The Guardian 2024-04-01 01:01:18


Original Yellow Wiggle backs fresh defibrillator push

The original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page and the Heart Foundation are behind a fresh push for more lifesaving devices in rural areas.

Page’s organisation, Heart of the Nation, has partnered with the foundation to advocate for greater access to automated external defibrillators (AED) and more education on how to give CPR.

They want government to roll out more of the devices in country areas.

The performer founded Heart of the Nation after suffering a cardiac arrest while the Wiggles were on stage for a bushfire fundraising concert in 2020.

Page credited his survival to the fact an off-duty nurse had access to a defibrillator at the concert.

Some 24,000 Australians die each year from the condition and only one in 20 people who have cardiac arrest outside of hospital survive.

However, Page is hopeful survival rates can improve.

Those crucial minutes before an ambulance arrives are when CPR and an AED need to be used to dramatically increase a person’s chance of survival.

Australian Associated Press

Is it cheaper to cook at home or eat at the pub in Sydney? We put it to the test

As supermarkets increase profits and the cost-of-living crisis stretches on, could I save money and time eating out?

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I’m at my local supermarket in Sydney and I’m extra stressed.

Half a cauliflower is on sale for $4.20. A small jar of pesto is $5. And when I get to the checkout, the total is more than I’d been planning to spend at the pub.

It gets me thinking – as supermarkets increase profits and the cost-of-living crisis stretches on – is it actually cheaper to cook at home as a young, childless person? Or could I save money and time eating out?

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I set myself a daunting – and delicious – mission. For one week, I will eat pub specials at a different Sydney venue each night. Then I’ll compare those prices with the cost of preparing the same meal at home using ingredients from one of the two biggest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths.

Here’s how it went.

Monday: steak night

People always look for specials in the aisles but they might not do the same when eating out, says Prof Clare Collins, an expert in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle.

“You might pay $30 and not blink,” she says.

So, naturally, when I see an $18 special of a sirloin steak and chips with a side salad at the East Village Hotel in Darlinghurst, I think: instant bargain.

This proves very enjoyable – better than what I could have cooked at home. It’s not cheaper than a home-cooked version but it’s a nice way to start the week – especially if your Sunday hangover prevents you from shopping and meal prepping.

Coles ingredients for two: Coles porterhouse steak two-pack with pepper butter, 500g at $19, Coles 4 leaf salad mix 200g at $3.00, Coles French dressing $0.60 (for 100ml), Coles frozen french fries $2 (for 500g), Coles extra virgin olive oil $1.50 (for 100ml), Coles table salt $0.03 (for 10g), Coles premium mushroom or peppercorn sauce $2 (for 100ml).

  • Cooking at home: $28.13 for two

  • Pub special: $36 for two

  • Savings: $7.87 cheaper to cook at home

Tuesday: schnitty night

The next day a friend and I visit the Willoughby hotel in North Sydney for an $18 chicken schnitzel, hot chips and coleslaw, with a slice of lemon. My friend sums it up as “delicious”, and we both decide we couldn’t make it as crispy at home.

Coles ingredients for two: Coles RSPCA approved chicken breast fillet crumb sage & rosemary 400g $18 (for two), McCain’s pub style straight fries $4 (for 500g), Coles kitchen coleslaw salad at $4 (for two), Gravox traditional liquid gravy pouch $2.80, Coles extra virgin olive oil $3.00 (for 200ml), Coles table salt $0.03 (for 10g), one lemon $1.50.

  • Cooking at home: $33.33 for two

  • Pub special: $36 for two

  • Savings: $2.67 cheaper to cook at home

Another option: Lord Dudley in Woollahra offers a $10 schnitty and chips special on Monday nights.

Wednesday: burger night with trivia

Pub specials are pumping across Sydney by the middle of the week, and the Imperial in Erskineville is no exception, offering $15 burgers (truffle mushroom, buttermilk fried chicken or bacon cheeseburger) with a sideof french fries … and trivia.

I go for the vegetarian option and am pleasantly surprised by the generous size of the mushroom. This time my pub meal and my at-home version work out at basically the same price.

Woolworths ingredients for two: Woolworths portobello flat mushrooms punnet $8.50, 1/2 cup of plain flour (too cheap to work out), one free range egg $0.80, Woolworths panko bread crumbs $1.05 (for 100g), Woolworths cheese provolone dolce from the deli $4.50 (for 100g), Fehlbergs burger pickles $1.02 (for 100g), Woolworths baby leaf rocket $1.65 (for 60g), Masterfoods garlic & truffle sauce $1.40 (for 100ml), Tip Top Bakery gourmet burger buns $2.75 (for two), Woolworths extra virgin oil $3.37 (for 250ml), McCain pub style extra crispy chips $4 (for 500g), Essentials table salt $0.03 (for 10g).

  • Cooking at home: $30.57 for two

  • Pub special: $30 for two

  • Savings: $0.57 cheaper to eat out

Thursday: curry night

By now I’m getting pretty sick of hot chips, so I look for flavour and variety, and stumble across a $20 curry night at The Nelson in Bondi Junction. I get the main ingredients from the display sign but borrow from this recipe for spice inspiration. This time, it’s a lot cheaper to eat at home.

Woolworths ingredients for two:Woolworths diced lamb 225g $6.50, one brown onion $0.59, one red onion $0.68, mustard oil $0.55 (per 100ml), cumin seeds $0.81 (for 10g), two green chillies $3.80, vegetable oil $0.47 (for 100ml), two potatoes $1.62, one bay leaf $0.12, one cardamon pod $0.31, ginger paste $0.05, garlic paste $0.05, chilli powder $0.12 (for 1g), Essentials table salt $0.03 (for 10g), 1/2 eggplant $0.80, Mission naan bread garlic & herb $2.05 (for two), Woolworths Greek style yoghurt $0.86 (for 200ml), coriander (too cheap to calculate). Yellow rice: Sunrice microwave basmati rice $4 (for two), Woolworths turmeric ground $0.38 (for 10g), garlic paste $0.05, Essentials salted butter $0.74 (for 50g), one cardamon pod $0.31.

  • Cooking at home: $24.89 for two

  • Pub special: $40 for two

  • Savings: $15.11 cheaper to eat in. Might stick to eating curries at home.

Another option: Cauliflower hotel in Waterloo does a $16 curry night on Tuesdays.

Friday: fish and chips night

It’s Friday! And what better way to enter the weekend than with a classic Friday pub deal – $14 fish and chips at Hotel Regent in Redfern.

This time, the pub is cheaper – and who has the energy to deep-fry whiting after knocking off anyway?

Coles ingredients for two: Birds Eye frozen deli New Zealand whiting crisp light batter fillets $10, one carrot $0.42, one green cucumber $2.50, one quarter red cabbage $1.42, Coles grape perino tomatoes $1.95, Coles 4 leaf salad mix 200g at $3.00, one lemon $1.50, McCain’s pub style straight fries $4 (for 500g), Coles table salt $0.03 (for 10g), Coles extra virgin olive oil $1.50 (for 100ml), Heinz seriously good garlic lovers aioli mayonnaise $3.72 (for 200ml).

  • Cooking at home: $30.04 for two

  • Pub special: $28 for two

  • Savings: $2 cheaper to eat out

Sunday: roast dinner

I have a lovely time going out for a roast and wine for $30 at the Native Rose hotel in Rozelle – even if it would have been cheaper to cook. The beef brisket is tender and tasty, the vegetables are a colourful palette on my plate and the Yorkshire pudding is an unexpected delight.

Collins is also a big believer in pub roast veggies: “You can get different veggies and probably a bigger variety than what you would have made at home.”

Woolworths ingredients for two: Macro beef rump roast $14, two potatoes $1.62, 1/2 cauliflower $2.95, snow peas medium $4.70 (for 150g), one onion $0.59, two yorkshire puddings $1.80, Essentials table salt $0.03 (for 10g), Essentials salted butter $0.74 (for 50g), Woolworths extra virgin oil $2.70 (for 200ml), Gravox traditional liquid gravy pouch $3.

  • Cooking at home: $32.13 for two

  • Pub special: $44 for two

  • Savings: $11.87 cheaper cooking at home

Another option: Royal Oak hotel in Parramatta offers a Sunday roast for $24 (except on game nights).

My findings

By the end of the week I’ve learned two things: it’s not always cheaper to recreate a pub meal at home for two people and eating pub meals every day is not the best way to live.

In total, I spent $107 for my own six meals. That might sound relatively cheap, but I had no leftovers and also felt as if I had eaten a month’s worth of potato in three days.

Gary Sacks, co-director of the Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition at Deakin University, says: “For young people, often the convenience and price trumps the healthiness.”

And as Collins points out, healthy eating at home only works when you plan ahead. One key challenge, she says, is having those pantry staples.

But on the positive: I found pub deals can still be an affordable and enjoyable way for young people to socialise with partners or friends – in moderation.

“I think there’s a midway point between never going out and eating really, really, cheap,” Collins says.

“You don’t have to never ever go out but you’ll enjoy it more and get better value from your hard-earned dollars if you work out your budget beforehand.”

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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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Measles alert for Sydney as experts call for improvement in indoor air quality

Health authorities also warn RSV, flu and whooping cough cases on the rise around Australia

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A measles alert was issued for Sydney on Sunday and other airborne illnesses are on the rise, while Australia’s Covid load is relatively low after the summer’s surge of the JN.1 variant.

New South Wales Health issued an alert on Sunday morning after a woman caught measles from a child who had been diagnosed days earlier.

Measles is highly contagious and can cause encephalitis, pneumonia and ear infections and can increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm labour.

Australia was declared measles-free in 2014 once vaccination was widespread, and it is still considered a rare disease. There have been 28 cases detected this year.

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Western Sydney Local Health District spokesperson Conrad Moreira said anyone who had contact with the woman should monitor for symptoms.

Anyone who was at Baby Bunting in Blacktown between 3pm and 4pm on 24 March, Kmart Blacktown between 4pm and 5pm on 24 March, Winston Hills Mall between 12pm and 2.30pm on 28 March, or Westmead hospital emergency department between 2pm and 10.30pm on 29 March may have been exposed.

Moreira said it could take up to 18 days for symptoms to develop. “Symptoms include fever, sore eyes, runny nose and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body,” he said.

“Anyone who develops symptoms should see their GP and call ahead to make sure they are not put in the waiting room with other patients.

“Measles is highly infectious and anyone born during or after 1966 needs to make sure they have received two doses of measles vaccine to be properly protected.”

The latest national statistics show flu levels are “currently higher than expected”, with almost twice as many cases as the same time last year.

“This may be due to an increase in disease circulation in the community and waning protection from seasonal influenza vaccinations given during the 2023 influenza season,” the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System report warned.

“But [it] may also be impacted by changes in health-seeking behaviour associated with recent increases in Covid-19 circulation over the summer period in many jurisdictions, such as increased testing for respiratory infections.”

Pertussis (whooping cough) cases have been surging around the world, including in Australia. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is also increasing, with experts warning there will be more infections as winter approaches.

Covid-19 levels are relatively low for the first time this year, however health department data shows there are currently outbreaks in 194 aged care homes, with 22 new outbreaks, 1,338 cases and 15 deaths last week.

While vaccination is the best way to reduce hospitalisation and death from Covid-19, since the start of the pandemic experts have also been calling for improved building ventilation and air quality monitoring.

On Friday, a paper published in the journal Science recommended national indoor air quality (IAQ) standards to protect against pollution and disease. The research was led by Queensland University of Technology’s air quality expert Prof Lidia Morawska, who previously led an appeal for the World Health Organization to recognise that Covid was an airborne virus.

Her latest research focuses on the pollutants carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and PM2.5, which she said acted as a proxy to measure ventilation and air quality.

Morawska said most counties do not have any legislated standards to monitory air quality, and that cheap, robust CO2 sensors are readily available.

In the paper, Morawska and a team of international experts wrote that people in urban and industrialised society spend more than 90% of their time indoors, and that most building codes did not focus on airborne disease transmission.

“But the Covid-19 pandemic has made all levels of society, from community members to decision makers, realise the important of IAQ for human health, wellbeing, productivity and learning,” the researchers wrote.

“We propose that IAQ standards be mandatory for public spaces.”

Professor Brendan Crabb, an Australian infectious diseases expert and the director of the Burnet Institute, said it was up to authorities to ensure clean air, because individual actions were “tinkering” and “like asking people to boil their own water”.

He said for too long officials around the world were stuck with the idea that Covid was spread primarily by droplets rather than airborne particles which can stay aloft for long period of time.

Describing “droplet dogma” as “the biggest misstep of the pandemic”, Crabb said it meant Australia had not embraced air quality standards and ventilation plans, which would help protect against Covid, future pandemics, other airborne diseases including measles, whooping cough and influenza, and pollutants including from bushfire smoke.

He advocated improved personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, and ventilating spaces that are challenging, including school classrooms, aged care centres and day care centres.

“The things we can control are vaccination rates and clean indoor air,” Crabb said.

Last week WHO released a manual on risk assessment for indoor, airborne Covid, which Crabb said was a “breakthrough” in terms of its emphasis on the airborne nature of the disease and the need for building ventilation.

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‘We know the community is over it’: how self-regulation of gambling ads came unstuck minutes into an AFL game

Clubs and bookmakers have set their own restrictions as campaigners await a decision on a proposed ban

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Just minutes after the first bounce in a round one AFL game, families watching on free-to-air television were exposed to more than 70 gambling ads – and all before 8pm.

The fluorescent ads for gambling giant Tabcorp were splashed on digital billboards, despite the company previously declaring there was “too much advertising” and that change was necessary to protect vulnerable people.

“Australian families should be able to watch live sport without being bombarded by gambling advertising,” Tabcorp’s then chief executive, Adam Rytenskild, said in March last year.

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Tabcorp concedes it breached its policy of not advertising between the hours of 6.30am and 8.30pm – which is beyond what it is required to do by law. The company says displaying the ads during this time was a mistake.

“Our position on in-stadium advertising is the same as our position on free-to-air television advertising – we don’t advertise before 8.30pm and have not done so since an error was made in Round 1,” the spokesperson said.

“We know the community is over it and it’s the right thing to do.”

According to current rules and regulations, Tabcorp did nothing wrong. While ads cannot be broadcast during matches, bookmakers can pay for pitch-side ads within view of cameras. It’s a loophole that public health experts want tightened.

“This signage creates an impression for young people that gambling is embedded as part of the game,” said Samantha Thomas, a gambling researcher at Deakin University.

“Governments have a responsibility to close the range of channels that the gambling industry can use to promote its products and create brand awareness and loyalty – particularly with a view to protecting children and young people.”

‘Disappointing and frustrating’

Tabcorp’s “error” is the latest example of how, in the absence of a long-awaited regulatory crackdown, bookmakers and clubs have begun to self-regulate themselves to different standards. A conflict over gambling ads is one reason why the powerful wagering lobby splintered in recent months.

Five years ago the Geelong Cats banned all gambling ads at its home ground. The Sydney Swans agreed to do so in 2021. Gambling ads remain at the MCG – although they have decreased – and there appears to be no limit at the Gabba in Brisbane.

All Victorian AFL clubs have turned their backs on gambling sponsorships, while the Brisbane Lions and the GWS Giants have a sponsorship deal with Tabcorp. The AFL itself continues to take a cut of every bet placed on the sport, and promotes bets for its official wagering partner, Sportsbet, that have a high failure rate.

These inconsistencies have frustrated AFL fans still waiting for regulation. A survey conducted by the AFL Fan Association found 79% of respondents supported a ban on gambling ads at stadiums. When that result was released more than a year ago, the association’s president, Ron Issko, hoped the government would act.

“It’s disappointing and frustrating,” Issko says. “Fans had clearly said that they want gambling ads significantly reduced, if not abolished, at grounds, on TV, on radio, on social media – and they are concerned we are normalising gambling.

“We are potentially grooming our kids to become gamblers. We get a number of parents writing to us saying, ‘My 11-year-old son knows the odds of who is going to kick the first goal.’ What is going on?”

A proposed ban

The Albanese government is yet to respond to a parliamentary inquiry, led by the late Labor MP Peta Murphy, which called for a total ban on gambling ads, after a three-year transition period. While broadcasters don’t expect a total ban, the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, has said the “status quo” is untenable.

“The government is examining restrictions and engaging with stakeholders, including harm reduction advocates, health experts and industry, as we develop our policy,” Rowland said earlier this year.

A government response to the inquiry was due by the end of 2023.

Multiple gambling industry sources suggest the response was delayed after Murphy, 50, died.

Like Issko, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ president, Dr Elizabeth Moore, is also concerned by the delay. Moore is calling on the government to adopt the Murphy inquiry’s recommendation.

“There is a strong correlation between problem gambling and comorbid mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders,” Moore says.

The shadow communications minister, David Coleman, also says action is overdue. More than a year ago, the federal opposition proposed a ban on all gambling advertising an hour either side of live sport matches.

“Had the government supported our bill the restrictions on gambling adverts during live sport would already be in place and running by now,” Coleman said.

The government has introduced regulation to protect consumers from gambling harm, including a national self-exclusion register and more assertive public health warnings on broadcast ads. But Moore and others believe those changes don’t go far enough.

Tim Costello, the chief advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, says the return of football has reminded many families of what they hate: “a tsunami of gambling and sports betting ads”.

“Fans hate it,” Costello says. “Parents hate it. But the AFL is unmoved. Do gambling interests now completely own our game?”

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A fresh Jewish voice: the new Australian group opposing antisemitism – and Israel’s conduct

The Jewish Council of Australia hopes to offer an alternative view to the conservative organisations that claim to speak on behalf of a diverse community

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The newly minted Jewish Council of Australia may be a product of the Israel-Gaza war but the group of progressive Jewish academics, teachers, writers and lawyers is continuing a long tradition.

“There have always been progressive threads in the Jewish community in Australia,” says the historian Max Kaiser, an executive officer of the council, which he co-founded in February. His grandfather was a member of the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Antisemitism, established in 1942. Before that, from 1928, there was the Jewish Labor Bund in Melbourne, born as an outpost of the largely Yiddish-speaking socialist movement in eastern Europe (and still active).

“At different stages of Australian Jewish history there have been different organisations that have taken up that mantle,” Kaiser says.

The mandate of the new council, led by Kaiser, Sarah Schwartz and Elizabeth Strakosch, all in their mid-30s to early 40s, is to combat antisemitism and racism in Australia – and to provide an alternative perspective to the organisations that claim to represent Australian Jews.

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“We came together because of the abject failures of many of our Jewish representative organisations in Australia to truthfully portray the Jewish community as being diverse,” says Schwartz, a human rights lawyer. “[Those organisations have failed] to portray Jewish people who are critical of Israel’s conduct, particularly at this time in Gaza.”

Like Strakosch and Kaiser, she volunteers her time and the group has no external funding.

They say the dominant voices in the Jewish community have come from the conservative Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the umbrella body for state-based representative bodies, and a handful of what they see as rightwing political groups.

The ECAJ adheres to and encourages the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which states in part: “Manifestations [of antisemitism] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

It is the definition that Strakosch’s workplace, the University of Melbourne, has adopted, raising what the political scientist calls “problematic implications” around academic freedom while weakening the charge of “actual” antisemitism.

“If [antisemitism] gets weaponised to shut down Palestinian voices, it becomes much harder to call out real antisemitism, which I feel is growing in a number of ways,” she says.

Since the terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas on 7 October and Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza, antisemitic incidents in Australia have multiplied, with the ECAJ recording a 482% increase in the seven weeks after the attacks.

But Strakosch says the harassment of Jews has come from fervent supporters of the Israeli government among the Jewish community as well as from “more blatant and openly violent” neo-Nazis.

At the same time, some Australian Jews have called for a ceasefire in Gaza, reflecting US Jewish movements that are critical of Israel. Jewish groups in Australia including the Tzedek Collective and Jews Against the Occupation have staged sit-ins and protests against war in Gaza – and the council believes the sentiment is growing, particularly among young people.

“Most Jews our age and younger do not read the Australian Jewish News, do not know who the head of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria is, have no real buy-in into those [conservative] institutions,” Kaiser says.

But while the council has also enjoyed what he calls “unexpected” and “overwhelming” support from older people and those who feel they are unable to speak out against Israel publicly, they were prepared for a backlash from the organisations they exist to counter.

In an op-ed for the Jewish Independent (the liberal Jewish platform formerly known Plus61J), Schwartz and Kaiser wrote that Jewish representative leaders had criticised the council – some of whose committee members are descended from Holocaust survivors – in the weeks after its launch.

“One post said the council was formed to deny antisemitism, another said we ‘might as well join Hamas’ and a third, sent to a supporter, said ‘not surprised by your support of the Jew Haters Council of Australia’,” they wrote.

As an unelected voice that does not claim to be representative, the council has spoken out against “the vicious and escalating” assault on Rafah, withdrawal of Unrwa funding and the “moral bankruptcy” of neo-Nazis at a screening of the Holocaust film The Zone of Interest in Melbourne. It strongly supports an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but does not have a formal stance on a two-state solution.

Its advisory committee includes the director of the Adelaide writers’ week, Louise Adler, the academic and Israeli Australian citizen Dr Na’ama Carlin and the publisher and Stella prize co-founder Aviva Tuffield.

There is talk of joining forces with international groups to create a globally connected network of Jewish organisations that support Palestinian freedom, while locally the council plans to work with interfaith groups and politicians.

Strakosch says antisemitism cannot be singled out as a form of racism that is not connected to other forms of it, such as that towards Australia’s Indigenous people.

Kaiser, like his grandfather, is responding to a constantly shifting political landscape. With the ebb and flow of progressive and conservative views of Israel come moments of deep polarisation within the community.

“Particularly around times of war … the right takes up a lot of space,” Kaiser says. “A lot of Jews like ourselves are very, very uncomfortable about that.”

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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, citing an Egyptian aid official, 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.

Michael Sfard, an Israeli Human Rights lawyer and expert in international humanitarian law says the “international community has miserably failed to prevent the deterioration of the Israeli Palestinian conflict to the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza today’’.

He added: “The security council resolution is an important step in the right direction. The question is whether the parties to the conflict will be held accountable if they fail to abide to it.’’

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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Tens of thousands of Israeli protesters call for Netanyahu’s removal

Demonstrators join families of hostages in cities across country and vow to persist until he is ousted as PM

Tens of thousands of people across Israel joined the families of hostages this weekend to protest against the government and call for the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli prime minister grappled with one of the most serious threats yet to his coalition.

The protesters in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Caesarea and other cities on Saturday – and at a further demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday – demanded the release of those still held captive in Gaza after close to six months, and labelled Netanyahu an “obstacle to the deal”, vowing to persist until he leaves power.

“It’s been 176 days that I haven’t turned a blind eye to the thoughts and fear of what Liri and the other abductees are going through,” said Shira Albag, the mother of one hostage, Liri Albag. “The people of Israel won’t forget or forgive anyone who prevents a deal that would bring them [the hostages] back to us. After 176 days, 4,224 hours, the excuses have run out.”

Raz Ben-Ami, a former hostage freed nearly two months ago, said: “They [the hostages] won’t last there; no one can survive what they go through there, believe me.”

Netanyahu is entering the most precarious week for his coalition since the war began as a deadline imposed by the Israeli supreme court to end the exemption for ultra-Orthodox men from military conscription is reached on Monday. The issue divides the coalition between rightwing religious and secular parties, who want to see conscription shared more equally among Jewish Israelis.

At a press conference on Sunday evening, Netanyahu said Israel would press ahead with an offensive against Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population is estimated to be sheltering, and he said a combination of military pressure and flexibility in talks would bring about the release of hostages.

The nationwide protests also coincided with reports from the Egyptian TV station Al-Qahera, known for its ties to the country’s intelligence services, indicating that negotiations for a truce between Israel and Hamas were scheduled to resume in Cairo. A Hamas official told Agence France-Presse that it had not made a decision on whether to send a delegation.

An Israeli airstrike on Sunday hit a tent camp in the courtyard of a crowded hospital in central Gaza, killing two Palestinians and injuring another 15, including journalists working nearby. Gaza’s health ministry said on Sunday that at least 32,782 Palestinians had been killed since the start of the war, including 77 whose bodies had been brought to hospitals over the last 24 hours.

In further signs of spreading tensions within Israel, emergency services said a member of the country’s Arab minority stabbed three soldiers at a bus stop in the southern city of Beersheba on Sunday before one of them shot him dead. Hours later, a knife-wielding Palestinian was shot dead after wounding three people in a shopping mall in nearby Gan Yavne, Israeli media said.

The war was triggered in October when Hamas killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in an attack in southern Israel. The militant Islamist organisation also abducted about 250 people. Israel believes about 130 of these remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday to protest against the government and call for Netanyahu’s removal as prime minister. Yaacov Godo, whose son Tom was killed by Hamas on 7 October, said: “I will camp here in front of the Knesset until the PM resigns.”

Naama Lazimi, a member of the Knesset (MK) for the centre-left Labor party who was at the demonstration, said people had come out to protest because they recognised that the government was failing.

“The people of Israel were deep in sorrow and pain after 7 October, that is why it took so long, but when they understood there is no other option, this government is not functioning and is hurting us economically, diplomatically, in our security and in our values […] that is why people are out,” she said.

“You need to trust the people of Israel. This government will go, but the people of Israel are sane, a good people and we will win this.”

The families of hostages have urged ministers, including Netanyahu’s political rival and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, to unite with other MKs in removing Netanyahu from power, accusing the PM of deliberately sabotaging efforts to secure the release of their relatives.

“If the families knew how small the gap is, which Netanyahu is refusing to close in negotiations with Hamas, they would explode,” said Amos Malka, a former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ military intelligence directorate who was among the speakers at the rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Einav Zangauker, the mother of Matan Zangauker, who is still held in Gaza, said Netanyahu’s handling of the hostages situation had been “incomprehensible and criminal”.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, after you abandoned our families on 7 October, and after 176 days when you didn’t bring a deal [for their return], and because you are continually engaged in torpedoing a deal, we have realised that you are the obstacle to the deal. You are the obstacle. You are the one who stands between us and the return home of our loved ones,” she said.

“If we don’t immediately act to move you away from the steering wheel, we won’t get to see our loved ones returning home alive and fast, and we won’t get to see our dead returned for burial in Israel […] So, today we are compelled to begin a new stage in our struggle.”

Police used water cannon to disperse protesters at the Saturday demonstrations and arrested 16 people.

In a separate protest, scores of demonstrators associated with the Brothers in Arms movement, formed of reservists, rallied in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood on Sunday, demanding the conscription of ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi, men into the IDF.

“I believe, I believe, I believe in enlisting in the military,” the protesters chanted. Counter-protests by ultra-Orthodox men are expected this week.

As well as a deadline to end the exemption, which the Netanyahu government has sought to extend, Israel’s supreme court has also ordered an end to government subsidies from Monday for many ultra-Orthodox men who study the Torah in religious schools instead of serving in the army.

The ruling follows a series of delays by the government in presenting a proposal to the court aimed at enhancing the military enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men, who have historically been exempt.

As Israel’s armed forces continue to wage a nearly six-month-old war in Gaza in which 500 soldiers have been killed, legislators from the government and the opposition have voiced a stance that places the onus of heightened military service obligations on the Haredi community, rather than imposing additional duties on those already in service.

If the ultra-Orthodox parties were to leave the government, the country would be forced into new elections, with Netanyahu trailing significantly in the polls.

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Tens of thousands of Israeli protesters call for Netanyahu’s removal

Demonstrators join families of hostages in cities across country and vow to persist until he is ousted as PM

Tens of thousands of people across Israel joined the families of hostages this weekend to protest against the government and call for the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli prime minister grappled with one of the most serious threats yet to his coalition.

The protesters in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Caesarea and other cities on Saturday – and at a further demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday – demanded the release of those still held captive in Gaza after close to six months, and labelled Netanyahu an “obstacle to the deal”, vowing to persist until he leaves power.

“It’s been 176 days that I haven’t turned a blind eye to the thoughts and fear of what Liri and the other abductees are going through,” said Shira Albag, the mother of one hostage, Liri Albag. “The people of Israel won’t forget or forgive anyone who prevents a deal that would bring them [the hostages] back to us. After 176 days, 4,224 hours, the excuses have run out.”

Raz Ben-Ami, a former hostage freed nearly two months ago, said: “They [the hostages] won’t last there; no one can survive what they go through there, believe me.”

Netanyahu is entering the most precarious week for his coalition since the war began as a deadline imposed by the Israeli supreme court to end the exemption for ultra-Orthodox men from military conscription is reached on Monday. The issue divides the coalition between rightwing religious and secular parties, who want to see conscription shared more equally among Jewish Israelis.

At a press conference on Sunday evening, Netanyahu said Israel would press ahead with an offensive against Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population is estimated to be sheltering, and he said a combination of military pressure and flexibility in talks would bring about the release of hostages.

The nationwide protests also coincided with reports from the Egyptian TV station Al-Qahera, known for its ties to the country’s intelligence services, indicating that negotiations for a truce between Israel and Hamas were scheduled to resume in Cairo. A Hamas official told Agence France-Presse that it had not made a decision on whether to send a delegation.

An Israeli airstrike on Sunday hit a tent camp in the courtyard of a crowded hospital in central Gaza, killing two Palestinians and injuring another 15, including journalists working nearby. Gaza’s health ministry said on Sunday that at least 32,782 Palestinians had been killed since the start of the war, including 77 whose bodies had been brought to hospitals over the last 24 hours.

In further signs of spreading tensions within Israel, emergency services said a member of the country’s Arab minority stabbed three soldiers at a bus stop in the southern city of Beersheba on Sunday before one of them shot him dead. Hours later, a knife-wielding Palestinian was shot dead after wounding three people in a shopping mall in nearby Gan Yavne, Israeli media said.

The war was triggered in October when Hamas killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in an attack in southern Israel. The militant Islamist organisation also abducted about 250 people. Israel believes about 130 of these remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday to protest against the government and call for Netanyahu’s removal as prime minister. Yaacov Godo, whose son Tom was killed by Hamas on 7 October, said: “I will camp here in front of the Knesset until the PM resigns.”

Naama Lazimi, a member of the Knesset (MK) for the centre-left Labor party who was at the demonstration, said people had come out to protest because they recognised that the government was failing.

“The people of Israel were deep in sorrow and pain after 7 October, that is why it took so long, but when they understood there is no other option, this government is not functioning and is hurting us economically, diplomatically, in our security and in our values […] that is why people are out,” she said.

“You need to trust the people of Israel. This government will go, but the people of Israel are sane, a good people and we will win this.”

The families of hostages have urged ministers, including Netanyahu’s political rival and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, to unite with other MKs in removing Netanyahu from power, accusing the PM of deliberately sabotaging efforts to secure the release of their relatives.

“If the families knew how small the gap is, which Netanyahu is refusing to close in negotiations with Hamas, they would explode,” said Amos Malka, a former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ military intelligence directorate who was among the speakers at the rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Einav Zangauker, the mother of Matan Zangauker, who is still held in Gaza, said Netanyahu’s handling of the hostages situation had been “incomprehensible and criminal”.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, after you abandoned our families on 7 October, and after 176 days when you didn’t bring a deal [for their return], and because you are continually engaged in torpedoing a deal, we have realised that you are the obstacle to the deal. You are the obstacle. You are the one who stands between us and the return home of our loved ones,” she said.

“If we don’t immediately act to move you away from the steering wheel, we won’t get to see our loved ones returning home alive and fast, and we won’t get to see our dead returned for burial in Israel […] So, today we are compelled to begin a new stage in our struggle.”

Police used water cannon to disperse protesters at the Saturday demonstrations and arrested 16 people.

In a separate protest, scores of demonstrators associated with the Brothers in Arms movement, formed of reservists, rallied in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood on Sunday, demanding the conscription of ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi, men into the IDF.

“I believe, I believe, I believe in enlisting in the military,” the protesters chanted. Counter-protests by ultra-Orthodox men are expected this week.

As well as a deadline to end the exemption, which the Netanyahu government has sought to extend, Israel’s supreme court has also ordered an end to government subsidies from Monday for many ultra-Orthodox men who study the Torah in religious schools instead of serving in the army.

The ruling follows a series of delays by the government in presenting a proposal to the court aimed at enhancing the military enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men, who have historically been exempt.

As Israel’s armed forces continue to wage a nearly six-month-old war in Gaza in which 500 soldiers have been killed, legislators from the government and the opposition have voiced a stance that places the onus of heightened military service obligations on the Haredi community, rather than imposing additional duties on those already in service.

If the ultra-Orthodox parties were to leave the government, the country would be forced into new elections, with Netanyahu trailing significantly in the polls.

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Israel lodges proposal with UN for dismantling of Palestinian relief agency

Exclusive: Aid officials warn that transferring Unrwa’s functions to other bodies with famine looming would be disastrous

Israel has given the UN a proposal to dismantle Unrwa, its relief agency in the Palestinian territories, and transfer its staff to a replacement agency to make large-scale food deliveries into Gaza, according to UN sources.

The proposal was presented late last week by the Israeli chief of the general staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, to UN officials in Israel, who forwarded it to the organisation’s secretary general, António Guterres, on Saturday, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Unrwa was not involved in the talks as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been refusing to deal with it since last Monday, on the basis of claims, so far unproven, of affiliations of some of the agency’s staff with Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Israel insists it is prepared to allow large amounts of aid into Gaza and that the limiting factor is UN capacity. Its decision not to cooperate with Unrwa severely affects that capacity.

Under the terms presented last week, 300 to 400 Unrwa staff would initially be transferred either to another UN agency, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), or to a new organisation specially created to distribute food aid in Gaza.

More Unrwa employees could be transferred in later stages and the agency’s assets would also be transferred. Details were vague of who would run any new agency under the scheme, or of who would provide security for its deliveries.

Unrwa, which has been supporting the Palestinian territories since 1950, has been shut out of conversations on its future existence despite being the largest humanitarian actor in the territory. “Unrwa has not been systematically privy to conversations related to coordinating humanitarian aid in Gaza,” said the organisation’s director of external relations, Tamara Alrifai.

Some UN officials see the Israeli plan as an attempt to portray the UN as unwilling to cooperate if there is famine in Gaza, which humanitarian organisations have warned is impending. On Thursday the international court of justice, which is examining genocide charges against Israel, ordered the Israeli government to take “all necessary and effective measures” to ensure the large-scale delivery of aid to Gaza “in full cooperation with the United Nations”.

Some inside the UN, other aid agencies and human rights groups also see the Israeli proposal as the culmination of a long Israeli campaign to destroy Unrwa.

“If we allow this, it is the slippery slope to us being completely managed directly by the Israelis, and the UN directly being complicit in undermining Unrwa, which is not only the biggest aid provider but also the biggest bastion of anti-extremism in Gaza,” one UN official said. “We would be playing into so many political agendas if we allowed this to happen.”

Guterres’s office and the IDF did not respond to requests for comment.

Alrifai said the small size of the proposed new aid distribution entity would hobble its ability to effectively deliver aid in Gaza at a time when the need was greatest. “This is no criticism of WFP, but logically if they were to start food distribution in Gaza tomorrow, they’re going to use Unrwa trucks and bring food into Unrwa warehouses, and then distribute food in or around Unrwa shelters,” she said.

“So they’re going to need at a minimum the same infrastructure that we have, including the human resources.”

Unrwa is by far the biggest aid organisation in Gaza, employing 13,000 staff at the time the war broke out, 3,000 of whom are still doing their jobs, as well as tens of thousands more across the West Bank and elsewhere in the Middle East. In addition to distributing food, the agency is a major employer in Gaza, providing teaching and essential medical services as healthcare in the enclave crumbles.

“It’s not just food. We have seven healthcare centres now running in Gaza, we give 23,000 consultations every day, and we have administered 53,000 vaccines since the war started. So that in itself is an entire field that no other agency right now can offer,” Alrifai said.

“It’s great that we’re focusing on food because of the famine, and we are raising the alarm about malnutrition, but Unrwa is so much more than food distribution.”

Israel has claimed that up to 11% of Unrwa employees are affiliated with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and that as many as 30 took some part in the 7 October attack on Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed.

Israel has yet to provide evidence for the allegations, which led to the suspension of $450m in funding by 16 major donors at a time when the 2.3 million people in Gaza were sliding towards famine.

Earlier this month, the US Congress voted for a spending bill that included a clause blocking future US financing of Unrwa, but other national donors have resumed their funding in the weeks since the UN launched two inquiries. One is an investigation of the specific Israeli allegations, which reported a month ago that it was yet to receive evidence from Israel for its allegations but was hopeful about future cooperation.

The second inquiry, chaired by the former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna and supported by three Nordic research agencies, is a broader review of the agency’s integrity. An interim report by the Colonna inquiry on 20 March said Unrwa had a “significant number of mechanisms and procedures” to ensure its neutrality but that critical areas still needed to be addressed.

The IDF halted cooperation with Unrwa as Australia, Canada and Sweden, Finland and Japan said they would resume funding the agency. The Israeli military has sought to work with other agencies, such as the WFP, instead.

Behind the scenes at the UN, the US has supported the Israeli effort to fold Unrwa’s functions into other agencies, but diplomats in New York said that effort had so far been resisted by other donors and Guterres, who until now has given his full support to Unrwa.

“We must strive to keep the one-of-a-kind services that Unrwa provides flowing, because that keeps hope flowing,” the secretary general said on a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan last week, adding that it would be “cruel and incomprehensible” to stop Unrwa services to Palestinians.

Unrwa derives its mandate from the UN general assembly, which in theory can alone decide the agency’s fate.

Some UN aid officials argue that only Unrwa has the resources and the confidence of ordinary Palestinians to deliver food aid to Gaza, and that trying to reinvent an aid organisation for political reasons in response to Israeli demands, in the midst of bombardment and the onset of a famine, would have disastrous consequences.

“It is outrageous that UN agencies like WFP and senior UN officials are engaging in discussions about dismantling Unrwa,” said Chris Gunness, a former Unrwa spokesperson. “The general assembly gives Unrwa its mandate and only the general assembly can change it, not the secretary general and certainly not a single member state.”

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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.

Guardian Australia understands the evidence includes an affidavit with new information about Lehrmann’s dealings with the Seven Network’s Spotlight program.

Lehrmann gave an exclusive interview to Liam Bartlett on Spotlight in return for more than $100,000 towards his Sydney rental accomodation.

Last week a former Spotlight producer, Taylor Auerbach, issued defamation proceedings against Lehrmann after the former Liberal staffer made statements to the press which implied the producer lied about what took place when Seven was courting Lehrmann for an interview.

It was reported last week that Spotlight had put almost $3,000 on a Seven credit card to pay for Thai massages for Lehrmann and a producer.

“It’s an untrue and bizarre story from a disgruntled ex-Network Seven producer,” Lehrmann told News Corp last week. “Network Seven [has] only ever covered reasonable travel for filming and accommodation.”

Auerbach’s solicitor Rebekah Giles reportedly said in a concerns notice that Lehrmann’s comments about her client were false and conveyed a defamatory imputation.

Ten’s barrister, 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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Second energy firm wrongly received money from welfare payments under Centrepay scheme

Services Australia is working with Ergon to return overpayments, prompting fears the issue first identified at AGL could be widespread

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A second Australian energy company wrongly received money from the welfare payments of former customers, prompting fears that the issue identified at AGL could be widespread.

Guardian Australia revealed last week that $700,000 had been diverted via the government-run Centrepay debit system from the pockets of more than 500 welfare recipients to the energy giant AGL.

Court documents showed the Centrepay system, designed to give businesses early access to a person’s welfare money, continued to funnel payments to AGL for years after individuals ceased being AGL customers.

In one case $6,800 was wrongly diverted from a welfare recipient’s payments in 74 separate deductions up to 11 December 2020. The welfare recipient had ceased being an AGL customer more than two years earlier.

Services Australia has now confirmed it is working with a second energy retailer, Queensland’s Ergon Energy Retail, to return overpayments made via Centrepay. It is unclear how much in overpayments was made to Ergon or over what period.

“The agency has supported the return of all overpayments to AGL customers,” said a spokesperson, Hank Jongen. “We have also commenced processes to support Ergon to return all funds to impacted customers.

“The agency supports the return of overpayments where businesses are unable to facilitate refunds themselves.”

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Ergon Energy Retail confirmed it was in discussions with Services Australia about Centrepay deductions.

A spokesperson said Centrepay deductions could remain in place for final bills and for services that had previously been supplied after a customer had their supply disconnected.

The spokesperson said the company had robust processes for billing and to ensure any accounts in credit were refunded, and customers chose their methods of payment and set the amounts to be paid. The company noted Centrepay and other payment systems were managed externally to Ergon.

“If automatic payments are scheduled by the customer, they are unlikely to exactly match the billing amount, as electricity bills are highly variable depending on individual customer use,” the spokesperson said.

“If there is a credit on the account after an account has been closed, then Ergon Energy Retail will use best endeavours to return the excess CentrePay deduction to the customer or to Services Australia,” the spokesperson said.

“Ergon Energy Retail will first notify the customer via a message on their final bill that their account is in credit and request they make contact to organise a refund.

“After the issue of the final bill, Ergon Energy Retail will attempt to make contact as per its Services Australia agreement.”

A Guardian Australia investigation last week revealed deep problems with the Centrepay system, including its use to prop up a Christian rehabilitation centre using gay conversion practices and exorcisms and by rent-to-buy companies previously sanctioned by the corporate regulator.

Documents tendered in the federal court, where the Australian Energy Regulator is suing AGL, allege that the energy giant also knew it was continuing to receive money from former customers via Centrepay but did nothing for years. That allowed more than $700,000 in welfare payments to be wrongly diverted from recipients to AGL, the documents allege.

AGL denies it had control over the deductions, saying that was a matter for Services Australia, and is defending the case.

The company said it had not benefited from the diverted payments, which sat as credit in customers’ accounts and have now been refunded.

The Centrepay system is designed to give government-approved businesses early access to a person’s welfare payment, ensuring individuals can cover essentials such as rent, electricity and clothing. But customer advocates have warned for years that it is causing financial harm to welfare recipients.

The government says it is urgently pursuing reforms to the system, including to better prevent overpayments from occurring.

“It includes significant government, industry and customer consultation with a focus on safeguards and protections for customers to reduce financial harm, including Centrepay overpayments,” the spokesperson said.

A Services Australia spokesperson said Centrepay businesses are “made aware of their obligations to prevent overpayments from Centrepay customers” and that it investigates where any overpayments are identified.

But consumer advocates say both have a responsibility to ensure people do not overpay for services at all, particularly those on low incomes who are most likely experiencing financial hardship.

“If they’ve got one energy provider that they’ve left and they started with a new one, they’re actually double paying for energy, which means they’re sure to be in financial hardship,” the Mob Strong Debt Help financial counsellor and Boandik woman Bettina Cooper said.

“People on Centrelink are already on the lowest income possible. And to be in a situation because of either the business or Centrepay failings, then they are double paying for energy. We know it means they’ll have a greater reliability on emergency services and emergency relief. And they’ll certainly be in financial hardship and have trouble meeting other bills.

“We’ve seen this time and time again, not just with energy companies, but with consumer leases and other organisations. And it is time that Centrelink and Centrepay review and take steps to reform their systems and stop these overpayments and this harm to their most vulnerable customers.”

Cooper said it was not adequate for businesses and the government to assume all customers are able to access online accounts to cancel or change services, particularly those in remote communities.

“We know there’s a large level of digital exclusion amongst First Nations clients,” she said. “And we know that there’s a large number of First Nations clients signed up to Centrepay. So if the only way for a person to cancel it is via an online portal, then we’re not considering the needs of the customer. We need to provide an inclusive service.”

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OpenAI deems its voice cloning tool too risky for general release

Delaying the Voice Engine technology rollout minimises the potential for misinformation in an important global election year

A new tool from OpenAI that can generate a convincing clone of anyone’s voice using just 15 seconds of recorded audio has been deemed too risky for general release, as the AI lab seeks to minimise the threat of damaging misinformation in a global year of elections.

Voice Engine was first developed in 2022 and an initial version was used for the text-to-speech feature built into ChatGPT, the organisation’s leading AI tool. But its power has never been revealed publicly, in part because of the “cautious and informed” approach that OpenAI is taking to release it more widely.

“We hope to start a dialogue on the responsible deployment of synthetic voices, and how society can adapt to these new capabilities,” OpenAI said in an unsigned blogpost. “Based on these conversations and the results of these small-scale tests, we will make a more informed decision about whether and how to deploy this technology at scale.”

In its post the company shared examples of real-world uses of the technology from various partners who were given access to it to build into their own apps and products.

Education technology firm Age of Learning uses it to generate scripted voiceovers, while “AI visual storytelling” app HeyGen offers users the ability to generate translations of recorded content in a way that is fluent but preserves the accent and voice of the original speaker. For example, generating English with an audio sample from a French speaker produces speech with a French accent.

Notably, researchers at the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute in Rhode Island used a poor-quality 15-second clip of a young woman giving a presentation at a school project to “restore the voice” that she had lost due to a vascular brain tumour.

“We are choosing to preview but not widely release this technology at this time,” OpenAI said, in order “to bolster societal resilience against the challenges brought by ever more convincing generative models”. In the immediate future, it said: “We encourage steps like phasing out voice-based authentication as a security measure for accessing bank accounts and other sensitive information.”

OpenAI also called for the exploration of “policies to protect the use of individuals’ voices in AI” and “educating the public in understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI technologies, including the possibility of deceptive AI content”.

Voice Engine generations are watermarked, OpenAI said, which allows the organisation to trace the origin of any generated audio. Currently, it added, “our terms with these partners require explicit and informed consent from the original speaker and we don’t allow developers to build ways for individual users to create their own voices”.

But while OpenAI’s tool stands out for the technical simplicity and the tiny amount of original audio required to generate a convincing clone, competitors are already available to the public.

With just a “few minutes of audio”, companies such as ElevenLabs can generate a complete voice clone. To try to mitigate harms, the company has introduced a “no-go voices” safeguard, designed to detect and prevent the creation of voice clones “that mimic political candidates actively involved in presidential or prime ministerial elections, starting with those in the US and the UK”.

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OpenAI deems its voice cloning tool too risky for general release

Delaying the Voice Engine technology rollout minimises the potential for misinformation in an important global election year

A new tool from OpenAI that can generate a convincing clone of anyone’s voice using just 15 seconds of recorded audio has been deemed too risky for general release, as the AI lab seeks to minimise the threat of damaging misinformation in a global year of elections.

Voice Engine was first developed in 2022 and an initial version was used for the text-to-speech feature built into ChatGPT, the organisation’s leading AI tool. But its power has never been revealed publicly, in part because of the “cautious and informed” approach that OpenAI is taking to release it more widely.

“We hope to start a dialogue on the responsible deployment of synthetic voices, and how society can adapt to these new capabilities,” OpenAI said in an unsigned blogpost. “Based on these conversations and the results of these small-scale tests, we will make a more informed decision about whether and how to deploy this technology at scale.”

In its post the company shared examples of real-world uses of the technology from various partners who were given access to it to build into their own apps and products.

Education technology firm Age of Learning uses it to generate scripted voiceovers, while “AI visual storytelling” app HeyGen offers users the ability to generate translations of recorded content in a way that is fluent but preserves the accent and voice of the original speaker. For example, generating English with an audio sample from a French speaker produces speech with a French accent.

Notably, researchers at the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute in Rhode Island used a poor-quality 15-second clip of a young woman giving a presentation at a school project to “restore the voice” that she had lost due to a vascular brain tumour.

“We are choosing to preview but not widely release this technology at this time,” OpenAI said, in order “to bolster societal resilience against the challenges brought by ever more convincing generative models”. In the immediate future, it said: “We encourage steps like phasing out voice-based authentication as a security measure for accessing bank accounts and other sensitive information.”

OpenAI also called for the exploration of “policies to protect the use of individuals’ voices in AI” and “educating the public in understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI technologies, including the possibility of deceptive AI content”.

Voice Engine generations are watermarked, OpenAI said, which allows the organisation to trace the origin of any generated audio. Currently, it added, “our terms with these partners require explicit and informed consent from the original speaker and we don’t allow developers to build ways for individual users to create their own voices”.

But while OpenAI’s tool stands out for the technical simplicity and the tiny amount of original audio required to generate a convincing clone, competitors are already available to the public.

With just a “few minutes of audio”, companies such as ElevenLabs can generate a complete voice clone. To try to mitigate harms, the company has introduced a “no-go voices” safeguard, designed to detect and prevent the creation of voice clones “that mimic political candidates actively involved in presidential or prime ministerial elections, starting with those in the US and the UK”.

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Analysis

Latest election poll projection makes even worse reading for Tory MPs

Peter Walker Deputy political editor

Breakdown of which 250 would lose seats based on survey will only add to mutinous mood but there is little consensus on what to do

One of the advantages – or terrors, depending on your perspective – of a so-called MRP poll is being able to see exactly which MPs would or would not survive in a projected election scenario. And for all but 98 of Rishi Sunak’s troops, the latest news is grim.

To some extent, the Survation poll of 15,000-plus people released on Saturday night will tell Conservatives little they didn’t already know. But the starkness of its detail will chill many and enrage others.

The headline figures of the poll, which was commissioned by Best for Britain, are that Labour could take 468 seats and the Conservatives just 98 – a stonking Labour majority of 286, 107 greater than in 1997.

Using a polling technique called multilevel regression and poststratification, or MRP, Survation has put together a list of more than a dozen cabinet ministers who would be among a swathe of senior Tories to be kicked out of parliament under this result.

Just as alarming for Sunak is the fact that any Tory MP can click on the Survation data tables and see whether they are among the lucky 98. For 250 of them, it will be bad news.

If that was not reason enough for mutiny then Survation has a parallel series of data tables, and seat-by-seat results, in the hypothetical scenario of Reform UK standing aside, which would deliver 50 more Tory wins.

While Reform has insisted that, unlike in 2019, it will not give the Conservatives a free run, many Tories will have spotted that only on Friday their party ruled out making any sort of deal with Nigel Farage, Reform’s founder and resident big beast, a definitive verdict that some Conservative MPs may see as hasty.

Where does all this leave us? The short answer, for the Conservatives, is: in a very big mess. The slightly longer version is that while it is fair to say a lot of Sunak’s MPs have concluded he is marching them at speed off the edge of a cliff, there is no real consensus on what to do about it.

The one point of agreement is that little will happen before the local elections on 2 May, when voters will pick 2,600-plus councillors and 10 metro mayors in England, as well as police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.

Given that these seats were last contested amid the Boris Johnson vaccine bounce of May 2021, a grim set of results for the Tories is already largely baked in. What could tip despondency into outright rebellion would be something worse than anticipated, perhaps the loss of the Conservative-held mayoralties of the West Midlands and Tees Valley, for example.

But what then? Even if at least 53 Conservative MPs, the 15%-of-the-total threshold needed to trigger a motion of no confidence, were by then convinced Sunak was the wrong person for the job, actually pushing for his removal is a very different matter.

For one thing, there is no agreement about who could or should take over – plus the complication that according to the Survation poll, some of those supposedly in the frame, such as Penny Mordaunt and James Cleverly, are forecast to lose their seats.

Perhaps the biggest block to action is the fact that it would risk the party looking – for all that this is not a description normally used in political discourse – like an utter shambles.

If the challenge succeeded, the Tories would face huge pressure to call an election with their sixth prime minister since 2016 and their fourth since the last election. There is also speculation that Sunak would respond to a leadership challenge by simply calling an election.

The other outcome – Sunak winning a vote of confidence– would leave him even more damaged than now, with a sizeable minority of his own MPs having publicly said he was not up to the job. In such a scenario, the Survation poll might end up looking optimistic.

Any Conservatives hoping to switch off over the Easter recess will have had their political slumber abruptly interrupted by this poll. Many will now be thinking: what next? Beyond that point lies only chaos. The only real choice seems to be: what sort of chaos would you like?

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Seven children, ages 12 to 17, wounded in Indianapolis mass shooting, police say

Victims transported to area hospitals after police heard shots fired near Circle Centre Mall on Saturday night

Seven children between the ages of 12 and 17 were wounded in one of the US’s latest mass shooting, which erupted outside a shopping mall in downtown Indianapolis late Saturday night, authorities said.

Police officers patrolling the area heard shots fired near the Circle Centre Mall shortly after 11.30pm, said the deputy chief of the Indianapolis metropolitan police department, Tanya Terry.

The officers found “a large group of juveniles” at the scene, including six who had gunshot wounds and were transported to area hospitals, Terry said during a news briefing at the scene early Sunday morning.

One of the victims was upgraded from critical to stable condition. The other victims all were listed in stable condition, said Terry, who was not able to immediately provide the genders of the victims.

A seventh child with a gunshot wound arrived separately at a hospital and was in stable condition, she said.

“Once again, we have a situation in which young people are resolving conflict with firearms, and it has to stop,” Terry said. “Conflict should not lead to somebody pulling out a gun and trying to resolve it. The consequences are eternal.”

Investigators believe there was more than one gun used in the shooting, Terry said.

No arrests were made, and police did not immediately have any suspects, she said.

According to the nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive, the shooting in Indianapolis was among more than 90 mass shootings in the US so far this year. The archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more victims are injured or killed.

Perenially high rates of mass shootings in the US have inspired calls for more substantial gun control from some political quarters, though any measures enacted are lax when compared to many other countries with lower rates of violence.

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Trade body urges removal of Playboy centrefold test image from members’ journals

Lena Forsén’s picture has been used as reference photo since the 1970s, but Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers says it now breaches code of ethics

Cropped from the shoulders up, the Playboy centrefold of Swedish model Lena Forsén looking back at the photographer is an unlikely candidate for one of the most reproduced images ever.

Shortly after it was printed in the November 1972 issue of the magazine, the photograph was digitised by Alexander Sawchuk, an assistant professor at the University of California, using a scanner designed for press agencies. Sawchuk and his engineering colleagues needed new images to test their processing algorithms. Bored with TV test images, they turned to the centrefold, defending its choice by noting that it featured a face and a mixture of light and dark colours. Fortunately, the limits of the scanner meant that only the top five inches were scanned, with just Forsén’s bare shoulder hinting at the nature of the original picture.

From that beginning, the photo became a standard reference image, used countless times over the 50-plus years since to demonstrate advances in image compression technology, test new hardware and software, and to explain image editing techniques.

Now, though, Lena’s days may be numbered. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a large global trade body, has issued a notice to its members warning against the continued use of the photo in academic articles.

“Starting 1 April, new manuscript submissions will no longer be allowed to include the Lena image,” wrote Terry Benzel, vice-president of the IEEE Computer Society’s technical and conference wing. Benzel cited a motion passed by the group’s publishing board, which reads: “IEEE’s diversity statement and supporting policies such as the IEEE code of ethics speak to IEEE’s commitment to promoting an inclusive and equitable culture that welcomes all. In alignment with this culture and with respect to the wishes of the subject of the image, Lena Forsén, IEEE will no longer accept submitted papers which include the ‘Lena image’.”

The IEEE isn’t the first organisation to call time on the photo. In 2018, the scientific journal Nature issued its own edict, blocking the image in all its research journals. “We believe that the history of the Lena image clashes with the extensive efforts to promote women undertaking higher education in science and engineering and therefore have decided to adopt this policy,” the publisher wrote in an unsigned editorial.

Plenty of reasons have been given for the image’s durability, including its “dynamic range”, the centrality of a human face, the fine detail on Lena’s hair and the feather in the hat she is wearing. But as far back as 1996, the outgoing editor in chief of one IEEE journal said, by way of explaining why he hadn’t taken action against the picture, that “the Lena image is a picture of an attractive woman”. He added: “It is not surprising that the [mostly male] image processing research community gravitated toward an image that they found attractive.”

One organisation that could have put an end to the spread of Lena’s image in an instant, but never did, was Playboy itself. In 1992, the magazine wrote to one academic journal threatening action, but never pushed the matter. A few years later, the company changed its mind. “We decided we should exploit this, because it is a phenomenon,” Playboy’s vice-president of new media said in 1997.

Forsén herself has also suggested that the photo should be retired. In 2019, she said she was “really proud” of the picture and she re-created the shot for Wired magazine, which called her “the patron saint of JPEGs”. But later that year, the documentary Losing Lena spearheaded the latest effort to encourage computer science to move on. “I retired from modelling a long time ago,” Forsén said on its release. “It’s time I retired from tech, too. We can make a simple change today that creates a lasting change for tomorrow. Let’s commit to losing me.”

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Turkey’s opposition party sweeps to local elections victory in snub to Erdoğan

Ekrem Imamoğlu secures unexpected second term as Istanbul’s mayor, propelling the CHP to the centre of national politics

Turkey’s main opposition party dealt an unexpected blow to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule on Sunday with a sweeping victory in Turkey’s local elections, maintaining control of major cities including the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, where Ekrem Imamoğlu secured a second term as mayor.

“My dear Istanbulites, you opened the door to a new future today,” Imamoğlu told overjoyed supporters of his opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) while declaring victory. “Starting from tomorrow, Turkey will be a different Turkey. You opened the door to the rise of democracy, equality and freedom … You ignited hope at the ballot box.”

Favourable turnout continued benefit the opposition as the night wore on, and the CHP secured control of a broad swath of western Turkey and scored wins across more conservative regions next to the Black Sea and central Anatolia, areas traditionally seen as hostile to its policies.

The results quickly became symbolic of dissatisfaction with Erdoğan, who began rallying his supporters to turn out in local elections immediately after winning the presidency last year.

Erdoğan was at the forefront of his party’s campaign to retake Istanbul, holding rallies in the city in the week before the vote and attending prayers at the symbolic Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul the night prior to the ballot.

“These election results show that voters decided to establish a new politics in Turkey,” said the head of the CHP, Özgür Özel, addressing the public with tears in his eyes.

In a muted speech to a subdued crowd outside his party’s headquarters in Ankara, Erdoğan praised the vote itself rather than the outcome. “Regardless of the results, the winner of this election is primarily democracy,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the result we wanted in local elections … Everything happens for a reason. We will rebuild trust in places where our nation has chosen someone else.”

Erdoğan addressed most of his comments to the crowd, telling them at one point: “I am madly in love with you.”

Imamoğlu, the star of Turkey’s opposition, beat his rival, Murat Kurum, a former bureaucrat and environment minister from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party (AKP), by a significant margin in Turkey’s largest city, where his mayorship has become a thorn in the side of the Turkish president. With a majority of votes counted, the Istanbul mayor was on course to beat Kurum by 10%.

Across Istanbul, drivers honked car horns in celebration, while videos showed jubilant people tearing down a poster featuring Kurum’s face.

“These results will put Imamoğlu and the CHP at the centre of Turkish politics,” said Yusuf Can, an analyst with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Erdoğan demanded a rerun of Imamoğlu’s initial election victory in 2019, leading to a resounding second win for the opposition mayor. The result vaulted him from a minor municipal official to a role as the main challenger to Erdoğan’s rule. His second resounding victory is expected to set Imamoğlu on the path to a presidential run.

The mayor’s campaign for a second term proved challenging. Election insiders estimated that Erdoğan’s AKP outspent Imamoğlu and the CHP by a factor of three in Istanbul, the country’s financial and cultural centre, where Erdoğan occupied the position of mayor 30 years ago.

Despite Erdoğan’s name not appearing on the ballot, voters across the country seized the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with his policies, many citing Turkey’s struggling economy as their motivation for voting for the opposition or a rising collection of smaller parties further to the right than the AKP.

“It’s a resounding message,” said Selim Sazak, the head of Sanda Global, an Ankara-based consultancy that advised several campaigns during the local election cycle. “The voters are telling the government that the economy is really hurting them.”

Their message, he added, was that either Imamoğlu or Ankara’s mayor, Mansur Yavaș, could have turned out a similar sweeping victory for the opposition if the CHP had selected them as presidential candidates last year.

The AKP selected the former environment minister Murat Kurum, born and raised in Ankara, to challenge the charismatic Istanbul mayor for a seat that Erdoğan held from 1994 to 1998, only furthering the impression that Erdoğan sought to bring Istanbul back within the central government’s sphere of influence.

However, some of Kurum’s recent jabs at İmamoğlu backfired, notably his decision to tell the latter that he should “go and manage a meatball shop”, in reference to a popular Turkish staple.

Imamoğlu made plenty of use of Kurum’s comments on the campaign trail as evidence that his challenger was out of touch with the average Istanbulite, telling a crowd of supporters: “Do you know why I love this election? Both the meatball maker and the minister are equal [at the ballot box].”

Erdoğan’s efforts to place himself at the forefront of the fight to retake Istanbul also backfired with many of its residents. Turkey has been plagued by an economic crisis linked to his policies, one that has hit the populations of major cities the hardest.

“That son of a bitch raised inflation himself. That’s enough,” said one voter, Burhan, who asked that his family name be withheld. He said he had previously voted for the AKP but opted for Imamoğlu this time as he remained unhappy about the lack of economic progress since Erdoğan’s victory last year.

After winning re-election, Erdoğan appointed a new finance minister and central bank governor, who introduced reforms and austerity measures that some observers considered essential, but which left much of the public worse off as inflation continued to rise.

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