The Guardian 2024-05-03 01:02:18


Anthony Albanese has criticised a Perth court’s decision to grant bail to the former immigration detainee now accused of bashing and robbing a woman during a home invasion.

The prime minister said he disagreed with the Perth magistrates court decision to release former detainee Majid Doukoshkan on bail and with the prosecutor’s decision not to oppose it.

Albanese was asked about the bail decision on the Seven Network this morning and said:

In Australia, we have a separation of the judicial system from the political system. But if it was up to me, I assure you that there wouldn’t have been bail granted in that case. But these things are done independently by the director of public prosecutions.

Albanese also criticised the decision by an oversight board not to require Doukoshan to wear a monitoring ankle bracelet.

I think that’s a wrong decision by that board, but they make the decisions.

Doukoshkan had been before the court charged with breaching the curfew placed on him after he and about 150 other people were released from immigration detention late last year. Their release was prompted by a high court ruling that indefinite detention was unlawful.

He was released on bail about eight weeks before the Perth home invasion incident in which he is accused of bashing and robbing Simons.

Labor to launch ad campaign urging parents to learn about the harmful misogyny children see online

A new tool will let adults see the kind of social media feeds their children may be scrolling

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Parents will be urged to learn about harmful misogyny online and discuss it with their children as part of the federal government’s measures to tackle men’s violence against women.

New ad campaigns will launch next month focusing on the harms caused by misogyny, including a new tool to let adults see the kind of social media feeds their children may be scrolling, with a particular focus on controversial social media influencers spreading harmful gender stereotypes or condoning violence against women.

Online experts have warned of a “deeply rooted problem” where YouTube and TikTok algorithms can take young men down a rabbit hole of violent content, with concerns many parents may not yet understand the kind of videos their children see.

A new phase of the Stop it at the Start anti-violence campaign will launch from June, with a focus on “counter-influencing” misogynist content in online spaces.

Guardian Australia understands the campaign will include mainstream social media platforms, chatrooms and message boards, as well as traditional advertising streams. Campaigns will cater to First Nations and multicultural communities.

The campaign about children viewing misogynist content online will centre on the idea that “disrespect is trending in their world”, encouraging adults to educate themselves about the issue. It will run alongside a redevelopment of the Respect.gov.au website which will include a feature referred to as the “algorithm of disrespect” – a tool simulating the average social media feed of a young Australian to show parents what kind of content their kids may see.

The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, told Channel Seven: “It won’t be enough for me until we don’t see any women living in fear, any children living in fear as a result of violence from men in this country … I won’t be satisfied until we don’t see any more women dying.”

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According to the government, research shows 25% of Australian teenage boys look up to online personalities posting misogynist content. The government has not ruled out engaging social media influencers to create their own anti-misogynist content, similar to anti-vaping campaigns which tapped online personalities against smoking.

“A lot of what is being pushed is unfortunately negative and the way in which you counter that is by really flooding the market with something better,” the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, told Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, Rishworth and Rowland said in a statement on Wednesday: “It will raise awareness about a proliferation of misogynistic influencers and content, and encourage conversations within families about the damaging impact of the material.”

Wednesday’s announcement came alongside establishing the leaving violence payment, making permanent and revamping a trial version which will continue until the improved program begins in 2025.

On ABC radio, Albanese raised concern about social media serving up dangerous content to children.

“One of the tragedies is that the way the algorithms work is that it’s not like a young person has to go searching for this, sometimes it’s material searching for them,” he said.

“It is something that is raised with me by parents, probably more than any other issue … It’s the opposite of teaching people respectful relationships.

“This isn’t free speech to promote hatred and violence and misogyny. We need to have that debate as a society.”

Elise Thomas, an analyst with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, co-wrote a 2022 paper which found YouTube algorithms for young men quickly start to recommend misogynist, “alt-right” or “incel” content.

She said the trend was surprising and perhaps an issue many parents did not understand – noting the issue was more prominent on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok than Facebook or X.

“It’s a deeply rooted problem,” she said. “There is risk of conflating getting the problem off your screen, with getting rid of the problem itself.

“We can prevent algorithms from making the problem worse. It’s not about a focus on specific pieces of content but to think about the broader system around it, the broader algorithmic recommendation of such content.”

Simon Copland, an honorary fellow at the Australian National University and researcher in online misogyny, also raised concerns about YouTube rabbit holes. He said the platform’s algorithm of recommended videos could create a pathway to “stumbling” on to such content from starting places like workout or self-help videos.

Copland said young men attracted to these online spaces were often searching for community or friendship, saying many may have been bullied or ostracised. He suggested greater investment in local community organisations and men’s social groups, including people who had escaped such communities, so young men had an “alternative landing point” instead of gravitating toward such online ecosystems.

“Ad campaigns don’t hurt … but it’s about the more localised stuff, training up local men, local leaders, setting up men’s groups,” Copland said.

“They need spokespeople who know the community, who can sell those messages.”

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Thinktank warns Australian misinformation laws should not be based on voluntary industry code

Experts find ‘significant gaps between statement and practice’ of social media firms’ enforcement of standards

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The Australian government’s laws to force tech companies to act on misinformation should not be based on the current voluntary industry code as planned, because those standards are not being met, a technology thinktank has said.

“We were testing the efficacy of these systems,” the executive director of Reset Australia, Alice Dawkins, said. “And where there had been a commitment or a statement made in the code we tested the results against what platforms said that they did.

“Across the board, there were some significant gaps between statement and practice.”

The digital platforms lobby group Digi launched the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation in 2021, with signatories including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and the company then known as Twitter.

X, as it is now called, has been kicked out of the code but the other companies are required to release transparency reports annually in May on their efforts to tackle misinformation and disinformation.

Digi has said it engages an independent expert to review the reports and requires the companies to show proof they are compliant. But Reset Australia said its research, released in a report on Friday, shows some of the companies are not meeting their own voluntary standards.

In its latest transparency report, Meta stated that it applies a warning label to “content found to be false by third-party factchecking organisations”. But Reset found the label is not applied to all content making claims found to be false by factcheckers, just to the individual posts that are factchecked – meaning other posts making the same claims could escape the label.

Researchers found 17 factchecked articles. But out of 152 posts making the false claims identified in the factcheck, only 8% were labelled four weeks after being reported to Meta.

In one example, a factchecked post said Russia and Australia are the only two countries still considered sovereign. Reset found another post making the same claim that was not labelled.

Reset pointed out the discrepancy to Meta, saying the claim in its transparency report was misleading. The company’s response, cited in the Reset report, was that “where content is reviewed … and found to be false, Meta applies a warning label to that specific item of content”. It dismissed the complaint.

Reset then complained to Digi but the independent complaints subcommittee at Digi rejected the complaint. It argued Reset had not shown Meta to be making false statements in the report. The committee also noted Meta had offered to update its next transparency report with more information, and criticised Reset for taking its complaint to media before the committee had made a decision.

Dawkins said making a complaint to Digi was one of the few avenues for challenging adherence to the code.

“There’s no pathway for evidentiary scrutiny of these transparency reports,” Dawkins said. “We’re stuck with this surface-level assessment of the syntax.”

Reset also reported that X had failed to remove any content identified as misinformation about the voting process for the voice referendum, while Facebook took action against 4% of content identified. TikTok removed one-third after the content had been flagged by the “report” button on the app.

In one example, a TikTok video claiming the referendum was unconstitutional was removed from the platform, while another near-identical video stayed online.

Similarly, on Facebook, two posts made the same claim that the high court had ruled the referendum unconstitutional but only one was removed while the other remained online.

In another previously reported case, TikTok approved 70% of ads tested by Reset that contained misinformation about the voice referendum.

Reset contrasted that with a claim by TikTok in its transparency report that the company has “strict prohibitions” on ads containing deceptive or misleading claims.

The federal government is planning to introduce revised legislation later this year to make the voluntary misinformation code mandatory. It is also expected to empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority to require social media companies to toughen their policies 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”.

While much of the controversy around the bill has been focused on claims it will limit free speech and religious speech, Dawkins said basing the bill on the existing code was not sufficient to tackle misinformation.

“The government’s really got to take a moment before just embedding this code into legislation,” she said. “The fact it’s about misinformation is moot. The real interest is how are the platforms reporting on what they do?”

She said making the platforms more transparent would give people more confidence in the decisions being made about content on the platform.

“More meaningful corporate accountability over that sort of content and distribution is a win for freedom of speech, and it’s a win for all those concerns.”

Digi was approached for comment.

Meta and TikTok previously said in response to the Reset analyses that they had worked to combat misinformation on their platforms.

TikTok’s Australian director of public policy, Ella Woods-Joyce, told SBS its focus during the referendum was to work with the AEC and to “keep our community safe and protect the integrity of the process, and our platform, while maintaining a neutral position”.

Meta said it had provided more funding to factcheckers and taken other steps to combat misinformation on its platform.

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‘A vital moment’: Australian pro-Palestine campus protesters vow to stay on as tensions brew

Opposition is growing as Australia’s universities encampment movement enters its second week

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At Australian National University (ANU) on Thursday, pro-Palestinian protesters plant an olive tree on the campus lawns. A short distance away, counter-protesters sing Israeli pop songs.

For the past three nights, around 40 pro-Palestinian protesters have camped out in near-zero degree temperatures at the university’s campus in solidarity with an ongoing movement in the US. They’ve relied on the kindness of Canberrans for food and bedding.

“The safest place to be in winter is at home in your comfy bed,” encampment organiser Skye Predavec says. “But I guess we’re all here because we’re willing to risk a a little bit of our health and put ourselves on the line for a cause that we think is worth it.”

In America, hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters have been arrested across US campuses after a weeks-long protest movement over the Israel-Gaza war that has put student demonstrators at odds with university leadership.

In Australia, where encampments are entering their second week, there have been no arrests. But tensions are also rising, with protesters vowing to maintain their presence in spite of growing opposition.

How the movement has played out in Australia

Australia’s first pro-Palestine encampment was established at the University of Sydney last Tuesday. They have since spread to ANU, the University of Queensland (UQ), the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Curtin University.

The students want disclosure of and divestment from all university activities that support Israel, as well as a ceasefire and the end of government ties to the Jewish state.

No arrests have been made so far, but on Wednesday evening, the University of Sydney’s vice-chancellor, Mark Scott, wrote to staff denouncing “unacceptable” behaviour by protesters, including graffitiing, harassing staff and blocking road access.

“We are investigating these violations of our policies in the usual way, including cooperating with police investigations where alleged unacceptable conduct might have broken the law,” he wrote.

“From time to time, in the interests of safety, some buildings may be placed in secure mode meaning a valid student or staff card will be required to enter.”

Vice-chancellors, including Scott and the University of Melbourne’s Duncan Maskell, have so far maintained the rights of students to peacefully protest on campus, so long as policies aren’t breached.

On Thursday afternoon, police were onsite at the University of Melbourne to monitor a “rally against hate” organised by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) in protest of a camp established on the south lawn.

The event, attended by the Zionist Federation of Australia and a small number of staff, occurred at the same time as a pro-Palestine rally. Although it was broadly peaceful, a person was escorted offsite, Melbourne University student publication Farrago reported, and a temporary picket line was established.

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) says more decisive action is needed, and is calling for a roundtable to address what it describes as the “vilification of Jewish students” on university campuses.

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It points to a string of incidents including a flag depicting an internationally recognised terrorist organisation erected at UQ and removed upon university request, and controversy over an ABC Radio interview in which one ANU organiser offered “unconditional support” for Hamas and another refused to condemn the terrorist group.

“We are already seeing the glorification of violence against Jews and public displays of support for Hamas, alongside radical, non-student actors being allowed to operate on campus,” AUJS says in a statement.

“We will always defend robust debate, but racial vilification is never acceptable.”

Intimidation of protesters

Some protesters have faced intimidation. At Monash, police and security were required late on Wednesday evening following disruptions at the newly established camp.

Connor Knight, a Students for Palestine member, alleged a group of mostly middle-aged men descended on the camp at around 12am dressed in Australian and Israeli flags and destroyed parts of the infrastructure, including the camp kitchen.

He alleged that one protester’s tent was shaken while she was trying to sleep. Police were called and moved 10 people on without arrest.

“Our camp is peaceful,” Knight says. “The recent moment in the US has been one of the most inspiring radical student movements in history … we are not going to be stopped. We’re ready to make this even bigger.”

A spokesperson for Monash says it’s “proud” of the university’s long history of diverse views but won’t tolerate unacceptable conduct.

“We have, and will continue to, work with organisers and relevant authorities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all individuals,” a spokesperson says.

The minister for education, Jason Clare, has been speaking with vice-chancellors, pressing that maintaining the safety and students of staff is paramount.

“There is no place for antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism of any kind in our universities or anywhere else,” he says. “We have got to work here to keep our community together, not let it get torn apart.”

But the shadow education minister, Sarah Henderson, says vice-chancellors are “failing to act against this ugly tide of hatred”, calling on management to expel participating students.

The opposition leader has backed her stance. Speaking on 2GB on Thursday, Peter Dutton urged the prime minister to “show some backbone” and end the “nonsense protests”.

“We wouldn’t tolerate it if it was a campus protest against people of Indigenous heritage or people of the Islamic community or people of tall stature,” he said.

Free Palestine Melbourne organiser Bella Beiraghi says the movement is inclusive and peaceful – adding Jewish activists have been central to dispel what she described as myths Judaism can be conflated with Zionism.

A study space has been set up outside the tents to ensure nobody misses coursework. On sunnier days, tutors have opted to hold their classes on the lawn – to watch history unfold.

“This is a really vital moment,” Beiraghi says.

“Most universities and schools in Gaza have been bombed and destroyed. The onus is on us to stand in solidarity with Palestinian people.”

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Three questioned in Mexico as concerns grow for missing Perth brothers

Siblings Callum and Jake Robinson went missing on a surfing trip to the Baja California region

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Three people have been questioned in Mexico in connection to the disappearance of two Perth brothers who went missing during a surfing trip in Mexico, and an American man who was travelling with them.

Authorities said they had found an abandoned camping site that may have been used by the travellers.

A search continues for Perth siblings Callum and Jake Robinson, both in their 30s, along with their American companion, who are believed to have gone missing in the Baja California region of Mexico.

The brothers were reportedly travelling with 30-year-old US citizen Jack Carter Rhoad.

A missing persons poster being circulated by the brothers’ friends and family said the trio were last seen on Sunday near the K38 surf spot – so-named because the collection of breaks sits at the 38km mark of the Baja Highway south of Rosarito on the Baja California peninsula.

“They did not check into the airbnb near K38 and Callum did not return to work in San Diego as scheduled,” the poster said.

“They were driving a white Chevrolet Colorado utility with Californian number plates … around Ensenada region.

“Callum is a type 1 diabetic and the family have not been able to make contact since Saturday. This is out of character behaviour, please help.”

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The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) officials had been in contact with the family following the disappearance.

“This is a really concerning situation,” Albanese told Seven’s Sunrise program on Friday.

“Our embassy in Mexico is working with local authorities as well to try to ascertain what has happened here. We certainly hope that these brothers are found safely but there is real concern about the fact that they’ve gone missing. Their mother is obviously very distressed about this and we just hope for a positive outcome.”

Mexican police said they had questioned a woman and two men in relation to the disappearance. The woman was found with a mobile phone that contained a photo that looked like one of the missing brothers.

María Elena Andrade Ramírez, Baja California’s chief prosecutor, told reporters that abandoned tents had been found, along with evidence that linked the three people to the missing men, but would not elaborate on whether they were suspects or witnesses in the case.

“A working team is at the site where they were last seen, where tents and other evidence was found that could be linked to these three people we have under investigation,” Andrade Ramírez said. “There is a lot of important information that we can’t make public.

“We do not know what condition they are in,” she added. “All lines of investigation are open at this time. We cannot rule anything out until we find them.”

She said the time that had elapsed since they went missing might make it more difficult to find the missing men.

The pair’s mother, Debra Robinson, appealed for help to find her sons on Mexican social media, saying she had not heard from them since Saturday and “this is a very dire situation”.

She also shared an image of a Chevrolet ute the brothers had been travelling in, and mentioned in a comment that the family hoped to travel to Mexico as soon as possible.

Dfat confirmed it was helping the family.

“Owing to our privacy obligations we are unable to provide further comment,” a spokesperson said.

The Western Australian premier, Roger Cook, said the disappearance of the brothers was distressing.

“When we do send out young men and women overseas to enjoy that adventure holiday, they invite an element of risk, and this is really quite distressing,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“I share the concerns of all Western Australians in terms of their welfare.”

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Text shows Stormy Daniels lawyer’s shock at Trump win in 2016: ‘What have we done?’

Keith Davidson gives colorful testimony at former president’s hush-money trial about how agreements came together in 2016

As Donald Trump’s presidential victory became clearer and clearer on election night in 2016, an attorney who brokered hush-money payments to bury the then candidate’s alleged sexual liaisons seemed shocked that his efforts had worked, texting his longtime confidant: “What have we done?”

So went the second day of testimony from Keith Davidson – who represented alleged Trump paramours Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal – in the ex-president’s criminal trial. The friend in question was Dylan Howard, then the editor of the National Enquirer. Prosecutors allege that the tabloid veteran kept Trump’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, apprised of damaging information about his boss.

Davidson described the phrasing as “gallows humor” about the fact that “our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump”.

Howard responded to the text message with: “Oh my God.”

Manhattan state prosecutors allege that Cohen paid off Daniels to keep her quiet, and coordinated a payment to McDougal through the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc, to help Trump’s chances in the election. Trump is on trial in New York for falsification of business records over allegedly listing repayments to Cohen as legal expenses in company documents.

Prosecutors on Thursday also played an audio recording of a phone conversation between Trump and Cohen from September 2016 discussing the plan to keep McDougal quiet. “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen tells Trump on the tape that Cohen secretly made, seemingly referring to National Enquirer boss David Pecker.

That recording has been out in the public since 2018, but the jury heard it for the first time Thursday. The tape appears to make clear Trump knew about the hush-money plot.

In addition to being a firsthand account of the purported payoff scheme, Davidson’s time on the stand served to corroborate expected testimony of Cohen, who turned from Trump consigliere to star prosecution witness. Trump’s lawyers have already signaled they will aggressively attack Cohen’s credibility when he testifies, painting him as a liar with an axe to grind.

The prosecution’s questioning of Davidson seemed to be a preemptive strike against this defense strategy. Indeed, Davidson’s comments aired problems with Cohen’s credibility before Trump’s lawyers could parade them in front of jurors.

Steinglass, for example, asked Davidson whether he’d kept communicating with Cohen after the election. Davidson recalled one particularly animated 2016 phone call.

“Jesus Christ, can you fucking believe I’m not going to Washington?”

“After everything I’ve done for that fucking guy, I can’t believe I’m not going to Washington.”

“I’ve saved that guy’s ass so many times, you don’t even know,” Davidson further recalled of Cohen’s call. “He said I never even got paid. That fucking guy is not even paying me the $130,000 back.”

While cross-examining, Trump attorney Emil Bove did try to chip away at Cohen’s credibility through Davidson’s recollections. Bove asked about Cohen’s behavior in late 2016.

The crestfallen Cohen thought he might have become Trump’s chief of staff, only to find himself out of the picture, Davidson recalled.

“I thought he was gonna kill himself.”

Bove also grilled Davidson on his legal dealings related to other former A- and B-listers, such as Hulk Hogan, Charlie Sheen and Tila Tequila, a Playboy model turned born-again Christian who has allegedly flirted with alt-right ideologies. In an obvious effort to make Davidson look déclassé, Bove also asked whether the Hustler publisher Larry Flynt had offered to indemnify Daniels if she came forward about Trump.

Prior to Davidson’s testimony, prosecutors once again asked Juan Merchan to punish Trump for still more alleged gag-order violations; the four alleged instances involve two comments about Cohen, one about the jury, and one about Pecker. The hearing on Thursday morning came two days after the jurist fined Trump $9,000 for other gag order violations. Merchan has barred Trump from attacking witnesses or jurors in the case.

“The order was issued because of the defendant’s persistent and escalating rhetoric aimed at participants in this hearing,” said the prosecutor, Christopher Conroy, of Trump. Conroy said that prosecutors were not seeking jail at this time, to avoid delaying the proceedings, but are seeking fines.

Todd Blanche complained that Trump has an unfair disadvantage because of the gag order. He argued that his client is running for president, after all, and that Joe Biden is able to say whatever he wants about the case.

“Judge, last weekend, President Trump’s rival, President Biden, said in a public forum – he talked about this trial, and he talked about a witness that’s going to be in this trial. He mocked President Trump. He said, ‘Donald has had a few tough days lately – you might call it stormy weather,’” Blanche said.

“President Trump can’t respond like he wants to because of this gag order,” Blanche said, adding, “Stormy weather was an obvious reference to Stormy Daniels.’”

“Everybody can say whatever they want, except President Trump,” Blanche said later.

Merchan seemed unmoved by the argument. “They’re not defendants in this case,” he said, noting that non-defendants such as Biden are not bound by his gag order. Merchan was yet to decide on the prosecutors’ request.

Davidson’s first day on the stand on Tuesday was also characterized by colorful testimony about how deals with McDougal and Daniels came together in 2016. Prosecutors are using his testimony to help jurors understand the mechanics of Trump’s efforts to pay off women and convince jurors that it was done in service of his campaign.

Davidson described his struggles getting Cohen to wire the $130,000 he had agreed to pay Daniels after weeks of delays. Asked why he believed Cohen was delaying payment, Davidson said: “I thought he was trying to kick the can down the road until after the election.”

Trump, who showed off a new trial outfit, with a marigold tie and navy suit, seemed to be more present at proceedings than on days past. He did not appear to fall asleep, but did look bored as his attorney cross-examined a witness who was answering questions about evidence.

  • This article was amended on 2 May 2024 to correct the amount of money that Davidson said in testimony that Michael Cohen sent to Stormy Daniels.

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Trump’s jury hears audio proof he knew about the McDougal catch-and-kill

Prosecutors faced their first rough day in court on Thursday – but a bit of tape might have just turned everything around for them

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On the docket: a rough day for prosecutors takes a turn at the end

Prosecutors faced their first rough day in court on Thursday – but a bit of tape might have just turned everything around for them.

Late in the afternoon, prosecutors played an audio recording of a phone conversation between Donald Trump and his attorney and fixer Michael Cohen openly discussing in September 2016 the plan to keep former Playboy model Karen McDougal from telling her story about her alleged affair with Trump.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen says on the September 2016 tape.

That tape has been out in the public since 2018, but it’s the first time the jury is hearing it. The David in question here seems to be National Enquirer boss David Pecker, who testified earlier in the trial that he bought McDougal’s silence after offering to help Trump’s campaign. And it makes clear that Trump knew about that plot – giving credence to the idea that he was involved in the scheme to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about her alleged affair with Trump as well.

The phone call, which Cohen had secretly recorded, was played after a chaotic day of testimony from Keith Davidson, the attorney who represented both McDougal and Daniels.

That part of the day didn’t go so great for prosecutors.

At one point, Davidson said he didn’t consider Daniels’ non-disclosure agreement “hush-money” but rather “consideration for a civil settlement”. That sounds a lot more like legitimate legal work, and undercuts prosecutors’ key argument that Trump broke the law by falsifying business expenses when he paid Cohen “legal expenses” to cover the payment transfer.

Trump’s attorneys, during cross-examination, got Davidson to admit he had never personally met Trump. They also did a lot to rough up his reputation and try to paint him as an extortion artist, getting Davidson to acknowledge that authorities had investigated him for extorting wrestler Hulk Hogan over a sex tape in Florida (Davidson was not charged) and highlighting his involvement in salacious cases involving Charlie Sheen and Tila Tequila.

At one point, Trump attorney Emil Bove asked Davidson if his job required “getting right up to the line without committing extortion”.

Davidson did back up his claim that Cohen had made clear to him, beforehand and afterwards, that he was paying off Daniels with Trump’s knowledge and at his request. Prosecutors played audio of a telephone call recorded in 2018 in which Cohen tells Davidson: “I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, you know, I hate the fact that we did it,” which Davidson says he understood was a reference to Trump paying Daniels.

Davidson also explained his election-night text to National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard. After it became clear Trump had won, Davidson proclaimed: “What have we done?”

Davidson said that the text message, which had been included in the prosecution’s opening argument, was “gallows humor” about the fact that “our activities may have in some way assisted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.”

You can read a full recap of the day here, and read more key takeaways here. Trial will resume on Friday morning.

The day began with prosecutors requesting that Judge Juan Merchan hold Trump in contempt once again for four more violations of the gag order and fine him the maximum $1,000 per violation for each penalty. Prosecutors said they’re not currently asking for jail time to avoid delaying the proceedings. While Merchan didn’t seem likely to side with them on every example (he seemed willing to let Trump fire back at Cohen, who keeps attacking him online), Merchan made clear that he was unhappy that Trump had gone after the jury.

“He spoke about the jury, he said that the jury was 95% Democrat, and the jury was being rushed through. The implication that this is not a fair jury,” Merchan said.

Later in the day, before trial resumed after a lunch break, he refused a request from Trump attorney Susan Necheles to say whether or not a stack of news articles that Trump hoped to share on social media would violate the gag order.

Merchan wasn’t having it.

“I’m not going to be in the position of looking at posts and determining in advance whether he should and should not post these on Truth Social,” Merchan said. “I think the best advice you can give your client is when in doubt, steer clear.”

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Michael Cohen’s calls and more potential fines: Trump trial key takeaways, day 10

Keith Davidson, a lawyer who negotiated payments, testified in Trump’s criminal trial as prosecutors ask for $4,000 more for gag order violations

Keith Davidson, a lawyer who negotiated payments on behalf of Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, testified for most of Thursday in Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, shedding more light on how the deal came together and efforts to keep Daniels quiet as media began to report on the deal in 2018.

Here are a few key takeaways:

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Trump hush-money trial: here’s what’s happened so far

Catch up on the latest news from Donald Trump’s criminal trial

Jump to

  • 2 May: what happened at a glance
  • Key characters and facts
  • Key moments in the trial so far

Donald Trump is the first former US president to be tried on criminal charges – and could face prison if convicted. A jury of seven men and five women will weigh the allegation that Trump falsified the financial transaction behind the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump denies 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in spring 2023.

Here’s what you need to know about the case and what happened today:

2 May: what happened at a glance

  • Keith Davidson, an attorney who represented both hush-money deals for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, continued his testimony in Donald Trump’s criminal trial on Thursday in Manhattan. Prosecutors want Davidson’s testimony to corroborate the upcoming testimony of Michael Cohen, a key witness in the case, who negotiated the deals on Trump’s behalf.

  • Earlier this week, Trump was fined $9,000 for violating a gag order imposed by Juan Merchan, the trial judge. The prosecution started off by pointing to the gag order. “The order was issued because of the defendant’s persistent and escalating rhetoric aimed at participants in this hearing … He’s already been found by the court to have violated the order nine times and has done it again here,” prosecutor Christopher Conroy said of Trump.

  • Conroy referred to Trump’s recent comments on Cohen, his one-time consigliere-turned-star prosecution witness. “Michael Cohen is not a political opponent, defendant’s comments about Michael Cohen relate to issues at the heart of the proceeding,” he said, adding: “Defendant is doing everything he can to make this case about his politics – it’s not, it’s about his criminal conduct.”

  • Justice Merchan was not buying Trump lawyer Todd Blanche’s “Donald Trump is a victim to media” narrative. “Whats happening in this trial is no surprise to anyone,” the judge said. “It wasn’t the press that went to him, he went to the press,” Merchan said, adding: “You’re telling me that the scrutiny is outrageous. Nobody forced your client to go stand where he did that day.”

  • Prosectuor Joshua Steinglass asked Davidson about a series of exchanges on election night, when it appeared that Trump would win. “There was an understanding that our activities may have in some way assisted the campaign of Donald Trump,” Davidson said on the stand. Prosecutors showed his election night texts with National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard. Davidson wrote “what have we done?” and Howard wrote back “oh my god”.

  • Trump’s lawyers are likely to seize on Davidson, Daniels’ lawyer, insisting that he would never characterize the $130,000 payment to Daniels as “hush money” but as “consideration for a settlement agreement” – which sounds legal-related. Recall that the Manhattan DA’s underlying case is that Trump falsified business records because the $130,000 to Daniels was recorded as legal expenses or legal retainers to Cohen. It is likely that Trump’s lawyers will try to argue “consideration” is a legal expense.

  • There was a lot of tension between Donald Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove and Davidson. Davidson was clearly uninterested in talking about past less-than-flattering deals in which he has gotten payments for clients from Charlie Sheen. Bove kept saying Davidson “extracted” money from Sheen. “If you’re not here to play legal games, don’t say extract,” Davidson said.

  • The prosecution played Cohen’s recording of conversation with Trump. “I need to open up a company for the transfer … regarding our friend David [Pecker] … I’m going to do that right away, and I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” said Cohen.

  • Merchan said he refuses to review things, including media articles, in advance that Trump wants to post to his Truth Social platform to warn him if they would violate his gag order. “I’m not going to be in the position of looking at posts and determining in advance whether he should or should not post these on Truth Social,” Merchan said.

Key characters and facts

Trump hush-money trial status: Trump pleaded not guilty; the trial began on 15 April 2024.

Charges: 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.

Hush-money case summary: The case involves a hush-money scheme during the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to the adult film star Stormy Daniels to quash her story about having an extramarital affair with the former president. Trump has denied the affair took place. Prosecutors accuse the former president of illegally reimbursing Cohen for the hush-money payment by falsely classifying the transaction, executed by the Trump Organization, as legal expenses.

Verdict before election? Likely.

Key moments in the trial so far

  • 30 April: Trump fined $9,000 over gag order violations as judge warns of jail time

  • 26 April: David Pecker’s testimony presented a granular look into a hush-money scheme that prosecutors allege was meant to sway the 2016 election in the real estate mogul’s favor.

  • 25 April: David Pecker testified about his role in buying a story from the model Karen McDougal about an alleged affair with Trump.

  • 23 April: David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher, said he was Trump’s “eyes and ears” during the 2016 election campaign.

  • 22 April: In its opening statement, the prosecution said Trump “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election” in his efforts to cover up an alleged affair with the adult film star Stormy Daniels.

  • 19 April: The court finally chose all 18 jurors who will decide the fate of Donald Trump in his historic criminal trial.

  • 18 April: Twelve jurors were selected for Donald Trump’s criminal trial after two seated jurors were removed earlier in the day.

  • 16 April: Judge Juan Merchan admonished Trump for “gesturing and speaking in the direction of the juror” as jury selection continued in the second day of the criminal trial.

  • 15 April: Trump’s hush-money trial began on Monday. He is the country’s first president – present or former – to face a criminal trial.

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More than 2,000 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested across US campuses

Police arrest more than 200 students at UCLA as law enforcement clears camp at Dartmouth, arresting more than 90 students

  • US campus protests: live updates

More than 2,000 people have now been arrested during pro-Palestinian protests across dozens of US college campuses in recent weeks.

Police arrested more than 300 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on college campuses on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, pushing the total past 2,000, according to an Associated Press tally.

More than 200 students were arrested at the University of California, Los Angeles, as police cleared a fortified encampment, and more than 90 students were arrested at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Dozens more were arrested at the University of New Hampshire and at the University of Buffalo. In Oregon, police moved into the school’s library on Thursday, which has been occupied by demonstrators since Monday.

“We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent,” said Joe Biden. “But,” he continued, “order must prevail.”

“Violent protest is not protected – peaceful protest is,” he said. Biden criticized what he called “violent” protests.

“Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations – none of this is a peaceful protest,” Biden said in a brief statement on Thursday morning.

“There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,” the US president said. In response to a reporter’s question, he said he did not think it was the right time to call the national guard.

In a Thursday report, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project said that although some clashes have broken out, “the overwhelming majority [of protests] – 99% – have remained peaceful”.

The protests are part of a movement to force schools to divest from businesses that support the war in Gaza, and they reflect how the war has become a major flashpoint in US politics. More than 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began a campaign to dismantle Hamas, the Gaza health ministry has said. More people in Gaza have been thrust into near starvation, as Israel has limited food aid to the area.

On 7 October, Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and took roughly 250 hostages in an attack on Israel. Since the campaign against Hamas began, the US has provided substantial military support to Israel, including most recently in a $15bn aid package.

Student protests have grown across the country since an encampment sprang up at Columbia University in New York in mid-April. In many cases, faculty members have joined or supported student protesters, as police and universities have responded with force to demonstrations that threaten to continue into commencement season. Hundreds have been arrested in the weeks since the protests began.

Police cleared out a protest camp at UCLA in the early hours of Thursday, and arrested at least 200 demonstrators. The police operation followed a brutal hours-long attack on the encampment on Tuesday night by masked “instigators” who came to campus and assaulted students with projectiles and chemical agents, while campus security and police retreated or stood by without intervening.

At least 1,000 people gathered on UCLA’s campus late on Wednesday night, before police moved in, tearing down plywood and pallets that protesters had used to reinforce their encampment. Students described again being attacked with projectiles, fireworks and chemical agents. The chaotic operation lasted into the early hours of the morning.

By late Thursday morning, the campus had largely quieted down. The UCLA student newspaper the Daily Bruin posted pictures on social media of a campus building scrawled with graffiti saying, “Free Palestine” and “Fuck Israel”.

In New York, legal aid attorneys said they were still fighting to have protesters released more than 24 hours after they were first detained – many of whom were only charged with minor offenses and, attorneys said, should have never been arrested in the first place.

“Many protesters who were arrested earlier this week and arraigned last night were ultimately charged with criminal trespass, a low-level offense, and at that point, they should have been immediately released from custody,” said Tina Luongo, Legal Aid Society chief criminal defense practice attorney.

At Dartmouth, where an encampment had only recently sprung up, a professor said the university responded with “full force”, and posted a video of a white-haired colleague being grabbed and dragged away by police.

“In the hour or so it was allowed to exist, this was the model of a peaceful, inclusive protest,” Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth, told the Washington Post. “They obstructed nothing; disrupted nothing; menaced nobody; and neither used nor displayed hate speech.”

The chaotic scenes at UCLA came after New York police burst into a building occupied by anti-war protesters at Columbia on Tuesday night, breaking up a demonstration that had paralyzed the school.

By Wednesday, a scrum had also broken out at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, after police with shields removed all but one tent and shoved protesters. Four officers were injured, including a state trooper who was hit in the head with a skateboard, authorities said. Four were charged with battering law enforcement.

In one rare example of authorities de-escalating protests, Brown University in Rhode Island agreed to a divestment vote in October – apparently the first US college to agree to such a demand.

Authorities have also made arrests and cleared protest encampments at City College, Fordham University and Stony Brook College in New York; Portland State in Oregon; Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff; Tulane University in New Orleans; and the University of Texas, Dallas.

Student protests have also sprung up in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

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More than 2,000 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested across US campuses

Police arrest more than 200 students at UCLA as law enforcement clears camp at Dartmouth, arresting more than 90 students

  • US campus protests: live updates

More than 2,000 people have now been arrested during pro-Palestinian protests across dozens of US college campuses in recent weeks.

Police arrested more than 300 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on college campuses on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, pushing the total past 2,000, according to an Associated Press tally.

More than 200 students were arrested at the University of California, Los Angeles, as police cleared a fortified encampment, and more than 90 students were arrested at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Dozens more were arrested at the University of New Hampshire and at the University of Buffalo. In Oregon, police moved into the school’s library on Thursday, which has been occupied by demonstrators since Monday.

“We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent,” said Joe Biden. “But,” he continued, “order must prevail.”

“Violent protest is not protected – peaceful protest is,” he said. Biden criticized what he called “violent” protests.

“Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations – none of this is a peaceful protest,” Biden said in a brief statement on Thursday morning.

“There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,” the US president said. In response to a reporter’s question, he said he did not think it was the right time to call the national guard.

In a Thursday report, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project said that although some clashes have broken out, “the overwhelming majority [of protests] – 99% – have remained peaceful”.

The protests are part of a movement to force schools to divest from businesses that support the war in Gaza, and they reflect how the war has become a major flashpoint in US politics. More than 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began a campaign to dismantle Hamas, the Gaza health ministry has said. More people in Gaza have been thrust into near starvation, as Israel has limited food aid to the area.

On 7 October, Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and took roughly 250 hostages in an attack on Israel. Since the campaign against Hamas began, the US has provided substantial military support to Israel, including most recently in a $15bn aid package.

Student protests have grown across the country since an encampment sprang up at Columbia University in New York in mid-April. In many cases, faculty members have joined or supported student protesters, as police and universities have responded with force to demonstrations that threaten to continue into commencement season. Hundreds have been arrested in the weeks since the protests began.

Police cleared out a protest camp at UCLA in the early hours of Thursday, and arrested at least 200 demonstrators. The police operation followed a brutal hours-long attack on the encampment on Tuesday night by masked “instigators” who came to campus and assaulted students with projectiles and chemical agents, while campus security and police retreated or stood by without intervening.

At least 1,000 people gathered on UCLA’s campus late on Wednesday night, before police moved in, tearing down plywood and pallets that protesters had used to reinforce their encampment. Students described again being attacked with projectiles, fireworks and chemical agents. The chaotic operation lasted into the early hours of the morning.

By late Thursday morning, the campus had largely quieted down. The UCLA student newspaper the Daily Bruin posted pictures on social media of a campus building scrawled with graffiti saying, “Free Palestine” and “Fuck Israel”.

In New York, legal aid attorneys said they were still fighting to have protesters released more than 24 hours after they were first detained – many of whom were only charged with minor offenses and, attorneys said, should have never been arrested in the first place.

“Many protesters who were arrested earlier this week and arraigned last night were ultimately charged with criminal trespass, a low-level offense, and at that point, they should have been immediately released from custody,” said Tina Luongo, Legal Aid Society chief criminal defense practice attorney.

At Dartmouth, where an encampment had only recently sprung up, a professor said the university responded with “full force”, and posted a video of a white-haired colleague being grabbed and dragged away by police.

“In the hour or so it was allowed to exist, this was the model of a peaceful, inclusive protest,” Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth, told the Washington Post. “They obstructed nothing; disrupted nothing; menaced nobody; and neither used nor displayed hate speech.”

The chaotic scenes at UCLA came after New York police burst into a building occupied by anti-war protesters at Columbia on Tuesday night, breaking up a demonstration that had paralyzed the school.

By Wednesday, a scrum had also broken out at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, after police with shields removed all but one tent and shoved protesters. Four officers were injured, including a state trooper who was hit in the head with a skateboard, authorities said. Four were charged with battering law enforcement.

In one rare example of authorities de-escalating protests, Brown University in Rhode Island agreed to a divestment vote in October – apparently the first US college to agree to such a demand.

Authorities have also made arrests and cleared protest encampments at City College, Fordham University and Stony Brook College in New York; Portland State in Oregon; Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff; Tulane University in New Orleans; and the University of Texas, Dallas.

Student protests have also sprung up in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

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Karen Bass, the Los Angeles mayor, condemned “harassment, vandalism and violence” at UCLA’s campus in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

In her statement, Bass did not elaborate on which incidents of violence she was referring to. Student-led protesters on Wednesday were attacked by counter-demonstrators, leaving at least one student with severe injuries.

Here’s the full statement from Bass:

Every student deserves to be safe and live peacefully on their campus. Harassment, vandalism and violence have no place at UCLA or anywhere in our city.

My office will continue to coordinate closely with local and state law enforcement, area universities and community leaders to keep campuses safe and peaceful.

About a third of $96m ACBF-Youpla victim support scheme to be spent on administration

National Indigenous Australians Agency and Services Australia will receive about $30m to run program for Aboriginal victims of predatory funeral fund

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Almost a third of the federal government’s $96m support scheme for the thousands of Aboriginal people who fell victim to the predatory funeral fund insurer ACBF-Youpla will be chewed up by its own administration.

According to documents published on the government’s AusTender site on Thursday, the “maximum” amount it is likely to pay to the 13,700 affected policyholders is $66.6m.

Guardian Australia understands that the rest – about $30m – will go to two of its own departments: the National Indigenous Australians Agency (Niaa) and Services Australia, which is reportedly set to receive $20m to administer the scheme.

ACBF-Youpla collapsed in March 2022, leaving thousands of Aboriginal people, some of them elderly and in palliative care, without the means to pay for funerals. Families had to resort to crowdfunding and some were forced to leave their loved ones’ bodies in morgues while they raised the funds.

In February, the Albanese government initially announced a $97m resolution scheme for those affected. The Youpla support program is due to begin on 1 July and will run for two years. Eligible recipients will have the choice of a funeral bond or a cash payment worth 60% of the value of their policy. Financial counselling will be offered to help them better understand their options.

ACBF-Youpla targeted Indigenous people using marketing materials in the distinctive red, black and yellow colours of the Aboriginal flag, including stuffed toys and colouring books for children, attending community events and by conducting door-to-door sales.

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It was investigated by various regulators but it was not until 2018, when its conduct was exposed in the banking royal commission, that its licence to sell new products was withdrawn, paving the way for its eventual financial collapse in 2022.

The revelations come amid growing concerns about Services Australia implementing programs that have exposed Aboriginal people to financial harm.

Guardian Australia has revealed widespread problems with the Centrepay system run by Services Australia, including its continued use by rent-to-buy appliance companies that had previously been sanctioned by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) for predatory conduct. Energy company AGL received hundreds of thousands of dollars from welfare recipients using Centrepay, long after they had ceased being customers.

After ACBF-Youpla was allowed to access Centrepay to sign up customers, its profits skyrocketed. Between 1992 and 2001, the company received about $5m in payments. After Centrepay was approved in 2001, it garnered $169m in payments.

Services Australia referred queries to Niaa.

A spokesperson for Niaa said: “The $66.6m will fund resolution payments to be paid to customers as either as a funeral bond or a cash payment.

“The balance of funding is for government agencies to deliver the program, communicate with First Nations people who are eligible for resolution payments and to provide them with financial counselling to explain the funeral bond and resolution payments to help inform people’s decision.”

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Russian troops enter airbase in Niger where US soldiers are stationed

Move comes after west African country’s military government had told US to withdraw its troops

Russian military personnel have entered an airbase in Niger that is hosting American troops, after a decision by Niger’s junta to expel US forces from the country.

The military officers ruling the west African country have told the US to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel, which until a coup last year had been a key partner for Washington’s fight against insurgents who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Russian forces were not mingling with US troops but were using a separate hangar at Airbase 101, which is next to Diori Hamani international airport in Niamey, Niger’s capital.

The move by Russia’s military puts US and Russian troops in close proximity at a time when the countries’ military and diplomatic rivalry is increasingly acrimonious because of the conflict in Ukraine.

It also raises questions about the fate of US installations in the country after a withdrawal.

“[The situation] is not great but in the short term manageable,” the official said.

The Nigerien and Russian embassies in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The US and its allies have been forced to move troops out of several African countries after coups that brought to power groups eager to distance themselves from western governments. In addition to the impending departure from Niger, US troops have also left Chad in recent days, while French forces have been kicked out of Mali and Burkina Faso.

At the same time, Russia is seeking to strengthen relations with African countries, pitching Moscow as a friendly country with no colonial baggage in the continent.

Mali, for example, has in recent years become one of Russia’s closest African allies; the Wagner group mercenary force has been deployed there to fight jihadist insurgents.

The US official said Nigerien authorities had told Joe Biden’s administration that about 60 Russian military personnel would be in Niger, but the official could not verify that number.

After the coup, the US military moved some of its forces in Niger from Airbase 101 to Airbase 201 in the city of Agadez. It was not clear what US military equipment remained at Airbase 101.

The US built Airbase 201 in central Niger at a cost of more than $100m. Since 2018 it has been used to target Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen fighters with armed drones.

Washington is concerned about Islamic militants in the Sahel who may be able to expand without the presence of US forces and intelligence capabilities.

Niger’s move to ask for the removal of US troops came after a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, when senior US officials raised concerns including about the expected arrival of Russia forces and reports of Iran seeking raw materials in the country, including uranium.

While the US’s message to Nigerien officials was not an ultimatum, the official said, it was made clear American forces could not be on a base with Russian forces.

“They did not take that well,” the official said.

A two-star US general has been sent to Niger to try to arrange a professional and responsible withdrawal.

While no decisions have been taken on the future of US troops in Niger, the official said the plan was for them to return to US Africa Command’s home bases in Germany.

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Ukraine war briefing: Ukrainians ‘have the right to strike inside Russia’, says David Cameron

France’s Macron stands firm on potentially sending troops; sanctions on Russian gas leave Gazprom with record annual loss. What we know on day 800

  • See all our Russia-Ukraine war coverage
  • Weapons supplied by Britain to Ukraine can be used to strike inside Russia, David Cameron has said, as the UK foreign secretary promised £3bn a year “for as long as it is necessary” to help Kyiv. Patrick Wintour writes that it is the UK’s biggest spending pledge since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. In January, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, pledged £2.5bn in military aid to Ukraine for 2024-25.

  • Cameron said: “Ukraine has the right to strike inside Russia because Russia is striking inside Ukraine … You can understand why Ukraine feels the need to defend itself.” The foreign secretary announced that the UK’s donation of military equipment would include precision-guided bombs, air defence missiles and equipment for 100 mobile air defence teams to shoot down Russia’s drones and missiles.

  • The UK also committed to doubling its domestic munitions production by investing a further £10bn over the next 10 years. “We’ve just emptied all we can in terms of giving equipment,” said Cameron. “Some of the equipment is actually arriving in Ukraine today while I am here.”

  • Emmanuel Macron has said the question of sending western troops to Ukraine would “legitimately” arise if Russia broke through Ukrainian frontlines and Kyiv made such a request. In an interview with the Economist, the French president maintained his stance of strategic ambiguity, saying: “I’m not ruling anything out, because we are facing someone who is not ruling anything out.”

  • At least eight children were injured in the town of Derhachi in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region on Thursday when Russian guided bombs struck a site close to a sports complex where they had been training, local officials said. An elderly man was also wounded.

  • Russia said on Thursday it had captured the village of Berdychi which lies about 12km (7 miles) north-west of Avdiivka – a week after Ukrainian forces pulled out. Over the weekend, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, said troops had retreated from Berdychi and two other nearby villages to protect “the lives and health of our defenders”.

  • Russian energy company Gazprom said on Thursday it suffered a record annual loss in 2023 as the European market was practically shut to its gas exports due to war sanctions. The state-owned firm suffered a net loss of 629bn rubles ($6.9 bn/£5.5bn) in 2023 compared with a net profit of 1.23tn rubles in 2022.

  • The governors of three Russian regions reported that energy facilities were damaged by Ukrainian drone strikes. Oryol region governor Andrei Klychkov said energy infrastructure was hit in two communities. The Smolensk and Kursk governors reported one facility damaged in each region.

  • The Kremlin has rejected allegations by the US that Russian forces used the chemical weapon chloropicrin against Ukrainian. Moscow also criticised a fresh round of US sanctions – including on entities in China and other countries that western investigators have linked with Russia’s war effort. Several Chinese banks have stopped servicing Russian clients after being warned they could be hit with western sanctions, Russian and western media have reported in recent months.

  • The Chinese government said it would take “necessary measures” in response to what it called the “illegal and unilateral sanctions” against “normal” trading relations. The US package targets nearly 300 entities in Russia, China and other countries. China has never condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and stands accused of indirectly supporting the war.

  • Nato has condemned an intensifying campaign of Russian “malign activities” on member states’ territory including disinformation, sabotage, violence and cyber interference. Authorities in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Britain have recently investigated and charged people in connection with “hostile state activity”. In London, a 20-year-old British man has been charged with masterminding an arson plot against a Ukrainian-linked target, while Czech authorities announced in March they had busted a Moscow-financed network that spread Russian propaganda and influence, including in the European parliament.

  • Vladimir Putin sees domestic and international developments trending in his favour and the war is unlikely to end soon, the US director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has told the senate armed services committee. “Putin’s increasingly aggressive tactics against Ukraine, such as strikes on Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure, were intended to impress Ukraine that continuing to fight will only increase the damage to Ukraine and offer no plausible path to victory.”

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Ukraine war briefing: Ukrainians ‘have the right to strike inside Russia’, says David Cameron

France’s Macron stands firm on potentially sending troops; sanctions on Russian gas leave Gazprom with record annual loss. What we know on day 800

  • See all our Russia-Ukraine war coverage
  • Weapons supplied by Britain to Ukraine can be used to strike inside Russia, David Cameron has said, as the UK foreign secretary promised £3bn a year “for as long as it is necessary” to help Kyiv. Patrick Wintour writes that it is the UK’s biggest spending pledge since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. In January, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, pledged £2.5bn in military aid to Ukraine for 2024-25.

  • Cameron said: “Ukraine has the right to strike inside Russia because Russia is striking inside Ukraine … You can understand why Ukraine feels the need to defend itself.” The foreign secretary announced that the UK’s donation of military equipment would include precision-guided bombs, air defence missiles and equipment for 100 mobile air defence teams to shoot down Russia’s drones and missiles.

  • The UK also committed to doubling its domestic munitions production by investing a further £10bn over the next 10 years. “We’ve just emptied all we can in terms of giving equipment,” said Cameron. “Some of the equipment is actually arriving in Ukraine today while I am here.”

  • Emmanuel Macron has said the question of sending western troops to Ukraine would “legitimately” arise if Russia broke through Ukrainian frontlines and Kyiv made such a request. In an interview with the Economist, the French president maintained his stance of strategic ambiguity, saying: “I’m not ruling anything out, because we are facing someone who is not ruling anything out.”

  • At least eight children were injured in the town of Derhachi in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region on Thursday when Russian guided bombs struck a site close to a sports complex where they had been training, local officials said. An elderly man was also wounded.

  • Russia said on Thursday it had captured the village of Berdychi which lies about 12km (7 miles) north-west of Avdiivka – a week after Ukrainian forces pulled out. Over the weekend, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, said troops had retreated from Berdychi and two other nearby villages to protect “the lives and health of our defenders”.

  • Russian energy company Gazprom said on Thursday it suffered a record annual loss in 2023 as the European market was practically shut to its gas exports due to war sanctions. The state-owned firm suffered a net loss of 629bn rubles ($6.9 bn/£5.5bn) in 2023 compared with a net profit of 1.23tn rubles in 2022.

  • The governors of three Russian regions reported that energy facilities were damaged by Ukrainian drone strikes. Oryol region governor Andrei Klychkov said energy infrastructure was hit in two communities. The Smolensk and Kursk governors reported one facility damaged in each region.

  • The Kremlin has rejected allegations by the US that Russian forces used the chemical weapon chloropicrin against Ukrainian. Moscow also criticised a fresh round of US sanctions – including on entities in China and other countries that western investigators have linked with Russia’s war effort. Several Chinese banks have stopped servicing Russian clients after being warned they could be hit with western sanctions, Russian and western media have reported in recent months.

  • The Chinese government said it would take “necessary measures” in response to what it called the “illegal and unilateral sanctions” against “normal” trading relations. The US package targets nearly 300 entities in Russia, China and other countries. China has never condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and stands accused of indirectly supporting the war.

  • Nato has condemned an intensifying campaign of Russian “malign activities” on member states’ territory including disinformation, sabotage, violence and cyber interference. Authorities in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Britain have recently investigated and charged people in connection with “hostile state activity”. In London, a 20-year-old British man has been charged with masterminding an arson plot against a Ukrainian-linked target, while Czech authorities announced in March they had busted a Moscow-financed network that spread Russian propaganda and influence, including in the European parliament.

  • Vladimir Putin sees domestic and international developments trending in his favour and the war is unlikely to end soon, the US director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has told the senate armed services committee. “Putin’s increasingly aggressive tactics against Ukraine, such as strikes on Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure, were intended to impress Ukraine that continuing to fight will only increase the damage to Ukraine and offer no plausible path to victory.”

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Second Boeing whistleblower dies after short illness

Joshua Dean, 45, former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, alleged ‘gross misconduct by quality management’

Joshua Dean, a Boeing whistleblower who warned of manufacturing defects in the planemaker’s 737 Max, has died after a short illness, the second Boeing whistleblower to die this year.

Dean, 45, a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alleging “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line” at Spirit.

In 2018 and 2019, two 737 Max planes were involved in fatal crashes, which killed 346 people. Dean was fired by Spirit last year, and filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging that his termination was in retaliation for raising safety concerns.

According to the Seattle Times, Dean was hospitalized after having trouble breathing. He was intubated and developed pneumonia and a serious infection before dying two weeks later.

“He passed away yesterday morning, and his absence will be deeply felt. We will always love you Josh,” Dean’s aunt, Carol Dean Parsons, said via Facebook.

Dean was represented by the same law firm that represented Boeing whistleblower John “Mitch” Barnett. Barnett, 62, was found dead in March from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Barnett spent almost three decades at Boeing, and told the New York Times in 2019 that he had found “clusters or metal slivers” hanging over the wiring of flight controls that could have caused “catastrophic” damage if they had penetrated wires.

He alleged that management had ignored his complaints and moved him to another part of the plant.

Last month, another Boeing whistleblower, Sam Salehpour, told Congress there was “no safety culture” at Boeing, and alleged that employees who raised the alarm were “ignored, marginalized, threatened, sidelined and worse”. He said he feared “physical violence” after going public with his concerns.

US regulators are now investigating Boeing after a mid-air door-panel blowout in January on a Boeing 737 Max 9.

Reuters reported last month that the justice department is now weighing whether Boeing violated an agreement that shielded it from criminal prosecution over the fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

  • In the US, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on 988lifeline.org, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org

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Police investigate Laurence Fox ‘upskirting’ tweet

Post featured compromising image of the broadcaster Narinder Kaur, who said she was left ‘incredibly upset’

Police are investigating a social media post by Laurence Fox in relation to an “upskirting offence”.

The tweet, posted on Tuesday, featured a compromising image of Narinder Kaur, a broadcaster on Good Morning Britain and GB News. The post remained on Fox’s account until it was deleted on Thursday.

Posting on X, Kaur confirmed that it was now “a police matter” and said the image was “unimaginably mortifying” as she thanked people on the social media platform for their support.

“I know people are saying not to feel embarrassed and mortified but I am. I’m so incredibly upset that people are looking at my privates and laughing. It’s unimaginably mortifying,” she said.

A friend of the presenter told the Mirror: “Narinder has always been vocal about issues she cares about and while she’s endured horrendous backlash before, she never expected to become the target of such vicious attacks.”

The friend added: “Narinder deserves better than this. She’s worked tirelessly to make her voice heard in among a male-dominated, increasingly rightwing rhetoric and this setback is crushing. She’s determined to reclaim her dignity, no matter how daunting the challenge may seem.”

The Metropolitan police told the PA news agency it was investigating the circumstances.

Upskirting – taking pictures of people under their clothes without their permission – became a specific criminal offence in 2019. Offenders can be jailed for up to two years and be placed on the sex offender register.

Kaur rose to fame on the second series of Big Brother, where she came in ninth place. She now regularly appears as a guest and presenter, including on GB News, Good Morning Britain and Jeremy Vine.

It comes a week after Fox was ordered to pay £180,000 in damages to two people he called “paedophiles” in a social media row, after losing a high court libel battle.

The former actor used to present on GB News but was fired in October after an on-air rant about journalist Ava Evans.

The PA news agency has contacted Fox for comment.

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Biden calls Japan and India xenophobic: ‘They don’t want immigrants’

US president says ‘immigrants are what makes us strong’ and criticizes countries, plus China and Russia, over migration policy

Joe Biden has called Japan and India “xenophobic” countries that do not welcome immigrants, lumping the two with adversaries China and Russia as he tried to explain their economic circumstances and contrasted the four with the US on immigration.

The remarks, at a campaign fundraising event on Wednesday evening, came just three weeks after the White House hosted Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, for a lavish official visit, during which the two leaders celebrated what Biden called an “unbreakable alliance”, particularly on global security matters.

The White House welcomed the Indian prime minister, Narenda Modi, for a state visit last summer.

Japan is a critical US ally. And India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific.

At a hotel fundraiser where the donor audience was largely Asian American, Biden said the upcoming US election was about “freedom, America and democracy” and that the nation’s economy was thriving “because of you and many others”.

“Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Biden said. “Look, think about it. Why is China stalling so badly economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why is Russia? Why is India? Because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants.”

The president added: “Immigrants are what makes us strong. Not a joke. That’s not hyperbole, because we have an influx of workers who want to be here and want to contribute.”

There was no immediate reaction from either the Japanese or Indian governments. The White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, said Biden was making a broader point about the US posture on immigration.

“Our allies and partners know well in tangible ways how President Biden values them, their friendship, their cooperation and the capabilities that they bring across the spectrum on a range of issues, not just security related,” Kirby said on Thursday morning when asked about Biden’s “xenophobic” remarks. “They understand how much he completely and utterly values the idea of alliances and partnerships.”

Biden’s comments came at the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and he was introduced at the fundraiser by Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, one of two senators of Asian American descent. She is a national co-chair for his re-election campaign.

Japan has acknowledged issues with its shrinking population, and the number of babies born in the country in 2023 fell for the eighth straight year, according to data released in February. Kishida has called the low birth rate in Japan “the biggest crisis Japan faces” and the country has long been known for a more closed-door stance on immigration, although Kishida’s government has, in recent years, shifted its policies to make it easier for foreign workers to come to Japan.

Meanwhile, India’s population has swelled to become the world’s largest, with the United Nations saying it was on track to reach 1.425 billion. Its population also skews younger.

Earlier this year, India enacted a new citizenship law that fast-tracks naturalization for Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who have come to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But it excludes Muslims, who are a majority in all three nations.

It’s the first time that India has set religious criteria for citizenship.

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