The Guardian 2024-04-23 16:02:01


UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by reports of mass graves at two Gaza hospitals

Spokesperson says some bodies allegedly had their hands tied while others were bound and stripped

The UN human rights chief, Volker Türk, has said he was “horrified” by reports of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies at two of Gaza’s largest hospitals.

Palestinian civil defence teams began exhuming bodies from a mass grave outside the Nasser hospital complex in Khan Younis last week after Israeli troops withdrew.

“We feel the need to raise the alarm because clearly there have been multiple bodies discovered,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

She described bodies “buried deep in the ground and covered with waste”, adding that “among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded”, including some bound and stripped of their clothes.

“Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations,” she said.

Palestinian rescue teams and several observation missions from the UN also reported the discovery of multiple mass grave sites in the Shifa hospital compound, in Gaza City, earlier this month, after Israeli ground troops withdrew after a prolonged siege.

Medics working for Doctors Without Borders described how Israeli forces attacked Nasser hospital in late January before withdrawing a month later, leaving the facility unable to function.

Rescue workers are continuing to dig through the sandy earth to exhume bodies outside the hospital. Shamdasani said her office was working on corroborating Palestinian officials’ reports that 283 bodies had been found at the site.

Officials in Gaza said the bodies at Nasser were people who had died during the siege.

On Tuesday, Israel’s military rejected allegations of mass burials at Nasser hospital, saying it had exhumed corpses to try to find hostages taken by Hamas in October.

“The claim that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded,” the military told Reuters, adding that after examining the bodies, its forces had returned them to where they had previously been buried.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of operating in hospitals and using medical infrastructure as a shield, which Hamas denies.

The UN rights chief also condemned increasing numbers of Israeli airstrikes that have pummelled northern, central and southern Gaza in recent days, including naval artillery fire that has struck buildings along Gaza’s eastern shoreline.

Airstrikes hit many areas already reduced to little more than rubble and broken slabs of concrete after 200 days of war, including Beit Lahia in the north and the centre of Gaza City.

“The north remains dire,” said Olga Cherevko of the UN’s office for coordination of humanitarian affairs, speaking during a visit to the area. “There’s more food coming in, but there’s no money to buy it. Healthcare facilities destroyed. There’s no fuel to run water wells, and sanitation is a massive issue. There’s sewage everywhere.”

As Israeli ground troops reportedly staged a brief incursion into eastern Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza, satellite images from the destroyed city showed a growing tent encampment, which could be intended to house people fleeing Rafah in the event of an Israeli ground attack there.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has repeatedly threatened to attack Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, where more than a million people are sheltering. On Tuesday, Türk again warned against a full-scale incursion on Rafah, saying it could lead to “further atrocity crimes”.

Melanie Ward, the head of Medical Aid for Palestinians, who has recently returned from a visit to Gaza, said an Israeli invasion would be impossible without “human slaughter.”

Ward said that roads running north of Rafah approaching Deir al-Balah in central Gaza were already crammed with people.

“Every space … is already full of displaced people living in tents,” she said. “People who came from the east of Khan Younis can’t return there because their homes have been destroyed. That physically isn’t enough space for people in Rafah to try to move and seek safety somewhere else. It’s impossible for Israel to attack Rafah and for it not to be a disaster of epic proportions.”

Many of the recent strikes have hit parts of Gaza where people already displaced have fled for the third, fourth, or even fifth time.

“There’s no safe place to escape to, so everything we do, we try to do it fast,” said Rama Abu Amra, a 21-year-old student who sleeps with her family in a tent outside a friend’s house in Deir al-Balah, their fourth location since fleeing Gaza City months ago.

She said the tent was uncomfortable, hot by day and cold at night, and in a crowded area.

Asked where the family could flee in the event of an evacuation order, she said: “We honestly don’t know.”

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Secret report warns Australian Border Force’s marine unit is ‘not safe for women’

Exclusive: Human rights commission calls for immediate intervention in the division and says sexism and bullying are rife

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Australian Border Force’s marine unit is rife with “inappropriate workplace behaviours including sexual harassment and bullying”, meaning female officers are not safe, according to the human rights watchdog.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), in a secret report for the ABF, revealed that in the marine unit 100% of women who responded to a survey “witnessed sex discrimination, sexual … and/or sex-based harassment” and 78% had personally experienced that behaviour.

This included “bullying, sexually suggestive and sexist comments and incidents of sexual harassment described by officers as ‘serious’”.

The report by the sex discrimination commissioner, Anna Cody, demanded “immediate intervention” and called for border force leadership “at all levels … [to] be held accountable for addressing reported and known incidents of inappropriate workplace behaviours”.

The ABF commissioner, Michael Outram, responded by telling staff the reported behaviours were “confronting and disturbing and run counter to our ABF values”. He promised to crack down on unlawful conduct.

The marine unit report is part of a five-year partnership with the AHRC to improve workplace culture and gender equity in the ABF. It was handed to ABF’s top brass in late March and was never intended to be made public.

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A summary of the report, seen by Guardian Australia, said there was “an urgent need to prevent inappropriate behaviour in the marine unit” with “much work to be done” to ensure “a safe and respectful environment for all officers regardless of their gender, sexuality, cultural or racial background or disability”.

Despite the marine unit’s culture “slowly improving”, the report found that “significant improvement is still required” in particular due to the “normalisation of inappropriate behaviours [and] cliques”.

“The marine unit remains male-dominated and there is limited cultural and racial diversity,” the report found. Women comprise 10% of the marine unit compared with 44% of the entire ABF.

The report warned of a “high prevalence of inappropriate workplace behaviours”, which “pose a significant safety risk for officers and an institutional risk for the ABF”.

“Women continue to face stigma and differential treatment in the marine unit and experience discrimination and isolation.”

The report drew on an anonymous survey of 50 respondents conducted between September and October 2023. It portrayed “a workplace that is not safe for women and challenges efforts to build a genuinely inclusive culture”.

It found 100% of women surveyed had witnessed sex discrimination or sexual or sex-based harassment in the marine unit compared with 33% of men. About 78% of women had personally experienced that behaviour compared with 18% of men.

Reported experiences included: sexist, misogynistic or misandrist comments, jokes or banter (67% of women and 8% of men); intrusive comments about their private life or physical appearance (56% of women and 5% of men); and sexually suggestive comments or jokes (44% of women and 3% of men).

While the survey was “not a representative sample” it was backed by 17 focus groups with a total of 104 participants and 32 individual interviews. These uncovered reports of “humiliating or threatening behaviour from colleagues, such as the deliberate denial of diet-appropriate meals during a patrol, ‘career curtailing gossip’ and yelling”.

The AHRC reported a “perceived lack of accountability … for inappropriate behaviours leading to distrust in the system” as complaints were made but “led to inadequate action or no visible consequences”. Examples included “accused officers being transferred to other vessels rather than … directly addressing the behaviour”, it said.

The AHRC called on the ABF to “undertake periodic risk assessments of inappropriate workplace behaviours in the marine unit and identify control measures”.

“The ABF should integrate diversity and inclusion training to foster a greater understanding of the experiences of women, first nations and Carm [culturally and racially marginalised] officers,” it said.

In a message to staff, Outram said the conduct uncovered was “not representative of all officers in our organisation” but accepted that “outdated ideas and assumptions about gender … and a lack of respect for diversity and inclusion drive these behaviours within the ABF”.

Outram vowed to “strengthen our systems that prevent and respond to unlawful workplace conduct and other inappropriate behaviour”.

Outram told Guardian Australia he had “proactively commissioned” the AHRC work in April 2022. “Given the experience of other similar organisations, it was always likely … we would find examples of conduct that has been identified in the reports,” he said.

Outram has now accepted all 42 recommendations of the marine unit report and a separate and wider AHRC Respect@Work project for the border force, which has also not been released. He promised a “detailed implementation plan”.

“I am resolutely committed to working with the AHRC to establish ABF as an exemplar in providing a safe, equitable, diverse and inclusive culture and workplace.”

The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said she “shared the commissioner’s concerns with the findings of the report and note the ABF has accepted all recommendations”.

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David Pecker, Donald Trump’s longtime ally and former publisher of the National Enquirer, is returning to the witness stand.

The judge reminds him that he’s still under oath.

Pecker first took the stand on Monday and provided brief testimony of his work as a tabloid honcho.

Trump’s hush-money trial resumes with arguments over holding him in contempt of court

Prosecutors say Trump violated gag order barring him from attacking witnesses, while Trump lawyer says he didn’t because they were reposts

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Donald Trump was in court again in Manhattan on Tuesday morning for the second day of witness testimony in his criminal trial over hush-money payments to an adult film star weeks before the 2016 election.

David Pecker, the ex-president’s longtime ally and former publisher of the National Enquirer – who prosecutors contend was integral in illicit catch-and-kill efforts – is expected to take the stand again following a brief appearance on Tuesday.

First off, however, Juan Merchan heard arguments about a request from prosecutors to hold Trump in contempt of court. They said he repeatedly violated a gag order barring him from publicly attacking witnesses in the trial.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, argued that his client was just responding to political attacks with some of the alleged violations, not flouting the judge’s order.

He further argued that seven of the instances cited by the prosecution did not violate the gag order because they were reposts of other people’s content on social media.

“Reposting an article from a news site or a news program,” he said, “we don’t believe are a violation of the gag order.”

Merchan asked whether there was any case law on it. Blanche replied: “I don’t have any case laws, your honor, it’s just common sense.”

As Blanche continued to repeat that claim, the judge rebuked him.

“Mr Blanche you’re losing all credibility, I have to tell you right now,” Merchan said.

“You’re losing all credibility with the court. Is there any other argument you want to make?”

Merchan eventually called a short break and said he was reserving decision for the time being.

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

Pecker first took the stand on Monday and provided brief testimony of his work as a tabloid honcho. “We used checkbook journalism and we paid for stories. I gave a number to the editors that they could not spend more than $10,000 to investigate or produce or publish a story, anything over $10,000 they would spend on a story, they would have to be vetted and brought up to me, for approval.”

Pecker said he had final say over the content of the National Enquirer and other AMI publications. “Being in the publishing industry for 40 years, I realized early in my career that the only thing that was important is the cover of a magazine, so when the editors produced the story or prepared a cover, we would have a meeting and they would present to me what the story would be, what the concept was, what the cost was going to be.”

Prosecutors contend that Pecker was at the center of a plot to boost Trump’s chances in the 2016 election. Shortly after Trump in the summer of 2015 announced a presidential run, he met with his then lawyer Michael Cohen and Pecker at Trump Tower where, the prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said in his opening statement on Monday, they hatched a plan.

If Pecker caught wind of damaging information, he would apprise Trump and Cohen, so they could figure out a way to keep it quiet. That collusion came to include AMI’s $150,000 payoff to the Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Trump, prosecutors have said.

The alleged plot to cover up a claimed sexual encounter between the adult film star Stormy Daniels and Trump is the basis of prosecutors’ case.

In October 2016, the Washington Post published a video featuring Trump’s hot-mic comments during an Access Hollywood taping, in which he boasted about sexually assaulting women. The comments, which Colangelo read to jurors, included “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

After they surfaced, the campaign went into panic mode, Colangelo said. It worked to characterize these comments as “locker room talk”, but, when Daniels’ claim came across Trump and his allies’ radar, they feared the backlash: people would see these ill-behaved ways were not mere talk.

“Another story about infidelity, with a porn star, on the heels of the Access Hollywood tape, would have been devastating to his campaign,” Colangelo also said in his address to jurors. “Cohen carried out a $130,000 payoff to Daniels which Trump allegedly repaid him in checks that he listed as legal services in official company records.

“Look, no politician wants bad press, but the evidence at trial will show that this wasn’t spin or communication strategy,” Colangelo continued. “This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures – to silence people with something bad to say about his behavior.

“It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Pecker’s testimony will provide insight into the alleged plot, as discussions of concerns about damaging information – and the steps his cronies purportedly took to bury it – would speak to motive.

Trump’s camp has insisted that Trump did not do anything wrong and that the basis of prosecutors’ claims lacks legal merit. “There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election,” the defense lawyer Todd Blanche said in his opening. “It’s called democracy.”

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Explainer

Who are the key players in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial?

From Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels, these are the people likely to play key roles in the landmark trial

Jump to

  • Donald Trump, defendant
  • Stormy Daniels, key witness
  • Michael Cohen, key witness
  • David Pecker, key witness
  • Allen Weisselberg, key figure
  • Jeffrey McConney, key witness
  • Alvin Bragg, district attorney
  • Juan Merchan, judge
  • Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer

Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial over claims he illegally reimbursed Michael Cohen for hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels is under way. Here’s a look at some of the people who are likely to play a key role in the case.

Donald Trump, defendant

The Republican nominee for president is the defendant in the case. Prosecutors allege that he orchestrated a $130,000 payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels when she threatened to go public with allegations of an affair on the eve of the 2016 election, and then conspired with others to cover up the payment. He is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. Trump denies he had an affair with Daniels.

Stormy Daniels, key witness

Daniels, an adult film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, says she met Trump in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament. Daniels was 27 at the time and Trump was 60 and Daniels has always said the sex was consensual.

Just before the 2016 election, Daniels said she was approached by Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer at the time, and offered $130,000 not to disclose the alleged affair. She accepted the money. “The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety,” Daniels told 60 Minutes in 2018.

After the Wall Street Journal broke the story of the payment, Daniels sued Trump to release her from the non-disclosure agreement. She said it was void because it had not been signed by Trump.

Michael Cohen, key witness

Cohen was once a lawyer for Trump and one of the former president’s most loyal lieutenants and enforcers. He facilitated the payment to Daniels, funnelling the $130,000 to her through a shell company called Essential Consultants LLC. Trump later arranged to pay him back in monthly payment installments of $35,000. Trump allegedly worked with Cohen and Trump Organization officials to conceal the purpose of those payments on business records.

Earlier in 2016, Cohen facilitated a similar payment to a different woman, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who also claimed to have had an affair with Trump. In the McDougal case, Cohen arranged for McDougal to be paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer.

Cohen initially said that he paid for the scheme with his own money. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign … reimbursed me for the payment,” he said in 2018. “What I did defensively for my personal client, and my friend, is what attorneys do for their high-profile clients. I would have done it in 2006. I would have done it in 2011. I truly care about him and the family – more than just as an employee and an attorney.”

But in 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to a range of federal crimes, including campaign finance charges. At a plea hearing, Cohen admitted that he had facilitated the payments to the women at the direction of Trump. He served a three-year prison sentence, during most of which he was under home confinement. He was also disbarred in New York in 2019 after pleading guilty to lying to Congress.

Cohen continues to face serious credibility issues. Last month, a federal judge suggested Cohen may have committed perjury as recently as last October: testifying in a civil case against Trump then, Cohen said he hadn’t committed tax evasion even though he pleaded guilty to it in 2018. Trump’s lawyers are expected to make Cohen’s credibility a centerpiece of their case.

David Pecker, key witness

Pecker was a key Trump ally who served as the CEO of American Media Inc (AMI), the publisher of the National Enquirer.

Pecker helped Trump by purchasing the rights to potentially damaging stories and then never publishing them, a practice known as “catch and kill”. In 2015, AMI paid $30,000 to Dino Sajudin, a former doorman at Trump Tower, who was trying to sell a story that Trump had allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock.

In June of 2016, AMI paid Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, $150,000 to suppress a story about an affair. AMI bought the story with the understanding that Trump would reimburse them, according to the indictment. Cohen would later release a tape of him and Trump discussing repaying Pecker.

In 2016, Dylan Howard, then the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, alerted Pecker that Daniels had potentially damaging information about Trump, according to the indictment. Pecker advised Howard to reach out to Cohen, and Cohen subsequently negotiated the deal with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer.

Allen Weisselberg, key figure

Weisselberg, 76, is the former chief financial 0fficer of the Trump Organization. He worked for the company for more than 50 years, and has refused to turn on Trump even as he has already been sentenced to prison twice. He played a key role in concealing the purpose of Trump’s repayments to Cohen, according to the indictment.

As the election approached in 2016, Trump didn’t want to make the $130,000 payment to Daniels himself, so he allegedly asked Weisselberg and Cohen to figure out a plan. The two men eventually agreed Cohen would be repaid a total of $420,000. Weisselberg arrived at that number so that Cohen could claim the payments as income and still come out ahead after paying taxes. He approved Cohen’s request for reimbursement and the Trump Organization subsequently cut Cohen three checks for “legal expenses” from January to March of 2017. The remaining nine checks came directly from Trump’s trust, and were signed by Trump and Weisselberg.

Weisselberg is not charged in the hush-money case, but has already faced considerable legal trouble. He pleaded guilty in 2022 to tax fraud and served 100 days of a five-month prison sentence. Earlier this month, he was sentenced to an additional five months in prison after pleading guilty to perjury during Trump’s civil fraud trial.

Jeffrey McConney, key witness

McConney is the former controller of the Trump Organization who worked at the company from 1987 until 2023. McConney forwarded Cohen’s invoices to the Trump Organization accounting department with instructions to record them as legal expenses, according to the indictment.

McConney testified during the Trump civil fraud trial last year, breaking down in tears and saying he left his longtime job after investigations into Trump’s business dealings.

Alvin Bragg, district attorney

Bragg, a Democrat, was elected in 2021 to be the top prosecutor in Manhattan. Before running for office, he was largely an unknown prosecutor. During his campaign, he touted how many times he had sued Trump, and this trial will be the biggest moment in his career. Friends have described him as apolitical, though that hasn’t stopped Trump from attacking him as a political prosecutor.

He has already had a rocky relationship with this case. When he took office, a criminal investigation into Trump was already under way. But Bragg declined to move quickly ahead with that case, which was focused on Trump inflating his financial assets, prompting the prosecutors to resign and publicly make their feelings of displeasure known. Bragg instead ultimately moved forward with the hush-money case.

Juan Merchan, judge

Merchan, the judge overseeing the case, has served as a jurist in New York for nearly two decades. He was appointed to the New York family court in 2006 and has served as a criminal trial judge since 2009. He was born in Colombia, grew up in New York City and served as a prosecutor before becoming a judge.

He has shown a willingness to move the case along quickly, rebuffing efforts by Trump and his lawyers to delay the trial. He expanded a gag order against Trump after the former president repeatedly attacked his daughter, who has worked for various Democratic political candidates.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer

Blanche is a former federal prosecutor who gave up his partnership at a white-collar firm to represent Trump. In addition to the hush-money case, he is helping represent Trump in the two federal criminal cases he faces.

While he is a well-respected lawyer, according to the New York Times, this will be only his second trial as a defense lawyer.

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On trial, Trump is a shadow of the superhero his supporters crave

Sidney Blumenthal

He wants his devotees to see the court case as trial by combat, with him as warrior. But the truth is more pathetic

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Donald Trump is already in jail. He is pressed into confinement every weekday, except Wednesdays, beginning bright and early, no excuses, at 9.30 in the morning, in the dreary courtroom in Manhattan, where his impulse to mouth off wearies and worries his lawyers, and he must listen, for the first time since his father slapped him down, to an authority telling him to gag himself. He had more leeway when Fred Trump shipped the problem child to the New York military academy where Donald bullied his classmates.

Trump’s required attendance in the courtroom as a criminal defendant is his first loss of liberty.

His image there is raw, uncut and unfiltered, like Andy Warhol’s film Sleep,in which Warhol fixed a camera on his slumbering lover for six hours. It’s not a Trump rally. The withering focus – without the introduction of the thumping music, his emergence from a dry ice-generated cloud of fog and the predictably orgasmic reception of frenzied minions – reveals something less than the conquering hero in a “Make America Great Again” red baseball cap clapping his hands.

Day after day, Trump slumps in his chair, his eyes narrowing and closing, his facial features sagging, until he suddenly jerks to life, once muttering a seemingly veiled threat to a potential juror that earned him a rebuke from Judge Juan Merchan that if he persisted he would be in contempt for witness intimidation. Without self-discipline, Trump invites being disciplined. Lacking control, he fails to control himself. Time and again, he falls asleep, “appeared to nod off a few times, his mouth going slack and his head drooping onto his chest,” Maggie Haberman reported in the New York Times.

He appears to pass through the seven ages of man in a blink of the eye without having gone through those of adulthood, leaping from caterwauling infant to angry curmudgeon, the stages from napping to napping.

Trump clearly prefers to be where he is when his eyes are closed rather than when they are open. His sleeping might be a form of passive aggression, showing his hostility, and at the same time willful avoidance and denial. Railing on his Truth Social account, while minute by minute the price of the market-listed “DJT” dives, he wails in capital letters against the trial – “THIS SCAM ‘RUSHED’ TRIAL TAKING PLACE IN A 95% DEMOCRAT AREA IS A PLANNED AND COORDINATED WITCH HUNT” – and the judge – “POSSIBLY THE MOST CONFLICTED JUDGE IN JUDICIAL HISTORY, WHO MUST BE REMOVED FROM THIS HOAX IMMEDIATELY.”

For Trump, the trial is an ordeal – literally an ordeal, in the sense of a medieval trial in which the offender is subjected to torture to determine guilt or innocence. Documents and witnesses did not figure into those trials in the Middle Ages. The verdict was procured by ordeals of walking on fire or boiling in water. Trump, for his part, flips the historical script. He is out to discredit the documents and witnesses. He acts as if the only truth appears when he speaks outside the courtroom. He wants his devotees to see the trial as an ancient ordeal by combat in which he is warrior, not the offender.

In a waking moment, Trump’s promise that he will testify shows his understanding of the trial as more than a matter of the law, but a spectacle that raises the central issue at stake in his cult of personality. Of course, if he were to take the stand, inevitably to allegedly lie, as he has in past depositions, and inescapably to present himself to the jury as an unsympathetic narcissist, he would undermine his case, and possibly face additional severe penalties for obstruction of justice and perjury up to a separate sentence of seven years in jail.

But it is likely that Trump will not take the witness chair to subject himself to the prosecutor’s cross-examination. Trump’s dissembling is a gesture of false bravado showing that he intuitively grasps that for his followers his image as a strongman is on trial. He needs to tell them he fears nothing. He’ll think of an excuse later. He is on trial because he has been accused of bribing people not to tell the truth, but he has to lie to maintain his myth.

The trial is a morality play that has also become a mortality play. His elemental appeal is that he can do whatever he wants, that his power derives from making a mockery of the rules. He wants more than presidential immunity for anything he has done, from the attempted coup of January 6 to stealing national security secrets. He demands absolute immunity from social norms and conventions. His defiance, so far without consequences, is essential to demonstrating his strength. He appears immune to ordinary strictures. But strongmen can’t exist within someone else’s regime. The trial is a prequel of Trump caged. He doesn’t play by the rules, but now he has to obey them.

Trump has strategized that he could use the trial as his platform to depict himself as the superhero against the system. He would invert the terms of the prosecution to persecution and convert the trial into his campaign trail. As a victim of the forces of evil elites, he would inflate himself into a larger fighter for his followers. “I am your retribution!”

But the action hero can’t move without permission. “Sir, would you please have a seat,” the judge ordered when he stood up to walk out before adjournment. Superman can’t fly. He may dream of racing like Batman through Gotham, but he is facing the judge on the high bench issue a ruling about his contempt for violating the gag order.

He has lost more than his ability to articulate; he is becoming disarticulated as a figure. “It is a shame,” he whined. “I am sitting here for days now, from morning until night in that freezing room. Everybody was freezing in there! And all for this. This is your result. It is very unfair.” Under the weight of the trial, he is decaying, “haggard and rumpled, his gait off-center, his eyes blank,” according to the Times.

Trump is widely seen as obnoxious, vile and no model for children, even by some who support him, but he retains one great political asset that has allowed him to transcend his toxicity. He is perceived as a “strong and decisive leader”, according to the Gallup Poll. For his followers his strength has been immutable. This image is at the heart of his cult of personality, the center of his political theology and the core of his authoritarianism.

The trial is about facts, fiction and putrefaction. The prosecution will present its facts to strip Trump of his lies, his fiction. That regular and expected process has surprisingly but naturally disclosed his physical deterioration, which is hardly incidental but critical to his projection, which is another fiction.

In the kitsch art of Trumpism, a cross between Stalinist socialist realism and comic books, his true believers always, without exception, portray him as a physical strongman. In popular versions, there is Trump in leather jacket on a Harley, Trump on a galloping horse holding a flag, and Trump in fatigues holding an AR-15 rifle standing next to Lincoln and Washington, also in fatigues.

Trump, used to living the life of a sloth of the leisure class, actively encourages and profits from these images of virility. When he announced his re-election campaign for president in December 2022, he sold a deck of digital cards for $99 showing himself as Superman (with a “T” on his muscled chest), a Star Wars-like hero, and another holding a lightning bolt in his hand with jet planes in the background and the logo: “Superhero.”

His obsession with cultivating the strongman image, like that of Vladimir Putin posing shirtless on a horse, reached an apogee in October 2020, when he was released from the Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment of Covid, and planned to rip open his shirt to reveal a Superman’s letter “S”. Instead, he stood on the White House balcony and tore off his mask.

Trump now aspires to be a dictator “only on day one”. His desire to be an absolute despot is another of his wishful medieval anachronisms. “Be a king, be a killer,” Fred Trump told him. If he is the personification of the Leviathan, the state itself, a divine monarch above the law, his corporeal body merges with that of the body politic. His followers already accept implicitly that tenet of his myth, whether they know it or are Know Nothings. It is vital to his cult.

But, if true, the physical decline of his body must be reflected in the decline of his body politics, his kingdom of Maga, which is not the state, at least yet, unless there is a new law of succession, not yet introduced by the Freedom Caucus. Trump’s putrefaction in the courtroom is refutation of his pretension to royalty apart from any legal argument that might be considered by the conservatives on the supreme court to grant his plea of immunity as if he were king.

Being tried on the evidence trail of his pathetic old affairs is a cruel irony for the lumpish former man-about-town forced to sit today in the courtroom. He is being visited by the ghost of Playboy Mansion past.

“I am supposed to be in Georgia; in North Carolina, South Carolina. I’m supposed to be in a lot of different places campaigning, but I’ve been here all day,” Trump complained. “It’s a whopping outrage and it is an outrage. Everybody is outraged by it.”

  • Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel and All the Powers of Earth. He is a Guardian US columnist

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‘He could have killed my dog’: ride-share drivers accused of refusing passengers with guide dogs

Advocates want government action to enforce anti-discrimination laws that stipulate guaranteed access for assistance dogs in public places

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Natalie has lost count of how many times she’s called a ride-share or taxi and been left standing on the curb with her guide dog.

Two years ago, she was going to a music lesson in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire when she says a driver sped off, dragging her dog, Sharnee, behind the car.

“He said no, ‘You need to book Uber pet, basically refusing me. I was half in his car, trying to show him the guide dog card,” Natalie, who did not want her surname used, said.

“He goes, ‘Oh that’s not necessary,’ and drove off at 30 or 40km/h,” she said. “I was yelling out stop, stop, you’re going to injure my dog.”

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Natalie says Sharnee’s paw pad was scrapped off in the incident and afterwards, she hated getting into any car. Natalie was forced to put Sharnee into early retirement from working as a guide dog, and Natalie now has a different guide dog.

In the months after the incident, the driver left the country, so there was no avenue to pursue a complaint, she said.

“He could have killed my dog,” Natalie said. “It took months for [the police] to come back to me with the result, which ended up being nothing.”

A month later, another driver refused to take her. After she complained to the service, the driver claimed Natalie hadn’t been wearing a mask. After Natalie produced the CCTV to prove that she had been, the man was fined but allowed to continue working as a ride-share driver.

“They have to have something to deter them from doing this,” Natalie said. “Something so they know it’s not right and the laws won’t put up with it. Right now, they’re making out like it’s a joke.”

Almost half (46%) of Australians living with low vision and blindness have experienced a refusal with a taxi or ride-share company in the past 24 months, new data collected by Ernst & Young and commissioned by Guide Dogs Australia has revealed.

More than one-third (34%) said their taxi or ride-share was cancelled, while others were ridiculed or discriminated against (15%). The report said 622 people living with low vision and blindness were surveyed across the country, with a mixture of Guide Dog clients and other individuals.

The report found guide dog handlers were more likely to face access refusals or barriers in public, most commonly when booking ride-share or taxis, highlighting the discrimination against guide dogs.

Under federal anti-discrimination laws, assistance dogs are guaranteed access to public places – including taxes and ride shares – and drivers who refuse service can be fined up to $2,500.

But advocates say the laws are often ignored. Graeme Innes is the former disability discrimination commissioner, a Sydney-based human rights lawyer and Guide Dogs client. He said last December when he arrived at Melbourne airport he was refused three times before he got a ride.

“I was able to get photos and licence numbers, and they’ve been submitted to Safe Transport Victoria and those drivers have all been fined,” Innes said.

“But I shouldn’t have to be the policing authority here … This should be policed by the authorities at the taxi ranks where there are staff there.”

Innes estimated he was refused at least once a month and said he knew people who had guide dogs who had stopped travelling. The government needs to issue fines and work with platforms to ban drivers who refuse, Innes said.

“I think the key thing is government enforcing the law,” he said. “Ride-share companies all have training programmes that their drivers go through and so drivers can’t say that they’re not aware of these laws.”

Uber did not respond to questions from Guardian Australia about the incident with Natalie. But a spokesperson said the company was rolling out a “bespoke video learning course” to educate drivers on their obligations. If the driver receives a complaint, they will be forced to do complete a “knowledge course”.

Blair Davies, the chief executive of the Australian Taxi Industry Association Limited, said they were satisfied taxi drivers knew they had to provide service for everyone, but some drivers did not want to comply.

“That’s where we do encourage customers who have that experience to report it so that the industry can take action,” Davies said.

“The drivers are out there, they’re effectively working for themselves. If they choose to discriminate, there’s no immediate supervisor to call them into line, we need to wait for the complaint to come in. It’s a worry.”

Davies said the ATIA position was that some “stronger form of compliance” would be helpful as discrimination complaints currently put the onus on the alleged victim.

Tamara Searant, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT general manager of social change, said there needed to be an easier way for users to report complaints and more compliance from companies.

“One thing that’s missing at the moment is reporting,” Searant said. “Better reporting of what’s happening will help with people who want to make complaints, knowing that it’s gone somewhere and that there is an outcome.”

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‘He could have killed my dog’: ride-share drivers accused of refusing passengers with guide dogs

Advocates want government action to enforce anti-discrimination laws that stipulate guaranteed access for assistance dogs in public places

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Natalie has lost count of how many times she’s called a ride-share or taxi and been left standing on the curb with her guide dog.

Two years ago, she was going to a music lesson in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire when she says a driver sped off, dragging her dog, Sharnee, behind the car.

“He said no, ‘You need to book Uber pet, basically refusing me. I was half in his car, trying to show him the guide dog card,” Natalie, who did not want her surname used, said.

“He goes, ‘Oh that’s not necessary,’ and drove off at 30 or 40km/h,” she said. “I was yelling out stop, stop, you’re going to injure my dog.”

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Natalie says Sharnee’s paw pad was scrapped off in the incident and afterwards, she hated getting into any car. Natalie was forced to put Sharnee into early retirement from working as a guide dog, and Natalie now has a different guide dog.

In the months after the incident, the driver left the country, so there was no avenue to pursue a complaint, she said.

“He could have killed my dog,” Natalie said. “It took months for [the police] to come back to me with the result, which ended up being nothing.”

A month later, another driver refused to take her. After she complained to the service, the driver claimed Natalie hadn’t been wearing a mask. After Natalie produced the CCTV to prove that she had been, the man was fined but allowed to continue working as a ride-share driver.

“They have to have something to deter them from doing this,” Natalie said. “Something so they know it’s not right and the laws won’t put up with it. Right now, they’re making out like it’s a joke.”

Almost half (46%) of Australians living with low vision and blindness have experienced a refusal with a taxi or ride-share company in the past 24 months, new data collected by Ernst & Young and commissioned by Guide Dogs Australia has revealed.

More than one-third (34%) said their taxi or ride-share was cancelled, while others were ridiculed or discriminated against (15%). The report said 622 people living with low vision and blindness were surveyed across the country, with a mixture of Guide Dog clients and other individuals.

The report found guide dog handlers were more likely to face access refusals or barriers in public, most commonly when booking ride-share or taxis, highlighting the discrimination against guide dogs.

Under federal anti-discrimination laws, assistance dogs are guaranteed access to public places – including taxes and ride shares – and drivers who refuse service can be fined up to $2,500.

But advocates say the laws are often ignored. Graeme Innes is the former disability discrimination commissioner, a Sydney-based human rights lawyer and Guide Dogs client. He said last December when he arrived at Melbourne airport he was refused three times before he got a ride.

“I was able to get photos and licence numbers, and they’ve been submitted to Safe Transport Victoria and those drivers have all been fined,” Innes said.

“But I shouldn’t have to be the policing authority here … This should be policed by the authorities at the taxi ranks where there are staff there.”

Innes estimated he was refused at least once a month and said he knew people who had guide dogs who had stopped travelling. The government needs to issue fines and work with platforms to ban drivers who refuse, Innes said.

“I think the key thing is government enforcing the law,” he said. “Ride-share companies all have training programmes that their drivers go through and so drivers can’t say that they’re not aware of these laws.”

Uber did not respond to questions from Guardian Australia about the incident with Natalie. But a spokesperson said the company was rolling out a “bespoke video learning course” to educate drivers on their obligations. If the driver receives a complaint, they will be forced to do complete a “knowledge course”.

Blair Davies, the chief executive of the Australian Taxi Industry Association Limited, said they were satisfied taxi drivers knew they had to provide service for everyone, but some drivers did not want to comply.

“That’s where we do encourage customers who have that experience to report it so that the industry can take action,” Davies said.

“The drivers are out there, they’re effectively working for themselves. If they choose to discriminate, there’s no immediate supervisor to call them into line, we need to wait for the complaint to come in. It’s a worry.”

Davies said the ATIA position was that some “stronger form of compliance” would be helpful as discrimination complaints currently put the onus on the alleged victim.

Tamara Searant, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT general manager of social change, said there needed to be an easier way for users to report complaints and more compliance from companies.

“One thing that’s missing at the moment is reporting,” Searant said. “Better reporting of what’s happening will help with people who want to make complaints, knowing that it’s gone somewhere and that there is an outcome.”

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ASIO boss says privacy ‘not absolute’ as he urges social media companies to do more on extremism

Mike Burgess also warns artificial intelligence ‘likely to make radicalisation easier and faster’

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Social media companies must do more to stamp out extremism and assist law enforcement to track criminals, the heads of Australia’s federal police and security agencies have urged.

In comments likely to provoke criticism from some civil and digital rights campaigners, Asio director general Mike Burgess will use a major speech on Wednesday to argue “privacy is important but not absolute”, while AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw believes “there is no absolute right to privacy”.

Burgess will also sound an alarm about artificial intelligence, warning the new technology “is likely to make radicalisation easier and faster”.

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In the latest salvo in an expanding dispute between the Australian government and tech companies such as Facebook and X, Burgess and Kershaw will use a joint address to the National Press Club to call for social media companies to give more assistance to law enforcement in certain circumstances, including in cases of potential crimes being discussed on encrypted messaging platforms.

It comes as the federal government and eSafety Commission remain locked in an incendiary standoff with Elon Musk’s X over vision of the Wakeley church stabbing. The Albanese government has also flagged introducing its long-awaited misinformation bill with large fines for tech companies, and is mulling next responses to the news media bargaining code, which would compel social platforms to pay for news content.

Australia’s anti-encryption laws, passed in 2018, give law enforcement agencies the power to issue notices to companies to render assistance, or build a new capability, to help them snoop on suspects in serious criminal investigations such as terror or child sex offences.

Draft notes for speeches from Burgess and Kershaw indicate the law enforcement chiefs do not believe the laws are working as intended.

Burgess, head of Australia’s domestic security agency, will ask tech companies “to make encryption accountable”, indicating that existing federal legislation compelling the targeted unlocking of encrypted messages for investigative purposes is not being heeded by some companies.

“If the threat, evidence, safeguards and oversight are strong enough for us to obtain a warrant, then they should be strong enough for the companies to help us give effect to that warrant. To make encryption accountable,” Burgess will tell the Press Club, according to an advance copy of his speech.

He will say Asio is investigating “a number of Australians” in racist extremist groups using encrypted platforms “to communicate with offshore extremists, sharing vile propaganda, posting tips about homemade weapons and discussing how to provoke a race war”.

“The chatroom is encrypted, so Asio’s ability to investigate is seriously compromised,” Burgess will claim.

“Obviously, we and our partners will do everything we can to prevent terrorism or sabotage, so we are expending significant resources to monitor the Australians involved. Having lawful and targeted access to extremist communications would be much more effective and efficient.”

Asio this month warned in a submission to a Senate inquiry of an uptick in activity from violent extreme-right hate groups “who want to trigger a so called ‘race war’”.

Burgess will say he is “not calling for an end to end-to-end encryption”, nor asking for new laws, powers or resources for Asio.

“I am not asking the government to do anything. I am asking the tech companies to do more. I’m asking them to give effect to our existing powers and to uphold existing laws.

“Without their help in very limited and strictly controlled circumstances, encryption is unaccountable.”

Kershaw is expected to say the AFP and other law enforcement agencies have appealed to social media companies to work with them to keep children safe.

“That includes not transitioning to end-to-end encryption until they can ensure their technology protects against online crime rather than enabling it,” he will say.

“We recognise the role that technologies like end-to-end encryption play in protecting personal data, privacy and cybersecurity, but there is no absolute right to privacy.

“People have the right to privacy just like they have the right not to be harmed. People expect to have their privacy protected just like they expect police to do their job once a crime has been committed against them, or a loved one. That expectation includes being able to respond and bring offenders before the justice system.”

Kershaw will add: “My door is open to all relevant tech CEOs and chairmen, including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.”

Burgess’ speech will also raise concerns about broader threats from extremism online. He believes artificial intelligence technology is “equal parts hype, opportunity and threat”, warning of some extremist groups offshore asking AI services for advice on building weapons and planning attacks. Asio has concerns AI will increase espionage, foreign interference and disinformation issues.

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Peter Dutton may face party upset if opposition supports government’s misinformation bill

Opposition leader has backed giving eSafety Commissioner further powers, reforms that conservative Coalition senators strongly oppose

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Peter Dutton may face a party room revolt if the opposition elects to support the government’s misinformation bill, with a number of conservative colleagues and lobby groups saying they remained strongly opposed to the changes.

Dutton has expressed support for giving the eSafety Commissioner further powers, while the shadow communications minister, David Coleman, has said the Coalition was “open” to considering any changes to the government’s misinformation bill.

But conservative Coalition senators Matt Canavan, Claire Chandler and Alex Antic have all expressed strong criticisms of the proposed reforms, while the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) have also indicated they will continue to campaign against the bill.

The misinformation bill, released as an exposure draft in 2023, would empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority to require online platforms to address content considered “false, misleading or deceptive, and where the provision of that content on the service is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm”.

It was met with strong objections, from the ACL, IPA, , One Nation and numerous Coalition politicians, including Coleman, who set up a website, still active, called “Bin The Bill”. The conservative campaign group Advance labelled it a “Ministry of Truth”, a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian 1984.

The communications minister, Michelle Rowland, withdrew the bill in 2023, promising “refinements”, but after misinformation spread online following the Bondi Junction and Wakeley stabbings in Sydney, Rowland indicated the bill would be resurfaced.

Canavan, the Queensland LNP senator, was critical of the government for pointing to the recent stabbings in Sydney as further evidence for its misinformation bill.

“The PM has caused more division by shamelessly tying a violent video to his agenda to outlaw some types of speech. The basic principle is, if you don’t trust politicians, don’t give them the power to tell you what you can say,” he told Guardian Australia.

The IPA’s director of law and policy, John Storey, raised similar concerns. “The federal government is blatantly misleading the public in linking the terrible attacks in Sydney to its proposed misinformation laws, which are designed to do nothing more than censor the opinion of mainstream Australians online,” he claimed.

It’s understood the government may not make any major changes to the initial bill before it is introduced to parliament.

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Dutton told the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday the Coalition was “happy to have a look at anything the government puts forward”, but added “we need to get the right balance”.

“We don’t want to impinge on your ability to express a view in a democracy. It’s a key, fundamental element of who we are, that people can express their view, but they need to do it respectfully,” he said.

The Tasmanian senator Claire Chandler, shadow assistant minister for foreign affairs, who has previously described the bill as a “threat to democracy”, said on Tuesday she stood by those criticisms.

“In a democracy like ours, we should never accept the government of the day having the power to force media of any type to censor views, opinions and debate,” Chandler said.

“What we should expect, as Mr Dutton has said, is that social media companies will act on the appalling child abuse, foreign interference and violent imagery prevalent on their platforms.”

Antic tweeted on Tuesday that he “will not support the Misinformation Bill”, which he considered “monstrous”.

The ACL has previously raised concerns about Acma having power to decide what posts were considered misinformation. On Tuesday, ACL director of policy, Christopher Brohier, said it remained opposed.

“The events of the last week should not make a difference as there is no way of knowing the source of any influence on the young man who is alleged to have stabbed the bishop and there is [no] link known between the Bondi stabbings and the internet,” he said.

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Jerry Seinfeld says the movie business is over: ‘No longer the cultural pinnacle’

In an interview promoting his Pop-Tarts movie Unfrosted, comedian says confusion and disorientation have taken film’s place

Jerry Seinfeld has said the film business is “over” and that movies are no longer “the pinnacle in the social, cultural hierarchy” they once were.

In an interview with GQ magazine, Seinfeld talked about his experience on his feature film directing debut Unfrosted, saying that he admired the dedication of his collaborators on the movie, but that the industry itself was in crisis. “I thought I had done some cool stuff, but it was nothing like the way these people work. They’re so dead serious! They don’t have any idea that the movie business is over. They have no idea.”

He added: “Film doesn’t occupy the pinnacle in the social, cultural hierarchy that it did for most of our lives. When a movie came out, if it was good, we all went to see it. We all discussed it. We quoted lines and scenes we liked. Now we’re walking through a fire hose of water, just trying to see.”

Asked what in his opinion has replaced movies, Seinfeld said: “I would say confusion. Disorientation replaced the movie business. Everyone I know in show business, every day, is going, ‘What’s going on? How do you do this? What are we supposed to do now?’”

Unfrosted, a comedy about the creation of the Pop-Tart during the early 60s battle between rival cereal manufacturers Kellogg’s and Post, stars Seinfeld and Melissa McCarthy as Kellogg’s executives and Amy Schumer as the head of Post. Seinfeld wrote the film’s script and is credited as a producer, in his most substantial feature film project since Bee Movie, the 2007 animated comedy on which he also acted as writer and producer as well as taking the lead voice role.

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Jerry Seinfeld says the movie business is over: ‘No longer the cultural pinnacle’

In an interview promoting his Pop-Tarts movie Unfrosted, comedian says confusion and disorientation have taken film’s place

Jerry Seinfeld has said the film business is “over” and that movies are no longer “the pinnacle in the social, cultural hierarchy” they once were.

In an interview with GQ magazine, Seinfeld talked about his experience on his feature film directing debut Unfrosted, saying that he admired the dedication of his collaborators on the movie, but that the industry itself was in crisis. “I thought I had done some cool stuff, but it was nothing like the way these people work. They’re so dead serious! They don’t have any idea that the movie business is over. They have no idea.”

He added: “Film doesn’t occupy the pinnacle in the social, cultural hierarchy that it did for most of our lives. When a movie came out, if it was good, we all went to see it. We all discussed it. We quoted lines and scenes we liked. Now we’re walking through a fire hose of water, just trying to see.”

Asked what in his opinion has replaced movies, Seinfeld said: “I would say confusion. Disorientation replaced the movie business. Everyone I know in show business, every day, is going, ‘What’s going on? How do you do this? What are we supposed to do now?’”

Unfrosted, a comedy about the creation of the Pop-Tart during the early 60s battle between rival cereal manufacturers Kellogg’s and Post, stars Seinfeld and Melissa McCarthy as Kellogg’s executives and Amy Schumer as the head of Post. Seinfeld wrote the film’s script and is credited as a producer, in his most substantial feature film project since Bee Movie, the 2007 animated comedy on which he also acted as writer and producer as well as taking the lead voice role.

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One in five Australians wrongly believe dementia is ‘normal part of the ageing process’, survey shows

Few Australians know dementia risk can be avoided despite prevalence of condition, first-of-its-kind survey shows

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Dementia is the leading cause of premature death in older Australians, but fewer than one in three people are confident they know how to reduce their risk of it, a first-of-its-kind survey has shown.

The Dementia Awareness Survey released Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is the largest nationally representative survey of its kind measuring knowledge of dementia risk factors and common misconceptions.

Dementia is an umbrella term for several diseases that over time destroy nerve cells and damage the brain, affecting memory, thinking and the ability to perform daily activities.

Some risk factors, such as ageing and genetics, cannot be changed, but current evidence indicates that about 40% of the risk can reduced by avoiding or changing certain behaviours such as not smoking, maintaining healthy blood pressure and socialising.

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More than 5,400 adults completed the online survey available in six languages between July and August 2023, which asked them to respond to statements about the most common forms of dementia.

More than one in five respondents (22%) wrongly agreed that “dementia is a normal part of the ageing process”.

The most common misconceptions were that eating a protein-rich diet could lower the risk of dementia (31%), followed by avoiding the use of artificial sweeteners (26%) and aluminium cookware (20%).

Fewer than one in three participants confidently identified the 14 known risk factors of dementia.

Melanie Dunford, the head of the dementia data improvement unit at the AIHW, said despite the prevalence of dementia as a health and aged care concern in Australia, the community has poor understanding of what can be done to reduce the risk of dementia.

“When people have little knowledge it tends to correlate with greater stigma, which can lead to delays in people seeking help and whether they share diagnosis with others,” she said.

Conversely, the survey showed Australians who knew more about dementia tended to take more actions to reduce their dementia risk.

Almost all participants (99.6%) undertook one or more behaviours that can reduce the risk of developing dementia but fewer than two in five were doing so specifically for that reason.

Dr Nikki-Anne Wilson, a research fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales, said while the overlap between known risk factors for other chronic health conditions such as heart disease may be having secondary effects for dementia risk reduction, other health prevention information would not capture the full spectrum of risk reduction factors for dementia.

Her research has also shown Australians have a much poorer understanding of the risk reduction factors for dementia compared with other health conditions.

Wilson said individuals alone were unable to “efficiently reduce all the modifiable risk factors” and socioeconomic factors such as the cost of healthy food also played a role.

“There’s actually barriers to engaging in those risk reduction behaviours. So if the people who know what to do are already doing it, we need to shift our focus about addressing not only increasing information about what people can do … but also supporting those who may know what to do, but can’t do it for financial reasons, or for lack of time,” Wilson said.

The survey found significantly higher levels of knowledge about dementia amongst women, people with personal experience of people living with dementia, those with higher levels of education and household income, non-heterosexual people and people born in English-speaking countries.

The government commissioned the AIHW to conduct the survey, which will provide baseline data against which the effectiveness of the National Dementia Action Plan – which is still in development – can be measured.

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Central Coast Mariners star Angel Torres charged with sexual assault and stood down from A-League

Football Australia imposes interim suspension after Torres arrested over alleged incident in March

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The Central Coast Mariners’ star striker Angel Torres has been stood down from playing in the A-League Men after he was charged with sexual assault.

Torres, 24, was arrested at a property in Terrigal on Monday in relation to an alleged sexual assault of a woman on 24 March.

“He was taken to Gosford police station where he was charged with two counts of common assault, intimidation and aggravated sexual intercourse without consent,” New South Wales police said in a statement on Tuesday.

Torres has been granted bail and is set to face court in Gosford on 6 May.

The Colombian joined the Mariners at the start of the A-League Men season and has netted 13 goals in 23 games.

“Given the alleged serious criminal offences with which Torres has been charged, Football Australia immediately imposed a no-fault suspension,” the Mariners said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The suspension is a precautionary measure that suspends the player from participating in football and club related activities.

“It is important to note that Football Australia in imposing this interim suspension is making no finding of guilt or fault in respect of the offences with which Torres has been charged.

“Such charges remain matters to be determined by the Courts of New South Wales.”

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Voyager 1 transmitting data again after Nasa remotely fixes 46-year-old probe

Engineers spent months working to repair link with Earth’s most distant spacecraft, says space agency

Earth’s most distant spacecraft, Voyager 1, has started communicating properly again with Nasa after engineers worked for months to remotely fix the 46-year-old probe.

Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which makes and operates the agency’s robotic spacecraft, said in December that the probe – more than 15bn miles (24bn kilometres) away – was sending gibberish code back to Earth.

In an update released on Monday, JPL announced the mission team had managed “after some inventive sleuthing” to receive usable data about the health and status of Voyager 1’s engineering systems. “The next step is to enable the spacecraft to begin returning science data again,” JPL said. Despite the fault, Voyager 1 had operated normally throughout, it added.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 was designed with the primary goal of conducting close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn in a five-year mission. However, its journey continued and the spacecraft is now approaching a half-century in operation.

Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space in August 2012, making it the first human-made object to venture out of the solar system. It is currently travelling at 37,800mph (60,821km/h).

The recent problem was related to one of the spacecraft’s three onboard computers, which are responsible for packaging the science and engineering data before it is sent to Earth. Unable to repair a broken chip, the JPL team decided to move the corrupted code elsewhere, a tricky job considering the old technology.

The computers on Voyager 1 and its sister probe, Voyager 2, have less than 70 kilobytes of memory in total – the equivalent of a low-resolution computer image. They use old-fashioned digital tape to record data.

The fix was transmitted from Earth on 18 April but it took two days to assess if it had been successful as a radio signal takes about 22 and a half hours to reach Voyager 1 and another 22 and a half hours for a response to come back to Earth. “When the mission flight team heard back from the spacecraft on 20 April, they saw that the modification worked,” JPL said.

Alongside its announcement, JPL posted a photo of members of the Voyager flight team cheering and clapping in a conference room after receiving usable data again, with laptops, notebooks and doughnuts on the table in front of them.

The Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who flew two space shuttle missions and acted as commander of the International Space Station, compared the JPL mission to long-distance maintenance on a vintage car.

“Imagine a computer chip fails in your 1977 vehicle. Now imagine it’s in interstellar space, 15bn miles away,” Hadfield wrote on X. “Nasa’s Voyager probe just got fixed by this team of brilliant software mechanics.

Voyager 1 and 2 have made numerous scientific discoveries, including taking detailed recordings of Saturn and revealing that Jupiter also has rings, as well as active volcanism on one of its moons, Io. The probes later discovered 23 new moons around the outer planets.

As their trajectory takes them so far from the sun, the Voyager probes are unable to use solar panels, instead converting the heat produced from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium into electricity to power the spacecraft’s systems.

Nasa hopes to continue to collect data from the two Voyager spacecraft for several more years but engineers expect the probes will be too far out of range to communicate in about a decade, depending on how much power they can generate. Voyager 2 is slightly behind its twin and is moving slightly slower.

In roughly 40,000 years, the probes will pass relatively close, in astronomical terms, to two stars. Voyager 1 will come within 1.7 light years of a star in the constellation Ursa Minor, while Voyager 2 will come within a similar distance of a star called Ross 248 in the constellation of Andromeda.

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Anne Hathaway says she had to kiss 10 men during ‘gross’ chemistry audition

Oscar-winning actor said she was afraid ‘to lose everything by being labeled “difficult”’ early in her career

Anne Hathaway has revealed that in the 2000s, producers on a film she was starring in required her to kiss a succession of potential co-stars.

Speaking to V Magazine, the actor said that in the 2000s, “it was considered normal to ask an actor to make out with other actors to test for chemistry. Which is actually the worst way to do it.”

She continued: “I was told, ‘We have 10 guys coming today and you’re cast. Aren’t you excited to make out with all of them?’ And I thought, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’ Because I wasn’t excited. I thought it sounded gross.”

Hathaway, who won an Oscar for her role in Les Misérables and is shortly to be seen in romantic comedy The Idea of You, said that she acceded to the request.

“And I was so young and terribly aware how easy it was to lose everything by being labeled ‘difficult’, so I just pretended I was excited and got on with it. It wasn’t a power play, no one was trying to be awful or hurt me. It was just a very different time and now we know better.”

Hathaway, who also acts as a producer on her new film, about the relationship between a single mother and a boy band star played by Nicholas Galitzine, said she now engineered such tests differently.

“We asked each of the actors coming in to choose a song that they felt their character would love,” she said, “that they would put on to get my character to dance, and then we’d do a short little improv.

“I was sitting in a chair like we had come in from dinner or a walk or something, we pressed play, and we just started dancing together.”

Galitzine chose a song by rock band Alabama Shakes, fronted by Brittany Howard. “I heard Brittany’s voice and I just started smiling,” said Hathaway.

“And he saw me smile, so he relaxed, and we just started dancing. Nobody was showing off. Nobody was trying to get the gig. We were just in a space dancing. I looked over and Michael Showalter, our director, was beaming. Spark!”

Galitzine has also spoken about his experience of their joint audition, saying that although he found it “incredibly intimidating … there was something almost spiritual that kind of happened there where I felt this immediate connection to Annie, and we had a simpatico and a shared sense of humour and it was just very easy.”

Galitzine was also the subject of a chaste chemistry test for romcom Red, White and Royal Blue, in which he plays Prince Henry, a member of the British monarchy who begins a relationship with the son of the first female President of the United States.

Director Matthew Lopez described the Zoom chemistry read to Radio Times: “Within five minutes … we all knew that we had found our Henry and our Alex.

“It was instantaneous. It was really just … quite literal chemistry. I think you could feel the atoms swirling between them. Even though one of them was in New Orleans, and one of them was in LA.”

While establishing a real-life frisson between prospective co-stars is a widely recognised necessity when casting a film, chemistry tests – in which strangers are instructed to become intimate – can occur in semi-private settings, usually without an intimacy coordinator present.

One example is the first encounter between Twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who were instructed to begin kissing on a bed at the home of director Catherine Hardwicke.

“Rob and Kristen auditioned on my bed,” Hardwicke has recalled, “the kissing scene, Rob was so into it he fell off the bed. I’m like, ‘Dude, calm down.’ And I’m in there filming with my little video camera.

“At the end [after the audition], Kristen was like, ‘It has to be Rob.’ I could tell they had a lot of chemistry, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I thought, ‘Kristen was 17. I don’t want to get in some illegal things.’ So I remember I told Rob, ‘By the way, Kristen is 17. In our country, it’s illegal to have a sexual …’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, OK, whatever.’”

Stewart and Pattinson went on to have a relationship and Twilight became a multimillion-dollar franchise.

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