The Guardian 2024-05-06 16:01:50


A senior Hamas official has said the Israeli order for civilians to evacuate Rafah is a “dangerous escalation that will have consequences”.

Sami Abu Zuhri made the comments to Reuters on Monday.

Israel’s military has issued a call for residents and displaced people to evacuate eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah and head to what it claimed was an “expanded humanitarian zone” in southern Gaza. The IDF said the operation was of “limited scope” and estimated it would need to move about 100,000 people.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that it was making the call to evacuate through “announcements, text messages, phone calls and media broadcasts in Arabic”. Israel’s army said on social media that it would act with “extreme force” against militants.

Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant has said military action in Rafah is required due to Hamas’ refusal for a Gaza truce under which the Palestinian Islamist group would free some hostages. On Sunday, in a televised address, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once more rejected Hamas’s demands for a definitive end to the war in Gaza.

Associated Press notes that about 1.4 million Palestinians – more than half of Gaza’s population – are jammed into Rafah and its surroundings. Most of them fled their homes elsewhere in the territory to escape Israel’s onslaught and now face another move.

They live in densely packed tent camps, overflowing U.N. shelters or crowded apartments, and are dependent on international aid for food, with sanitation systems and medical facilities infrastructure crippled. Israel has repeatedly bombed the Rafah area, and has also previously bombed the area it is now ordering Palestinians to flee to.

Thousands of Palestinians evacuate eastern Rafah amid Israeli attack threat

Overnight Israeli strikes increase numbers leaving southern city for ‘humanitarian zone’ on coast

  • Middle East crisis – live updates

Thousands of people are evacuating from Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, hours after the Israeli military told residents and displaced people in eastern neighbourhoods to leave in advance of a long-threatened attack on the city and its environs.

Witnesses described frightened families leaving the city on foot, riding donkeys or packed with their belongings into overloaded trucks on Monday. Overnight Israeli airstrikes had reinforced “panic and fear”, prompting more to heed the instructions to move.

“There is extreme tension in all areas of Rafah, including areas west of the city. Many have begun to think about evacuating, and many have already evacuated,” one witness said.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they had dropped leaflets and were broadcasting instructions through “announcements, text messages, phone calls and media broadcasts in Arabic” telling residents to head to an “expanded humanitarian zone” on the coast.

“This is an evacuation plan to get people out of harm’s way,” an Israeli military spokesperson told reporters.

Rafah has been sheltering more than a million people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza during the seven-month war and is a key logistics base for humanitarian operations across the territory. Dense tent encampments surround the city, and have also already crowded al-Mawasi, the coastal zone about 3 miles north-east to which Israel has told people to evacuate.

A rocket barrage launched by Hamas on Sunday from Rafah against a military base near the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, which killed four soldiers, may have spurred the Israeli decision.

The IDF spokesperson described the evacuation as “part of our plans to dismantle Hamas … we had a violent reminder of their presence and their operational abilities in Rafah yesterday”.

As indirect negotiations in Cairo for a ceasefire have faltered in recent days, senior Israeli officials have vowed repeatedly to launch an attack on Rafah, despite strong international opposition and calls for restraint from the US, Israel’s staunchest ally.

In a televised address on Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, rejected Hamas’s demands for a definitive end to the war in Gaza, saying that any permanent ceasefire would allow the Islamist organisation to remain in power and pose a continuing threat to Israel.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said a “decisive victory” requires the destruction of a substantial Hamas combat force they say is based in Rafah, and the capture or killing of top Hamas leaders thought be sheltering in tunnels under the city, possibly with dozens of hostages taken by the militant Islamist organisation during the surprise 7 October attack on Israel that triggered the conflict.

On Monday, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, said Hamas’s apparent refusal of the most recent proposal from mediators in the ongoing ceasefire talks meant “military action in Rafah was required”.

A senior Hamas official described the Israeli order for civilians to evacuate Rafah as a “dangerous escalation that will have consequences”.

“The US administration, alongside the occupation, bears responsibility for this terrorism,” Sami Abu Zuhri told the Reuters news agency.

The IDF said the forthcoming operation was of “limited scope” and estimated it would need to move about 100,000 people.

“This matter will progress in a gradual manner according to ongoing situation assessments that will take place all the time,” a spokesperson said.

The IDF has said it is expanding the “humanitarian zone” in al-Mawasi with additional tents and field hospitals.

Humanitarian officials and displaced people already living there describe acute overcrowding, inadequate food, limited fresh water and an almost total absence of sanitation. Israeli forces have also bombarded targets in al-Mawasi at least twice in recent months.

Humanitarian officials have long warned of massive disruption to the effort to stave off famine in Gaza in the event of a major Israeli offensive in the south. Any attack on Rafah would lead to “the collapse of the aid response”, the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Monday.

The death toll in Gaza from the Israeli military offensive is more than 34,500, mostly women and children. A reprisal strike on a house in Rafah reportedly killed at least three Palestinians. Israel accuses Hamas of using civilians as a human shield, a charge the militant Islamist organisation rejects.

The Hamas attack in October killed 1,200 mostly civilians in their homes or at a music festival in southern Israel. About 250 hostages were taken, of whom 105 were released in return for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails during a short-lived truce in November.

Netanyahu has been under domestic pressure to obtain the release of the hostages in Gaza but appears so far to have prioritised the demands of far-right parties, which have threatened to withdraw crucial support for his coalition if a ceasefire deal is signed now.

Speaking a day after thousands of people again rallied in Tel Aviv demanding the release of the remaining Israeli captives, Netanyahu defended his decisions, saying his government had “been working around the clock to formulate an agreement that would return our hostages”.

Hamas and Israel had looked close to agreeing new terms to bring about a 40-day pause to hostilities and the release of dozens of hostages, but hopes of a breakthrough have dimmed in recent days.

A Hamas delegation that arrived in Cairo on Saturday announced late on Sunday it was leaving to consult its leadership. There has been no sign yet of a definitive response from the group to the deal proposed by mediators and accepted by Israel last week. Israel has yet to send a delegation to Cairo.

The conflict in Gaza continues to threaten broader regional violence and tensions.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Islamist movement in Lebanon, said it had fired “dozens of Katyusha rockets” at an Israeli base in the Golan Heights.

Lebanese official media said three people had been wounded in an Israeli strike earlier on Monday in the country’s east, with the Israeli army saying it had struck a Hezbollah “military compound”.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged regular cross-border fire since war broke out in Gaza. In recent weeks, Hezbollah has increased its attacks on northern Israel, and the Israeli military has struck deeper into Lebanese territory.

On Sunday, Netanyahu’s cabinet decided to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel for as long as the war in Gaza continued, claiming the Qatari television network threatened national security.

Al Jazeera rejected the accusation as a “dangerous and ridiculous lie” that put its journalists at risk.

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Terrified and exhausted, thousands flee feared imminent assault on Rafah

People displaced from elsewhere in Gaza during the war are on the move again but find their destination already packed

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By mid-morning, overloaded trucks, carts and donkeys were filling the streets of Rafah. Under dark skies and a cold, unseasonable rain, thousands were setting out on a halting journey through crowded, rubble-strewn streets and sprawling tented camps.

The roof of at least one car was piled high with mattresses. Another had a wheelchair stowed in the boot. Children walked through rain-filled potholes and craters or sat on belongings gathered on battered trolleys.

Their destination was the coastal area about three miles away designated, according to the leaflets dropped by the Israeli military, as a safe zone.

Among those fleeing was Ruqaya Yahya Baba, 18, whose father had already set out to find a tent big enough for the family of 10. She and her relatives had loaded a battered pickup truck with bags and suitcases early in the morning.

Like all of those crowded into Gaza’s southernmost city, she feared that the long-threatened attack by the Israeli military was now imminent. “We are terrified and physically and mentally exhausted,” Baba said. “We have been displaced five times so far during this war.”

Her family had been on the move since being forced to flee the northern town of Beit Lahia in the early days of the conflict, which was triggered by a surprise attack in October launched by Hamas into southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Her most recent home was a very crowded house in eastern Rafah belonging to a family friend.

The previous night had been “horrible and fearful”, she said. “Our neighbourhood was being showered by bombs … from dusk to dawn.”

She added: “I lost my mother and brother in the 2008 war [between Israel and Hamas in Gaza] and I am afraid that I could lose more of family members, my relatives or friends in this war.”

Gaza authorities said Israeli airstrikes on Rafah overnight and on Monday morning killed at least 26 people. In all, more than 34,500 have died in Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli military offensive, mostly women and children.

The Israeli military said it had targeted a group of armed men and the site from where a mortar barrage had been fired on Sunday. That attack had killed four Israeli soldiers.

Abdullah Abu Heish, 45, said he was fleeing with his family to the house of a relative in a western neighbourhood of Rafah.

“The Israeli army warned us to evacuate our area. We will try to take the luggage as soon as possible. We are trying to escape death [but] leaving possessions and memories behind that could be wiped out at any moment,” he said.

“We are very frustrated because we were expecting the world to protect us and prevent this [offensive], but unfortunately it is happening now.”

Rafah is now home to about a million people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza during the war, as well as a prewar population of 300,000, and is a key logistics hub for the humanitarian effort in the territory. International powers including the US have sought to dissuade Israel from launching an attack into the city.

Hanah Saleh, 40, who had already been displaced from Tal al-Zaatar in northern Gaza to Rafah, said: “We are very scared and afraid because it’s not easy to move from one place to another, from displacement to displacement.”

Many residents were reluctant to move to the designated humanitarian zone of al-Mawasi. Abdul Rahman Abu Jazar, 36, said he and 12 family members had reached al-Mawasi to find it was already packed.

“It does not have enough room for us to make tents because they are [already] full of displaced people … Where can we go? We do not know,” he said.

Many in Rafah cannot move elderly or very ill relatives who might not survive the harsh conditions in al-Mawasi, a sandy area that has few amenities and has been repeatedly bombed. Intermittent communications access in Rafah, constant power outages, scarce fuel and a shortage of cash make organising any evacuation very difficult.

Sami Abu Rumi, 45, said he would try to host relatives living in east Rafah in his small apartment in west Rafah. Al-Mawasi was “already overcrowded and lacks necessary infrastructure and services to house this increasing number of displaced people”, he said.

Israeli officials say they need to send troops into Rafah to destroy four battalions of Hamas fighters and capture or kill key leaders hiding in tunnels under the city. They accuse Hamas of using civilians, including hostages, as human shields – a charge the Islamist organisation denies.

“This is an evacuation plan to get people out of harm’s way,” an Israeli military spokesperson said. “This is limited in scope and not a wide-scale evacuation of Rafah.”

Hamas said in statement that Palestinian militant groups, led by its military wing, the Qassam Brigades, were “ready to defend our people and defeat the enemy”.

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Forcibly displacing Rafah civilians would be war crime, France warns Israel

Countries speak out against Israeli orders to evacuate before threatened attack on southern Gaza city

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Israel will be committing a war crime under international law if it seeks to forcibly displace Palestinian civilians from Rafah, in Gaza, France has warned.

The French foreign ministry issued the statement after President Emmanuel Macron spoke with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday night. He used the discussion to restate his opposition to a Rafah offensive, shortly before Israel ordered an evacuation designed to move initially at least 100,000 refugees as part of a military effort to drive the remaining Hamas battalions out of Gaza.

The Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said the international community would be left with an “indelible stain” if it allowed Israel’s threatened attack on Rafah to go ahead. He was speaking before a private lunch on Monday between King Abdullah of Jordan and the US president, Joe Biden.

“Another massacre of the Palestinians is in the making,” he said. “Israel is warning Palestinians to leave Rafah as it threatens an attack. All must act now to prevent it. Failure to prevent the massacre will be an indelible stain on the international community. Too many massacres have been allowed. Enough.”

Ceasefire talks in Cairo have broken down over a Hamas call for the ceasefire to be permanent, which Israel believes would leave Hamas in power in Gaza. The Qatari foreign ministry said on Monday that mediation efforts were still under way, in partnership with Egypt and the US, to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. It said it condemned the Israeli threats to storm Rafah and warned of a humanitarian catastrophe.

European diplomats seemed unwilling to accept claims that the evacuation order was simply a limited operation to move some refugees and so force Hamas to accept the terms Israel is offering on a ceasefire and hostage deal.

The US and allies have repeatedly said they could not support an Israeli attack on Rafah without seeing credible plans to protect the civilian population. It remains to be seen if the US is willing to ban arms exports to Israel as a deterrent, but even this measure seems unlikely to deter Netanyahu, who has said he is willing to see Israel isolated internationally in its attempt to secure a final victory against Hamas.

In the call on Sunday, Macron urged Netanyahu to complete the negotiations with Hamas that could lead to the release of the abductees, the protection of civilians through a ceasefire, and the reduction of regional tensions. The French government said Macron had “reiterated his firm opposition to an Israeli attack on Rafah and the urgent need to ensure a massive entry of humanitarian aid through all access points to the Gaza Strip”.

The foreign ministry said on Monday that France was strongly opposed to an offensive on Rafah, “where more than 1.3 million people are taking refuge in a situation of great distress. The forced displacement of a civilian population constitutes a war crime under international law.”

The EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said on Monday: “Israel’s evacuation orders to civilians in Rafah portend the worst: more war and famine”

Four days earlier, he had said Israel’s partners and neighbours were speaking with one voice against a Rafah offensive. “Rafah must not be attacked. We all demand the immediate release of all hostages. The elimination of Hamas cannot come at the unbearable cost of thousands of civilian deaths,” he said.

Petra De Sutter, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, said: “The Israeli call for the evacuation of the citizens and refugees of Rafah, and the announced invasion, will lead to massacre. Belgium is working on further sanctions against Israel.”

She said she was meeting with the Palestinian special envoy Dr Riyad al Malki and would reiterate Belgium’s support for Palestine being recognised as a state at the UN. Belgium said it also wanted to start a trade banon products exported by Israel from occupied territories.

A German foreign ministry spokesperson said: “The negotiations must not be jeopardised and all sides must make maximum efforts to ensure that the people in Gaza are supplied with humanitarian goods … and that the hostages are freed.”

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Queensland police service sacks First Nations advisory group after members refuse to sign gag clause

QPS said the body, comprising elders and community leaders, ‘was not meeting the purpose and original intent of the group’

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The Queensland Police Service has sacked a formal advisory group of First Nations community leaders and elders, six weeks after they refused to sign a gag clause that they say could have silenced ongoing criticism.

Members of the QPS First Nations Advisory group have publicly and privately raised concerns that the police leadership had stalled on cultural reform promised in the aftermath of a 2022 inquiry.

The group led calls for the resignation of the police union president, Ian Leavers, over a widely criticised October opinion piece on the state’s proposed path to treaty that they condemned as “racialised and divisive”, containing “factually inaccurate” comments, including that a state treaty would result in the justice system favouring First Nations people”.

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In 2022 members of the group accused Steve Gollschewski – now the Queensland police commissioner – of becoming angry and aggressive during a meeting with them, pointing his finger at a senior elder and saying “you people” don’t run the organisation.

The group was notified of their sacking on 29 February – the day of former commissioner Katarina Carroll’s farewell – after Gollschewski had been named as the acting commissioner.

In a detailed statement, the group says that on 16 January, members were given contracts to sign containing confidentiality clauses. These causes “would prevent us from speaking publicly about the work of the [group]” and were contrary to the group’s terms of reference, the statement says.

Two weeks later, the group met the new director of the police First Nations Division and raised concern about a number of matters, including stalled progress on implementing the inquiry’s recommendations and “concerns our work is not being valued by the QPS”.

They have released a statement after attempting to raise concerns with the premier, Steven Miles. They say these efforts were “met with silence”.

“We are obliged to act with open transparency about the workings of the First Nations Advisory Group and we are obliged to advocate in the interests of justice for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” the statement read.

“The actions of the QPS have left us with little faith in the newly established First Nations division to be effective, or the senior leadership of the QPS to work in partnership with … our First Nations communities.

“We are concerned that the QPS will now actively seek to recruit a token advisory group who will be bound by an approved narrative handed to them.

“Until drastic action is taken to address the culture that exists within the QPS, we hold great concern that any action taken by QPS will be tokenistic, performative, and for the purposes of optics to mislead our communities”.

After taking concerns about Leavers’s comments to Carroll, the group says the former commissioner agreed to undertake a “racism audit” of the QPS. Asked on Monday whether it had begun any racism audit, or if it intended to honour the commitment, the QPS did not address the question.

In a statement, the QPS said it had conducted an “internal assessment” of the advisory group, beginning in December, that “identified that the group, in its previous iteration, was not meeting the purpose and original intent of the group”.

“With that advice in mind, the executive director of the QPS’s First Nation Division decided to release the group members at the time and encouraged those members to apply through a transparent recruitment process.”

“The QPS aims to recruit members with the view of reflecting the diverse groups that make up our First Nations community.”

Reference group members reject suggestions they were not fulfilling their objectives, under the co-designed terms of reference. They say they were not included in any review.

Similar suggestions that the group was not representative – made by senior police during the inquiry in 2022 – were rejected at the time by members as a smokescreen for attempts to silence them.

A former member of the group, academic Marlene Longbottom, raised concerns in 2022 that the QPS wanted to replace members agitating for reform with “more palatable blacks”.

“They want blackfellas who are not going to push the envelope, who are not going to call out the violence,” she said.

Longbottom resigned last year, saying meetings were “hostile” and that she has “no interest in working with [police] ever again”.

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Ukraine’s former Olympian weightlifter Oleksandr Pielieshenko killed in action

  • Pielieshenko, 30, is first Olympian to die in the war in Ukraine
  • Two-time European champion joined Ukraine army in 2022

The first Olympian to die in the war in Ukraine has been announced. The weightlifter Oleksandr Pielieshenko, who finished fourth in the 85kg light-heavyweight category at the Rio Games in 2016, was killed defending his country on Sunday.

The news was confirmed by the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, who said Pielieshenko died during combat operations.

“From the first days of the full-scale invasion, Oleksandr joined the ranks of the Armed Forces. Yesterday we received the sad news of his death,” it said on its Telegram page.

The Ukrainian Weightlifting Federation also paid tribute to the 30-year-old Pielieshenko, who was also a two-time European champion but had not competed since being banned for failing a drugs test in 2018.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you that today the heart of the honored master of sports of Ukraine, two-time European champion in weightlifting, Oleksandr Pielieshenko, has stopped beating,” it said in a statement alongside a picture of Pielieshenko in military attire. “We express our deepest condolences to the family and everyone who knew Oleksandr!”

Another Ukrainian Olympian, Vladyslav Heraskevych, said that around 450 Ukrainians related to professional sports had now died in the war.

“These people should be developing sports in our country and living their lives, but now they are being killed,” he said. “At the same time Russian athletes who support the war are now competing in international sports. I can’t understand how that is possible. This is madness.”

The death of Pielieshenko will raise further questions over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to allow some Russians to compete as “neutral” athletes at this summer’s Paris Olympics despite Ukraine’s opposition.

The IOC expects that 36 Russian athletes – and possibly as many as 54 – will qualify for the Games. However Russians who publicly supported the war in Ukraine or have links to the military will be banned from competing.

Those Russians who do go to Paris will also not be allowed to attend the opening ceremony, use their country’s flag or anthem, or participate in team sports such as football and basketball. The same restrictions will also apply to Belarus.

It is expected Russia’s team will consist of around 10-12 judo competitors, as well as several wrestlers and some of the world’s top tennis players, including the former US Open champion Daniil Medvedev. At least three Russian cyclists and one trampolinist are also likely to be included.

Russia sent 335 athletes to Tokyo in 2021 – winning 20 golds among 71 total medals. They competed without national symbols at that Olympics and at the Winter Games in 2018 and 2022 after a state-sponsored doping scandal was unearthed.

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Russia warned Britain on Monday that if British weapons were used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory then Moscow could hit back at British military installations and equipment both inside Ukraine and elsewhere.

British Ambassador Nigel Casey was summoned to the foreign ministry for a formal protest after Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Ukraine had the right to use British weapons to strike Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the Cameron remarks recognised that Britain was now de-facto a part of the conflict.

“Casey was warned that in response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory with British weapons, any British military facilities and equipment on the territory of Ukraine and abroad could be targeted,” the foreign ministry said.

“The Ambassador was called upon to reflect on the inevitable catastrophic consequences of such hostile steps by London and immediately refute the belligerent provocative statements of the head of the Foreign Office in the most decisive and unambiguous way.”

Cameron, during a visit to Kyiv, told Reuters last week that Ukraine had a right to use the weapons provided by London to strike targets inside Russia, and that it was up to Kyiv whether to do so.

“Ukraine has that right. Just as Russia is striking inside Ukraine, you can quite understand why Ukraine feels the need to make sure it’s defending itself,” Cameron told Reuters outside St. Michael’s Cathedral.

‘You wouldn’t eat her – she’s one of the family’: meet Jill, Australia’s heaviest oyster

Nurtured by Bernie Connell for almost a decade, the mollusc now weighs more than 3kg and is about to enter the record books

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Every so often, oyster farmer Bernie Connell comes across an unusually large specimen. He separates it from the rest of his crop, names it and lowers it back into the Clyde River at Batemans Bay, where he lets “tender love and care and good water” do the rest.

Now almost 10 years old, Jill – an oyster that caught his eye nine years ago – weighs 3.01kg. That makes Jill Australia’s – and potentially the world’s – heaviest oyster, after it beat Big Boppa, at 2.44kg, and Keithy, 2.4kg, to win the title at Australia’s biggest oyster competition at the Narooma oyster festival on the New South Wales south coast on Saturday.

“It was never in doubt,” laughs Connell, who has farmed oysters for 55 years and whose family has been in the business for 95 years. “But we never weighed her [beforehand]. The bloody scales were out of batteries.”

The competition drew eight entries from farms on the nearby Clyde and Shoalhaven river estuaries. To be eligible, oysters must be solo with no “piggyback” oysters joined to them, have minimal barnacles and “overgrowth” and be alive, with a vet checking for signs of life during the weigh-in.

It is the fifth time Connell has won the Australian title and Jill is set to become the Australian Book of Records’ inaugural world’s heaviest oyster.

The newly introduced category comes after a five-year campaign by the festival board’s chair, Cath Peachey, who protested against the Guinness Book of World Records system that determines oyster size by length rather than weight. Connell’s oysters were not as long as the largest oyster record, set in 2013 by a Danish oyster that clocked in at 35.5cm and 1.62kg, despite weighing significantly more.

“Their measure is length, which we thought was a bit naff, and they don’t exclude oysters that piggyback, so we put in a protest but it didn’t move [the judges],” Peachey says.

Instead, after going through the formalities, the Australian Book of Records’ judges will likely bestow the record for world’s largest oyster by weight to Jill.

“I’m pretty stoked,” says Connell. “It’s an achievement all right – Cath persevered and got it, we owe it all to her.”

Big Boppa, in second place, was also from the Connell farm, and Keithy, in third spot, was grown by Connell’s son, a fourth-generation oyster farmer. Joint fourth place went to oysters Nick and Georgie, both weighing 2.18kg.

Connell bought Jill from a hatchery in Tasmania when the juvenile was the size of a match head. After relocating the baby oysters to his farm on the Clyde, he usually sells them when they are 10 months old, but occasionally finds a mollusc that is too promising to let go.

“You work on the oysters all year round and you come across one that is twice the size as the rest so you put it aside,” he says. “They’re what you call a fast grower.”

Connell knows of an oyster that reached 23 years in age and has no reason to think Jill – which has gained nearly 300g in the past year alone – won’t keep growing.

“I don’t know what he’s been feeding it,” Peachey says. “I don’t know if we’ve got a doping scandal coming up.”

But the secret to Jill’s size, says Connell, is the purity of the Clyde’s water and the health of its algae. Pacific oysters eat 18 kinds of algae, feeding “all the time”, while the smaller native Sydney rock oysters feed on just three algae.

Jill, like Big Boppa and Keithy, is very much a pet. “You wouldn’t eat her,” Connell says. “She’s been too good to us. One of the family.” But there is a culinary market for giant oysters, says Peachey. Pacific oysters weighing 1-2kg were sold for $125 each at the festival, while Connell has been told a world record-holder may fetch up to $100,000 in China or Japan.

(They may be large, but Pacific oysters pale in comparison to the flavour of Sydney rock oysters, both Connell and Peachey say.)

For now, Jill is back in home waters, and Connell is undecided as to whether he will enter for a sixth year, or step aside for the next generation. And, as the competition gains popularity, Peachey is considering introducing a cash incentive.

“Maybe that will bring some big oysters out of the woodwork – or out of the water, more to the point.”

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‘You wouldn’t eat her – she’s one of the family’: meet Jill, Australia’s heaviest oyster

Nurtured by Bernie Connell for almost a decade, the mollusc now weighs more than 3kg and is about to enter the record books

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

Every so often, oyster farmer Bernie Connell comes across an unusually large specimen. He separates it from the rest of his crop, names it and lowers it back into the Clyde River at Batemans Bay, where he lets “tender love and care and good water” do the rest.

Now almost 10 years old, Jill – an oyster that caught his eye nine years ago – weighs 3.01kg. That makes Jill Australia’s – and potentially the world’s – heaviest oyster, after it beat Big Boppa, at 2.44kg, and Keithy, 2.4kg, to win the title at Australia’s biggest oyster competition at the Narooma oyster festival on the New South Wales south coast on Saturday.

“It was never in doubt,” laughs Connell, who has farmed oysters for 55 years and whose family has been in the business for 95 years. “But we never weighed her [beforehand]. The bloody scales were out of batteries.”

The competition drew eight entries from farms on the nearby Clyde and Shoalhaven river estuaries. To be eligible, oysters must be solo with no “piggyback” oysters joined to them, have minimal barnacles and “overgrowth” and be alive, with a vet checking for signs of life during the weigh-in.

It is the fifth time Connell has won the Australian title and Jill is set to become the Australian Book of Records’ inaugural world’s heaviest oyster.

The newly introduced category comes after a five-year campaign by the festival board’s chair, Cath Peachey, who protested against the Guinness Book of World Records system that determines oyster size by length rather than weight. Connell’s oysters were not as long as the largest oyster record, set in 2013 by a Danish oyster that clocked in at 35.5cm and 1.62kg, despite weighing significantly more.

“Their measure is length, which we thought was a bit naff, and they don’t exclude oysters that piggyback, so we put in a protest but it didn’t move [the judges],” Peachey says.

Instead, after going through the formalities, the Australian Book of Records’ judges will likely bestow the record for world’s largest oyster by weight to Jill.

“I’m pretty stoked,” says Connell. “It’s an achievement all right – Cath persevered and got it, we owe it all to her.”

Big Boppa, in second place, was also from the Connell farm, and Keithy, in third spot, was grown by Connell’s son, a fourth-generation oyster farmer. Joint fourth place went to oysters Nick and Georgie, both weighing 2.18kg.

Connell bought Jill from a hatchery in Tasmania when the juvenile was the size of a match head. After relocating the baby oysters to his farm on the Clyde, he usually sells them when they are 10 months old, but occasionally finds a mollusc that is too promising to let go.

“You work on the oysters all year round and you come across one that is twice the size as the rest so you put it aside,” he says. “They’re what you call a fast grower.”

Connell knows of an oyster that reached 23 years in age and has no reason to think Jill – which has gained nearly 300g in the past year alone – won’t keep growing.

“I don’t know what he’s been feeding it,” Peachey says. “I don’t know if we’ve got a doping scandal coming up.”

But the secret to Jill’s size, says Connell, is the purity of the Clyde’s water and the health of its algae. Pacific oysters eat 18 kinds of algae, feeding “all the time”, while the smaller native Sydney rock oysters feed on just three algae.

Jill, like Big Boppa and Keithy, is very much a pet. “You wouldn’t eat her,” Connell says. “She’s been too good to us. One of the family.” But there is a culinary market for giant oysters, says Peachey. Pacific oysters weighing 1-2kg were sold for $125 each at the festival, while Connell has been told a world record-holder may fetch up to $100,000 in China or Japan.

(They may be large, but Pacific oysters pale in comparison to the flavour of Sydney rock oysters, both Connell and Peachey say.)

For now, Jill is back in home waters, and Connell is undecided as to whether he will enter for a sixth year, or step aside for the next generation. And, as the competition gains popularity, Peachey is considering introducing a cash incentive.

“Maybe that will bring some big oysters out of the woodwork – or out of the water, more to the point.”

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The prosecution is trying to show jurors that Donald Trump was directly responsible for his personal and companies’ finances.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked: “Who has the authority to approve invoices?”

Witness Jeffrey McConney, for former Trump Organization controller, replied: “President Trump, before he became president.” He said when Trump was in the White House, persons authorized to greenlight invoices included former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and Trump’s adult children.

Questions to McConney are trying to establish there was a fixed process for authorizing and recording expenses, long-established procedures that Trump then consciously flouted to disguise the hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

That would contradict the defense’s seeming position, which was that Trump was a distracted multi-tasker who might have been busy on the phone while signing checks.

Colangelo asked McConney about the position of trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, in the Trump Organization. Cohen was, of course, the person who facilitated the payment to Daniels.

“He said he was a lawyer,” McConney said, prompting a low laugh in the gallery.

Alina Habba, another one of Trump’s attorneys, who is not involved in this case, and who is sat in the front row, also showed a grin.

Colangelo asked McConney about a conversation he had with Weisselberg about repaying Cohen. “We have to reimburse Michael,” McConney recalled Weisselberg saying. “He tossed the pad toward me, I started taking notes on what Allen said.”

Weisselberg is, of course, a disgraced former Trump employee and loyalist, and is currently serving a five-month prison term for perjury after he lied to investigators in Trump’s previous civil fraud case.

Canberra accuses Chinese fighter jet of dropping flares dangerously close to Australian helicopter

Defence minister Richard Marles says protests made to Beijing over ‘unacceptable’ altercation that forced pilot on UN mission to avoid being hit

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The federal government has accused a Chinese fighter jet of dropping flares dangerously close to an Australian helicopter on a United Nations mission in international waters.

The defence minister, Richard Marles, branded the incident “unacceptable”.

The helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by the flares, Marles said. The government raised protests with the Chinese government over the altercation in the Yellow Sea off the Korean coastline.

“The consequence of being hit by the flares would have been significant,” Marles said. “Importantly, the helicopter was unaffected and all the crew are safe.

“This is a very serious incident. It was unsafe and it is completely unacceptable.”

The encounter, first reported by Nine News on Monday evening, occurred about 7.30pm on Saturday. No injuries were reported. The Albanese government has condemned the incident in the same grave terms it used after accusing a Chinese navy ship of targeting Australian divers with sonar pulses late last year.

Defence sources said Australian destroyer HMAS Hobart was in international waters in the Yellow Sea, which is situated between China’s eastern coast and South Korea’s western coast. The ship is participating in the United Nations’ Operation Argos, enforcing international sanctions against North Korea.

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A Navy Seahawk helicopter, attached to HMAS Hobart, was conducting what was described as a routine flight when it was said to have been intercepted by a Chinese J-10 fighter jet.

Marles accused the Chinese jet of dropping flares in front of the helicopter, at a distance said to be 300 metres in front and 60 metres above the Australian chopper. He said the Australian pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the flares.

A defence department statement said the Chinese aircraft “released flares along the flight path of the Australian defence force (ADF) helicopter. This was an unsafe manoeuvre which posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel.”

Marles called the incident “both unsafe and unprofessional”. He had applied the same description to the November 2023 encounter between HMAS Toowoomba and a People’s Liberation Army navy destroyer.

Defence said the Chinese ship had deployed its sonar unit against Australian divers working to untangle fishing nets from the Toowoomba’s propellers, leading to minor injuries to two crew.

China’s national defence ministry spokesperson, Wu Qian, denied the claims at the time, saying the Chinese ship “kept a safe distance from the Australian vessel and did not conduct any activity that could affect the Australian side’s diving operations”.

Regarding the weekend’s flare incident, the defence department said Australia “expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner”.

“Defence has, for decades, undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace.”

Marles gave a similar comment, saying: “We expect that when we have interactions with other militaries, including with the Chinese military, that those interactions are professional and safe. The interactions that were occurring by the PLA air force were unacceptable.

“We have formally expressed our concerns about this incident, and formally expressed that this was both unsafe and unprofessional. It is our expectation in the interaction of our two militaries is that they happen in a manner which is professional and safe for all concerned.

“HMAS Hobart continues in its work in enforcing those UN security council sanctions.”

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Guardian Essential poll: Australians strongly support government action to tackle online harm

Voters back eSafety commissioner in stoush with Elon Musk’s X as well as a ‘deep fake’ ban and age verification for pornography and gambling

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Australians strongly back government intervention to counter online harm, including enforcing age verification for pornography, gambling and social media.

The latest Guardian Essential poll of 1,150 people has found voters back the eSafety commissioner in her stoush with Elon Musk’s platform X over removing dangerous content by a margin of two to one.

The poll was taken last week as Anthony Albanese convened a national cabinet to discuss gendered violence, including announcing a ban on deep-fake pornography and $6.5m to pilot age verification to protect children from pornography and other age-restricted online services.

Peter Dutton’s opposition has been lobbying for age verification for pornography but the government is still investigating whether the technology would work without exposing users to privacy risks.

The Essential poll found majority support for a range reforms to improve online safety including: making it illegal to post sexualised “deep fake” images (80% support); enforcing age verifications for pornography and gambling sites (79%); enforcing age verification for social media (76%); and increasing the “capacity for law enforcement to scrutinise online behaviour” (75%).

But respondents were unsure about who they could trust to enforce age verification, with many saying the government (43%), but few nominating businesses whose services they access (14%) or not-for-profit third parties (12%). Almost one-third (32%) said none of these could be trusted.

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Asked about the dispute between the eSafety commissioner and Musk, 70% said they were more likely to agree with the former “that social media platforms need to remove dangerous content that can be accessed by Australians wherever it appears”.

Less than a third (30%) were more likely to agree with Musk that “requiring X to remove content it deems as dangerous outside Australia, is an attempt to censor the internet and restrict free speech”.

A majority of respondents said they felt safe in their workplaces (87%), their homes (87%) and in the community (79%), but perception of safety online was lower, at 64%.

Nevertheless, a majority of respondents said they were concerned about all types of crime: youth crime (85%); violent crimes such as assault and murder (81%); drug- and alcohol-fuelled violence (80%); burglary and vehicle theft (76%); family violence (72%); gender-based crime (70%); and terrorism (67%).

In the wake of the alleged Wakeley church stabbing and Bondi Junction attack, Australia has engaged in community debate about what constitutes terrorism.

The poll was conducted after these incidents but mostly before a Perth stabbing that authorities say has the “hallmarks” of terrorism on Saturday evening.

The majority of respondents thought the better way to reduce crime was to “focus on enforcement measures such as increasing police powers and harsher punishments for those who commit crimes” (59%), compared with 41% who thought the focus should be “on preventive measures such as investing in social services and programs for at risk individuals”. But measures in both these categories won majority support.

On family violence, the most popular measures with 77% support were more services, making bail harder for accused men, and sharing intelligence about alleged perpetrators between states.

Less popular but still commanding majority support were criminalising coercive control (74%), respectful relationship education (71%), and addressing gender inequality and women’s empowerment (64%).

About a third of voters (31%) thought Labor was best to handle the issue of crime and community safety, more than the Coalition, which was backed by 28% when the issue was described as “crime” or 24% when framed as “community safety”. More than 40% said there was no difference between the parties.

Voters were sceptical that next Tuesday’s budget would make a meaningful difference to the cost of living, with 59% saying it would not compared with 30% who said it would.

Just one-fifth (21%) of respondents said the budget would benefit them personally, compared to people who are well off (46%), people receiving government payments (34%) or people on lower incomes (30%).

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Guardian Essential poll: Australians strongly support government action to tackle online harm

Voters back eSafety commissioner in stoush with Elon Musk’s X as well as a ‘deep fake’ ban and age verification for pornography and gambling

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

Australians strongly back government intervention to counter online harm, including enforcing age verification for pornography, gambling and social media.

The latest Guardian Essential poll of 1,150 people has found voters back the eSafety commissioner in her stoush with Elon Musk’s platform X over removing dangerous content by a margin of two to one.

The poll was taken last week as Anthony Albanese convened a national cabinet to discuss gendered violence, including announcing a ban on deep-fake pornography and $6.5m to pilot age verification to protect children from pornography and other age-restricted online services.

Peter Dutton’s opposition has been lobbying for age verification for pornography but the government is still investigating whether the technology would work without exposing users to privacy risks.

The Essential poll found majority support for a range reforms to improve online safety including: making it illegal to post sexualised “deep fake” images (80% support); enforcing age verifications for pornography and gambling sites (79%); enforcing age verification for social media (76%); and increasing the “capacity for law enforcement to scrutinise online behaviour” (75%).

But respondents were unsure about who they could trust to enforce age verification, with many saying the government (43%), but few nominating businesses whose services they access (14%) or not-for-profit third parties (12%). Almost one-third (32%) said none of these could be trusted.

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

Asked about the dispute between the eSafety commissioner and Musk, 70% said they were more likely to agree with the former “that social media platforms need to remove dangerous content that can be accessed by Australians wherever it appears”.

Less than a third (30%) were more likely to agree with Musk that “requiring X to remove content it deems as dangerous outside Australia, is an attempt to censor the internet and restrict free speech”.

A majority of respondents said they felt safe in their workplaces (87%), their homes (87%) and in the community (79%), but perception of safety online was lower, at 64%.

Nevertheless, a majority of respondents said they were concerned about all types of crime: youth crime (85%); violent crimes such as assault and murder (81%); drug- and alcohol-fuelled violence (80%); burglary and vehicle theft (76%); family violence (72%); gender-based crime (70%); and terrorism (67%).

In the wake of the alleged Wakeley church stabbing and Bondi Junction attack, Australia has engaged in community debate about what constitutes terrorism.

The poll was conducted after these incidents but mostly before a Perth stabbing that authorities say has the “hallmarks” of terrorism on Saturday evening.

The majority of respondents thought the better way to reduce crime was to “focus on enforcement measures such as increasing police powers and harsher punishments for those who commit crimes” (59%), compared with 41% who thought the focus should be “on preventive measures such as investing in social services and programs for at risk individuals”. But measures in both these categories won majority support.

On family violence, the most popular measures with 77% support were more services, making bail harder for accused men, and sharing intelligence about alleged perpetrators between states.

Less popular but still commanding majority support were criminalising coercive control (74%), respectful relationship education (71%), and addressing gender inequality and women’s empowerment (64%).

About a third of voters (31%) thought Labor was best to handle the issue of crime and community safety, more than the Coalition, which was backed by 28% when the issue was described as “crime” or 24% when framed as “community safety”. More than 40% said there was no difference between the parties.

Voters were sceptical that next Tuesday’s budget would make a meaningful difference to the cost of living, with 59% saying it would not compared with 30% who said it would.

Just one-fifth (21%) of respondents said the budget would benefit them personally, compared to people who are well off (46%), people receiving government payments (34%) or people on lower incomes (30%).

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Scientists claim to have found another distinct genetic form of Alzheimer’s

Study suggests almost everyone with two copies of genetic variant ApoE4 goes on to develop disease

Having two copies of a gene variant known to predispose people to Alzheimer’s could in fact represent a distinct genetic form of the disease, researchers have said.

The variant, known as ApoE4, has long been known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, with two copies conferring greater risk than one.

Now research has revealed almost everyone with two copies of the variant goes on to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD), suggesting it is not only a risk factor but a cause.

“Over 95% of the individuals [with two copies of ApoE4], have AD pathology either in the brain or in the biomarkers that we analysed,” said Dr Juan Fortea, the co-author of the research from the Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona.

His team said the predicability of the age at which symptoms began was similar to other genetic forms of the disease such as autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) and Alzheimer’s disease in Down syndrome (DSAD).

Dr Victor Montal, a co-author from Barcelona Supercomputing Center, said the research had catalysed a paradigm shift in the understanding of the disease.

“Whereas previously, the etiology of dementia was known in less than 1% of cases, our work has now enabled the identification of causative factors in over 15% of instances,” he said.

However, the study did not shed light on the risk of developing dementia itself for people with two copies of ApoE4.

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers reported how postmortem results from 3,297 brain donors revealed nearly all of the 273 donors with two copies of ApoE4 showed signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain.

The researchers also analysed clinical data from more than 10,000 people, revealing that by the age of 65, almost all of the 519 people with two copies of ApoE4 had abnormal levels of a protein involved in Alzheimer’s, known as amyloid beta, in their cerebrospinal fluid, and 75% had positive amyloid scans. The prevalence of biomarkers for the disease also increased with age.

The team added that the age of symptom onset was about seven to 10 years earlier in people with two copies of ApoE4, at about 65 years, compared with those without the variant.

The researchers said that with approximately 2% of the general population thought to have two copies of ApoE4, this form of Alzheimer’s constituted one of the most frequently occurring diseases that was down to alterations in just one gene.

However, with much of the data gathered from people with European ancestry, further work is needed to explore whether the findings hold in people of different ethnicities.

Prof Reisa Sperling, a co-author of the study from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, US, said while concerns had been raised about using Alzheimer’s drugs such as lecanemab in people with two copies of ApoE4, the new work flagged the importance of further research in the area, as well as around other approaches for treatment and prevention in such individuals.

Writing in an associated opinion piece, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the city’s Gladstone Institutes, said that defining having two copies of ApoE4 as a distinct genetic form of Alzheimer’s disease had important consequences, from allowing those affected to receive support through educational and counselling programmes, to prompting new avenues of research, including targeted drug-development. They added that it could also lead to changes in the diagnosis and management of the disease and influence the way clinical trials are designed.

Not everyone agreed with the conclusions of the study. “I do not see anything in this paper to justify the claim that carrying two copies of ApoE4 represents some ‘distinct genetic form’ of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Prof David Curtis, an honorary professor at the University College London’s Genetics Institute.

“No matter how many [copies] of ApoE4 one carries the underlying disease processes seem similar across cases of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that any effective treatment and prevention strategies, which have yet to be developed, would have broad applicability,” he added.

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Police to be given new powers to randomly scan people for knives under NSW government proposal

Legislation to be based on Queensland law introduced last year in response to stabbing of teenager in 2019

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Police will be able to scan people for knives without a warrant in crowded places including shopping centres under new laws being developed by the New South Wales government after stabbings at Bondi Junction, Wakeley and Coffs Harbour.

The legislation will be based on Queensland’s Jack’s Law, which was introduced last year following a 24-month trial of the powers on the Gold Coast, sparked by the death of 17-year-old Jack Beasley in 2019.

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The premier, Chris Minns, said the state had borne witness to the devastating outcomes of knife-related violence”.

“I know that many in our community have followed the devastating media coverage and heard the stories of victims and families – tragically, there have been so many recent examples,” he said.

“Our communities are still in mourning, but it’s essential that we step up to take immediate action to send a clear message that NSW will simply not accept these kinds of crimes.”

Beasley’s father met senior members of the state government to push for the adoption of the laws in recent weeks, saying they could work like they had in Queensland.

Before being expanded across Queensland last year, a review of the Gold Coast trial carried out by Griffith University’s Criminology Institute found no evidence that the scanners deterred people from carrying knives or had led to a significant drop in violent crime.

It said this was “a very significant departure from normal criminal law and procedure”.

The NSW laws will give police powers to “wand” or “scan” people for knives without a warrant in designated areas including transport hubs and shopping centres.

The designations will be made available where “relevant” weapons and knife crime have occurred within the past six months. Police would then be given the ability to wand people in the area for 12 hours, with an option to extend.

The NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley, thanked Jack’s parents for sharing their knowledge with NSW and said the strategy had been “making a difference” in Queensland.

“No parent should go through what the Beasleys and many other families have gone through. No life should be cut short by violent crime,” she said.

“We’ll be looking at how these strategies work in a NSW context … These reforms will give police improved tools to quickly detect concealed knives and take action before a potential perpetrator has the chance to use them.”

The government would also introduce changes to make it illegal to sell knives to children, with exemptions for young people who need a knife for work or study. There would also be increased penalties for people selling knives to young people.

Last year the NSW government doubled the maximum penalties for people caught with knives in public or in schools. It was met with confusion from reform advocates who said prominent crimes that prompted the changes were exceptions to the trends.

They suggested assaults and robberies involving knives last year were at their lowest levels in 20 years.

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Teens who discovered new way to prove Pythagoras’s theorem uncover even more proofs

As high school students, Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson worked to find valid new proof for the 2,000-year-old theorem

Two college freshmen who, during their final year of high school, found a new way to prove Pythagoras’s theorem by using trigonometry – which mathematicians for generations thought was impossible – have since uncovered multiple more such proofs, they revealed in a national interview on Sunday.

“We found five, and then we found a general format that could potentially produce at least five additional proofs,” Calcea Johnson said on CBS’s 60 Minutes, a little more than a year after she and Ne’Kiya Jackson collaborated on an accomplishment that earned them international recognition.

Nonetheless, in comments that stunned their interviewer, Bill Whitaker, the two graduates of St Mary’s Academy in New Orleans denied seeing themselves as math geniuses and dismissed any interest in pursuing careers in mathematics.

“People might expect too much out of me if I become a mathematician,” Jackson said, shaking her head. Johnson, for her part, added: “I may take up a minor in math, but I don’t want that to be my job job.”

Sunday’s conversation on CBS’s popular Sunday evening news magazine were perhaps their most extensive, widely broadcast remarks to date on the new ground that they broke with respect to the Pythagorean theorem.

The 2,000-year-old theorem established that the sum of the squares of a right triangle’s two shorter sides equals the square of the hypotenuse – the third, longest side opposite the shape’s right angle. Countless schoolchildren taking geometry have memorized the notation summarizing the theorem: a2 + b2 = c2.

For 2,000 years, mathematicians maintained that any alleged proof of the Pythagorean theorem that was based in trigonometry would constitute a logical fallacy known as circular reason – in essence, trying to validate an idea with the idea itself.

But the bonus question on a math contest that Johnson and Jackson took home to complete during the Christmas break of their final year at St Mary’s served as the impetus for them to plot out a new way to demonstrate that one could indeed use trigonometry to prove Pythagoras’s theorem.

Their work was so compelling that the pair went to a regional meeting of the American Mathematical Society in Atlanta in March 2023 to outline their findings. At the organization’s recommendation, Jackson and Johnson have submitted their discoveries for final peer review and publication – as well as working on additional proofs while that process is pending, as 60 Minutes noted.

The 60 Minutes interview gave Johnson and Jackson occasion to reflect on the intense reaction caused by initial media reports on their innovative work at St Mary’s, a Catholic high school that has been dedicated to educating Black girls since its founding shortly after the US civil war.

Some of it was negative. Some in the math community smarted at claims in a press release issued by St Mary’s that asserted Jackson and Johnson’s research was “unprecedented”. And they flocked to social media demanding that a 2009 trigonometry-based proof for Pythagoras’s theorem get its due.

Yet a lot of the reaction to Johnson and Jackson was positive, especially as mathematicians who picked apart their work confirmed that – by all indications – they had arrived at a valid new proof, a celebration-worthy accomplishment.

Michelle Obama wrote a post on social media that linked to a story about Johnson and Jackson, adding the text: “I just love this story. … Way to go, Ne’Kiya and Calcea! I’m rooting for you and can’t wait to see what you all do next.”

They also received a commendation from Louisiana’s then governor as well as symbolic keys to the city of New Orleans.

Asked on 60 Minutes why they thought people were so impressed with what they had done, Jackson said she thought the public was surprised young Black women could author such a feat.

“I’d like to be celebrated for what it is,” Jackson said. “Like – it’s a great mathematical achievement.”

Jackson is now attending New Orleans’ Xavier University and enrolled in its pharmacy department. Meanwhile, Johnson – who graduated from St Mary’s as its valedictorian – is now an environmental engineering student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

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Noem book contains threat against Biden dog: ‘Commander, say hello to Cricket’

South Dakota governor and Trump VP hopeful refuses to back down amid scandal over animal killings and North Korea claim

Tuesday will see publication of No Going Back, a campaign book by the South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, that generated unusual buzz after the Guardian revealed how Noem describes in detail the day she shot dead her dog, Cricket, which she deemed untrainable and dangerous, and an unnamed goat.

The revelation sparked a political firestorm, widely held to have incinerated Noem’s chances of being named running mate to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

But as the book neared publication, it became clear Noem was not done when she closed her chapter on killing Cricket, a 14-month-old female wirehaired pointer, and the unnamed male goat, which Noem says was smelly and aggressive and dangerous to her children.

At the end of No Going Back, Noem asks: “What would I do if I was president on the first day in office in 2025?”

Remarkably, she writes that “the first thing I’d do is make sure Joe Biden’s dog was nowhere on the grounds. (‘Commander, say hello to Cricket for me.’)”

Noem adds that her own dog, Foster, “would sure be welcome” at the White House.

“He comes with me to the [state] capitol all the time and loves everyone,” she writes.

Nonetheless, a governor widely held to have designs on the presidency in 2028 has at least implied she would have a predecessor’s dog killed – whether by herself with a shotgun, like Cricket and the goat, or not.

Noem has defended her description of killing Cricket and the goat as evidence of her willingness to do unpleasant things in farm life as well as in politics.

Commander, a German shepherd owned by Joe and Jill Biden, was removed from the White House after biting Secret Service agents.

On Sunday, Noem spoke to CBS’s Face the Nation. Her host, Margaret Brennan, quoted Noem’s apparent threat to kill Commander and asked: “Are you doing this to try to look tough? Do you still think that you have a shot at being a VP?”

Noem said: “Well, number one, Joe Biden’s dog has attacked 24 Secret Service people. So, how many people is enough people to be attacked and dangerously hurt before you make a decision on a dog and what to do with it?”

Brennan said: “Well, he’s not living at the White House any more.”

Noem said: “That’s a question that the president should be held accountable to.”

Brennan said: “You’re saying he [Commander] should be shot?”

Noem said: “That what’s the president should be accountable to.”

Noem tried to move on, to talk about Covid in South Dakota. But she also said she was “so proud” of a book that contained “a lot of truthful stories”.

Elsewhere, though, Noem’s publisher, Center Street, said that at Noem’s request it was removing from her book “a passage regarding Kim Jong-un … upon a reprint of the print edition and as soon as technically possible on the audio and ebook editions”.

In her book, Noem writes: “I remember when I met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. I’m sure he underestimated me, having no clue about my experience staring down little tyrants (I’d been a children’s pastor, after all).”

As first reported by the Dakota Scout, no such meeting occurred.

Noem told CBS: “What bothers me the most about politicians is when they’re fake.”

Brennan said: “But if you have to retract … parts of [the book] …”

Noem, whose publisher said it would retract part of her book, said: “I’m not retracting anything.”

Brennan said: “OK.”

On Saturday, Noem attended a Trump Florida fundraiser featuring a host of vice-presidential contenders.

Noem was “somebody I love”, NBC reported Trump as saying, adding: “She’s been with me, and a supporter, and I’ve been a supporter of hers for a long time.”

But unlike other hopefuls, among them the South Carolina senator Tim Scott and the New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Noem was not called to the stage.

She reportedly left early.

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