The Guardian 2024-04-06 01:03:39


Online ads promote ‘simple’ access to super to pay for healthcare, despite strict rules

Peak consumer body and financial services minister warn against private providers encouraging patients to tap into super to fund medical procedures

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Advertisements offering patients “simple” access to their superannuation to pay for medical treatments have been described by the peak consumer health body as a “worrying trend” amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) approved 37,400 individuals to access their superannuation early on compassionate medical grounds in 2022-23, releasing a total of $730m.

That compares with 30,100 individuals and $545m the previous year. Of those approved in 2022-23, 13,540 people used the funds for dental treatment, 2,780 for IVF and 14,410 for weight loss treatments.

The chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum, Dr Elizabeth Deveny, said: “Together with the rising cost of living, we believe that one of the reasons more people are dipping into their super to pay for their healthcare costs is because of the increasing privatisation of Australian healthcare.

“It is a worrying trend.”

She said that as more services were offered privately – rather than through Medicare – people would increasingly need to pay large out-of-pocket amounts to cover their healthcare costs.

There are strict rules about accessing super for medical treatment. Individuals must provide the ATO with a medical report from two registered medical practitioners, one of whom must be a specialist in the field of treatment.

The reports must certify that the treatment is required to treat a life-threatening illness or injury, alleviate acute or chronic pain or alleviate an acute or chronic mental illness and that treatment is not readily available in the public health system.

But numerous online advertisements, especially for dental treatment, describe accessing superannuation for medical purposes as a “quick” and “simple” process and offer services to help patients to do so.

“We are concerned about a business model where private providers are helping people to access their super for this reason, in tandem with promoting clinics who offer a range of services,” Deveny said.

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“While we recognise that it is not illegal for dental practitioners to be advertising in this way, we aren’t exactly thrilled by it either. For us, it is a worrying trend that more and more health professions might soon start encouraging their patients to dig into their super too.”

In February, the financial services minister, Stephen Jones, said in an address to the Sydney Institute: “There are surgeons and medical practitioners who view super as their personal river of gold.

“They are encouraging, and even pressuring, patients to tap into their super for what might be termed life‑enhancing procedures like cosmetic surgery,” he said.

“There are business models set up to game the system. It is greedy.”

A spokesperson for the minister said he stood by the comments, and that the objective of superannuation was “to preserve savings to deliver income for a dignified retirement”.

The spokesperson said ATO data could not be examined at a more granular level to determine the process that led to the release of funds, but said the minister had been approached by “concerned stakeholders” concerned that “individuals are actively encouraged to access their super to pay for medical procedures”.

An ATO spokesperson said staff thoroughly reviewed every application to determine whether they met a lawful ground for release of funds.

But the scheme “appropriately and necessarily relies on the professional ethics of medical professionals to provide accurate reports”, the spokesperson said. “ATO staff are not equipped, or required, to question a patient’s diagnosis or the required treatment strategy.

“It would be deeply inappropriate for the ATO to interfere in the relationship between a patient and their medical professional and double-guess a diagnosis.”

The chief executive of the Australian Dental Association, Damian Mitsch, said if people could not access dental care unless they dipped into superannuation it was “indicative of a healthcare system in which some people are desperate and unable to afford essential care”.

“Our advice to Australians is that accessing superannuation can have long term financial effects … people should properly understand what the long term financial impact is before agreeing to sign off on a superannuation withdrawal.”

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NSW weather: evacuations and flood warnings for parts of Sydney as state braces for more storms and heavy rain

SES issues evacuation orders as suburbs on Sydney’s fringes and in NSW Hunter region face threat of flooding as storms shift south

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Suburbs on Sydney’s fringes are facing the threat of significant flooding as intense storms slowly shift south.

More than a month’s worth of rain fell over Sydney, Port Macquarie and Taree on Friday, delaying trains, cutting power and leading to evacuation alerts.

Warragamba dam, which holds most of Sydney’s water supply, reached full capacity and began spilling early on Saturday morning – two days earlier than predicted.

Evacuation orders were issued by the SES for 11 locations overnight on Friday and Saturday morning, including along the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system, lowlying parts of Chipping Norton in western Sydney and North Narrabeen on the northern beaches.

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The NSW State Emergency Service was involved in 44 flood rescues by Saturday morning and had received more than 4,000 calls in the past 24 hours.

The Cooks River burst its banks at Earlwood after 7am on Saturday, triggering road closures and early morning traffic.

Moderate flooding has also taken place at North Richmond and Windsor in Sydney’s north-west.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Helen Reid said many parts of the region had been hit with more than 100mm of rain in the past 24 hours.

“As a result of the rain, many rivers have risen, with minor flood warnings being issued overnight,” she said on Saturday.

“Since yesterday, the heaviest rainfall has been at Darkes Forest, with a total of 228mm there, and it’s still raining.”

The focus of the rain is expected to be in north-eastern and south-eastern NSW and more 33 flood warnings remain across the state.

But Reid said there could be reprieve on the horizon for some Sydneysiders.

“We are expecting a clearance of rainfall for Sydney today,” she said.

“A lot of areas have already seen the heaviest rainband move through, though we are looking at it being an easier day in Sydney as we look towards what water has fallen.”

The severe weather risk was expected to have moved south of the capital on Saturday morning.

But the BoM warned isolated severe thunderstorms may redevelop on Saturday afternoon.

Up to 150mm remained possible within a six-hour period for areas stretching hundreds of kilometres from the Blue Mountains to Narooma.

Numerous rivers – including the Hawkesbury, Nepean, Georges, Lower Hunter, Myall, Macquarie and Woronora – were on flood watch.

“With the forecast rainfall, further river level rises and moderate to major flooding is possible from Saturday morning along the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers,” the BoM warned on Friday evening.

Liverpool and Milperra in south-western Sydney could experience moderate flooding from the Georges River from Saturday morning.

Surfers and other beachgoers were also warned to stay “well away from the surf and surf-exposed areas” due to dangerous conditions, particularly at east-facing beaches.

Scores of community sport teams had their winter seasons delayed with flooded grounds from Wollondilly to the northern beaches closed all weekend.

The premier, Chris Minns, advised residents to remain alert and up to date with warnings.

“It is a volatile event and we need to make sure that we’ve got the latest information … but it does require everybody being alert,” he said on Friday.

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Israeli inquiry findings on aid worker killings lack credibility, charity says

WCK renews call for independent investigation as former general blames incident on ‘grave errors’

World Central Kitchen has rejected as lacking credibility the findings of an Israeli investigation led by a former general into a coordinated series of Israeli drone strikes on the charity’s vehicles in Gaza this week that killed seven aid workers.

As the Israel Defense Forces blamed a series of “grave errors” by officers for the deadly attack that killed three Britons, three other foreign nationals and a Palestinian colleague while delivering food, WCK renewed its calls for a full and independent investigation.

Amid mounting international pressure on Israel, the British foreign secretary, David Cameron, said the findings of the Israeli inquiry – which he said the UK was reviewing carefully – showed that “major reform” was required.

“It’s clear major reform of Israel’s deconfliction mechanism is badly needed to ensure the safety of aid workers,” Cameron said on X.

The hurriedly completed inquiry, which led to two middle-ranking officers being dismissed and a general reprimanded, outlined a catalogue of failings by Israeli forces in an incident that has reinforced global criticism of Israel’s conduct of a war in which 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in six months.

While welcoming the report as a first step, WCK’s founder, the celebrity chef José Andrés, said: “The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza. It’s not enough to simply try to avoid further humanitarian deaths, which have now approached close to 200. All civilians need to be protected, and all innocent people in Gaza need to be fed and safe. And all hostages must be released.”

The charity’s chief executive, Erin Gore, said: “Their apologies for the outrageous killing of our colleagues represent cold comfort. It’s cold comfort for the victims’ families and WCK’s global family. Israel needs to take concrete steps to assure the safety of humanitarian aid workers. Our operations remain suspended.”

WCK’s remarks were echoed by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, who said fixing failings in Israel’s military procedures required “independent investigations” and meaningful and measurable changes on the ground.

Noting that 196 humanitarian workers had been killed during Israel’s campaign, Guterres said: “We want to know why.”

The announcement of punishments and the apology have not calmed the international outcry over the WCK workers’ deaths or reassured international aid groups that it is safe to resume operations in Gaza, where nearly a third of the population is on the brink of starvation.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the US was reviewing the findings and would be looking very carefully at what concrete measures Israel was taking to reduce civilian harm.

“It’s very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident. It’s also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable,” he said in Brussels. “Even more important is that steps are being taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again.”

The Israeli military commission of inquiry blamed a series of “grave errors” by military personnel, including lack of coordination and misidentification. The IDF said it had dismissed a brigade chief of staff with the rank of colonel and a brigade fire support officer with the rank of major, and issued formal reprimands to senior officers including the general at the head of the southern command.

The rapidly completed investigation failed to resolve key questions including why soldiers from the Nahal brigade responsible were unaware that humanitarian vehicles were operating in the area with IDF permission, and why commanders launched an attack that the IDF said was in flagrant breach of its operational rules.

The findings are likely to renew scepticism over the military’s decision-making. Palestinians, aid groups and human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of firing recklessly at civilians throughout the conflict – a charge Israel denies.

Among those questioning whether the report was sufficiently thorough was Charlie Herbert, a retired British general who has been a trenchant critic of Israel’s operations during the current conflict.

“Two quite junior officers dismissed,” Herbert tweeted. “Presumably for very bad judgment, with tragic consequences. But the real issue here is an institutional one with IDF rules of engagement and disregard for ‘collateral damage’. This is the reason for huge civilian casualties since October.”

Scott Paul, of Oxfam, said in a briefing with other relief organisations on Thursday before the results of Israel’s investigation were released: “Let’s be very clear. This is tragic but it is not an anomaly. The killing of aid workers in Gaza has been systemic.”

The Israeli military said the investigation found that the officers mishandled critical information and violated the army’s rules of engagement.

“The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the standard operating procedures,” it said.

The investigation determined that a colonel had authorised the series of drone strikes on the convoy based on one major’s observation – from grainy drone-camera footage – that someone in the convoy was armed. The observation turned out to be untrue.

It criticised officers for failing to read messages alerting troops that cars, not aid trucks, would carry workers from the charity away from the warehouse where aid was distributed. As a result, the targeted cars were misidentified as transporting militants.

The army also faulted a major who identified the strike target and a colonel who approved the strike for acting with insufficient information.

The army said it initially hit one car. As people scrambled away into a second car, it hit that vehicle as well. A third strike was launched as survivors scrambled into a third car.

The IDF was unable to say exactly where communication had broken down about the convoy’s plans and declined to answer questions about whether similar violations of rules of engagement had taken place during the war.

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Gaza killings: Australia plans to appoint independent adviser to scrutinise Israeli inquiry

Penny Wong demands Israel preserve evidence because of unsatisfactory initial inquiry as Israel dismisses two officers over death of seven aid staff

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Australia has demanded that Israel preserve all evidence surrounding the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza and it also plans to appoint an independent adviser to scrutinise the official investigation.

The Australian government said on Friday that the information provided by Israel on its investigation into the killing of Australian citizen Zomi Frankcom and her World Central Kitchen colleagues “hasn’t yet satisfied our expectations”.

The comments come after Australia received a briefing on the initial findings of Israel’s investigation on Friday morning. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said later on Friday that it had dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in drone strikes in Gaza that killed seven aid workers on a food-delivery mission, saying they had mishandled critical information and violated the army’s rules of engagement.

The findings of a retired general’s investigation into the Monday killings marked an embarrassing admission by Israel, which faces growing accusations from key allies, including the US, of not doing enough to protect Gaza’s civilians from its war with Hamas, AP reports.

The findings are likely to renew scepticism over the Israeli military’s decision-making. Palestinians, aid groups and human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of firing recklessly at civilians throughout the conflict — a charge Israel denies.

The Australian foreign minister, Penny Wong, said official responses to the incident “suggest the gravity of the death of seven humanitarian workers is yet to be appreciated by the Israeli government”.

“Australia is concerned by initial advice from the [Israeli] ministry for foreign affairs that those responsible for commissioning and implementing the operation that killed Ms Frankcom and her colleagues have not been stood down while the investigation is undertaken,” Wong said in a statement on Friday, prior to the IDF announcement.

Wong and the defence minister, Richard Marles, were expected to write to their Israeli counterparts to outline Australia’s demands for the remainder of the investigation and its push for accountability of those found to be responsible.

These demands include that all evidence is preserved. This comes after the charity WCK said it had “asked the Israeli government to immediately preserve all documents, communications, video and/or audio recordings, and any other materials potentially relevant to the 1 April strikes”.

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Three WCK vehicles were struck by Israeli drones on Monday when they travelled along a route south of Deir al-Balah pre-approved and coordinated with the IDF.

Wong and Marles were also expected to tell their counterparts that any findings that IDF targeting policies and practices contributed to the fatal incident should trigger urgent adjustments and announced openly.

The Australian government also plans to appoint a “special adviser” to help scrutinise the Israeli investigation.

This person, who has yet to be named, would likely be an Australian figure with expertise in military matters and international humanitarian law.

The adviser’s role would be to ensure the investigation has been conducted in a manner consistent with the Australian government’s expectations.

Marles said the deaths “were utterly inexcusable and clear practical action is needed to ensure such a tragedy is never repeated”.

The IDF has described the strikes as “a grave mistake” that “followed a misidentification”.

It said on Friday that the findings of its investigation had been presented to the ambassadors of countries whose citizens were killed.

WCK said on Thursday it had asked the governments of Australia, Canada, the US, Poland and the UK “to join us in demanding an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks”.

The charity said such an investigation should examine whether the attacks were carried out intentionally or otherwise violated international law.

The deputy leader of the Australian Greens, Mehreen Faruqi, called for “an independent war crimes investigation into the deaths of Zomi and other aid workers, by an agency like the international criminal court”.

Israel is facing mounting international pressure over the incident, with Joe Biden telling Benjamin Netanyahu that future US support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza would depend on it taking concrete action to protect civilians and aid workers.

The US president also called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza “to stabilise and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians”, the White House said.

Soon after the call, Netanyahu’s office announced that Israel would open the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, arguing that increased aid was “necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war”.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jamie McGoldrick, said the WCK deaths were “not an isolated incident” as “at least 196 humanitarians had been killed in the OPT since October 2023”.

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Will the killings of Gaza aid workers be a turning point in Australia’s policy towards Israel?

Karen Middleton

The anger of Labor ministers over Netanyahu’s ‘it happens’ response suggests an inflection point is close over support for his government

Two gut punches have changed the tone of Australia’s public engagement with Israel.

The first came on Tuesday morning when a terrible image featuring a bloodied Australian passport appeared on social media and made its way rapidly into the offices of prime minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong.

The second landed on Tuesday night as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to explain away the triple Israeli missile strike that had killed Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and six of her colleagues in Gaza, saying: “This happens in wartime.”

Albanese described that response as “not good enough”. How he worded it in Wednesday morning’s lengthy phone call with Netanyahu has not been disclosed.

By Friday, education minister Jason Clare was wilfully misquoting Netanyahu on breakfast television to reflect how his comments had been received: “It’s not good enough just to say ‘shit happens’.”

Senior Australian ministers were – and are – appalled at Netanyahu’s language, tone and judgment in thinking that was an adequate response, even preliminarily, to his own defence force targeting the citizens of nations which have defended Israel in launching a brutal war in Gaza to avenge last year’s 7 October Hamas terrorist attack.

Their view only hardened as an Israeli spokesperson rolled out a series of purported explanations and mitigations, including that it was dark, there was confusion, “war is hell, war is foggy” and the strikes were “a grave mistake”.

They were certainly a grave miscalculation.

Frankcom and six other international aid workers died when an Israeli drone fired three missiles at their convoy, one for each vehicle. The strikes were not in rapid succession but separated by time and distance as the Israeli Defence Force picked off the moving vehicles bearing aid agency World Central Kitchen’s logo, one by one.

Netanyahu called it “a tragic case” of “unintentionally hitting innocent people” and that Israel would “do everything so that this thing does not happen again”.

But that is little assurance because “this thing” has happened before. Wong came to Guardian Australia’s podcast interview on Thursday armed with facts about the incident being “not an isolated one”. She noted that 196 aid workers had already been killed in Gaza, that those workers were protected under international law, and that Israel had “an obligation” to ensure they were safe.

As a result of the strikes which killed one Palestinian, one Pole, three Britons, and a Canadian-American dual national, along with Zomi Frankcom, some things that used to be said only privately to Israel about how it’s waging this war are now being said in public.

The deaths may not have increased these countries’ already-extreme concern about the humanitarian toll in Gaza, but Israel’s undeniable failure to uphold its legal obligations has given them leverage to be much more direct about it.

US president Joe Biden told Netanyahu that future US support was contingent on Israel taking “specific, concrete and measurable steps” to address not only the safety of aid workers but the harm to civilians in Gaza and the humanitarian suffering the conflict is inflicting overall. He said there must be an “immediate ceasefire”.

Wong has also dispensed with the usual nuance, telling Guardian Australia that the airstrikes were not “something that can be brushed aside” and calling Netanyahu’s comments “deeply insensitive”. On Friday night, she issued a further short, blunt statement.

“The information Israel has provided on its investigation hasn’t yet satisfied our expectations,” she said, affirming that the Australian government was “alarmed” by Netanyahu’s initial remarks and Israel’s responses since.

“These responses suggest the gravity of the death of seven humanitarian workers is yet to be appreciated by the Israeli government.”

In other words, they don’t get it.

There are some disturbing contradictions in Israel’s responses to date.

While calling the missile strikes a mistake, it is also saying that sometimes there are terrorists in the convoys. That implies that sometimes, regardless of what aid organisations say about who is travelling and why, and regardless of the guarantees Israel gives of safe passage in return, someone, somewhere inside the Israeli system decides to strike anyway.

If the details of these agreements struck between aid organisations and the IDF’s liaison officers – which are life-and-death for those who will be travelling – are not communicated and upheld, they are worthless.

On Friday, ABC Radio National’s Sally Sara asked IDF spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner whether launching three separate strikes on clearly marked aid vehicles conformed with the IDF’s rules of engagement.

At first, Lerner said “hypothesising” would be irresponsible. But then he added: “Each target has a specific identification, a specific individual, a specific component of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure that can be taken out. So they are lawful targets whether they are three vehicles, one vehicle or walking in the street.”

That sounds like very careful consideration and planning. It doesn’t sound like an approach that leaves much room for mistakes. And yet mistakes keep being made.

So, either Israel cannot control its own forces, or it disbelieves and disregards the information aid organisations are giving about who is travelling in these convoys and what they are doing.

Either way, as Wong says, failing to protect aid workers breaches international law. Senior figures in the Australian government believe this could be an inflection point in the conflict, depending on what Israel does next. And if its investigation and response are inadequate, what the Albanese government does about that could make it an inflection point domestically too.

Hamas is still holding 134 hostages captive. While it refuses to relinquish them and Israel fails to rescue them – but instead mistakenly kills international humanitarian workers it has vowed, and is legally bound, to protect – aid convoys are interrupted because of the risk and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians remain trapped and starving in Gaza as their homes and lives are obliterated.

“Not good enough” seems the very least that can be said about it.

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Will the killings of Gaza aid workers be a turning point in Australia’s policy towards Israel?

Karen Middleton

The anger of Labor ministers over Netanyahu’s ‘it happens’ response suggests an inflection point is close over support for his government

Two gut punches have changed the tone of Australia’s public engagement with Israel.

The first came on Tuesday morning when a terrible image featuring a bloodied Australian passport appeared on social media and made its way rapidly into the offices of prime minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong.

The second landed on Tuesday night as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to explain away the triple Israeli missile strike that had killed Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and six of her colleagues in Gaza, saying: “This happens in wartime.”

Albanese described that response as “not good enough”. How he worded it in Wednesday morning’s lengthy phone call with Netanyahu has not been disclosed.

By Friday, education minister Jason Clare was wilfully misquoting Netanyahu on breakfast television to reflect how his comments had been received: “It’s not good enough just to say ‘shit happens’.”

Senior Australian ministers were – and are – appalled at Netanyahu’s language, tone and judgment in thinking that was an adequate response, even preliminarily, to his own defence force targeting the citizens of nations which have defended Israel in launching a brutal war in Gaza to avenge last year’s 7 October Hamas terrorist attack.

Their view only hardened as an Israeli spokesperson rolled out a series of purported explanations and mitigations, including that it was dark, there was confusion, “war is hell, war is foggy” and the strikes were “a grave mistake”.

They were certainly a grave miscalculation.

Frankcom and six other international aid workers died when an Israeli drone fired three missiles at their convoy, one for each vehicle. The strikes were not in rapid succession but separated by time and distance as the Israeli Defence Force picked off the moving vehicles bearing aid agency World Central Kitchen’s logo, one by one.

Netanyahu called it “a tragic case” of “unintentionally hitting innocent people” and that Israel would “do everything so that this thing does not happen again”.

But that is little assurance because “this thing” has happened before. Wong came to Guardian Australia’s podcast interview on Thursday armed with facts about the incident being “not an isolated one”. She noted that 196 aid workers had already been killed in Gaza, that those workers were protected under international law, and that Israel had “an obligation” to ensure they were safe.

As a result of the strikes which killed one Palestinian, one Pole, three Britons, and a Canadian-American dual national, along with Zomi Frankcom, some things that used to be said only privately to Israel about how it’s waging this war are now being said in public.

The deaths may not have increased these countries’ already-extreme concern about the humanitarian toll in Gaza, but Israel’s undeniable failure to uphold its legal obligations has given them leverage to be much more direct about it.

US president Joe Biden told Netanyahu that future US support was contingent on Israel taking “specific, concrete and measurable steps” to address not only the safety of aid workers but the harm to civilians in Gaza and the humanitarian suffering the conflict is inflicting overall. He said there must be an “immediate ceasefire”.

Wong has also dispensed with the usual nuance, telling Guardian Australia that the airstrikes were not “something that can be brushed aside” and calling Netanyahu’s comments “deeply insensitive”. On Friday night, she issued a further short, blunt statement.

“The information Israel has provided on its investigation hasn’t yet satisfied our expectations,” she said, affirming that the Australian government was “alarmed” by Netanyahu’s initial remarks and Israel’s responses since.

“These responses suggest the gravity of the death of seven humanitarian workers is yet to be appreciated by the Israeli government.”

In other words, they don’t get it.

There are some disturbing contradictions in Israel’s responses to date.

While calling the missile strikes a mistake, it is also saying that sometimes there are terrorists in the convoys. That implies that sometimes, regardless of what aid organisations say about who is travelling and why, and regardless of the guarantees Israel gives of safe passage in return, someone, somewhere inside the Israeli system decides to strike anyway.

If the details of these agreements struck between aid organisations and the IDF’s liaison officers – which are life-and-death for those who will be travelling – are not communicated and upheld, they are worthless.

On Friday, ABC Radio National’s Sally Sara asked IDF spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner whether launching three separate strikes on clearly marked aid vehicles conformed with the IDF’s rules of engagement.

At first, Lerner said “hypothesising” would be irresponsible. But then he added: “Each target has a specific identification, a specific individual, a specific component of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure that can be taken out. So they are lawful targets whether they are three vehicles, one vehicle or walking in the street.”

That sounds like very careful consideration and planning. It doesn’t sound like an approach that leaves much room for mistakes. And yet mistakes keep being made.

So, either Israel cannot control its own forces, or it disbelieves and disregards the information aid organisations are giving about who is travelling in these convoys and what they are doing.

Either way, as Wong says, failing to protect aid workers breaches international law. Senior figures in the Australian government believe this could be an inflection point in the conflict, depending on what Israel does next. And if its investigation and response are inadequate, what the Albanese government does about that could make it an inflection point domestically too.

Hamas is still holding 134 hostages captive. While it refuses to relinquish them and Israel fails to rescue them – but instead mistakenly kills international humanitarian workers it has vowed, and is legally bound, to protect – aid convoys are interrupted because of the risk and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians remain trapped and starving in Gaza as their homes and lives are obliterated.

“Not good enough” seems the very least that can be said about it.

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Julie Bishop appointed United Nations special envoy for Myanmar

Former Australian foreign minister named as UN secretary general António Guterres’ special envoy to country gripped by civil war

The former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop has been appointed the United Nations secretary general António Guterres’ special envoy on Myanmar, the world body has said.

Bishop, the Australian National University’s chancellor, will take up the UN role that has been vacant since June last year, when Singaporean diplomat Noeleen Heyzer stepped down.

The UN said in a statement that Bishop had “extensive policy, legal and senior management experience”.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army took power from Aung Suu Kyi’s elected government on 1 February 2021.

The country is locked in a civil war between the military on one side and, on the other, a loose alliance of ethnic minority rebels and an armed resistance movement spawned out of the junta’s crackdown on anti-coup protests.

Bishop was Australia’s foreign minister from 2013 to 2018 under prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

She was deputy leader of the Liberal party from 2007 to 2018, before retiring from politics in April 2019.

Bishop became chancellor of ANU in January 2020.

With Reuters

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson says he will not repeat Joe Biden endorsement

Wrestler and actor endorsed president and Kamala Harris in 2020 but tells Fox News that for 2024 he will ‘keep my politics to myself’

The wrestler turned action star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dealt a blow to Joe Biden, saying he would not repeat his endorsement of the president in his looming rematch with Donald Trump.

Johnson endorsed Biden in his first contest with Trump four years ago, saluting the former vice-president and senator for his “compassion, heart, drive and soul”.

But in an interview with Fox News on Friday, Johnson said: “Am I going to do that again this year? That answer’s no. I realise now going into this election, I will not do that.”

Long the subject of rumours about his own political ambitions, Johnson reportedly fielded an approach from No Labels, the centrist group that now says it will not run a candidate against Biden and Trump.

Johnson has not disavowed talk of running for office. In 2021, after a poll showed public support, he said: “I don’t think our Founding Fathers EVER envisioned a six-four, bald, tattooed, half-Black, half-Samoan, tequila drinking, pick-up truck driving, fanny pack-wearing guy joining their club – but if it ever happens it’d be my honour to serve you, the people.”

Last year, he said the same poll led “the parties” to his door.

“That was an interesting poll that happened and I was really moved by that,” Johnson told a podcast. “I was really blown away and I was really honoured. I’ll share this little bit with you: at the end of the year in 2022, I got a visit from the parties asking me if I was going to run, and if I could run.

“It was a big deal, and it came out of the blue. It was one after the other, and they brought up that poll, and they also brought up their own deep-dive research that would prove that should I ever go down that road [I’d be a real contender]. It was all very surreal because that’s never been my goal. My goal has never been to be in politics. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot about politics that I hate.”

Johnson overcame that hatred in September 2020, when he endorsed Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris.

“You guys are both experienced to lead, you’ve done great things,” Johnson said.

“Joe, you’ve had such an incredible career, and you’ve led with such great compassion, heart, drive, and soul … Kamala, you have been a district attorney, a state attorney, a US senator. You are smart and tough. I have seen you in those hearings.”

Biden beat Trump convincingly but four years on, Johnson told Fox News: “Am I happy with the state of America right now? Well, that answer’s no. Do I believe we’re gonna get better? I believe in that – I’m an optimistic guy. And I believe we can do better.

“The endorsement that I made years ago with Biden was what I thought was the best decision for me at that time. I thought back then, when we talked about, ‘Hey, you know, I’m in this position where I have some influence,’ and it was my job then … to exercise my influence and share … who I’m going to endorse.”

Johnson also said his “goal is to bring this country together” but said he would “keep my politics to myself”.

“It is between me and the ballot box,” he said. “Like a lot of us out there, not trusting of all politicians, I do trust the American people and whoever they vote for that is my president and who I will support 100%.”

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Top Israeli spy chief exposes his true identity in online security lapse

Exclusive: Yossi Sariel unmasked as head of Unit 8200 and architect of AI strategy after book written under pen name reveals his Google account

The identity of the commander of Israel’s Unit 8200 is a closely guarded secret. He occupies one of the most sensitive roles in the military, leading one of the world’s most powerful surveillance agencies, comparable to the US National Security Agency.

Yet after spending more than two decades operating in the shadows, the Guardian can reveal how the controversial spy chief – whose name is Yossi Sariel – has left his identity exposed online.

The embarrassing security lapse is linked to a book he published on Amazon, which left a digital trail to a private Google account created in his name, along with his unique ID and links to the account’s maps and calendar profiles.

The Guardian has confirmed with multiple sources that Sariel is the secret author of The Human Machine Team, a book in which he offers a radical vision for how artificial intelligence can transform the relationship between military personnel and machines.

Published in 2021 using a pen name composed of his initials, Brigadier General YS, it provides a blueprint for the advanced AI-powered systems that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been pioneering during the six-month war in Gaza.

An electronic version of the book included an anonymous email address that can easily be traced to Sariel’s name and Google account. Contacted by the Guardian, an IDF spokesperson said the email address was not Sariel’s personal one, but “dedicated specifically for issues to do with the book itself”.

Later on Friday, in a statement to the Israeli media, the IDF described the book’s exposure of Sariel’s personal details as “a mistake”, adding: “The issue will be examined to prevent the recurrence of similar cases in the future.”

The security blunder is likely to place further pressure on Sariel, who is said to “live and breathe” intelligence but whose tenure running the IDF’s elite cyber intelligence division has become mired in controversy.

Unit 8200, once revered within Israel and beyond for intelligence capabilities that rivalled those of the UK’s GCHQ, is thought to have built a vast surveillance apparatus to closely monitor the Palestinian territories.

However, it has been criticised over its failure to foresee and prevent Hamas’s deadly 7 October assault last year on southern Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed nearly 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped about 240 people.

Since the Hamas-led attacks, there have been accusations that Unit 8200’s “technological hubris” came at the expense of more conventional intelligence-gathering techniques.

In its war in Gaza, the IDF appears to have fully embraced Sariel’s vision of the future, in which military technology represents a new frontier where AI is being used to fulfil increasingly complex tasks on the battlefield.

Sariel argued in the published book three years ago that his ideas about using machine learning to transform modern warfare should become mainstream. “We just need to take them from the periphery and deliver them to the centre of the stage,” he wrote.

One section of the book heralds the concept of an AI-powered “targets machine”, descriptions of which closely resemble the target recommendation systems the IDF is now known have been relying upon in its bombardment of Gaza.

Over the last six months, the IDF has deployed multiple AI-powered decision support systems that have been rapidly developed and refined by Unit 8200 under Sariel’s leadership.

They include the Gospel and Lavender, two target recommendation systems that have been revealed in reports by the Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 magazine, its Hebrew-language outlet Local Call and the Guardian.

The IDF says its AI systems are intended to assist human intelligence officers, who are required to verify that military suspects are legitimate targets under international law. A spokesperson said the military used “various types of tools and methods”, adding: “Evidently, there are tools that exist in order to benefit intelligence researchers that are based on artificial intelligence.”

Targets machine

On Wednesday, +972 and Local Call placed the spotlight on the link between Unit 8200 and the book authored by a mysteriously named Brigadier General YS.

Sariel is understood to have written the book with the IDF’s permission after a year as a visiting researcher at the US National Defense University in Washington DC, where he made the case for using AI to transform modern warfare.

Aimed at high-ranking military commanders and security officials, the book articulates a “human-machine teaming” concept that seeks to achieve synergy between humans and AI, rather than constructing fully autonomous systems.

It reflects Sariel’s ambition to become a “thought leader”, according to one former intelligence official. In the 2000s, he was a leading member of a group of academically minded spies known as “the Choir”, which agitated for an overhaul of Israeli intelligence practices.

An Israeli press report suggests that by 2017 he was head of intelligence for the IDF’s central command. His subsequent elevation to commander of Unit 8200 amounted to an endorsement by the military establishment of his technological vision for the future.

Sariel refers in the book to “a revolution” in recent years within the IDF, which has “developed a new concept of intelligence centric warfare to connect intelligence to the fighters in the field”. He advocates going further still, fully merging intelligence and warfare, in particular when conducting lethal targeting operations.

In one chapter of the book, he provides a template for how to construct an effective targets machine drawing on “big data” that a human brain could not process. “The machine needs enough data regarding the battlefield, the population, visual information, cellular data, social media connections, pictures, cellphone contacts,” he writes. “The more data and the more varied it is, the better.”

Such a targets machine, he said, would draw on complex models that make predictions built “on lots of small, diverse features”, listing examples such as “people who are with a Hezbollah member in a WhatsApp group, people who get new cellphones every few months, those who change their addresses frequently”.

He argues that using AI to create potential military targets can be more efficient and avoid “bottlenecks” created by intelligence officials or soldiers. “There is a human bottleneck for both locating the new targets and decision-making to approve the targets. There is also the bottleneck of how to process a great amount of data. Then there is the bottleneck of connecting the intelligence to the fire.” He adds: “A team consisting of machines and investigators can blast the bottleneck wide open.”

Intelligence divide

Disclosure of Sariel’s security lapse comes at a difficult time for the intelligence boss. In February, he came under public scrutiny in Israel when the Israeli newspaper Maariv published an account of recriminations within Unit 8200 after the 7 October attacks.

Sariel was not named in the article, which referred to Unit 8200’s commander only as “Y”. However, the rare public criticism brought into focus a divide within Israel’s intelligence community over its biggest failure in a generation.

Sariel’s critics, the report said, believe Unit 8200’s prioritisation of “addictive and exciting” technology over more old-fashioned intelligence methods had led to the disaster. One veteran official told the newspaper the unit under Sariel had “followed the new intelligence bubble”.

For his part, Sariel is quoted as telling colleagues that 7 October will “haunt him” until his last day. “I accept responsibility for what happened in the most profound sense of the word,” he said. “We were defeated. I was defeated.”

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Top Israeli spy chief exposes his true identity in online security lapse

Exclusive: Yossi Sariel unmasked as head of Unit 8200 and architect of AI strategy after book written under pen name reveals his Google account

The identity of the commander of Israel’s Unit 8200 is a closely guarded secret. He occupies one of the most sensitive roles in the military, leading one of the world’s most powerful surveillance agencies, comparable to the US National Security Agency.

Yet after spending more than two decades operating in the shadows, the Guardian can reveal how the controversial spy chief – whose name is Yossi Sariel – has left his identity exposed online.

The embarrassing security lapse is linked to a book he published on Amazon, which left a digital trail to a private Google account created in his name, along with his unique ID and links to the account’s maps and calendar profiles.

The Guardian has confirmed with multiple sources that Sariel is the secret author of The Human Machine Team, a book in which he offers a radical vision for how artificial intelligence can transform the relationship between military personnel and machines.

Published in 2021 using a pen name composed of his initials, Brigadier General YS, it provides a blueprint for the advanced AI-powered systems that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been pioneering during the six-month war in Gaza.

An electronic version of the book included an anonymous email address that can easily be traced to Sariel’s name and Google account. Contacted by the Guardian, an IDF spokesperson said the email address was not Sariel’s personal one, but “dedicated specifically for issues to do with the book itself”.

Later on Friday, in a statement to the Israeli media, the IDF described the book’s exposure of Sariel’s personal details as “a mistake”, adding: “The issue will be examined to prevent the recurrence of similar cases in the future.”

The security blunder is likely to place further pressure on Sariel, who is said to “live and breathe” intelligence but whose tenure running the IDF’s elite cyber intelligence division has become mired in controversy.

Unit 8200, once revered within Israel and beyond for intelligence capabilities that rivalled those of the UK’s GCHQ, is thought to have built a vast surveillance apparatus to closely monitor the Palestinian territories.

However, it has been criticised over its failure to foresee and prevent Hamas’s deadly 7 October assault last year on southern Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed nearly 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped about 240 people.

Since the Hamas-led attacks, there have been accusations that Unit 8200’s “technological hubris” came at the expense of more conventional intelligence-gathering techniques.

In its war in Gaza, the IDF appears to have fully embraced Sariel’s vision of the future, in which military technology represents a new frontier where AI is being used to fulfil increasingly complex tasks on the battlefield.

Sariel argued in the published book three years ago that his ideas about using machine learning to transform modern warfare should become mainstream. “We just need to take them from the periphery and deliver them to the centre of the stage,” he wrote.

One section of the book heralds the concept of an AI-powered “targets machine”, descriptions of which closely resemble the target recommendation systems the IDF is now known have been relying upon in its bombardment of Gaza.

Over the last six months, the IDF has deployed multiple AI-powered decision support systems that have been rapidly developed and refined by Unit 8200 under Sariel’s leadership.

They include the Gospel and Lavender, two target recommendation systems that have been revealed in reports by the Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 magazine, its Hebrew-language outlet Local Call and the Guardian.

The IDF says its AI systems are intended to assist human intelligence officers, who are required to verify that military suspects are legitimate targets under international law. A spokesperson said the military used “various types of tools and methods”, adding: “Evidently, there are tools that exist in order to benefit intelligence researchers that are based on artificial intelligence.”

Targets machine

On Wednesday, +972 and Local Call placed the spotlight on the link between Unit 8200 and the book authored by a mysteriously named Brigadier General YS.

Sariel is understood to have written the book with the IDF’s permission after a year as a visiting researcher at the US National Defense University in Washington DC, where he made the case for using AI to transform modern warfare.

Aimed at high-ranking military commanders and security officials, the book articulates a “human-machine teaming” concept that seeks to achieve synergy between humans and AI, rather than constructing fully autonomous systems.

It reflects Sariel’s ambition to become a “thought leader”, according to one former intelligence official. In the 2000s, he was a leading member of a group of academically minded spies known as “the Choir”, which agitated for an overhaul of Israeli intelligence practices.

An Israeli press report suggests that by 2017 he was head of intelligence for the IDF’s central command. His subsequent elevation to commander of Unit 8200 amounted to an endorsement by the military establishment of his technological vision for the future.

Sariel refers in the book to “a revolution” in recent years within the IDF, which has “developed a new concept of intelligence centric warfare to connect intelligence to the fighters in the field”. He advocates going further still, fully merging intelligence and warfare, in particular when conducting lethal targeting operations.

In one chapter of the book, he provides a template for how to construct an effective targets machine drawing on “big data” that a human brain could not process. “The machine needs enough data regarding the battlefield, the population, visual information, cellular data, social media connections, pictures, cellphone contacts,” he writes. “The more data and the more varied it is, the better.”

Such a targets machine, he said, would draw on complex models that make predictions built “on lots of small, diverse features”, listing examples such as “people who are with a Hezbollah member in a WhatsApp group, people who get new cellphones every few months, those who change their addresses frequently”.

He argues that using AI to create potential military targets can be more efficient and avoid “bottlenecks” created by intelligence officials or soldiers. “There is a human bottleneck for both locating the new targets and decision-making to approve the targets. There is also the bottleneck of how to process a great amount of data. Then there is the bottleneck of connecting the intelligence to the fire.” He adds: “A team consisting of machines and investigators can blast the bottleneck wide open.”

Intelligence divide

Disclosure of Sariel’s security lapse comes at a difficult time for the intelligence boss. In February, he came under public scrutiny in Israel when the Israeli newspaper Maariv published an account of recriminations within Unit 8200 after the 7 October attacks.

Sariel was not named in the article, which referred to Unit 8200’s commander only as “Y”. However, the rare public criticism brought into focus a divide within Israel’s intelligence community over its biggest failure in a generation.

Sariel’s critics, the report said, believe Unit 8200’s prioritisation of “addictive and exciting” technology over more old-fashioned intelligence methods had led to the disaster. One veteran official told the newspaper the unit under Sariel had “followed the new intelligence bubble”.

For his part, Sariel is quoted as telling colleagues that 7 October will “haunt him” until his last day. “I accept responsibility for what happened in the most profound sense of the word,” he said. “We were defeated. I was defeated.”

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  • Israel
  • Israel-Gaza war
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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs named in lawsuit accusing his son of sexual assault

Complaint accuses 26-year-old Christian ‘King’ Combs of assault aboard yacht chartered by music mogul father in December 2022

The music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and his 26-year-old son Christian “King” Combs are both named in a lawsuit that accuses the younger man of sexual assault onboard a yacht in December 2022.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles superior court on Thursday and first reported by Rolling Stone, accuses the younger Combs of assault, battery, sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The elder Combs, who is facing several lawsuits alleging sexual abuse and was recently subject to federal raids in a sex-trafficking investigation, is accused of aiding and abetting.

The 31-page complaint on behalf of 25-year-old Grace O’Marcaigh describes events aboard the yacht chartered by Sean Combs for a family trip to St Martin in December 2022. The trip was “sold as a wholesome family excursion” but, according to the suit, turned into a “hedonistic environment”, with suspected sex workers and other celebrities brought on board.

O’Marcaigh, who worked as a bartender and the only onboard steward for the yacht, alleges that in the early hours of 28 December, Christian Combs pressured her to drink a shot of tequila that she “quickly suspected” had been spiked with drugs. Combs allegedly prevented her from leaving and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

The lawsuit further claims that a video of the younger Combs groping and kissing O’Marcaigh was filmed by Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones, a music producer who himself filed a lawsuit against the elder Combs in January alleging sexual assault and forcing him to hire sex workers. The complaint also includes photos of bruises on O’Marcaigh’s forearm where Christian Combs allegedly grabbed her.

O’Marcaigh claims she escaped Christian Combs when a fellow yacht employee purposefully looked for her because she had been gone a long time. According to the suit, she informed the boat’s captain about what had happened, but the incident was not investigated. O’Marcaigh believes that is because Sean Combs paid the captain to keep everything quiet.

Since the alleged incident, O’Marcaigh has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and her severe suicidal ideation, according to the complaint. She seeks unspecified damages.

Aaron Dyer, an attorney for both men, dismissed the suit in a statement as “another lewd and meritless claim from Tyrone Blackburn”, the lawyer representing O’Marcaigh and Jones. “This complaint is filled with the same kind of manufactured lies and irrelevant facts we’ve come to expect from Blackburn,” the statement continued, noting that a federal judge in New York criticized Blackburn for “improperly [filing] cases in federal court to garner media attention, embarrass defendants with salacious allegations, and pressure defendants to settle quickly”. Dyer said he would be filing a motion to dismiss O’Marcaigh’s claim.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal troubles for the influential music mogul, who just last year performed with Christian at the MTV Video Music Awards as he received a global icon award as part of a long-gestating music comeback. In November of last year, Sean Combs settled a lawsuit with his longtime ex-partner Cassie, a day after the singer’s explosive complaint detailed years of alleged rapes, physical abuse and sex trafficking by the rapper. A separate lawsuit accused Combs and two other men of gang rape in 2003, when the anonymous plaintiff was 17.

And in late March, federal homeland security officers and other law enforcement officials raided Combs’s properties in Los Angeles, Miami and New York as part of a sex-trafficking investigation by federal authorities in New York. Christian and his elder brother Justin were detained during the raid in Los Angeles but later released.

Sean Combs has denied all accusations, promising to “fight for my name, my family and for the truth” in a statement posted to X. His attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit accusing him of gang rape, saying he “never participated in, witnessed or was or is presently aware of any misconduct, sexual or otherwise, relating to plaintiff in any circumstance whatsoever”. Following the allegations, Combs resigned as chair of Revolt, the digital media company he co-launched in 2013, and his Hulu reality show was cancelled.

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Trump’s legal delaying tactics dealt a blow as he lashes out at judge’s family

New York hush-money trial still on course for 15 April start but ruling in classified documents case has prosecutors concerned

Donald Trump faced mounting trouble this week in his legal universe, with judges overseeing two of Trump’s legal cases refusing to accept his attempts to delay and toss the prosecution – and the former president doubling down on efforts to discredit his opponents.

The judge overseeing Trump’s criminal trial in New York expanded a gag order on Monday, which had originally banned Donald Trump from making public statements about court staff, trial witnesses or the families of any counsel or staff member on the case. The narrower gag order did not prohibit Trump from making statements about family members of the judge, and after Judge Juan Merchan issued it, the former president took to social media to attack the judge’s daughter.

“His Daughter,” wrote Trump on the social media platform Truth Social, “is a Rabid Trump Hater,” identifying her by name.

The new gag order would now prevent him from making statements like that – but Trump’s abusive commentary about her, and others involved with his trial has probably already prompted threats and harassment.

In a court filing revealed on Tuesday, Trump also motioned for Merchan to recuse himself from the case, alleging his daughter’s consulting work for Democratic clients was a conflict of interest.

“It can no longer be ignored that Authentic’s commercial interests are benefited by developments in this case,” wrote Trump’s lawyers in the filing.

This is the second time Trump has attempted to oust the judge over his daughter’s work; last year, an ethics panel reviewed a similar argument by Trump’s legal team but found Merchan’s daughter and her firm did not pose a conflict of interest.

Merchan denied on 3 April Trump’s last-minute attempt to delay the trial until the supreme court rules on presidential immunity claims that arising out of a separate case.

The trial – over Trump’s efforts to suppress a sex scandal ahead of the 2016 election by allegedly falsifying business records to conceal hush-money payments to the former stripper and adult film star Stormy Daniels – is set to begin on 15 April. It will be the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president.

Meanwhile, the US district judge Aileen Cannon rejected Trump’s attempt to throw out the case alleging he mishandled and illegally retained classified documents. Trump had argued he was entitled to retain the documents under the Presidential Records Act; Cannon rejected his bid to toss the case on grounds the charges “make no reference to the Presidential Records Act, nor do they rely on that statute for purposes of stating an offense”, she wrote.

Her finding nonetheless leaves open the possibility for Trump to use the theory that he had legitimately retained the documents under the Presidential Records Act, setting her on a collision course with the Department of Justice’s special counsel Jack Smith, who has called the Presidential Records Act theory a “fundamentally flawed legal premise” and said he would appeal to a higher court if the judge recognizes the theory.

Cannon has slow-walked the case over Trump’s alleged illegal retention of classified documents, which FBI agents uncovered at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022. Prosecutors hoped to begin the trial in July, but Cannon has not yet set a trial date, allowing Trump to postpone filing pre-trial motions required for it to commence.

That’s a win for Trump, who has sought to delay his numerous prosecutions ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

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Romeo & Juliet theatre star suffers ‘barrage’ of online racial abuse

Jamie Lloyd Company says abuse came after cast list made public for show with Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers

A theatre company has condemned the “barrage of deplorable racial abuse” that has been directed at a cast member of a new production of Romeo & Juliet.

In a statement on Friday, the Jamie Lloyd Company said the online abuse “must stop” and that further harassment would be reported. It came after the announcement of the full cast of the show, including Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Romeo and Juliet, alongside Freema Agyeman, Michael Balogun, Tomiwa Edun, Mia Jerome, Daniel Quinn-Toye and Ray Sesay.

“Following the announcement of our Romeo & Juliet cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company,” the statement said. “This must stop. We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment.”

The company, run by the director Jamie Lloyd, said it would “continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported. Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities.”

Its rehearsal room for the show was “full of joy, compassion and kindness,” the company said.

It added: “We celebrate the extraordinary talent of our incredible collaborators. The Romeo & Juliet community will continue to rehearse with generosity and love, and focus on the creation of our production.”

The play runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 11 May – 3 August. It will be the Spider-Man star Holland’s first major theatre role since his debut in Billy Elliot: The Musical.

Last summer, he said he was taking a break from acting after starring in the Apple TV+ series The Crowded Room, a psychological thriller that he also produced. The star has become one of Britain’s best-known young screen actors but owes his career to the stage.

Lloyd is known for mounting bold, megastar-led versions of classic plays such as Doctor Faustus with Kit Harington, Betrayal with Tom Hiddleston and The Seagull with Emilia Clarke. His new production of the musical Sunset Boulevard, with Nicole Scherzinger, recently ended a sold-out run at London’s Savoy theatre and is transferring to Broadway in September.

Last year Lloyd directed Taylor Russell and Paapa Essiedu in a revival of Lucy Prebble’s play The Effect at the National Theatre, before opening at the Shed in New York last month.

Romeo & Juliet is billed as “a pulsating new vision of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of wordsmiths, rhymers, lovers and fighters”. It is Lloyd’s first Shakespeare production since he staged Richard III at Trafalgar Studios in 2014, with Martin Freeman in the lead role.

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Briton says becoming world’s oldest man at 111 is ‘pure luck’

John Alfred Tinniswood, who was born in 1912 in Liverpool, acquired the title after Japan’s Gisaburo Sonobe, 112, died in March

An 111-year-old man from England is now the world’s oldest living man and says the only diet he follows is eating fish and chips every Friday.

John Alfred Tinniswood, who was born in 1912 – the same year the Titanic sank – insist the secret to his long life is “pure luck”. He obtained the title of world’s oldest man after 112-year-old Gisaburo Sonobe, from Japan, was confirmed to have died on 31 March.

Reflecting on his longevity, Tinniswood told Guinness World Records: “You either live long or you live short, and you can’t do much about it.”

Tinniswood, who is a great-grandfather, was born in Liverpool and now lives in a care home in Southport. Having become the UK’s oldest man in 2020, Tinniswood is unfazed by his newfound status as the oldest man in the world.

“Doesn’t make any difference to me,” he said. “Not at all. I accept it for what it is.”

Since turning 100 in 2012, he received a birthday card each year from the late Queen Elizabeth, who was his junior by almost 14 years. Giving advice for younger generations, he said: “Always do the best you can, whether you’re learning something or whether you’re teaching someone.

“Give it all you’ve got. Otherwise it’s not worth bothering with.”

He said that he gets a fish supper each Friday at the home, adding: “I eat what they give me and so does everybody else. I don’t have a special diet.

“If you drink too much or you eat too much or you walk too much, if you do too much of anything, you’re going to suffer eventually.”

Tinniswood can still perform most daily tasks independently – he gets out of bed unassisted, listens to the radio to keep up with the news and still manages his own finances.

He lived through both world wars and is the world’s oldest surviving male veteran of the second world war, as he worked in an administrative role for the Army Pay Corps.

In addition to accounts and auditing, his work involved logistical tasks such as locating stranded soldiers and organising food supplies.

A lifelong Liverpool FC fan, Tinniswood was born just 20 years after the club was founded in 1892 and has lived through all eight of his club’s FA Cup wins and 17 of their 19 league title wins.

When asked how the world around him has changed throughout his life, Tinniswood said: “The world, in its way, is always changing.

“It’s a sort of ongoing experience … It’s getting a little better but not all that much yet. It’s going the right way.”

He met his wife, Blodwen, at a dance in Liverpool and the couple enjoyed 44 years together before she died in 1986.

The oldest man ever was Jiroemon Kimura from Japan, who lived to the age of 116 years 54 days and died in 2013. The world’s oldest living woman and oldest living person overall is Spain’s Maria Branyas Morera, who recently celebrated her 117th birthday.

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