The Guardian 2024-04-18 10:01:07


Australia needs a plan for war to ‘focus the national mind’, Michael Pezzullo says

Former secretary of the home affairs department recommends preparation of a ‘war book’ to allocate roles in the event of conflict

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Australia needs a comprehensive national plan for war – a “war book” – to coordinate civil and military roles and “focus the national mind” on the possibility of future conflict, the former secretary of the home affairs department Mike Pezzullo has said.

In a speech to an invitation-only security seminar last week, Pezzullo said Australian leaders needed to resurrect a practice adopted in the 1930s and prepare “a war book” which clearly allocated roles and responsibilities in the event of a conflict.

“As a practical suggestion to focus relevant effort, we should consider modernising the earlier practices from the 1930s and then again from the 1950s, of the preparation of a war book,” Pezzullo told the seminar hosted by the Sir Richard Williams Foundation in Canberra on 11 April.

“The war books of those times were guides on what would need to be done and by whom, in the event of war. Preparing a new war book would help to focus the national mind.”

The speech constituted the former departmental secretary’s first public remarks since being removed from his job late last year after an independent inquiry found he had breached the government’s code of conduct at least 14 times. Sections of Pezzullo’s address to the seminar were published this week in an online defence publication Second Line of Defense, or SDL. Guardian Australia understands the quotes published on the site are accurate.

Pezzullo told the gathering of defence industry representatives and security specialists he envisaged such a war blueprint would deal with “the entire span of civil defence and mobilisation which would be required to move to a war footing”.

He said military planners were focused on preparing the Australian Defence Force to be deployed to nearby small countries quickly and at short notice but, while necessary and important, “such ventures would only be marginally relevant to today’s great issues of war and peace”.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

“The most important question is whether a nation at large has the structures, capabilities and above all the mindset and the will that are required to fight and keep fighting to absorb, recover, endure and prevail. These cannot be put in place or engendered on the eve of the storm.”

Three years ago Pezzullo wrote a controversial Anzac Day message to his then departmental staff, warning that “the drums of war” were beating.

In a separate new interview for the Meridian100 podcast, released on Thursday, Pezzullo insisted his comments in the Anzac Day message had been misconstrued as suggesting war was inevitable.

Pezzullo told the journalist Paul Maley on the podcast the core of his 2021 message was that “we have to gird ourselves for the possibility of major war”.

“I made no statement or I made no claim in my staff message that war in the Indo-Pacific was either likely, inevitable or indeed a possibility, – it just simply avoided that,” Pezzullo said.

“It was more about war in general and ‘is our society ready for the idea?’ Not just reflecting on war in the past but it’s something that we have to potentially consider for the future. And it’s just not clear to me that we’ve got the right mindset. As shocking as the thought of that is, I’m not sure that we’ve got the right mindset to anticipate that.”

Pezzullo told Maley Australians “shouldn’t have the concern of war just artificially or synthetically drummed up”. But contemplating some possible scenarios of conflict across Asia, he wondered whether Australia was capable of holding back a threat.

In last week’s seminar speech, given before the podcast’s release, Pezzullo emphasised the need for national preparation for conflict. He said a “war book” would consist of a range of coordinated plans.

“Some would deal with critical infrastructure protection and national cyber defence,” he said. “Other plans would deal with the mobilisation of labour and industrial production, covering supply chains, industrial materials, chemicals, minerals and so on.”

Pezzullo said sectoral plans would address the allocation, rationing “and or stockpiling” of fuel, energy, water, food, transport, shipping, aviation, communications, health services, pharmaceuticals, building construction resources and other products and services.

“They would also be plans for the protection of the civil population covering evacuation, rapid fortification and or shelter construction, and for augmenting police fire, rescue and ambulance capacities and also dealing with social cohesion, border security, domestic security and public safety.”

Pezzullo told the seminar Australia could draw lessons from international experience, especially the current wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as from natural disasters and the supply-chain vulnerabilities exposed during the pandemic.

“Noting, however, that war is different.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian foreign policy
  • Australian politics
  • Asia Pacific
  • Australian military
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Seven CEO James Warburton departs network

Media executive’s exit comes as broadcaster faces a number of controversies

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

James Warburton, the chief executive and managing director of Seven West Media, left the company on Thursday, amid a tumultuous period for the broadcaster.

The prominent media executive was due to step down before the end of the financial year, according to executive changes first announced late last year.

Seven did not immediately respond to questions on Thursday as to whether there had been any adjustment to the timing of the transition.

The company’s chief financial officer, Jeff Howard, will take over the chief executive role on Friday.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Seven West’s chairman, Kerry Stokes, thanked Warburton “for his contribution to the business over many years” in an announcement to the stock exchange.

Howard takes the helm at a difficult period for broadcasters and traditional print outlets, due to a global downturn in advertising linked to inflationary costs.

Seven is part-way through a cost-saving initiative, worth tens of millions of dollars, that it has indicated would be expanded if the advertising market remains weak.

Seven’s revenues are primarily driven by television ads which are influenced by its market share of viewers.

Warburton has been CEO at the network since mid-2019.

Seven West Media, which operates the Seven Network and West Australian Newspapers, has been entangled in a number of recent controversies, which include allegations made during a defamation trial that the network reimbursed Bruce Lehrmann for money spent on cocaine and sex workers. Seven has denied the claims.

Separately, a Sydney man who was wrongly named on air by Seven News as the Bondi Junction killer has hired a lawyer and is seeking damages from the network.

Explore more on these topics

  • Channel Seven
  • Australian media
  • Television industry
  • Business
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

KitKat owner Nestlé faces vote forcing it to cut back on unhealthy products

Company, which also makes Quality Street, says reducing sugar, salt and fats could harm ‘strategic freedom’

  • Business live – latest updates

Nestlé faces a resolution at its AGM on Thursday that could force the world’s largest consumer goods company to cut back on high levels of salt, sugar and fats in its food and drinks.

The Swiss-headquartered multinational is urging investors to reject the proposal, arguing a move away from “indulgent products” could harm its “strategic freedom”.

Five institutional investors with $1.68tn (£1.35tn) in assets under management, including Legal and General Investment Management, have said they are concerned about the reputational risks to the company, as well as the public health impacts associated with an over-reliance on indulgent foods.

The shareholders – led by the campaign group ShareAction – pointed to research by Oxford University and the youth activist charity BiteBack. The non-governmental organisation (NGO) recently found that about 70% of Nestlé’s sales in the UK were of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

The ShareAction chief executive, Catherine Howarth, said: “As Nestlé has consistently failed to set out how it will shift the balance of its sales towards healthier food options, concerned investors have been left with no option but to bring forward a resolution at the company’s AGM.”

Nestlé, which is listed in Zürich and owns brands including KitKat and Yorkie chocolate bars and Quality Street sweets, said its own figures showed that 60% of sales, excluding PetCare, came from “more nutritious or specialised nutrition products”, while only 21% of its portfolio was focused on indulgent foods.

In video message to shareholders, its chair, Paul Bulcke, said Nestlé had always been committed to helping consumers make informed choices as part of a balanced diet. “Of course, this also includes enjoying moments of indulgence, if, or good chocolate for example, from time to time and in a responsible way,” he said.

“A small group of shareholders led by the NGO share action wants us to disengage from indulgent products. They even want us to include this in our articles of association.

“This is wrong. It will restrict Nestlé’s strategic freedom and limit management’s ability to make decisions or responsible decisions. The shareholders’ proposal is not in our best interest, not for our consumers, and not for you.”

In September, Nestlé put forward a nutrition target to sell “more nutritious” products by 2030. However, ShareAction said it fell far short of investor expectations.

ShareAction said the nutritious sales target was simply in line with Nestlé’s overall growth forecasts and made no commitment on the sale of unhealthy products, which could increase at a similar rate. As a result, it would not shift Nestlé’s reliance on sales of unhealthy products. The target also includes products such as coffee which have no nutritional value, it added.

Howarth said: “Nestlé is the biggest food company in the world and has an enormous influence on billions of people’s diets and lives through the products it makes, advertises and sells to us.

“Any move away from sales of unhealthy products by Nestlé will inevitably support healthier communities all over the world and in the long term help economies, too.”

Nestlé will hold its AGM on Thursday, in Lausanne, Switzerland, at 2.30pm local time.

Explore more on these topics

  • Nestlé
  • Food & drink industry
  • Health
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Kanye West suspected of attacking man who allegedly sexually assaulted his wife

Following reports of battery investigation into West against unnamed man, rapper’s team allege wife Bianca Censori was being assaulted

Representatives for Kanye West have alleged that a man physically and sexually assaulted his wife Bianca Censori in an incident in Los Angeles.

Sources previously told TMZ that West was being investigated as a suspect in a battery incident earlier this week, after the rapper was alleged to have struck a man who had grabbed Censori.

The rapper’s team have subsequently released a statement, saying: “‘Grabbed’ is grossly inadequate as a description of what happened. Bianca was physically assaulted. The assailant didn’t merely collide into her. He put his hands under her dress, directly on her body, he grabbed her waist, he spun her around, and then he blew her kisses. She was battered and sexually assaulted.”

The Guardian has contacted the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for further information.

It follows an incident in 2022 when West was investigated by the LAPD for battery of a person he claimed was taunting him. “He just had this real attitude, like, ‘Whatchu gonna do?’”, said West, who was not arrested or charged over the incident. “Imma just tell you, that blue Covid mask ain’t stop that knockout.”

West, who has changed his name to Ye, reportedly married Censori, an architect at his company Yeezy, in December 2022, less than a month after his divorce from Kim Kardashian was finalised.

That year West lost a series of brand partnership deals with Adidas and others in the wake of a series of antisemitic comments, including that Jewish people “tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda”. But he has enjoyed a career renaissance this year following the release of his album Vultures, a collaboration with vocalist Ty Dolla $ign which topped the US chart and produced the global hit Carnival, which also went to No 1 in the US.

In December 2023, West apologised for the antisemitic remarks, writing in Hebrew on social media: “I deeply regret any pain I may have caused … I am committed to making amends and promoting unity.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Kanye West
  • Rap
  • Hip-hop
  • Los Angeles
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

First person charged over Wakeley riot after Sydney church stabbing attack granted bail

Dani Mansour, 19, charged after allegedly filming himself damaging two police vehicles amid anger over stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The first person arrested and charged for taking part in the Wakeley riots was granted bail after appearing at Blacktown local court on Thursday. .

Dani Mansour, 19, was charged with riot, affray and destroying or damaging property as part of the mob that allegedly attacked police in Wakeley on Monday night. The incident took place in the aftermath of the stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church.

Mansour was granted strict bail conditions at Blacktown local court on Thursday, including a ban on accessing social media.

He must present his phone to police once a week, cannot contact anyone involved in the riot, can only travel to and from work, cannot enter Wakeley, cannot attend the church, and he must report to police every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The court heard Mansour allegedly filmed himself smashing two police vehicles and taking part in the riot, posting the footage to his personal Instagram page.

The 19-year-old told the court he is a barber who works in Mt Druitt, and is the sole provider for his family, who attended his court proceedings.

Police prosecutor Sgt Reuben van der Byl told the court investigators had depended on the footage as part of their investigation into Mansour.

Van der Byl also said police had concerns Mansour could reoffend and pose a risk to community safety.

An estimated 2,000 people descended on the church in the wake of the alleged stabbing attack, damaging 94 police vehicles and leaving 26 officers injured, according to police.

Police told the court they were combing through social media footage of the riot as part of their investigation, and were concerned Mansour’s release and potential communication with other rioters could hamper their efforts.

Mansour was told by the magistrate, Aaron Tang, that he was charged with “serious and violent” behaviour, but Tang said he was satisfied concerns for community safety and any chance of reoffending were mitigated by the restrictions.

Tang described the rioters as wanting to enact “vigilante justice” on the alleged attacker being held in the church, saying they acted “reprehensibly”.

“There is no place for vigilante justice in our society. Whilst the court acknowledges the traumatic impact of the stabbing of the bishop on the church community, those involved in the riot acted reprehensibly.

“The actions of the alleged rioters were at odds with helping the bishop and of the tenets of Christian faith.”

Earlier on Thursday, the NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, urged community members to help police identify some of the rioters after she revealed some of them wore masks during the violence.

“People in the community know who they are, their families know who they are, and we need to know who they are,” Webb said.

“We have some people that have jumped on multiple police cars. One individual has a very distinctive tattoo on his torso of a face, while he has cowardly hid his own face.”

Webb said 42 detectives were working to identify 50 people from the 2,000 that were present.

“The sooner they are identified [and] put before the court, the sooner they can be dealt with.”

Webb also said the alleged offender behind the stabbing attack remained in hospital, and that police investigations are ongoing.

Mansour’s hearing will be held on 2 May.

Explore more on these topics

  • Sydney
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

First person charged over Wakeley riot after Sydney church stabbing attack granted bail

Dani Mansour, 19, charged after allegedly filming himself damaging two police vehicles amid anger over stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The first person arrested and charged for taking part in the Wakeley riots was granted bail after appearing at Blacktown local court on Thursday. .

Dani Mansour, 19, was charged with riot, affray and destroying or damaging property as part of the mob that allegedly attacked police in Wakeley on Monday night. The incident took place in the aftermath of the stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church.

Mansour was granted strict bail conditions at Blacktown local court on Thursday, including a ban on accessing social media.

He must present his phone to police once a week, cannot contact anyone involved in the riot, can only travel to and from work, cannot enter Wakeley, cannot attend the church, and he must report to police every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The court heard Mansour allegedly filmed himself smashing two police vehicles and taking part in the riot, posting the footage to his personal Instagram page.

The 19-year-old told the court he is a barber who works in Mt Druitt, and is the sole provider for his family, who attended his court proceedings.

Police prosecutor Sgt Reuben van der Byl told the court investigators had depended on the footage as part of their investigation into Mansour.

Van der Byl also said police had concerns Mansour could reoffend and pose a risk to community safety.

An estimated 2,000 people descended on the church in the wake of the alleged stabbing attack, damaging 94 police vehicles and leaving 26 officers injured, according to police.

Police told the court they were combing through social media footage of the riot as part of their investigation, and were concerned Mansour’s release and potential communication with other rioters could hamper their efforts.

Mansour was told by the magistrate, Aaron Tang, that he was charged with “serious and violent” behaviour, but Tang said he was satisfied concerns for community safety and any chance of reoffending were mitigated by the restrictions.

Tang described the rioters as wanting to enact “vigilante justice” on the alleged attacker being held in the church, saying they acted “reprehensibly”.

“There is no place for vigilante justice in our society. Whilst the court acknowledges the traumatic impact of the stabbing of the bishop on the church community, those involved in the riot acted reprehensibly.

“The actions of the alleged rioters were at odds with helping the bishop and of the tenets of Christian faith.”

Earlier on Thursday, the NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, urged community members to help police identify some of the rioters after she revealed some of them wore masks during the violence.

“People in the community know who they are, their families know who they are, and we need to know who they are,” Webb said.

“We have some people that have jumped on multiple police cars. One individual has a very distinctive tattoo on his torso of a face, while he has cowardly hid his own face.”

Webb said 42 detectives were working to identify 50 people from the 2,000 that were present.

“The sooner they are identified [and] put before the court, the sooner they can be dealt with.”

Webb also said the alleged offender behind the stabbing attack remained in hospital, and that police investigations are ongoing.

Mansour’s hearing will be held on 2 May.

Explore more on these topics

  • Sydney
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Sydney church stabbing: social media pages ‘infamous’ for spreading misinformation taken down

Premier Chris Minns is alarmed at the ‘wildfire’ of rumour and graphic content online after Wakeley and Bondi stabbings

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Social media pages “infamous” for spreading misinformation have been taken down after the Wakeley church stabbing attack, the New South Wales premier, Chris Minns, said on Thursday, while expressing alarm at the “wildfire” of rumour and graphic content still proliferating on tech platforms.

On Monday night YouTube was live broadcasting Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel’s service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church. After the stabbing occurred, video clips spread through WhatsApp groups before police had arrived on scene.

A 19-year-old man, Dani Mansour, fronted court on Thursday charged with riot, affray and damage to property for his alleged actions outside the church, where an estimated 2,000 people gathered on Monday night.

Mansour was granted strict bail with a ban on social media access. NSW police based their investigation on Monsour’s Instagram posts, the court heard on Thursday. Police continue to comb through social media material to identify other alleged rioters.

WhatsApp, owned by Meta, is the platform most cited in recent days as a source of much of the violent imagery and misinformation. It has attempted in recent years to limit the speed at which misinformation can be shared by limiting the sending of content to five chats at once, and labelling content in messages that has been forwarded multiple times. Such messages can only be sent to one chat at a time.

Meta said in 2020 the change had helped reduce the spread of viral messages on the platform by 70%.

Since end-to-end encrypting communications on the platform as a measure to protect user privacy, Meta no longer has access to the content of messages so cannot monitor what is spreading. But the company now says it has technology to spot accounts engaging in abnormal behaviour, with 8m accounts banned a month – 75% of which are banned before those accounts are reported by users.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Minns told reporters on Thursday that NSW police and the state government were concerned about the amount of unsubstantiated rumour and graphic content still accessible on social media sites.

“It proves very difficult to foster community cohesion and harmony, to calm down the community, to send messages of unity in a difficult period when social media firms still continue to disseminate terrible pieces of information, untruths, rumours that circulate like wildfire through an anxious community,” he said.

He said in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the NSW government liaised with the federal government and the eSafety commissioner to have pages “that have become famous or infamous for spreading misinformation in the community” taken down.

“They are down, which is good news [to] stop, in many instances, [misinformation] about damage to mosques and churches [that] was being spread like wildfire and inflaming tensions in the community.”

Minns did not specify on which platform the pages were hosted.

The eSafety commissioner has no powers to regulate the spread of misinformation, but since the Bondi stabbing attack on Saturday and the church attack on Monday has been in communication with the platforms about the removal of violent content. Violent content or content inciting violence is classified as “class 1” material under Australian classification law.

The takedown process has involved informal requests to remove some of the more graphic content related to the Bondi stabbing attack, as well as formal notices issued to Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and X over content related to the church stabbing.

On Wednesday night, a spokesperson for the eSafety commissioner said Meta had complied with the notices, while the compliance of X – the platform formerly known as Twitter before it was bought by the billionaire Elon Musk in 2022 – was still being reviewed.

The attacks and the social media fallout has drawn attention back to the federal government’s proposed misinformation legislation, which would give stronger powers to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Under the bill, Acma could force social media companies to get tougher on “content [that] is false, misleading or deceptive, and where the provision of that content on the service is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm”.

The bill’s introduction was delayed last year after initial consultation on the proposal led to claims it would stifle speech online, and would not protect religious speech. But the government has remained committed to releasing the legislation later this year.

On Wednesday the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said the incidents highlighted the need for action.

“If we needed to see any case study about what can happen when misinformation spreads at speed and scale, we only need to look at what happened in western Sydney the other night – the damage to public property, threats to life and health,” she told the ABC.

“We know the platforms have incredible powers and abilities to be able to examine content on their platforms. Their algorithms are opaque. They need to do more.”

X did not respond to a request for comment.

Explore more on these topics

  • Sydney
  • Social media
  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram
  • X
  • Meta
  • Bondi Junction stabbings
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Developer withdraws from controversial Toondah Harbour project

Walker Corporation pulled out of Moreton Bay development after Tanya Plibersek proposed rejecting it on environmental grounds

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Walker Corporation has withdrawn its proposal for an apartment and retail development on an internationally important wetland at Queensland’s Moreton Bay.

The environment and water minister Tanya Plibersek said the company’s decision was “great news for the animals that call this place home”.

Walker Corporation withdrew its application after Plibersek proposed rejecting the development because of the unacceptable impact it would have on the Ramsar-listed wetland and threatened species such as the critically endangered eastern curlew.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The project was opposed by an almost decade-long community campaign backed by scientists and conservationists because of the impact it would have on irreplaceable habitat.

“The decision to withdraw the application will allow Walker and the project partners an opportunity to review the federal government’s proposed decision and consider if there are alternative options that would still allow vital infrastructure and housing to be delivered,” a company spokesperson said.

The company said it had been on a “long journey to deliver a world class vision for a revitalised Toondah Harbour” but it respected the minister’s opinion that the project in its current form did not provide the necessary protections for the environment.

“We need the appropriate amount of time to understand and address those concerns, to satisfy the government’s reasonable, high environmental standards,” the spokesperson said.

“We have been overwhelmed by calls and messages of support over the past week from the Redlands community as well as local, state and federal political and community leaders, who understand how critical this project is to the region’s future.”

Plibersek released the draft decision last week and gave Walker Corporation and the public 10 business days to provide feedback before a final decision was reached.

She said Walker Corporation’s decision to withdraw the application “means the project will not go ahead”.

“The wetlands where this project was proposed are rare, unique and are important to prevent the extinction of animals,” she said.

“These include loggerhead and green turtles and the critically endangered eastern curlew, which migrates 12,000 kilometres from Russia to Australia and relies on Moreton Bay as habitat for feeding and roosting.

“The project would also have had significant impacts on a range of other species including iconic Australian animals like dugongs and dolphins.”

Plibersek said the project should never have made it so far in the federal environmental assessment process and should have been rejected by the former Coalition environment minister Josh Frydenberg when his department gave him advice in 2016 that the project was “clearly unacceptable”.

Frydenberg sent the project to the next stage of the assessment process, a decision that was contrary to advice from the attorney general’s department, which warned it could put Australia in breach of its international obligations.

Documents released to Guardian Australia under freedom of information in 2020 showed the former minister had considered removing the protections from an area of the wetland after he was lobbied by Walker Corporation.

Explore more on these topics

  • Queensland
  • Tanya Plibersek
  • Conservation
  • Australian politics
  • Wildlife
Share

Reuse this content

Trump to return to court for third day of jury selection in hush-money trial

Seven people have been picked from a vast jury pool – five more jurors and six alternates remain to be chosen for the historic trial

Donald Trump is due to return to a New York courtroom on Thursday for the third day of his hush-money trial and a continuation of the process of jury selection for one of the most high-profile criminal cases in US history.

So far, seven people have been selected after intense grilling of a jury pool that has sifted through prospective jurors’ political views, personal lives and social media posts to decide who gets to sit in judgment over a former US president – and current virtual certainty for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Five more jurors and six alternates remain to be chosen. Those selected so far are an information technology worker, an English teacher, an oncology nurse, a sales professional, a software engineer and two lawyers.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know

  • A guide to Trump’s hush-money trial – so far

  • The key arguments prosecutors will use against Trump

  • How will Trump’s trial work?

  • From Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels: the key players

The spectacle is playing out in downtown Manhattan amid intense global media coverage as Trump became the first former US president to face criminal charges – related to allegedly false accounting of expenses paid to help cover up potentially bad press during his 2016 election campaign.

They include payments to former adult actor Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal – both of whom say they had affairs with Trump.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of the alleged effort to keep the scandalous stories – which he says are not true – from emerging during his eventually successful effort to win the White House in 2016.

Trump also faces other trials involving his actions on January 6, attempts to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia and charges related to his keeping of classified documents at his resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, after he had left office. However, those cases have been hit by multiple delays as Trump’s legal team pursues a strategy of slowing down their march to a courtroom until after the November election.

Despite these legal travails, Trump dominated the Republican nomination race for 2024 and has knocked out any serious rival. He is also running a close race with Joe Biden, often leading in head-to-head polls and performing strongly in the crucial battleground states that he needs to win the US presidency for a second time.

Explore more on these topics

  • Donald Trump trials
  • Donald Trump
  • New York
  • Law (US)
  • Stormy Daniels
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Ram believed responsible for deaths of elderly New Zealand couple

Police say the sheep was shot dead after confronting officers called to the property in Waitakere, west of Auckland

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

An aggressive ram believed responsible for the deaths of an elderly New Zealand couple has been put down by police after it was found alongside the two bodies in a paddock.

The NZ Herald reported the pair, aged in their early 80s, were found dead in a field of their rural property early on Thursday morning.

The couple’s son, who was prompted to look for the pair after failing to hear from them in days, reportedly found their bodies, contacting police.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

“Police can confirm a ram was in the paddock at the time we were notified this morning,” police said in a statement.

“Another party at the scene suffered a minor injury after being attacked by this ram.

“Once our staff arrived at the scene they too were confronted and approached by the ram.

“On undertaking a risk assessment, the ram was shot and died at the scene.”

The deaths occurred at a rural property in Waitakere, west of Auckland.

Dean Burrell, the nephew of one of the dead and their family’s spokesperson, told news outlet Stuff the couple had “both lost their lives in a tragic accident”.

“They’re good people. They’re over 80. They don’t deserve this,” he said.

“Everyone is in shock as to what’s happened. They are very upset.”

Police are investigating the deaths on behalf of the coroner, “to establish the full set of circumstances around what occurred in the paddock”, and a postmortem examination will be carried out on Friday.

St John medics attended the property with two ambulances early on Thursday, with a police presence through the day.

Explore more on these topics

  • New Zealand
  • Asia Pacific
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

German far-right leader in court charged with using Nazi slogan

Prosecutors claim influential AfD leader Björn Höcke used Nazi slogan ‘Everything for Germany!’ in speech

One of the most prominent figures in the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party has arrived in court for his trial on charges of using a Nazi slogan, months before a regional election in which he is running to become his state’s governor.

Björn Höcke, 52, is the leader of the regional branch of the AfD in the eastern state of Thuringia and a powerful figure on the party’s hard right.

While never formally a national leader of AfD, the former history teacher has been influential as the 11-year-old party has steadily headed further right and ousted several comparatively moderate leaders.

At the trial at the state court in Halle, Höcke is charged with using symbols of unconstitutional organisations. He is accused of ending a speech in nearby Merseburg in May 2021 with the words: “Everything for Germany!”

Prosecutors contend he was aware of the origin of the phrase as a slogan of the Nazis’ SA stormtroopers. Using symbols of unconstitutional organisations can carry a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.

Höcke insisted in a debate with a conservative rival last week that he was unaware it was a Nazi slogan and claimed many others had used it. “Everyone out there knows it’s an everyday saying,” he said.

Four court sessions have been scheduled up until 14 May.

Demonstrators gathered outside the court before the trial opened on Thursday, with banners including “Björn Höcke is a Nazi” and “Stop AfD!” About 570 protesters turned out, according to police.

Höcke has led AfD’s regional branch in Thuringia since 2013, the year the party was founded, and its group in the state legislature in Erfurt since it first won seats there in 2014.

He once called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame” and called for Germany to perform a “180-degree turn” in how it remembered its past. A party tribunal in 2018 rejected an attempt to have him expelled.

Höcke’s regional branch of AfD is one of three that the domestic intelligence agency has under official surveillance as a “proven rightwing extremist” group.

Wolfgang Schroeder, a political science professor at the Berlin Social Science Center, said Höcke had become an increasingly important figure in the AfD and the frontman of a “radicalisation project” in the party. He said people voted for the party “in part out of protest, in part out of conviction”.

The AfD is particularly strong in the formerly communist east and is in first place in polls in Thuringia ahead of a state election on 1 September, with recent surveys showing support of 29-31%.

It is unlikely that any other party will agree to work with Höcke and put him in the governor’s office, but the AfD’s strength has made forming governing coalitions in the state enormously complicated.

Explore more on these topics

  • Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)
  • The far right
  • Germany
  • Europe
  • news
Share

Reuse this content