts.

Lebanese caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati also condemned the incident in a statement.

Unifil was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion.

The UN expanded its mission after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, allowing peacekeepers to deploy along the Israeli border to help the Lebanese military extend its authority into the country’s south for the first time in decades.

With Associated Press, Australian Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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Israel alone? Allies’ fears grow over conduct – and legality – of war in Gaza

When the US allowed a ceasefire resolution to pass at the UN, the warning was clear – and concern is rising elsewhere

When Gilad Erdan, the Israeli envoy to the UN, sat before the security council to rail against the ceasefire resolution it had just passed, he cut a lonelier figure than ever in the cavernous chamber. The US, Israel’s constant shield at the UN until this point, had declined to use its veto, allowing the council’s demand for an immediate truce – even though it contained, as Erdan furiously pointed out, no condemnation of the Hamas massacre of Israelis that had begun the war.

That had been a red line for the US until Monday, as had making a ceasefire conditional on a release of hostages. But after nearly six months of constant bombing, with more than 32,000 dead in Gaza and a famine imminent, those red lines were allowed to fade, and the American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, kept her hand still when the chair called for votes against the resolution.

The message was clear: time was up on the Israeli offensive, and the Biden administration was no longer prepared to let the US’s credibility on the world stage bleed away by defending an Israeli government which paid little, if any, heed to its appeals to stop the bombing of civilian areas and open the gates to substantial food deliveries.

“This must be a turning point,” the Palestinian envoy, Riyad Mansour, told the security council, mourning those who had died in the time it had taken its members to overcome their differences.

For the next few days, there were other signs that the west was changing its position, at least in terms of its rhetoric. On Tuesday, Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, announced that Berlin would be dispatching a delegation to remind Israel pointedly of its obligations under Geneva conventions, and warned the country not to proceed with a planned offensive on the city of Rafah, in the very south of Gaza. It was a notable change in tone from a country that has been Israel’s second biggest supporter and arms supplier.

Meanwhile, in the UK, foreign secretary David Cameron has been ratcheting up his criticism of Israel – particularly over its blocking of aid into Gaza – while at the same time being ultra-careful to deflect questions as to whether the Foreign Office now believes Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been breaching international humanitarian law. Trying to strike that balance has created real and increasingly obvious strains within the British government, and the Tory party.

This definite shifting of international positions has, however, changed nothing as yet for the 2.3 million people trapped in Gaza. The bombing and sniping have not stopped. The politicians may be recalibrating, but not fast enough for those in the line of fire.

In the 48 hours after the security council applauded itself for passing the ceasefire resolution, 157 ­people in Gaza were killed. Eighteen of them, including at least nine children and five women, died when a house full of displaced people was bombed in northern Rafah. Twelve people drowned trying to reach airdropped food parcels that had fallen into the sea.

The number of trucks crossing into Gaza rose slightly to about 190 a day – less than half the peacetime daily total. Israeli inspectors were still turning back 20 to 25 each day, NBC News reported, on grounds as arbitrary as the wooden pallets bearing the food not being exactly the right dimensions. Israel has banned Unrwa, the main UN relief agency in the region, from using the crossing. A US state department official told Reuters on Friday that famine had already taken hold in some parts of Gaza, echoing a similar finding last week by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Four days on from the passing of the security council resolution, more US arms deliveries were being reported by the Washington Post, including 1,800 MK84 2,000lb bombs – massive munitions that are implicated in numerous mass ­casualty events over the course of the Gaza war.

Furthermore, despite the UN vote just days before, the Biden administration has made it clear to its allies that threatening to stop weapons supplies to Israel as leverage is off the table, at least for now. The president told a fundraising event on Thursday: “You can’t forget that Israel is in a position where its very existence is at stake.”

In the UK, however, there is a growing sense that the legal issues, and related questions about arms sales, cannot be avoided, or fudged, for much longer.

As the Observer reports this weekend, the Tory chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Alicia Kearns – a former employee of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence – told a Tory fundraising event in north London on 13 March that Cameron’s department has been given legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law, but has chosen not to make it public.

That claim will send shudders through London and Washington, as it strikes at the heart of one of the most sensitive issues in international diplomacy.

In January, appearing before Kearns’s committee, Cameron dodged questions on the issue of whether he had seen such legal advice, saying “I cannot recall every single piece of paper that has been put in front of me … I don’t want to answer that question.”

Even then, in that same hearing – and before he became as vocal as he is now – he did concede that he was “worried” that Israel might have been in breach.

It is not difficult to understand why the Foreign Office and Cameron may be being opaque. The existence of such advice, and any open acknowledgment of it, would trigger a series of requirements on ministers, not the least of which would be the duty to halt all British arms sales to Israel.

Indeed, even if the legal advice suggested there was a “risk” of Israel having been in breach, it would have to stop exports. Some say the UK would even have to cease sharing intelligence with the US because the US might hand it on to Israel.

In a recent letter to Cameron, the shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, homed in on this same point about arms exports, referring to criterion 2c of the UK’s Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, which requires the government to “not grant a licence if it determines there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.

Criterion 2c adds that “the government will also take account of the risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women or children”. Lammy said that this was “particularly relevant, given that women and children constitute a majority of the victims of the war in Gaza”.

Many Tory MPs are worried that Cameron might be about to announce an embargo on the sale of arms to Israel. At a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers on Monday, the foreign secretary denied he was thinking anything of the sort, although Foreign Office officials say it cannot be out of the question if Israel carries out its threat to attack Rafah.

Just as in the US, the UK’s tone may be shifting to one that is more critical of Israel. But creating the political space to match this with openness about the legal advice being given, and then taking ­consequent action, will prove far more difficult.

For its part, Israel has been roundly criticised, but it is still far from a pariah. Netanyahu and his war cabinet continue to insist that Israel will press ahead with an offensive on Rafah, where more than a million displaced civilians have taken shelter, shrugging off US warnings that it would be a “mistake” which would backfire on Israeli security.

Two Israeli ministers are due in Washington to discuss the planned offensive in the coming week, on a visit which Netanyahu had initially cancelled in protest at the Biden administration’s abstention at the security council.

American officials say they will use the meetings to present an alternative blueprint for counter-insurgency against Hamas in Rafah, focusing on precision raids on senior Hamas figures, but they admit they have no way to oblige their visitors to take the suggestions seriously.

“They are a sovereign state. We will not interfere with their military planning, but we will outline in general terms what we think is another way to go to better achieve the same aims,” a US official said.

In further apparent defiance of Washington’s views, the Israeli military are carving out a buffer zone around Gaza’s borders which would take up 16% of the whole coastal strip, according to Haaretz.

Israeli public opinion has to date shown itself largely impervious to US and other international pressure, and support for the Gaza war currently hovers at around 80%. Even more concerning for Washington’s hopes of containing the conflict, there is also more than 70% Israeli public support for a large-scale military operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon – something Washington has so far managed to forestall.

In Israel itself, pro-war demonstrators are far more in evidence than anti-war ones. Israeli settlers and rightwing activists have focused their protests on Unrwa over the past week, blocking the entrances to its Jerusalem office. The protesters portrayed the UN ceasefire resolution as an attack against Israel.

“If you look at the number of UN condemnations against Israel versus the number of condemnations against North Korea or Syria, you can see how they are obsessed with us, and this is another proof of their obsession,” said Roei Ben Dor, a 21-year-old from the central Israeli town of Gedera. “We should be in Gaza, not just because of Hamas but because Gaza is ours. We have every right to take Gaza, to take Rafah. This is our land.”

Aynat Libman, a 52-year-old Israeli settler from Efrat, argued the resolution simply proved the UN’s inherent antisemitism.

“How could the UN possibly say we should stop the war before we are done protecting ourselves?” Libman said. “We can do this on our own. But, of course, it would be nice if we had the support.’’

The absence of bite in the international community’s reprimands has emboldened the current Israeli coalition’s sense of immunity from global public opinion, but the onset of full-scale famine, or an offensive on Rafah, could bring a much sharper response from Israel’s friends and adversaries. And there are signs that the real damage done to Israel’s global standing could worsen over time, with possibly far-reaching consequences.

As in the UK, tension in the US is building around the question of international law. Last week, a state department human rights official resigned, saying that the government was flouting domestic legislation prohibiting military assistance to any foreign army units implicated in atrocities, or to any country which impedes “the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance”.

The official, Annelle Sheline, said the state department had evidence of violations, but it was being suppressed. “I think some of these internal processes are not going to become public until the White House is willing for them to come out,” Sheline said.

The state department has said in the past week that its review process had so far provided no reason to doubt that formal Israeli assurances that it is complying with international humanitarian law, as required under US statute, are “credible and reliable”. But a full report on those assurances is not due until 8 May, which could become a point of leverage on Israel if there is no breakthrough in the provision of food relief to Gaza.

“That is what you have to look for,” said Aaron David Miller, a former state department negotiator now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But Miller added: “I would be stunned if the administration made a judgment that the Israelis are out of compliance.”

But the other potential shift with long-term ramifications for Israel’s future is the changing attitudes of young Americans, many of whom have jettisoned the pro-Israel reflexes of their parents, and have made Gaza an issue with protest votes in the Democratic presidential primary. A recent Gallup poll found 63% of Americans aged 18-34 disapproved of Israeli military action, as did 55% overall of those questioned.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented moment of collective awareness about the ongoing occupation and apartheid conditions in Israel-Palestine,” said Rae Abileah, a progressive US Jewish activist. “I have never seen this level of people consistently taking to the streets. For years, you could say: ‘You can be progressive except on Palestine.’ We can’t say that any more.”

She added: “The writing is more on the wall than it’s ever been.”

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Talks aimed at brokering a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian outlet Al-Qahera reported, days after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave the green light for fresh negotiations.

“An Egyptian security source confirmed to Al-Qahera news the resumption of negotiations on a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Egyptian capital Cairo tomorrow,” an anchor for the channel, which is close to country’s intelligence services, said in a broadcast on Saturday.

Egypt, Qatar and the US have mediated previous rounds of negotiations, but a workable agreement has remained elusive.

The mediators had hoped to secure a ceasefire before the start of Ramadan, but progress stalled and the Muslim holy month is more than half over.

On Friday, Netanyahu approved a new round of ceasefire negotiations to take place in Doha and Cairo.

Reports of the new talks in Cairo came as protesters in Israel’s biggest city blocked a major road Saturday after demonstrations calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza and criticising the government’s handling of the war.

Eight killed by car bomb in northern Syria, war monitor says

More than 20 reportedly injured after blast in shopping area in city of Azaz, which is held by pro-Turkish forces

A bomb has exploded in a shopping area in a northern Syrian city held by pro-Turkish forces, killing eight people and wounding more than 20 others, a war monitor said.

At least “eight people were killed and 23 others wounded” when “a car bomb exploded in the middle of a popular market” in Azaz, Aleppo province, early on Sunday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The British-based observatory, which has a network of sources inside Syria, said the blast caused significant damage and sparked a fire.

An Agence France-Presse correspondent saw emergency responders working at the scene and the remains of a mangled vehicle.

Syria’s war began after the government repressed peaceful protests in 2011 and escalated into a deadly conflict that pulled in jihadists and foreign armies. The war has killed more than 507,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure and industry.

Turkey has launched successive military offensives in Syria, most of them targeting Kurdish militants that Ankara links to the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies hold swathes of the border, including several big cities and towns such as Azaz.

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Ex-Trump adviser says former president ‘hasn’t got the brains’ for dictatorship

Despite disparagement from John Bolton, critics maintain Trump is clear threat to democracy, given admiration for dictators

A former national security adviser in the Donald Trump White House has said that the ex-president “hasn’t got the brains” to helm a dictatorship, despite his admiration for such rulers.

In an interview with the conservative French outlet Le Figaro, John Bolton, 75, was asked whether Trump had tendencies that mirror dictators like the ones he has previously praised. Bolton not only disparaged Trump’s intellectual capacity, he also disparaged the former president’s professional background, exclaiming: “He’s a property developer, for God’s sake!”

Now a vocal critic of Trump, Bolton served as the former president’s national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019. Bolton had previously served as US ambassador to the UN during George W Bush’s presidency, developing a reputation as a foreign policy hawk.

Bolton’s remarks to Le Figaro suggesting Trump is not smart enough to be a dictator will almost certainly do little to allay fears on the political left at home or abroad about a second Trump presidency.

After all, Trump has suggested he plans to be a dictator, if only for the first day of his presidency if he were re-elected.

Meanwhile, as seeks a second term in the White House, the incumbent Joe Biden has warned that Trump – the lone remaining contender for the Republican nomination – and his allies are “determined to destroy American democracy”. Trump recently provided fuel for that argument by hosting Hungary’s autocratic prime minister Viktor Orbán at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump, furthermore, is known to have lavished praise on leaders considered opposed to US democratic ideals and foreign policy interests, including North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and China’s Xi Jinping.

Bolton nonetheless claimed Trump – who is grappling with more than 80 pending criminal charges as well as multimillion-dollar civil penalties – lacks the kind of coherent political philosophy effective dictators require. He also said Trump does not like to “get involved in policy analysis or decision-making in the way we normally use those terms”.

For Trump, Bolton added: “Everything is episodic, anecdotal, transactional. And everything is contingent on the question of how this will benefit Donald Trump.”

Such disparagements from Bolton – who advocated for the Trump White House to withdraw from a deal with Iran aimed at dissuading it from developing nuclear weapons – are not new. In a new foreword to his account of his work for Trump’s presidency, The Room Where It Happened, Bolton warns that Trump was limited to worrying about punishing his personal enemies and appeasing US adversaries Russia and China.

“Trump is unfit to be president,” Bolton writes. And though he may not think Trump can foster a dictatorship, Bolton has warned: “If his first four years were bad, a second four will be worse.”

Trump has seemingly leaned into such predictions. He stoked alarm at a campaign rally earlier in March when – while musing about how foreign car production affects the US auto industry – he said: “If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole – that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.”

His use of the word “bloodbath” recalled provocative language Trump has used previously, including describing immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country”.

He told a rally in New Hampshire last year that he wanted to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections”.

After that remark, Biden attacked Trump for his use of the world “vermin”, saying Trump’s language “echoes language you heard in Nazi Germany” as Adolf Hitler rose to power and orchestrated the murders of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

In his interview with Le Figaro, Bolton said it was “very likely” that Trump would act on his threat to pull the US out of the Nato military alliance if he were re-elected. In recent months, Trump has repeated his threat not to protect countries who he believes do not pay enough to maintain the security alliance, and he claimed that European members of the alliance “laugh at the stupidity” of the US.

“Trump, when he has an idea, comes back to it again and again, then gets distracted, forgets, but eventually comes back to it and acts on it,” Bolton warned. “That’s why leaving Nato is a real possibility. A lot of people think it’s just a negotiating tool, but I don’t think so.”

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Tasmania JackJumpers snatch first NBL title in epic final series against Melbourne United

  • JackJumpers beat United 83-81 in Game 5 of Championship Series
  • Dellavedova misses last-gasp three-pointer for hosts at John Cain Arena

The Tasmania JackJumpers have claimed their maiden NBL championship by pulling off a remarkable 83-81 road win over Melbourne United in the best-of-five series decider. In front of 11,175 fans in enemy territory at John Cain Arena, Jordon Crawford produced one of the great scoring performances to help Tasmania claw their way to the crown in a gripping battle.

Crawford scored 27 first-half points and overcame a quite third period to finish with a series-high 32. It was the equal-third highest tally by any player in a title-series game during the 40-minute game era, which dates back to 2009.

Heart-and-soul Tasmania leader Jack McVeigh was awarded the Larry Sengstock Trophy as MVP of one of the toughest NBL Championship Series in history.

The result completed a fairytale ride under head coach Scott Roth for the league’s newest franchise, who lost a title decider two years ago in their debut season. United earned home-court advantage for the Championship Series and won the first of three Melbourne games by 23 points, but coughed up the final two in tight contests.

The final four games of the series were decided by a total of just 11 points. Crawford was the hero for Tasmania but had plenty of support from Jack McVeigh (14 points, eight rebounds), Will Magnay (11, 12) and Milton Doyle (11, 10).

Each of Melbourne’s five starters reached double figures, led by Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (14 points), Matthew Dellavedova, Chris Goulding and Luke Travers (13 each). Dellavedova, who won an NBA championship with Cleveland in 2016, had a last-gasp chance to pinch the decider for Melbourne, but his long-range attempt at a buzzer-beater hit the backboard and rimmed out.

“The last four games really came down to a few possessions here and there, and our guys stayed resilient when it looked like they might throw a knockout punch,” JackJumpers coach Scott Roth said. “We just kept grinding away and I can’t be more proud of this group. That was the trait throughout the season.”

“We had an anomaly in that first game when we travelled back from Perth and were maybe a little fatigued, and they smacked us pretty good. It was the leadership from our captains and more importantly the poise that we have, knowing that we’ve done the work all season.”

Lual-Acuil set the tone for an explosive first quarter with a huge dunk under pressure from Magnay and Doyle to open the scoring. Travers had 11 points to his name as Melbourne built a double-figure lead inside five minutes and held a 31-26 advantage at quarter-time after Goulding’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.

But Crawford’s scintillating 19-point first period on perfect shooting, including four triples, kept Tasmania firmly in the contest. He remained perfect from long range with his fifth three-pointer, which put Tasmania ahead for the first time, two minutes before half-time.

Goulding hurt his right knee in a collision with Majok Deng and racked up three fouls before halftime, as one of a host of players from both teams in foul trouble.

Scores were locked at 44-44 at the main break as Crawford’s personal tally swelled to 27 points. The first half’s dominant figure went cold in the third quarter, throwing up four shots – all of them unsuccessful – as a tense battle continued at both ends of the floor.

Melbourne burst out of the blocks in the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run that drove a nine-point wedge between the teams. But Crawford responded with the next five points and Tasmania were level again in the blink of an eye.

The JackJumpers got five points up, but Goulding’s ridiculous off-balance three with four seconds left ensured the game went down to the buzzer. Melbourne pinched an in-bounds pass and Dellavedova heaved a potential game-winner that missed, sparking wild scenes among the travelling Tasmania fans.

“We challenged for a championship and we all just want one or two possessions back,” United coach Dean Vickerman said. “What an amazing series we were a part of and I’m sure we’ll reflect on that once we get over actually losing the tight game that we were in.”

Tasmania’s first championship came after they lost a title decider against the Sydney Kings two years ago in their debut season.

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Tasmania JackJumpers snatch first NBL title in epic final series against Melbourne United

  • JackJumpers beat United 83-81 in Game 5 of Championship Series
  • Dellavedova misses last-gasp three-pointer for hosts at John Cain Arena

The Tasmania JackJumpers have claimed their maiden NBL championship by pulling off a remarkable 83-81 road win over Melbourne United in the best-of-five series decider. In front of 11,175 fans in enemy territory at John Cain Arena, Jordon Crawford produced one of the great scoring performances to help Tasmania claw their way to the crown in a gripping battle.

Crawford scored 27 first-half points and overcame a quite third period to finish with a series-high 32. It was the equal-third highest tally by any player in a title-series game during the 40-minute game era, which dates back to 2009.

Heart-and-soul Tasmania leader Jack McVeigh was awarded the Larry Sengstock Trophy as MVP of one of the toughest NBL Championship Series in history.

The result completed a fairytale ride under head coach Scott Roth for the league’s newest franchise, who lost a title decider two years ago in their debut season. United earned home-court advantage for the Championship Series and won the first of three Melbourne games by 23 points, but coughed up the final two in tight contests.

The final four games of the series were decided by a total of just 11 points. Crawford was the hero for Tasmania but had plenty of support from Jack McVeigh (14 points, eight rebounds), Will Magnay (11, 12) and Milton Doyle (11, 10).

Each of Melbourne’s five starters reached double figures, led by Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (14 points), Matthew Dellavedova, Chris Goulding and Luke Travers (13 each). Dellavedova, who won an NBA championship with Cleveland in 2016, had a last-gasp chance to pinch the decider for Melbourne, but his long-range attempt at a buzzer-beater hit the backboard and rimmed out.

“The last four games really came down to a few possessions here and there, and our guys stayed resilient when it looked like they might throw a knockout punch,” JackJumpers coach Scott Roth said. “We just kept grinding away and I can’t be more proud of this group. That was the trait throughout the season.”

“We had an anomaly in that first game when we travelled back from Perth and were maybe a little fatigued, and they smacked us pretty good. It was the leadership from our captains and more importantly the poise that we have, knowing that we’ve done the work all season.”

Lual-Acuil set the tone for an explosive first quarter with a huge dunk under pressure from Magnay and Doyle to open the scoring. Travers had 11 points to his name as Melbourne built a double-figure lead inside five minutes and held a 31-26 advantage at quarter-time after Goulding’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.

But Crawford’s scintillating 19-point first period on perfect shooting, including four triples, kept Tasmania firmly in the contest. He remained perfect from long range with his fifth three-pointer, which put Tasmania ahead for the first time, two minutes before half-time.

Goulding hurt his right knee in a collision with Majok Deng and racked up three fouls before halftime, as one of a host of players from both teams in foul trouble.

Scores were locked at 44-44 at the main break as Crawford’s personal tally swelled to 27 points. The first half’s dominant figure went cold in the third quarter, throwing up four shots – all of them unsuccessful – as a tense battle continued at both ends of the floor.

Melbourne burst out of the blocks in the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run that drove a nine-point wedge between the teams. But Crawford responded with the next five points and Tasmania were level again in the blink of an eye.

The JackJumpers got five points up, but Goulding’s ridiculous off-balance three with four seconds left ensured the game went down to the buzzer. Melbourne pinched an in-bounds pass and Dellavedova heaved a potential game-winner that missed, sparking wild scenes among the travelling Tasmania fans.

“We challenged for a championship and we all just want one or two possessions back,” United coach Dean Vickerman said. “What an amazing series we were a part of and I’m sure we’ll reflect on that once we get over actually losing the tight game that we were in.”

Tasmania’s first championship came after they lost a title decider against the Sydney Kings two years ago in their debut season.

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Queensland opposition leader casts doubt over future of state’s new pill testing regime

David Crisafulli criticises pill testing trial in sign opposition may roll back harm minimisation polices if elected in October

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The Queensland opposition leader, David Crisafulli, has criticised the state’s new pill testing regime, a potential sign his party would roll back Labor’s new drug policies if elected in October.

The sunshine state opened its first festival clinic on Thursday and will open the first fixed site clinic in Brisbane next month. The Labor government has committed to open a second once a site has been confirmed.

But on Sunday Crisafulli hinted both might be scrapped under a Liberal National party government.

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“If you’re asking me about whether or not I think pills should be encouraged to be used at festivals, it’s a hard no from me,” he said.

It comes after a 43-year-old woman died at a Gold Coast party on Friday night. Two other attendees were taken to the Gold Coast University hospital after the party at Surfers Paradise and treated for suspected drug overdose, the ambulance service said.

The Queensland government has recently kicked off a trial of pill testing after passing laws last year reducing punishments for drug possession.

The state’s first ever on-site pill testing facility opened at the Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival on Thursday.

“This is a sort of thing we’re going to do going forward and to see if it works, to get the trial under way, so that we don’t have these tragic circumstances like we’ve seen in the Gold Coast recently,” the state transport minister, Bart Mellish, said on Sunday.

The first fixed-site clinic will open in Bowen Hills in April. It is the first long-term clinic in the country, which does not have an end-date.

Two people died after taking drugs at the Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival near Warwick in 2019.

Crisafulli would not confirm whether he would repeal drug laws passed in 2023 that shift the state to a harm minimisation approach.

“I certainly don’t want to roll out the red carpet,” he said.

“I don’t want to see a time where we say that, on one hand that drugs are a bad thing, but on the other hand that well, [a] small amounts’s OK if it’s tested.

“I just think it sends mixed messages. And I just don’t think you can find a midway point in that debate.”

A spokesperson for the Queensland police service said their investigations into the Gold Coast party were still ongoing.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner into the 43-year-old’s death.

One of the women, who was admitted in a critical condition and was treated in the hospital’s intensive care unit, is now stable, a Queensland health spokesperson said.

The other has been sent home. She presented in a stable condition.

Emergency workers were called to an apartment in Surfers Paradise about 11pm on Friday after reports of people being unconscious and not breathing.

Queensland ambulance service’s Mitchell Ware said three patients were treated for a suspected drug overdose, including a 43-year-old woman who was in cardiac arrest.

“The [43-year-old woman] required specialist care and despite all attempts was declared deceased on the scene,” he said.

“The other two were not breathing for themselves so ambulance [medics] obviously had to provide supplemental oxygen for them.”

Four other people were assessed at the scene but were not taken to hospital.

Ware said paramedics have seen an increase in similar incidents. “We are going to these patients frequently,” he said.

Ware said a toxicology report would be prepared by police, but warned people of the risks of recreational drug use.

“There is no such thing as a party drug,” he said.

“When people are obviously buying these drugs there is an element of risk. You don’t know what’s going into them, you don’t know who’s made them.”

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Penny Wong blames ‘Peter Dutton-Adam Bandt alliance’ for failure to pass Labor’s deportation laws

But Greens’ David Shoebridge says Labor has ‘jumped the shark’ with the legislation and it requires more scrutiny

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Foreign affairs minister Penny Wong has blamed a “Peter Dutton-Adam Bandt alliance” for the government’s failure to rush through “draconian” deportation legislation in the parliament last week.

But Greens senator David Shoebridge, who has described the laws as “draconian”, said the Labor government was alone in supporting the laws without scrutiny, arguing it was “everybody in the parliament except for Labor” who wanted further examination of legislation “that looked like it had been drawn in crayon without any rational basis behind it”.

The Coalition supported a Greens motion in the Senate to send the deportation legislation to a Senate inquiry, despite having voted with the government to pass the legislation through the House of Representatives, after Labor failed to produce reasons for the bill’s urgency.

The inquiry will report back on the bill on 7 May, the first day parliament resumes following the autumn break, although there remains the possibility parliament could be recalled earlier to pass the bill if the government loses a coming high court challenge.

The deportation bill gives the immigration minister the power to direct a non-citizen who is due to be deported “to do specified things necessary to facilitate their removal” or risk a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison or up to five years.

It also creates a power to designate another country as a “removal concern country”, which will impose a bar on new visa applications from non-citizens outside Australia who are nationals of a country that does not accept removals from Australia.

The legislation has alarmed human rights and refugee advocates who warn it could have far-reaching unintended consequences, including reversing protection findings of someone previously found to be a refugee.

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Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Wong argued the bill was a “tool” to make the immigration system “stronger” and its powers would have to be exercised in consultation with the foreign affairs minister.

“There might be other diplomatic avenues you would try and go through before you get to that point,” she said.

“But obviously, there’s an issue that we are seeking to address and we’ve worked through that carefully within government about how we might address it, and this is what the legislation is seeking to do.”

Wong said the legislation was aimed at people who had been found not to be refugees, but argued it would not be applied by the Albanese government as a one-size-fits-all.

“It’s not a it’s not something that would be used in a in a blanket way and it’s something that will be used as and when necessary,” she said.

“It’s an important part of our toolkit, in terms of managing migration.”

Wong blamed “politics” for the legislation’s hold-up.

“It’s regrettable that there we’ve got the Peter Dutton, Adam Bandt’s alliance preventing action on this but so be it, but I just say it says something about the political opportunities,” she said.

Shoebridge, the Greens new home affairs spokesperson, said Labor had “jumped the shark” with the laws, which he said went further than anything an Australian government had previously put forward.

“We have a very unfair asylum system, you know, arbitrary time limits, negative inferences, it’s a very unfair process,” he said.

“We’ve never yet said, ‘Well, if you continue to fear persecution, even though the government doesn’t believe you, we’re going to whack you on a plane and return you against your will to potential jail and persecution in Iran and if you don’t do it, we’re going to put you in jail for a mandatory minimum of one year.’

“And we’ve never yet said, ‘If you don’t sign a passport application for your kids, and take them back as well, we’re going to put you in jail.’ Even under the Coalition we never got there.”

Shoebridge said the inquiry into the legislation would examine the “god-like” powers the bill gave the minister to send people to jail if they did not comply with an order and the “blacklisting” of countries as designated nations.

“They [the government] still might get there [with the Coalition] but even the opposition I think, will be deeply troubled by legislation that is saying to diaspora communities across the country, ‘You may never see your family again.’”

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Tehran denies involvement in London attack on TV presenter

Met police say investigation into stabbing of Iranian journalist near home in Wimbledon is being led by counter-terrorism officers

Iran’s most senior diplomat in Britain has denied claims that the Iranian government was behind a knife attack on a TV presenter in London amid growing fears over threats to dissidents.

The country’s charge d’affaires, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, said Iran “denies any link” to the stabbing of Pouria Zeraati, 36, a presenter at Iran International, outside his home in Wimbledon on Friday. He is in a stable condition and was looking forward to being discharged from hospital soon.

The Metropolitan police said a motive for the attack was not yet clear, but Zeraati’s job and recent threats to UK-based Iranian journalists meant the investigation was being led by counter-terrorism officers.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday, Matin said Iran had “no link to this story of this so-called journalist”. He wrote that it was “strange and questionable” that a newspaper had accused Iran of being behind the attack and said the claim was “without evidence”.

Iran’s denial comes amid growing concerns over the safety of Iranian dissidents in Britain. Staff at Iran International, which broadcasts in Persian and provides independent coverage of the country, have been reportedly subject to threats from the Iranian regime, which considers it a terrorist organisation.

Adam Baillie, spokesperson for the channel, said: “There are credible threats which are issued against individuals, then they receive visits from the counter-terror police and Met police and then they have to take precautions. It’s very alarming.”

He told the Observer that Zeraati was outside his home when he was attacked by two unidentified men who jumped into a waiting getaway car after stabbing the journalist multiple times.

The Met said it was called to the address just before 3pm on Friday and found a man in his 30s who had sustained an injury to his leg. No arrests have been made.

Baillie said previous threats to Iran International staff indicated a possible planned attack.

“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) doesn’t leave fingerprints. Why would they? They operate through certain third parties which is an easy thing for them to do. They could operate via criminal gangs and in any city they want. They would never leave a paper trail between an attack and themselves,” he said. “It does appear on the surface to be a planned attack and they do have a motive to carry out the threat.”

One of Zeraati’s former colleagues at Iran International, Sima Sabet, told the Observer she had been advised by the Met to immediately leave her home after the attack on Zeraati.

In December 2023, an ITV investigation said Sabet and her colleague Fardad Farahzad were targets of a foiled assassination attempt planned for autumn 2022.

The report said an initial car bomb plan was changed at the last minute and a knife attack was considered by “leaders of the IRGC”.

Of the attack on Zeraati, Sabet said: “This is exactly how they wanted to kill me. With a knife.”

She accused the UK government of failing to respond decisively to threats against journalists in the UK from Iran. “When I heard about the attack on Pouria, it made me really angry. A few months ago there was a plot to assassinate me but it was foiled because the attacker revealed the plan. It was so close. Since then, nothing has been done to prevent any attack on any journalist,” she said. “We keep receiving threats … and no one is prepared to do anything to stop these threats.”

After the attempt to target Sabet and Farahzad, the UK and US announced sanctions to tackle domestic threats posed by the Iranian regime, which they said sought to “export repression, harassment and coercion against journalists and human rights defenders”.

The sanctioned Iranian officials, members of the IRGC Unit 840 were accused of coordinating a threat to Iran International. The UK government said the plot was the latest credible example of Iran’s attempts to kill or intimidate Britons or people with links to the UK, with at least 15 such threats since January 2022.

In a separate case, in December 2023 an IT worker was jailed for three-and-a-half years for spying on Iran International’s London headquarters before a “planned attack” on British soil. Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev , a Chechnya-born Austrian, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of trying to collect information for terrorist purposes.

Iranian dissidents living on UK soil have previously told the Observer they do not feel safe in the country and that the Iranian authorities are using transnational repression to silence them.

One UK-based Iranian student, Soudabeh, said she has received several threats after joining protests in Manchester after the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in suspicious circumstances in policy custody in Tehran after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab.

Reacting to the attack on Zeraati, Soudabeh said facing “harassment, intimidation, threats, physical attacks and character assassination, both virtually and in the real world”, was a reality for her and others who spoke out against the Iranian government. “In my case, despite complaints lodged with the UK police, effective action was never taken, even after experiencing physical assaults,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Met said the investigation into the attack on Zeraati remained in the “very early stages” and that it was working to establish the motive.

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Chance Perdomo, star of Gen V and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, dead at 27

Television star was killed in a motorcycle accident that involved no other parties, representatives say

Chance Perdomo, the British American actor who starred on the television shows Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Gen V, has died in a motorcycle accident. He was 27.

Nobody else was involved in the accident, his representatives said in a statement. No details on the location or date of the accident were shared.

“His passion for the arts and insatiable appetite for life was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth will carry on in those who he loved dearest,” a statement from his reps said. “We ask to please respect the family’s wish for privacy as they mourn the loss of their beloved son and brother.”

Perdomo’s most recent role was in Gen V, a spinoff of superhero parody-drama The Boys, and played one of the leads: Andre Anderson, a student who can use magnetic forces to manipulate the world around him.

The first season, which debuted during last year’s Hollywood strikes, was a hit with critics. Production on the second season, which was expected to begin principal photography in April, has been indefinitely delayed after Perdomo’s death.

“We can’t quite wrap our heads around this,” the Gen V producers wrote in a statement shared on X. “For those of us who knew him and worked with him, Chance was always charming and smiling, an enthusiastic force of nature, an incredibly talented performer, and more than anything else, just a very kind, lovely person. Even writing about him in the past tense doesn’t make sense. We are so sorry for Chance’s family, and we are grieving the loss of our friend and colleague. Hug your loved ones tonight.”

Amazon MGM Studios and Sony Pictures Television, which also produces Gen V, wrote, “The entire Gen V family is devastated by the sudden passing of Chance Perdomo. Amazon MGM Studios and Sony Pictures Television extend our heartfelt thoughts and support to Chance’s family and all who loved him at this difficult time.”

Perdomo also played Ambrose Spellman in all four seasons of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In the show, based on the Archie comic that inspired the 90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Ambrose was the cousin Sabrina the witch, played by Kiernan Shipka, and often served as her guide and moral compass.

Perdomo was born in 1996 in Los Angeles, but was raised in Southampton, England. He moved to London and joined the National Youth Theatre.

He was nominated for a Bafta for best actor in a leading role in 2018 for his performance in the dramatisation Killed by My Debt, in which he played Jerome Rogers, a self-employed courier who killed himself aged 20 in 2016, after being overwhelmed by the cost of two traffic fines. The Guardian called Perdomo’s performance “beautiful [and] utterly believable” and said it “should be played, on a loop, in the offices of Camden council, which issued Jerome’s tickets”.

He also appeared in the After film series, Midsomer Murders and Hetty Feather.

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Cancer signs could be spotted years before symptoms, says new research institute

Tests that can identify early changes in cells would give doctors more time to offer treatment, say Cambridge researchers

Scientists at a recently opened cancer institute at Cambridge University have begun work that is pinpointing changes in cells many years before they develop into tumours. The research should help design radically new ways to treat cancer, they say.

The Early Cancer Institute – which has just received £11m from an anonymous donor – is focused on finding ways to tackle tumours before they produce symptoms. The research will exploit recent discoveries which have shown that many people develop precancerous conditions that lie in abeyance for long periods.

“The latency for a cancer to develop can go on for years, sometimes for a decade or two, before the condition abruptly manifests itself to patients,” said Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald, the institute’s director.

“Then doctors find they are struggling to treat a tumour which, by then, has spread through a patient’s body. We need a different approach, one that can detect a person at risk of cancer early on using tests that can be given to large numbers of people.”

One example of this is the cytosponge – a sponge on a string – which has been developed by Fitzgerald and her team. It is swallowed like a pill, expands in the stomach into a sponge and is then pulled up the gullet collecting oesophagus cells on the way. Those cells that contain a protein, called TFF3 – which is found only in precancerous cells – then provide an early warning that a patient is at risk of oesophageal cancer and needs to be monitored. Crucially, this test can be administered simply and on a wide scale.

This contrasts with current approaches to other cancers, added Fitzgerald. “At present, we are detecting many cancers late and are having to come up with medicines, which have become incrementally more expensive. We are often extending life by a few weeks at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds. We need to look at this from a different perspective.”

One approach being taken by the institute – which is to be renamed the Li Ka-shing Early Cancer Institute after the Hong Kong philanthropist who has supported other Cambridge cancer research – focuses on blood samples. Provided by women as part of past screening services for ovarian cancer and kept in special stores, these samples have now been repurposed by the institute. “We have around 200,000 such samples and they are a goldmine,” said Jamie Blundell, a research group leader at the institute.

Using these samples, researchers have identified changes that differentiate those donors who have subsequently been diagnosed with a blood cancer 10 or even 20 years after they provided samples, with those who did not develop such conditions.

“We are finding that there are clear genetic changes in a person’s blood more than a decade before they start to display symptoms of leukaemia,” said Blundell. “That shows there is a long window of opportunity that you could use to intervene and give treatments that will reduce the odds of going on to get cancer.”

Cancers grow in stages and by spotting those with cells that have taken an early step on this ladder, it should be possible to block or hamper further developments. The crucial point is that at this early stage there is time for doctors to take action and avoid them having to deal with a cancer at a late stage when it has spread.

A similar strategy is being taken by Harveer Dev, another group leader, who has investigated men who have had their prostates removed. His team are now developing biomarkers that will provide better ways to pinpoint those who are likely to suffer poor outcomes from prostate cancer, one of the most common tumours in the UK.

“Our pilot data suggests that these tests may be much better than existing PSA tests and will be crucial in spotting those who with prostate cancer that is likely to progress,” said Dev.

Pinpointing those at risk of cancer – for example, people from families who have an inherited predisposition to tumours – will form a key part of the institute’s strategy. In addition, it will focus on finding ways to reduce cancer risks, as well as ensuring treatments can be widely administered.

A woman had, in her 80s, decided to leave the university £1m for cancer research, Fitzgerald said. “However, she lived until she was over 100 and only died recently, so we only just got that donation. We want to understand what makes some live into very old age while others get cancer, so more people can live as long as she did.”

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