The Guardian 2024-05-08 01:04:14


The number of tourists on K’gari national park could soon be capped on the busiest days of the year, amid a wave of dingo attacks.

The Queensland government endorsed “in principle” a recommendation from a 2022 study that it regulate the number of vehicles that can book the boat to the island on the 20 busiest days of the year.

The idea “is undergoing practical evaluation and consideration”, the government said. It would be included in the development of a new camping booking system.

But the department of the environment rejected recommendations to introduce fishing licences to better understand the number of fishers and a levy on visitors to commercial and private premises. It said it has implemented a crackdown on permit holders to make sure they’re following the rules. It has also hired 24 additional park rangers.

The environment minister, Leanne Linard, said campers spent more than 337,000 nights on K’gari in 2023, a number that is increasing:

The study will help the Queensland parks and wildlife service develop a new draft management plan for K’gari to help balance visitor experience and protect the area’s natural and cultural values.

Previously known as Fraser Island, the huge sand island has the world’s best preserved dingo colonies. Several of the animals have been killed in recent months, after high-profile attacks on visitors. Rangers and the Butchulla people, who hold native title over the island, blame the sheer number of tourists on the island, and their bad behaviour, for the issue.

Analysis

RBA’s next move more likely down than up but probably not until 2025

Peter Hannam

Householders are suffering most from Australia’s sluggish economy but things could definitely be worse

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

Australia’s economy might not feel miraculous to households and businesses on the brink, but there is definitely an element of mystery about how it’s actually travelling.

Contrary to more hawkish forecasters, the Reserve Bank on Tuesday did not adjust its settings to imply its next move would be an interest rate rise.

Sure, the bank’s first rate cut since November 2020 may still be a way off, perhaps some time into 2025. But the RBA remains prepared to hold its course even if it hits bumps on the road to a lower inflation rate.

The higher-than-expected March quarter inflation isn’t yet a big worry for governor Michele Bullock.

Nor was the lifting of where the RBA thinks inflation will land in June compared with its forecasts made in February. Three months ago, it had pencilled in the annual consumer price index to be 3.1%. Now it’s expecting 3.8%.

In fact, the updated inflation forecast doesn’t “look a hell of a lot different than the November forecast”, Bullock told media after the RBA held its cash rate at 4.35% for a fourth board meeting in a row.

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

The updated forecasts – contained in May’s quarterly statement of monetary policy – contain a few puzzles. The answers will take time to be revealed.

In the broadest terms, the RBA doesn’t expect the inflation uptick to last because the economy will slow even further. Annual GDP growth in 2023 was 1.5% – well shy of population growth of about 2.4% – and it will sag to 1.2% by mid-year before a modest rebound to 1.6% by December.

Households will continue to wear most of the burden in the short term. Annual consumption growth will remain at December’s squintingly small 0.1% pace until June this year. It should quicken to 1.3% by December and double that by next June.

In February, the RBA thought consumption had expanded 0.4% in 2023 and would accelerate to 0.8% growth by next month. Wage increases would be more clearly ahead of inflation than it now predicts.

The whiff of the miraculous, though, is stronger when it comes to jobs.

“What’s going on in the labour market is a very interesting question,” Bullock said.

Shoring up labour demand were increases in health and education positions and employers still on the hunt for the right mix of staff. After Covid-19, some companies were preferring to hoard their crew, Bullock said.

Despite all the angst internationally and a slowing domestic economy, the RBA’s jobless forecast was actually trimmed.

March’s 3.8% unemployment rate should nudge higher to 4% by June and 4.2% by December, marginally more optimistic than three months ago. Historically, many treasurers would cheer that outcome.

Extra spending by governments hasn’t been fanning the inflation problem, in Bullock’s view, despite recent commentators’ calls for a contractionary federal budget next week.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has rejected the need for what he called “scorched-earth austerity” and the still relatively new RBA chief wasn’t calling for it either.

Business was the other main economic surprise. Smaller businesses were bearing a similar brunt of rate increases as households but the sector was holding up better than Bullock expected. (The RBA also lifted its near-term forecast for business investment before it starts to taper off in the second half of the year.)

Bullock wasn’t asked about how Australia stacked up internationally, but by many measures the country is faring well. Our inflation rate may remain above peers such as the US, UK and New Zealand, but interest rates are below theirs and might not go higher.

The federal government, too, is likely to announce a second straight budget surplus next week, at $10bn-$15bn, or a bit above 0.5% of GDP. In those three nations, budget deficits range from 5.8% to 7.6% of GDP.

Sure, future budgets may need a few miracles, but things could be worse.

Explore more on these topics

  • Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Interest rates
  • Inflation
  • Australian economy
  • Cost of living crisis
  • analysis
Share

Reuse this content

Domestic violence workers: states told to hire faster as Labor’s 500 staff pledge hit by major delays

Federal government eager to see program up and running but only a fraction of the promised staff have been hired

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

The federal government has told the states to expedite a $170m program to hire 500 new domestic violence workers, with New South Wales admitting it could have moved faster to get workers on the ground.

The Albanese government has faced Coalition criticism for the fact only a fraction of the 500 workers have started work under the program, but it is the state governments who need to hire the staff – a task they have not met, despite growing community pressure and federal frustration.

Government sources from several states on Tuesday blamed the slow hiring progress on factors including difficulty finding qualified workers and some said the situation was exacerbated by an agreed need to hire staff from specific backgrounds or areas.

But the NSW domestic violence service claimed the sector had not received the funding it needs and that this had delayed the hiring.

Federal Labor’s pledge, an October 2022 budget commitment, aimed to hire 200 new workers each year in 2022 and 2023 and a further 100 in 2024-25.

The federal government has resisted publicly blaming the states for the delay but the minister for women and finance, Katy Gallagher, on Sunday said only 30 of the promised 500 staff had been hired by the states so far. The states have now agreed to a target of 352 of the 500 workers by 30 June.

The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, on Tuesday said: “My expectation is that states and territories will work expeditiously to actually get these workers on board.”

While some state governments have only locked in a handful of new staff, and the NSW minister responsible has admitted it would have been better to move faster, the Victorian government insisted it had only just received the federal funding.

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

“The agreement with the Federal Government for the rollout of this funding was finalised in early 2024 with funding received in February and recruitment currently underway for the first 59 positions,” a spokesperson said.

Guardian Australia understands the funding for the $170m staffing plan was released from the federal government last year in two instalments, in mid- and late-2023, to most states. Victoria received the first of its payments in 2023 and the second earlier this year, because the state was negotiating its own agreement with the federal government, under which it would hire a lower number of workers in earlier years of the multi-year agreement.

Although government sources in several states pointed to a shortage of trained workers, the Domestic Violence NSW deputy chief executive, Elise Phillips, said it was “definitely not” correct to say the state was having problems recruiting workers. Phillips said NSW had a strong and qualified workforce to draw from.

“It’s that services themselves haven’t yet received the funding to be able to commence that recruitment process,” Phillips said.

The federal government allocates funding to state governments who then give contracts to domestic violence sector groups to hire the staff.

Phillips put the delay down to the state government determining where additional staff were most needed but added the domestic violence sector was “frustrated” by how long it had taken. It is understood NSW has taken longer than other states to determine the priority locations and populations in most need.

“It’s likely that we’re still at least another couple of months away from having those workers on the ground,” Phillips said.

Jodie Harrison, the NSW minister for domestic violence prevention, on Monday said only “about five” of the state’s promised 148 workers had been employed. She told the ABC the government was working “to analyse where gaps are”.

Asked if recruiting only five workers was good enough, Harrison conceded “it would be really wonderful if we could have moved faster”.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, Harrison said she expected contracts for positions to be in place from June and recruitment to follow. NSW on Monday announced $48m for specialist workers for children and young people, which she said was “additional to the Commonwealth money”.

In Victoria the premier, Jacinta Allan, said agencies had “definitely started” recruiting staff, but claimed the funding had only just been finalised.

“The funding that was provided by the federal government I think was allocated last year and those funding arrangements to release the funding has only just been finalised in March this year,” she said on Monday.

A spokesperson from Queensland’s justice department said the state was also making progress. “To date, organisations have accepted 62 workers positions, which are expected to commence by the end of June,” they said.

“We welcome the federal government’s support and are in the process of issuing contracts to non-government organisations to ensure we meet our allocation under the initiative.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Domestic violence
  • Australian politics
  • Violence against women and girls
  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Katy Gallagher (Australian politician)
  • Queensland
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Sydney council bans same-sex parenting books from libraries for ‘safety of our children’

Local MP is concerned move breaches Anti-Discrimination Act while NSW arts minister accuses council of ‘censorship’

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

A Sydney council has voted to place a blanket ban on same-sex parenting books from local libraries in a move the New South Wales government warns could be a breach of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

At a meeting last week, Cumberland city council in western Sydney voted on a new strategy for its eight council-run libraries.

The amendment, put forward by the former mayor and current councillor Steve Christou, proposed that the council take “immediate action” to “rid” same-sex parents books and materials in its library service.

During the meeting, Christou brandished a book he alleged had received “really disturbing” constituent complaints, saying parents were “distraught” to see the book, Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig, displayed on a shelf in the children’s section of the library.

The book, originally published in the UK, explores the experience of having two mums or two dads and features two men and a young child on the front cover.

Six councillors voted in favour of the amendment and five voted against, while four councillors were not present to vote.

“We’re going to make it clear tonight that … these kind of books, same-sex parents books, don’t find their way to our kids,” Christou said during debate. “Our kids shouldn’t be sexualised.

“This community is a very religious community, a very family-orientated community.

“They don’t want such controversial issues going against their beliefs indoctrinated to their libraries. This is not Marrickville or Newtown, this is Cumberland city council.”

Christou said toddlers shouldn’t be “exposed” to same-sex content and that the proposed amendment was “for the protection and safety of our children”.

“Hands off our kids,” he repeated.

More than half of the population represented by the Cumberland city council were born overseas. About 12.7% of its population has Chinese ancestry, while 13.3% are Lebanese.

Christou told Guardian Australia the motion was not targeted at the LGBTQ+ community but towards any books that promoted “sexualisation”.

Asked what aspects of the book in question were sexualised, he said parents had complained about the book being on the shelf, reiterating that “no form” of sexualisation should be accepted.

“We are a deeply religious community with deep family values,” he said. “I’m only representing the wishes of my community.”

The Auburn MP Lynda Voltz expressed concern over the resolution and asked the NSW arts minister, John Graham, to look at the matter.

“I am greatly concerned at the decision of Cumberland council and believe that it may possibly risk breaching the guidelines for funding of libraries and may also be in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act,” she said.

“The overwhelming majority of the people in Auburn will tell you that everyone is welcome and we pride ourselves on being a peaceful and friendly community.”

Minister accuses council of censorship

Graham accused the council of engaging in censorship.

“When civilisations turn to burning books or banning books it is a very bad sign. That is equally true for local councils,” he said.

“It is up to readers to choose which book to take off the shelf. It should not be up to local councillors to make that choice for them or engage in censorship.”

He said the decision could impact the library’s ability to receive funding from the government.

The mayor, Lisa Lake, opposed the motion and said she was “appalled and saddened” by the result.

Lake said the book had been in the library since 2019 and was “nothing new”.

“We work really hard at council to foster a spirit of inclusion and talk about everybody feeling welcome,” she said.

“As long as parents are loving families, that’s what’s important.”

Councillor Diane Colman, who also opposed the motion, told Guardian Australia it wasn’t the body’s place to “police” accessibility to books.

“It’s problematic on so many levels,” she said.

“Cumberland city council’s motto is ‘welcome, belong, succeed’ – that means everyone is welcome, everyone belongs.

“Bans like this indicate some people believe that isn’t the case.”

Colman said the “whole premise” of a public library was to provide individuals with equitable rights to information – not to censor it.

A spokesperson for Cumberland city council said it had commenced the process of reviewing its collection to determine which titles “would need to be considered for removal” from library services.

“Council welcomes everyone to our local government area and our libraries, irrespective of the materials available in our library collections,” they said.

Equality Australia’s legal director Ghassan Kassisieh said “providing the children of same-sex couples with books that reflect their everyday lives is part of ensuring public libraries are inclusive and welcoming places for everyone”.

“This book is part of an age-appropriate series about different types of families, and the attempt to erase local families off library shelves sinks well below the standard that should be set by our elected representatives,” Kassisieh said.

“If you don’t want to borrow the book, you don’t have to – but don’t deny others the chance to access books that reflect modern family life in Australia in 2024.”

Kassisieh said if the move wasn’t unlawful under the NSW anti-discrimination act, it “certainly should be”.

Rainbow Families, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ families in Australia, spoke with the anti-discrimination board on Tuesday to try to get the ban reversed.

Its executive officer, Ashley Scott, said the board was considering what actions it could take in response.

“We’re very disappointed by the decision … in Australia our families are very diverse and that’s something that should be celebrated,” he said.

Scott said he had witnessed an increase in hate speech and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the past 12 months, which had been distressing for families.

Explore more on these topics

  • Sydney
  • LGBTQ+ rights
  • New South Wales
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Renewable energy passes 30% of world’s electricity supply

Report says humans may be on brink of cutting fossil fuel generation, even as demand for electricity rises

Renewable energy accounted for more than 30% of the world’s electricity for the first time last year following a rapid rise in wind and solar power, according to new figures.

A report on the global power system has found that the world may be on the brink of driving down fossil fuel generation, even as overall demand for electricity continues to rise.

Clean electricity has already helped to slow the growth in fossil fuels by almost two-thirds in the past 10 years, according to the report by climate thinktank Ember. It found that renewables have grown from 19% of electricity in 2000 to more than 30% of global electricity last year.

“The renewables future has arrived,” said Dave Jones, Ember’s director of global insights. “Solar, in particular, is accelerating faster than anyone thought possible.”

Solar was the main supplier of electricity growth, according to Ember, adding more than twice as much new electricity generation as coal in 2023.

It was the fastest-growing source of electricity for the 19th consecutive year, and also became the largest source of new electricity for the second year running, after surpassing wind power.

The first comprehensive review of global electricity data covers 80 countries, which represent 92% of the world’s electricity demand, as well as historic data for 215 countries.

The surge in clean electricity is expected to power a 2% decrease in global fossil fuel generation in the year ahead, according to Ember.

“The decline of power sector emissions is now inevitable,” said Jones. “2023 was likely the pivot point – peak emissions in the power sector – a major turning point in the history of energy. But the pace of emissions falls depends on how fast the renewables revolution continues.”

Although fossil fuel use in the world’s electricity system may begin to fall, it continues to play an outsized role in global energy – in transport fuels, heavy industry and heating.

A separate study by the Energy Institute found last year that fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal made up 82% of the world’s primary energy.

World leaders are aiming to grow renewables to 60% of global electricity by 2030 under an agreement struck at the UN’s Cop28 climate change conference in December.

This would require countries to triple their current renewable electricity capacity in the next six years, which would almost halve power sector emissions.

Explore more on these topics

  • Renewable energy
  • Energy
  • Solar power
  • Coal
  • Wind power
  • Fossil fuels
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

‘Do you worry about STDs?’: Stormy Daniels’ testimony on Trump affair off to cringey start

The adult film star testifies in a hush-money trial that could land the ex-president and Republican frontrunner behind bars

At 10.30am Tuesday in a New York City courtroom, five words changed the course of American history: “The people call Stormy Daniels.”

Daniels, now a household name, is an adult film actor at the center of a hush-money criminal trial that could land Donald Trump, the former president and present Republican presidential frontrunner, behind bars.

Manhattan prosecutors said that Trump’s one-time lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels for her silence about a sexual liaison weeks before the 2016 election; in turn, he allegedly described repayments to him as legal expenses on business records.

But when Daniels entered judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom this morning, that discourse on ledgers and checks and bank records receded into the background.

Trump turned to look at her as she took her seat at the stand and then leaned back in his chair, with a passive look on his face. Trump’s son Eric, who was in the front row of the gallery, behind his father, looked at the wall. Alina Habba, a Trump attorney not on this case, sat with her arms crossed.

The long-awaited courtroom showdown between Daniels and Trump then began. Over the course of several hours, Daniels dished up a made-for-tabloid mix of titillation and gossip in detailing an alleged encounter with him some 20 years prior.

Daniels, who met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, walked jurors through the fateful evening when she went to his hotel room, thinking his dinner invitation was just that.

“It’ll make a great story,” Daniels’ colleague said to her when she was weighing whether or not to go. “What would possibly go wrong?”

As Daniel told it, the answer would be a lot.

They decided to talk a bit before grabbing dinner, she recalled. Trump repeatedly asked about Daniels’ work as an adult entertainer, prodding her with questions such as: “What about testing? Do you worry about STDs?” Had she been tested?

“Yes, of course, and I volunteered it as well,” she said. “He asked me, oh, well, have you ever had a bad test, I said: ‘Nope, I can show you my entire record.’”

At one point, Trump started to show Daniels photos, including one of Melania. Daniels told Trump she was “very beautiful”. He said they slept in separate bedrooms.

They talked about The Apprentice, Trump’s reality show. Daniels said there would be no way she could get on network television, given her work in adult entertainment.

It was at this point Trump appeared to compare Daniels to his daughter, Ivanka.

“You remind me of my daughter, she is smart and blonde and beautiful and people underestimate her as well,” Daniels recalled Trump saying.

Several waters into their conversation, Daniels went to use the restroom, which was through a bedroom. When she left the bathroom, there Trump was – on the bed, clad in boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

“At first I was just startled, like a jump scare,” Daniels told jurors. “I just thought: oh, my God, what did I misread to get here? The intention is pretty clear if someone’s stripped down to their underwear and on the bed.”

She tried to extract herself from the situation, but Trump stood between her and the door but, she insisted, “not in a threatening manner”.

“He said, I thought we were getting somewhere. I thought you were serious about what you wanted, if you want to get out of that trailer park … ” Daniels recalled Trump saying. “I was offended, because I never lived in a trailer park.”

Daniels said they wound up having sex. The scant details that followed – among them mention of a specific sexual position and condoms – prompted a flurry of defense objections. At times during Daniels’ testimony, Trump could be seen shaking his head.

Trump’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, even asked for a mistrial based on the extra marginalia in her comments. “We move for a mistrial based on the testimony this morning,” Blanche told Merchan following the lunch break. “There’s no way to unring that bell, in our view.”

“Aside from pure embarrassment,” Blanche said, these details only served to “inflame the jury”.

Merchan rejected this request, but defense attorney Susan Necheles did her best to make Daniels like anything but a victim of circumstance. Why, Necheles asked, after so many years did Daniels decide to come forward with her story in 2016?

“You were looking to extort money from President Trump, right?”

“False”, Daniels insisted.

“Well, that’s what you did, right?”

“False!” said Daniels, whose defiance on the cross-examination contrasted with her seeming nervous discomfort earlier on.

Her cross-examination is expected to continue on Thursday.

Hugo Lowell contributed to the reporting for this piece

Explore more on these topics

  • Stormy Daniels
  • Donald Trump trials
  • Donald Trump
  • New York
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Trump hush-money trial: Stormy Daniels describes being ‘startled’ by sexual encounter

Jury hears from adult film star on 13th day of ex-president’s criminal trial in New York

  • Trump trial key takeaways, day 13

Donald Trump’s criminal trial entered a new stage on Tuesday with testimony from Stormy Daniels, an adult film star at the center of his hush-money scandal, who told jurors that they had a sexual liaison in 2006 that left her nervous and ashamed.

“My hands were shaking so hard that I was having a hard time getting dressed,” said Daniels, who told jurors that she had gone to Trump’s Lake Tahoe hotel room under the belief that they would be getting dinner after meeting there.

The two had met earlier that day at a celebrity golf match across town; Daniels was there for Wicked Pictures, the company she worked for at the time, which was a sponsor.

“The players would come around, you’d stay at your hole that had your company’s logo, [you’d] give them water or towels,” she said.

They didn’t discuss much, but Daniels’s boss told Trump that she was also a director. Trump, she recalled, said she must be pretty smart if she directed films and didn’t just perform in them. They ran into each other again at a room where event sponsors set up tables with free merchandise.

“He did remember us from the golf course – he remembered me specifically, that I was ‘the smart one’,” Daniels said. At one point, one of Trump’s bodyguards came over and told Daniels that he wanted her to join him for dinner. She said no.

Daniels said she didn’t consider the invitation again until later, when there was a scheduled company dinner she didn’t want to attend. Daniels’s colleague told her that she should take Trump up on his invitation.

“‘It’ll make a great story, he’s a business guy, what would possibly go wrong,’ that was his words to me,” Daniels recalled. He thought it might also be good for her career.

She and Trump’s bodyguard coordinated and she was directed to his hotel across the city, and told to take a specific elevator to the penthouse. “He was wearing silk or satin pyjamas that I immediately made fun of him for, and said, does Mr Hefner know you stole his pyjamas?” Daniels said, referring to the late pornographer and Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner.

“I told him to go change and he obliged.”

Since it was still early, they decided to chat for a while before getting dinner. Trump repeatedly grilled Daniels on her time in the adult industry, including: “What about testing? Do you worry about STDs?”

He asked whether she had been tested. “Yes, of course, and I volunteered it as well,” she said.

“He asked me, oh, well, have you ever had a bad test, I said: ‘Nope, I can show you my entire record’,” Daniels recalled.

She said there was also a very brief discussion of Melania, Trump’s wife, during which he said they slept in separate rooms. Daniels said she had to use the restroom at some point, as she had had several bottles of water. Trump had come into the bedroom area of the suite, and was on the bed in his boxers and a T-shirt.

“At first I was just startled, like a jump scare,” Daniels said. “I just thought: Oh, my God, what did I misread to get here? The intention is pretty clear if someone’s stripped down to their underwear and on the bed.”

She tried to make a joke and leave, but he stood up between her and the door. “At some point, did you wind up on the bed having sex with him?” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Daniels said.

During their conversation at the hotel, they discussed The Apprentice, Daniels said. She told him there was no way she would be allowed on network TV due to her status in the adult industry. He rejected this idea, then appeared to compare Daniels to his daughter, Ivanka Trump: “You remind me of my daughter. She is smart and blonde and beautiful and people underestimate her as well.”

Daniels, who wore a billowy black top and glasses with black frames, delivered her testimony with a rapid fire of words, so much so that she was asked several times to slow down, suggesting nervousness. At one point, Daniels sipped water from a plastic cup.

Hoffinger also tried to carry out pre-emptive strikes against a major defense argument on Daniels – that she’s not only motivated by money, but motivated to testify because she owes Trump more than hundreds of thousands in legal fees following a failed lawsuit against him.

Daniels said that in 2011, a man approached her at a Las Vegas car park and threatened her against coming forward. Her former attorney, Michael Avenatti, publicized a sketch of the man, and then filed a defamation suit after Trump denied involvement.

Daniels said she had thought a defamation claim was “risky” and “not worth it” but that Avenatti filed it without her permission. The case was thrown out, in Trump’s favor, and Daniels now owes him more than $500,000 in legal fees.

Daniels responded with an emphatic “no” when asked whether Avenatti was still her lawyer. Why? “Because I fired him and he was later found guilty of stealing,” she said.

When Daniels first took the stand, Trump leaned back in his chair with a passive look on his face.

Prosecutors allege that in 2015, Trump, his then lawyer Michael Cohen and tabloid honcho David Pecker plotted to bury stories that could thwart his Republican presidential bid. Cohen allegedly shuttled a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, to keep her from going public about her claimed sexual liaison with Trump.

Cohen transferred money to Daniels’s lawyer via a limited liability company he established specifically for the transaction, called Essential Consulting LLC. He allegedly used an LLC so that the payment would not be tracked back to him and, thus, Trump.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records in relation to repaying Cohen. Prosecutors allege that Trump falsely listed these repayments as legal services in business documents.

Daniels’s testimony came one day after Judge Juan Merchan warned Trump that he could face jail if he kept violating a gag order.

The proceedings on Monday – which featured testimony from Deborah Tarasoff, a Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor, and Jeffrey McConney, the company’s former comptroller – were overshadowed by Merchan finding Trump in criminal contempt for the 10th time before they even took the stand.

Merchan’s decision comes just days after he found Trump in criminal contempt, and hit him with a $9,000 fine, over other comments that had flouted the order that bars him from discussing trial witnesses or jurors.

“So as much as I do not want to impose a jail sanction, I want you to understand that I will, if necessary and appropriate, Merchan said.

The testimony from McConney and Tarasoff sought to place Trump at the center of his company and personal finances – to undermine any defense argument that he was not at the helm of bill-paying.

Daniels’s testimony, on the heels of McConney and Tarasoffs’s time in court, and Merchan’s warning mark a difficult week for the defense. Before Daniels’s testimony resumed after a lunch break, one of Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche, asked Merchan to throw out the case because of extraneous details in her comments.

“We move for a mistrial based on the testimony this morning,” Blanche said. “There’s no way to unring that bell, in our view.”

He noted how Daniels had described feeling “blacked out” and had remarked that Trump did not use a condom.

“Aside from pure embarrassment,” Blanche told Merchan, these details did nothing but “inflame the jury”.

“I agree that there are probably some things that would have been [left] better unsaid,” Merchan said. “In fairness to the people, I think your witness was a little difficult to control” but still, he said, details came in that should not have.

Merchan said “I don’t believe we’re at the point” where a mistrial was warranted.

Defense attorney Susan Necheles did come out swinging in her cross-examination, trying over and over again to convey Daniels as a money-hungry bounder, and nothing more. Didn’t she get into pornography because she wanted money? Did she hate Trump? (To that question, Daniels replied: “Yes.”)

Necheles pressed on with her suggestion that Daniels was trying to shake down Trump by coming forward in 2016.

“You were looking to extort money from President Trump, right?”

“False,” Daniels said.

“Well, that’s what you did, right?”

“False!”

Explore more on these topics

  • Donald Trump trials
  • Donald Trump
  • Stormy Daniels
  • US crime
  • New York
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Judge scraps date for Trump Mar-a-Lago documents trial without rescheduling

Aileen Cannon, overseeing Trump’s prosecution on charges of retaining classified files, says case is not ready to take before jury

The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s prosecution on charges of retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago club on Tuesday formally scrapped her scheduled 20 May trial date without setting a new date, ruling the case was nowhere near ready to take before a jury in Florida.

The fact that the original May trial date would not hold was a foregone conclusion and has been apparent since last year, given delays with pre-trial litigation and the number of unresolved legal issues that have only increased in recent months.

The presiding US district court judge Aileen Cannon set several new deadlines in a five-page order scrapping the trial date, seemingly in an effort to get the case back on track, but the drawn out nature of the dates cast doubt on the likelihood of a trial before the 2024 election.

In doing so, the judge played into Trump’s overarching legal strategy to seek indefinite delays for his criminal cases, under the belief that winning re-election would enable him to appoint a loyalist as attorney general who could direct prosecutors to drop the charges.

The only silver lining for the special counsel Jack Smith, who brought the case, is that the federal judge overseeing Trump’s criminal case in Washington DC on charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election results is free, for now, to schedule that case for trial in the summer.

But the possibility of that case proceeding to trial before the election is also in doubt, since a trial date cannot be set until the US supreme court rules on Trump’s presidential immunity claim and even then, Trump has roughly three more months of defense preparation time left on the clock.

Trump’s success in delaying his two federal criminal cases with pre-trial motions, and playing them off each other, means the New York criminal trial currently underway on charges he falsified business records may be the only case to go to trial before the 2024 election in November.

As part of her order, Cannon issued a series of deadlines for only a handful of unresolved pre-trial motions that sketched out a timetable into late July. The drawn-out timeline suggests the case is now running more than six months behind schedule that envisioned the 20 May trial date.

Cannon, appointed by Trump in the waning days of his presidency, has generally given wide deference to Trump and his legal team, granting nearly all extensions they have requested and entertaining his most brazen defense theories, even if they have been without precedent in Espionage Act cases.

In an unusual move, Cannon allowed Trump to have a hearing about potentially dismissing the case based on accusations from Trump that the special counsel’s office was illegally setup, and to have a two-day hearing about who should be included as being part of the prosecution team.

Trump filed a motion in January asking Cannon to formally recognize almost all of the US intelligence community and agencies to be considered part of the prosecution team, in a move that would inject months more delay into the process because it could entitle Trump to voluminous discovery.

And in a notable delay, Cannon pushed back the deadline for Trump to give his notice – under section 5 of the Classified Information Procedures Act (Cipa), which governs how Espionage Act cases proceed to trial – about what classified documents he intended to introduce as evidence for the defense.

Section 5 is considered the most important part of Cipa, which was enacted to protect the US government from the practice of “graymail”, where defendants threatened to disclose classified information into the public domain at trial, hoping prosecutors would prefer to drop the case.

The process would involve Trump disclosing which classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago he wanted to use as part of a defense argument. But defendants, trying to keep their trial defenses secret, often provide too vague of a notice – which prosecutors then have to challenge in an appeals court.

Trump’s legal team told Cannon in recent weeks that they wanted their deadline to provide the section 5 notice delayed until mid-June, until after they were done defending Trump in New York. Cannon obliged, moving the deadline to 17 June.

Explore more on these topics

  • Donald Trump
  • Florida
  • Law (US)
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Explainer

Satin pajamas and mistrial denied: Trump trial key takeaways, day 13

Stormy Daniels undercuts some of Trump’s defenses as his lawyer suggests Daniels has a propensity to embellish

Stormy Daniels, whose alleged sexual affair with Donald Trump prompted a hush-money scheme at the heart of the criminal case brought by the Manhattan district attorney, described in excruciating detail on Tuesday her encounters with the former US president.

The testimony from Daniels appeared to be embarrassing for Trump, who shook his head at times, and was notably freewheeling – to the extent that the presiding judge sustained multiple objections, even as he denied a mistrial motion on the basis that key parts of her account were prejudicial.

Daniels was wired $130,000 by ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen just before the 2016 election to bury her account of the affair. Prosecutors allege Trump later reimbursed Cohen the money but covered up its nature by falsifying business records and in doing so, violated state election laws.

Here are the key takeaways from day 13 of Trump’s criminal trial:

Explore more on these topics

  • Donald Trump trials
  • Donald Trump
  • Law (US)
  • explainers
Share

Reuse this content

Why have we been excluded? The students left out of Labor’s promised placement payments

Universities Australia backs the proposed allowance but students not on the list are ‘devastated’ and argue $8 is a ‘slap in the face’

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

By the time Lauren – not her real name – finishes her radiography degree, she’ll have completed 1,600 hours of work without pay.

So when the government announced this week that it would give students in care degrees payment for undertaking mandatory placements, the fourth-year student was excited.

But after finding out the commonwealth’s proposed $319.50 weekly allowance would only be available to students in teaching, nursing, social work and midwifery, Lauren now feels “passed over”.

“Radiography is an extremely difficult degree producing healthcare professionals who perform essential roles,” she says.

“I’ve worked in numerous hospitals and private practices where I bridge the labour gap with employee shortages. I’ve also witnessed a significant dropout rate in my cohort as students are unable to sustain themselves during the extensive number of placements.”

Students in a range of degrees – including veterinary science, medicine, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology – are also set to miss out on Labor’s proposed allowance, which will be outlined further in next week’s budget. The proposed payment is equivalent to about $8 an hour.

Dr Diana Barker, president of the Australian Veterinary Association, says she was “devastated” to discover veterinary students weren’t on the list. “I just don’t understand why we’ve been excluded,” she says.

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

“Our workforce shortages are in crisis in rural and regional areas. Vet is one of the most expensive degrees to undertake in Australia, and students have to undertake 56 weeks of placements.

“The government is saying veterinarians are not essential.”

Barker says students who undertake placements in rural and regional areas are more likely to take on full-time work in those communities but often opt against it due to the financial pressure of relocating.

“It’s an extra burden to take on,” she says. “This will have a knock-on effect. Vets are already closing their doors as they can’t get people into these communities.”

The president of the Australian Psychological Society, Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe, says provisional psychologists are also in urgent need of support.

Psychology is one of the most feminised workforces in Australia, with more than 80% of psychologists being women.

“Expecting provisional psychologists to undertake these placements for free puts psychology out of reach for so many students, which puts even more pressure on the workforce and does nothing but harm patients who need to access psychology care,” Davis-McCabe says.

“This simply isn’t sustainable or acceptable in 2024.”

The national president of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Scott Willis, says while it is “disappointing” to see physiotherapy miss out, he is happy the government has taken a step forward.

“Now the minister needs to be bold and commit to other allied health professions,” he says. “It’s their obligation – this would be impossible for industry to sustain.

“The cost of living is increasing and there’s a perfect storm brewing for providers and business owners.”

The education minister, Jason Clare, told Triple J on Monday that the federal government’s decision was based upon recommendations in the University Accord final report.

The report, handed down in January, backed calls among academics for students to be compensated for compulsory internships to stem high dropout rates.

It suggested employers make “reasonable contributions” to the costs of providing placements, with the government to provide support for key industries including nursing, care and teaching.

“The report says that this is where government should focus first and that’s what we’re doing,” Clare said. “It might be that down the track, governments will look at other areas or that industry can provide important help here as well.”

The peak body for the tertiary sector, Universities Australia, backed the announcement, which was described by its chief executive, Luke Sheehy, as a “game changer”.

But students have taken a different view. The grassroots group Students Against Placement Poverty, say the change will do “very little” to alleviate students’ financial woes, while the National Union of Students says all students completing placements must be paid at least the minimum wage.

The NUS national president, Ngaire Bogemann, says $8 is a “slap in the face” to students providing “crucial labour” in areas with skills shortages.

“If you’re trusted enough to go into a hospital and provide medical care, you deserve payment,” she says. “So many avoid or can’t finish degrees because they can’t afford the placements.”

While Calum Neish, a physiotherapy student in his honours year at the University of Queensland, won’t qualify for the payment, he finds it heartening.

“There’s such a need for this – it’s a recognition from the government that we need high quality care,” says Neish, who tutors after full days of placements and works part-time on weekends. “When students graduate they’re already feeling the impact of burnout and high levels of stress, yet we rely on them to help other people.”

But he wants payments to be allocated fairly, regardless of degree.

“I’m worried it might deter people from other health degrees knowing there’s an incentive,” he says. “It needs to be equitable.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian education
  • Health
  • Australian universities
  • Labor party
  • Australian politics
  • Australian budget 2024
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Why have we been excluded? The students left out of Labor’s promised placement payments

Universities Australia backs the proposed allowance but students not on the list are ‘devastated’ and argue $8 is a ‘slap in the face’

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

By the time Lauren – not her real name – finishes her radiography degree, she’ll have completed 1,600 hours of work without pay.

So when the government announced this week that it would give students in care degrees payment for undertaking mandatory placements, the fourth-year student was excited.

But after finding out the commonwealth’s proposed $319.50 weekly allowance would only be available to students in teaching, nursing, social work and midwifery, Lauren now feels “passed over”.

“Radiography is an extremely difficult degree producing healthcare professionals who perform essential roles,” she says.

“I’ve worked in numerous hospitals and private practices where I bridge the labour gap with employee shortages. I’ve also witnessed a significant dropout rate in my cohort as students are unable to sustain themselves during the extensive number of placements.”

Students in a range of degrees – including veterinary science, medicine, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology – are also set to miss out on Labor’s proposed allowance, which will be outlined further in next week’s budget. The proposed payment is equivalent to about $8 an hour.

Dr Diana Barker, president of the Australian Veterinary Association, says she was “devastated” to discover veterinary students weren’t on the list. “I just don’t understand why we’ve been excluded,” she says.

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

“Our workforce shortages are in crisis in rural and regional areas. Vet is one of the most expensive degrees to undertake in Australia, and students have to undertake 56 weeks of placements.

“The government is saying veterinarians are not essential.”

Barker says students who undertake placements in rural and regional areas are more likely to take on full-time work in those communities but often opt against it due to the financial pressure of relocating.

“It’s an extra burden to take on,” she says. “This will have a knock-on effect. Vets are already closing their doors as they can’t get people into these communities.”

The president of the Australian Psychological Society, Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe, says provisional psychologists are also in urgent need of support.

Psychology is one of the most feminised workforces in Australia, with more than 80% of psychologists being women.

“Expecting provisional psychologists to undertake these placements for free puts psychology out of reach for so many students, which puts even more pressure on the workforce and does nothing but harm patients who need to access psychology care,” Davis-McCabe says.

“This simply isn’t sustainable or acceptable in 2024.”

The national president of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Scott Willis, says while it is “disappointing” to see physiotherapy miss out, he is happy the government has taken a step forward.

“Now the minister needs to be bold and commit to other allied health professions,” he says. “It’s their obligation – this would be impossible for industry to sustain.

“The cost of living is increasing and there’s a perfect storm brewing for providers and business owners.”

The education minister, Jason Clare, told Triple J on Monday that the federal government’s decision was based upon recommendations in the University Accord final report.

The report, handed down in January, backed calls among academics for students to be compensated for compulsory internships to stem high dropout rates.

It suggested employers make “reasonable contributions” to the costs of providing placements, with the government to provide support for key industries including nursing, care and teaching.

“The report says that this is where government should focus first and that’s what we’re doing,” Clare said. “It might be that down the track, governments will look at other areas or that industry can provide important help here as well.”

The peak body for the tertiary sector, Universities Australia, backed the announcement, which was described by its chief executive, Luke Sheehy, as a “game changer”.

But students have taken a different view. The grassroots group Students Against Placement Poverty, say the change will do “very little” to alleviate students’ financial woes, while the National Union of Students says all students completing placements must be paid at least the minimum wage.

The NUS national president, Ngaire Bogemann, says $8 is a “slap in the face” to students providing “crucial labour” in areas with skills shortages.

“If you’re trusted enough to go into a hospital and provide medical care, you deserve payment,” she says. “So many avoid or can’t finish degrees because they can’t afford the placements.”

While Calum Neish, a physiotherapy student in his honours year at the University of Queensland, won’t qualify for the payment, he finds it heartening.

“There’s such a need for this – it’s a recognition from the government that we need high quality care,” says Neish, who tutors after full days of placements and works part-time on weekends. “When students graduate they’re already feeling the impact of burnout and high levels of stress, yet we rely on them to help other people.”

But he wants payments to be allocated fairly, regardless of degree.

“I’m worried it might deter people from other health degrees knowing there’s an incentive,” he says. “It needs to be equitable.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian education
  • Health
  • Australian universities
  • Labor party
  • Australian politics
  • Australian budget 2024
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Parents of murdered Perth brothers say world a ‘darker place’ after Mexico tragedy

The parents of Callum and Jake Robinson travelled to Mexico to identify the bodies of their children

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

The parents of two Australian brothers murdered while on a surfing trip in Mexico say the world has become a darker place since their deaths.

Originally from Perth, Callum Robinson, 33, and his brother Jake, 30, were on a surfing trip with their American friend Carter Rhoad, 30, in the state of Baja California when they failed to check in to a pre-arranged accommodation near the city of Ensenada.

When Mexican police arrived at their last known whereabouts, they discovered a campsite covered in blood.

Days later, three bodies were found in a well and earlier this week the brothers’ parents travelled to Mexico and confirmed their identities.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Callum and Jake Robinson have been murdered,” their mother, Debra Robinson, told reporters overnight on Tuesday after travelling from Mexico to San Diego, California.

“Our hearts are broken and the world has become a darker place for us.”

Baja California is well known for beautiful beaches and tiny villages and the trio’s last images on social media showed them enjoying these sites. But the northern border state is also rife with violent crime, with the Australian government’s Smartraveller website warning of drug-related crime and gang violence.

Baja California state prosecutors believe the alleged killers were driving by when they spotted the trio’s pickup truck. They attempted to steal its tyres and parts but the men resisted. All three were found with bullet wounds to the head.

The alleged murderers attempted to destroy the evidence, burning the tent and driving the coveted pickup away before setting it alight as well. The bodies were dumped in a 4-metre-deep well about 6km away, on top of a fourth body prosecutors say had been there much longer.

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

Three suspects are being held in connection with the case – two were caught with methamphetamine and one had one of the victims’ phones.

A criminal charge of forced disappearance, equivalent to kidnapping, was laid against one of the three on Saturday. The man, Jesús Gerardo, has a criminal record of drug dealing, vehicle theft and domestic violence.

Martin Robinson, the father of the Australian men, thanked everyone involved in the effort to find out what happened to his sons and those who supported them, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australian federal police and Australia’s ambassador to Mexico.

Hen also thanked Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, who called the couple on Tuesday.

Debra Robinson said her sons, and their friend Carter Rhoad, were “young men enjoying their passion of surfing together”.

“We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of emotions and support that we have received.

“We know they were truly loved and impacted many lives.

“Callum was a lovable, larger-than-life character and considered the United States his second home,” she said.

“Known as ‘Big Koala’, he played professional lacrosse in the PLL (the US Premier Lacrosse League) and represented Australia in the world championships.

“His brother, Jake, was a happy, gentle and compassionate soul who was pursuing a career in medicine.

“Jake’s passion was surfing and it was no coincidence that many of the hospitals he worked in were close to surfing beaches.”

Jake was also a “cricket tragic” and loved live music and festivals, she added.

“Now it’s time to bring them home to family and friends, and the ocean waves of Australia,” she said.

“Please, live bigger, shine brighter and love harder in their memory.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said on Tuesday the men’s deaths were a “terrible tragedy”.

“To all of the family and the friends of these young Australians, the whole of Australia’s thoughts are with you at this difficult time.”

Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Barcena, also offered condolences to the men’s family as surfers in San Miguel held a paddle-out in tribute to the trio.

More than 100 people also gathered for a vigil in San Diego, where Callum lived.

In 2015, Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas – two surfers from Perth – were killed while travelling through Sinaloa.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Mexico
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Israel launches Rafah offensive it says is start of mission to ‘eliminate’ Hamas

Defence minister says operation will continue until militant group is defeated or begins to free hostages

Israel has launched a major military offensive against Hamas forces in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, seizing control of a key border crossing and cutting off most aid into the territory a day before indirect talks on a ceasefire deal are due to restart.

Images released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) showed tanks flying large Israeli flags driving through the post and crushing a concrete sign reading “I Love Gaza”.

Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, said the offensive would continue until Hamas forces in Rafah “and the entire Gaza Strip” were “eliminated” or the militant Islamist organisation begins to release hostages. A government spokesperson described the first stage of a wider effort targeting Hamas.

“This is the beginning of our mission to take out the last four Hamas brigades in Rafah. You should be in no doubt about that whatsoever,” the spokesperson said.

The Israeli operation was launched hours after an announcement by Hamas leaders on Monday night that they would accept a recent proposal for a ceasefire deal put forward by Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Any truce would be the first pause in fighting since a week-long ceasefire in November during which Hamas freed about half of the 250 Israeli and other national hostages seized in a surprise attack into Israel in October. During that exchange, Israel released 240 Palestinians from its jails.

Since then, intermittent negotiations have foundered over Hamas’s refusal to free more hostages without a promise of a permanent end to the conflict, and Israel’s insistence that it would discuss only a temporary pause.

Israeli officials on Monday accused Hamas of “grandstanding” while Hamas said Israel was trying to undermine efforts to end the seven-month-long war that has laid waste to Gaza and left hundreds of thousands of its people homeless and hungry.

However, Israel decided to send a delegation to Cairo where indirect talks are due to start again within days.

The White House national security adviser, John Kirby, appeared optimistic on Tuesday, saying the US believed after looking at a text of the proposal put forward by mediators that it should be possible to close the gaps between the two sides.

Reports suggest the proposal Hamas agreed to does not include an immediate permanent end to hostilities but involves three consecutive phases, with different ratios for exchanges of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for hostages, and a series of staged withdrawals of Israeli forces from zones in Gaza.

Further negotiations could take many days or even weeks, during which time fighting is likely to continue as both sides seek leverage in negotiations, analysts said.

International powers including the US, Israel’s staunchest ally, repeatedly warned Israel against a major military operation in Rafah, where more than 1 million people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza are sheltering. Aid agencies have predicted a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Israel told the US its operation in Rafah was limited and designed to prevent weapons and funds from being smuggled into Gaza, Kirby said.

Aid officials in the territory said the flow of humanitarian assistance through the Rafah crossing had been entirely halted, leaving reserves of fuel only sufficient to run the extensive relief operation in Gaza for another day. Parts of Gaza are facing famine and everywhere there is acute hardship.

“We are down to less fuel than in a single service station. It’s enough to last a day, basically. After that, nothing will be moving, and the hospitals won’t be able to keep going for more than two or three days,” said Georgios Petropoulos, the head of the Gaza sub-office of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

It comes as the US military says it has completed the construction of a Gaza aid pier, but weather conditions mean it was unsafe to move the two-part facility into place, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The pier is aimed at boosting deliveries of aid and is to cost at least $320m.

The Kerem Shalom border post, another main access point for aid, was shut after a rocket barrage killed four Israeli soldiers there earlier this week. There were further rocket and mortar strikes against the same target on Tuesday, an Israeli military official said.

The Rafah crossing was the only exit point for those needing to leave Gaza for medical treatment that is no longer available in the territory.

Lama Abu Holi, eight, has been in al-Aqsa hospital in central Gaza for a month, waiting for a chance to leave for treatment to her injured legs.

“Today my name was at the border, and I should travel to get my legs treated,” she said, holding a toy in her hospital bed. “They hurt. I am supposed to have an operation. Because the border crossing is shut today, I could not travel. I am sad because I did not leave today.”

An Israeli military official said the target of the operation in Rafah was “terrorist infrastructure”.

The Gaza health ministry said Israeli strikes across the territory had killed 54 Palestinians and wounded 96 others in the past 24 hours.

On Sunday Israel’s military told civilians in eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah to head for what it calls an “expanded humanitarian zone” at al-Mawasi along the coast and around the largely deserted city of Khan Younis. Thousands have left Rafah since the warning, in battered trucks, pushing trolleys, on donkey carts and walking, but aid agencies said neither location could accommodate a new influx.

A total of 34,789 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed in the conflict, the Gaza health ministry said.

The October Hamas attacks killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians in their homes or at a music festival.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s grip on power could slip if he loses support of far-right coalition allies who oppose any concessions to Hamas, but there is also pressure to free the remaining hostages.

“Capitulating to Hamas’s demands would be a terrible defeat for the state of Israel. It would exhibit terrible weakness to our friends and to our enemies. This weakness would only bring closer the next war,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an umbrella group, said it had appealed to a number of countries to “exert influence on the Israeli government” and push for an agreement.

“At this crucial moment, while a tangible opportunity for the release of the hostages is on the table, it is of the utmost importance that your government manifest its strong support for such an agreement,” the group said in a message sent to the ambassadors of all countries with citizens among the hostages seized by Hamas.

“This is the time to exert your influence on the Israeli government and all other parties concerned to ensure that the agreement comes through which will finally bring all our loved ones home.”

Abu Ubaida, a spokesperson for Hamas’s armed wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, said in a statement on Tuesday that a 70-year-old Israeli hostage died after she succumbed to wounds from Israeli shelling. There was no independent confirmation of the claim.

Explore more on these topics

  • Israel-Gaza war
  • Gaza
  • Palestinian territories
  • Israel
  • Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Hamas
  • Middle East and north Africa
Share

Reuse this content

Methane emissions: Australian cattle industry suggests shift from net zero target to ‘climate neutral’ approach

The US cattle industry adopted a ‘climate neutral’ goal in 2021 but scientists say that ‘misses the point’ in keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter
  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Cattle Australia is lobbying the red meat sector to ditch its net zero target in favour of a “climate neutral” goal that would require far more modest reductions in methane emissions.

The $75bn red meat industry, led by Meat and Livestock Australia, announced a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030 seven years ago, in an attempt to maintain its social licence and drive investments in emissions reduction technology.

But climate and agricultural scientists have said the target is unachievable and MLA itself said it was “not necessarily something that needs to be met”.

A report commissioned by the MLA, released on Thursday, found the sector had as of 2021 reduced its net emissions by 78% compared with 2005 levels. The reductions were due to recorded increases in forest regrowth that have offset the sector’s methane emissions, which increased on the previous year and account for the majority of its annual impact on global heating.

The report uses figures from the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which scientists suggest is underreporting land-clearing in Queensland and therefore may not be an accurate basis for calculating emissions reduction. The MLA has said the national carbon accounting system is the appropriate data source to use.

Despite the on-paper progress toward net zero, Cattle Australia, the peak body for producers of grass-fed cattle, argues that the target should be abandoned in favour of a “climate neutral” goal. That would theoretically be reached when the sector’s heating impact on the climate stabilises and no longer contributes to additional global heating.

  • Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s fortnightly Rural Network email newsletter

The push follows a report released last year by Dr Brad Ridoutt from the CSIRO, which found the industry would fall short of the net zero target and recommended it adopt a climate neutral goal instead. In a business-as-usual scenario, Ridoutt’s report found the industry would almost reach climate neutrality by 2030.

The Cattle Australia deputy chair, Adam Coffey, said producers were “after recognition that our [methane] emissions are inherently different from cumulative fossil (CO2) emissions”.

“What we are calling for is a review and revaluation of greenhouse gas targets so we can determine the best way forward … we’re just questioning the process,” Coffey said.

But the suggestion has been criticised by climate scientists. Prof Mark Howden, the director of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at the Australian National University, said the model used to measure progress towards climate neutrality had no standing and the target “misses the point”, which is to keep global temperatures below 1.5C.

Climate neutral a ‘misleading’ concept

In another study, Ridoutt concluded that Australia’s sheep sector was already climate neutral and would contribute to “climate cooling” in the future.

That study was mentioned in a 2023 report published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, which found some claims about climate neutrality distorted the impact of livestock production on global heating. The report also criticised work by scientists with close links to the US cattle industry, which in 2021 adopted a goal of being climate neutral by 2040.

The report’s lead author, the University of California Davis environmental scientist Dr Caspar Donnison, told Guardian Australia that claims of being climate neutral were misleading.

“If Australian sheep meat is climate negative, that would imply that the more you eat, the better it is for the planet, which is a completely distorted understanding of the science,” Donnison told Guardian Australia.

Another study, published in the same journal, found that climate neutral goals are inequitable and favoured developed countries with relatively stable herd sizes, such as Australia.

The director of the University of Melbourne’s Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, Prof Richard Eckard, said a climate neutral target was a “very dangerous position for the industry”. He said it would impede investment in methane reduction technologies and be disregarded by global supply chains which are trying to meet their own emissions reduction goals.

The Cattle Australia chief executive, Dr Chris Parker, said: “There is a range of scientific viewpoints in this space and current systems are not set up to appropriately account for those industries where methane is the majority of their emissions, such as the grass-fed cattle industry.”

Ridoutt declined to comment to Guardian Australia but, in a statement, a CSIRO spokesperson said there were different methods for tracking greenhouse pollutants and it was “up to industry to decide on the path to take to reduce emissions”.

Coffey said Cattle Australia fully supported efforts to reduce methane emissions and climate neutralitywill be another target along the way”. The organisation plans to raise the issue at Beef Week in Rockhampton this week.

Meanwhile, the red meat sector’s net zero target is being marketed to consumers. MLA presented it at Cop28 in Dubai last month.

Splitting the target

Prof Myles Allen is the head of atmospheric, oceanic and planetary physics at the University of Oxford and chief architect of the methane model on which the climate neutral target is based.

He said separately reporting cumulative and short-lived pollutants was “something the entire climate [science] community agrees on”.

Allen and other climate scientists who spoke to Guardian Australia said industries should adopt separate targets for each greenhouse gas emitted based on their varying impact on global heating.

In practice, this would mean adopting a “split target”, Howden said. CO2 emissions need to be reduced to net zero, methane by about two-thirds, and nitrous oxide by about 40% in the long term.

“That’s a really important difference,” Howden said. “We don’t have the technologies to go net zero in agriculture but we do have the technologies and management to make a significant reduction.”

Julia Waite, the MLA’s carbon neutral 2030 program manager, said adopting a split or net zero target ultimately would not change MLA’s $152m co-investments in emissions reduction technologies. Coffey says split targets are “part of the conversation”.

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter

  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Explore more on these topics

  • Meat industry
  • The rural network
  • Farming
  • Agriculture
  • Climate crisis
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Cattle
  • Climate science
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Methane emissions: Australian cattle industry suggests shift from net zero target to ‘climate neutral’ approach

The US cattle industry adopted a ‘climate neutral’ goal in 2021 but scientists say that ‘misses the point’ in keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter
  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Cattle Australia is lobbying the red meat sector to ditch its net zero target in favour of a “climate neutral” goal that would require far more modest reductions in methane emissions.

The $75bn red meat industry, led by Meat and Livestock Australia, announced a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030 seven years ago, in an attempt to maintain its social licence and drive investments in emissions reduction technology.

But climate and agricultural scientists have said the target is unachievable and MLA itself said it was “not necessarily something that needs to be met”.

A report commissioned by the MLA, released on Thursday, found the sector had as of 2021 reduced its net emissions by 78% compared with 2005 levels. The reductions were due to recorded increases in forest regrowth that have offset the sector’s methane emissions, which increased on the previous year and account for the majority of its annual impact on global heating.

The report uses figures from the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which scientists suggest is underreporting land-clearing in Queensland and therefore may not be an accurate basis for calculating emissions reduction. The MLA has said the national carbon accounting system is the appropriate data source to use.

Despite the on-paper progress toward net zero, Cattle Australia, the peak body for producers of grass-fed cattle, argues that the target should be abandoned in favour of a “climate neutral” goal. That would theoretically be reached when the sector’s heating impact on the climate stabilises and no longer contributes to additional global heating.

  • Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s fortnightly Rural Network email newsletter

The push follows a report released last year by Dr Brad Ridoutt from the CSIRO, which found the industry would fall short of the net zero target and recommended it adopt a climate neutral goal instead. In a business-as-usual scenario, Ridoutt’s report found the industry would almost reach climate neutrality by 2030.

The Cattle Australia deputy chair, Adam Coffey, said producers were “after recognition that our [methane] emissions are inherently different from cumulative fossil (CO2) emissions”.

“What we are calling for is a review and revaluation of greenhouse gas targets so we can determine the best way forward … we’re just questioning the process,” Coffey said.

But the suggestion has been criticised by climate scientists. Prof Mark Howden, the director of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at the Australian National University, said the model used to measure progress towards climate neutrality had no standing and the target “misses the point”, which is to keep global temperatures below 1.5C.

Climate neutral a ‘misleading’ concept

In another study, Ridoutt concluded that Australia’s sheep sector was already climate neutral and would contribute to “climate cooling” in the future.

That study was mentioned in a 2023 report published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, which found some claims about climate neutrality distorted the impact of livestock production on global heating. The report also criticised work by scientists with close links to the US cattle industry, which in 2021 adopted a goal of being climate neutral by 2040.

The report’s lead author, the University of California Davis environmental scientist Dr Caspar Donnison, told Guardian Australia that claims of being climate neutral were misleading.

“If Australian sheep meat is climate negative, that would imply that the more you eat, the better it is for the planet, which is a completely distorted understanding of the science,” Donnison told Guardian Australia.

Another study, published in the same journal, found that climate neutral goals are inequitable and favoured developed countries with relatively stable herd sizes, such as Australia.

The director of the University of Melbourne’s Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, Prof Richard Eckard, said a climate neutral target was a “very dangerous position for the industry”. He said it would impede investment in methane reduction technologies and be disregarded by global supply chains which are trying to meet their own emissions reduction goals.

The Cattle Australia chief executive, Dr Chris Parker, said: “There is a range of scientific viewpoints in this space and current systems are not set up to appropriately account for those industries where methane is the majority of their emissions, such as the grass-fed cattle industry.”

Ridoutt declined to comment to Guardian Australia but, in a statement, a CSIRO spokesperson said there were different methods for tracking greenhouse pollutants and it was “up to industry to decide on the path to take to reduce emissions”.

Coffey said Cattle Australia fully supported efforts to reduce methane emissions and climate neutralitywill be another target along the way”. The organisation plans to raise the issue at Beef Week in Rockhampton this week.

Meanwhile, the red meat sector’s net zero target is being marketed to consumers. MLA presented it at Cop28 in Dubai last month.

Splitting the target

Prof Myles Allen is the head of atmospheric, oceanic and planetary physics at the University of Oxford and chief architect of the methane model on which the climate neutral target is based.

He said separately reporting cumulative and short-lived pollutants was “something the entire climate [science] community agrees on”.

Allen and other climate scientists who spoke to Guardian Australia said industries should adopt separate targets for each greenhouse gas emitted based on their varying impact on global heating.

In practice, this would mean adopting a “split target”, Howden said. CO2 emissions need to be reduced to net zero, methane by about two-thirds, and nitrous oxide by about 40% in the long term.

“That’s a really important difference,” Howden said. “We don’t have the technologies to go net zero in agriculture but we do have the technologies and management to make a significant reduction.”

Julia Waite, the MLA’s carbon neutral 2030 program manager, said adopting a split or net zero target ultimately would not change MLA’s $152m co-investments in emissions reduction technologies. Coffey says split targets are “part of the conversation”.

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter

  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Explore more on these topics

  • Meat industry
  • The rural network
  • Farming
  • Agriculture
  • Climate crisis
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Cattle
  • Climate science
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Australia bans alleged Russian leader of global ransomware group LockBit

Dmitry Khoroshev named as having a ‘senior role’ in group allegedly behind 18% of reported Australian ransomware attacks in 2022-23

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

An alleged leader of the international ransomware group LockBit has been hit with financial sanctions and banned from travelling to Australia.

The Australian government named Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev, a Russian citizen, as having a “senior leadership role” in a criminal group that supplied a global network of hackers with the tools and infrastructure to carry out online attacks.

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

The announcement was made overnight in co-ordination with authorities in the UK and the US.

LockBit was behind 18% of reported Australian ransomware attacks in 2022-23 and targeted 119 people in Australia, the government said.

UK authorities said Khoroshev was the person behind the alias LockBitSupp while US authorities unsealed an indictment against him alleging he “acted as the LockBit ransomware group’s developer and administrator from its inception in or around September 2019” until this month.

“Australia remains committed to promoting a rules-based cyberspace, grounded in international law and norms of responsible behaviour, and holding accountable those who flout the rules,” said Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong.

“Sanctions impose costs and consequences on individuals for their actions – we will continue to use them where and when appropriate.”

A new sanction under Australia’s cyber sanctions framework makes it a criminal offence to provide assets to Khoroshev or to use or deal with his assets.

UK authorities say more than 7,000 online attacks had been built using LockBit’s services between June 2022 and February 2024, with the top five countries hit being the US, the UK, France, Germany and China.

Law enforcement agencies from several countries first disrupted LockBit in February, taking over the group’s darkweb site.

Explore more on these topics

  • Cybercrime
  • Australian security and counter-terrorism
  • Russia
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

‘I can rise above expectations’: the woman breaking barriers in Pacific politics

Cathy Nori is one of just three women elected to Solomon Islands’ 50-seat parliament in last month’s election

In the final days of her election campaign, Cathy Nori considered giving up. The 57-year-old had been trekking up a mountain, near her home in Isabel province, Solomon Islands, when she was overcome with exhaustion.

“I couldn’t help but question my purpose, silently asking … why I was enduring such hardship,” Nori says in an interview with the Guardian.

Yet in that moment, the former businesswoman summoned her strength and sought comfort from her team.

“It was a pivotal moment, a fleeting temptation to surrender that I chose to overcome. It’s the first-hand experience of rural struggles that fuels my determination,” Nori says.

Nori turned to politics about a decade ago and, after two failed election bids, will this year join Solomon Islands’ parliament for the first time. She will represent part of Isabel province, which has a population of about 35,000 people and is beset by problems including poor roads and a lack of infrastructure.

She is one of just three women elected to the Pacific country’s 50-seat parliament in last month’s national election. Nori will be joined by Freda Rangirei Tuki, representing Temotu-Vatud in Temotu province, and Choilyn Yim Douglas for the Ngella constituency, Central Islands province.

Nori says that after a decades-long career in transport, shipping and logistics, she aspired to enter politics. She worked in senior management and was also the president of the Solomon Islands Women in Maritime association, where she pushed for greater gender equality in the industry.

“I proved that I was capable of performing tasks traditionally assigned to men,” Nori says.

Dismantling barriers

Since independence in 1978, few women have been elected to Solomon Islands’ national government. Only 6% of candidates in last month’s election were female, according to the country’s electoral commission.

Solomon Islands Women Rights Action Movement says the underrepresentation of women in politics is due to a range of factors including cultural beliefs that the role of women should be limited to the home, religious norms and a lack of education.

Nori entered the election as an underdog and says her victory marks a shift toward dismantling barriers in the Pacific country in terms of women’s roles.

She says she faced many challenges, including to “convince both men and women that I was capable of achieving tasks traditionally associated with men”.

“In Isabel province, the cultural norm places women primarily in the kitchen within the household. One of my greatest challenges was demonstrating to both men and women that I could rise above these expectations,” Nori says.

‘When will action be taken?’

Solomon Islands has a population of about 700,000 people spread across many islands. It is one of the poorest countries in the Pacific and relies on development aid from countries including Australia and China for support.

Nori said she was motivated to enter politics after witnessing the challenges rural communities face, notably a lack of essential services.

She says the difficulty faced in sourcing copra, the white flesh of coconuts, to sell is one common challenge. According to a former premier of Isabel province, Rodah Sikalabu, in Nori’s electorate more than half the population is involved in copra production. It is labour-intensive – farmers pick the fruit, extract and dry the white flesh and pack it into bags for transport – a process that can take weeks. Farmers must then travel to sell their product, but many villages are located in remote areas and roads connecting them to bigger towns are poor and often dangerous.

“People endure arduous journeys from mountainous terrains to coastal areas. This plight has plagued Isabel province for decades,” Nori says.

“When will action be taken? This energy propelled me into parliament, fuelled by hope that change is achievable.”

Now, she hopes to improve life for those in the province, which includes “developing basic infrastructure, particularly roads around the island”. Nori also wants to review the “unregulated exploitation of our natural resources” on the island and provide more opportunities to earn a living.

“I’ve supported numerous children by covering their school fees, particularly those without paternal support. If there were opportunities for them to generate income sustainably, they wouldn’t need my assistance,” she says.

Nori says despite the difficulties, she hopes more women in Solomon Islands will pursue a career in politics.

“It’s particularly challenging for us women to demonstrate our capabilities and become the voices of our people.

“I used to tell women and students: ‘You are leaders in your own right, in your own space.’ Just be authentic. It’s about embracing your strength and pursuing your vision,” Nori says.

Explore more on these topics

  • Pacific islands
  • Solomon Islands
  • Asia Pacific
  • Women
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Holmes has prison sentence reduced again

Disgraced biotech company founder is now due to be released in August 2032, two years and four months before original date

  • The downfall of Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced former chief executive of the blood-testing company Theranos, has had her federal prison sentence shortened again, new records show.

The 40-year-old Holmes is now scheduled for release on 16 August 2032 from a federal women’s prison camp in Bryan, Texas, according to the US Bureau of Prisons website.

Holmes’s sentence was reduced by more than four months, as her previous release date was set for 29 December 2032.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons confirmed Holmes’s amended sentence to the Guardian but said he could not comment further due to “privacy, safety and security reasons” for inmates.

This is the second time that Holmes has had her sentence shortened. In July, was reduced by two years.

People incarcerated in the US can have their sentences shortened for good conduct and for completing rehabilitation programs, such as a substance abuse program.

The latest reduction of Holmes’s sentence still meets federal sentencing guidelines. Those guidelines mandate that people convicted of federal offenses must serve at least 85% of their sentence, regardless of reductions for good behavior.

In 2022, Holmes was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison after being convicted on four counts of defrauding investors.

She was also ordered to pay $452m in restitution to those she defrauded, but a judge delayed those payments due to Holmes’s “limited financial resources”.

Holmes’s lawyers have already begun attempts to get her conviction overturned. Oral arguments for her appeal are set to begin on 11 June in a federal appeals court in San Francisco, California, NBC News reported.

Holmes founded Theranos, a multibillion-dollar biotech startup that claimed it could run blood tests with only a single drop of blood.

Once hailed as a biotech innovator, Holmes as well as Sunny Balwani, her co-executive and former romantic partner, faced legal consequences after reporting from the Wall Street Journal and others found that the technology used by Theranos was fraudulent.

Balwani was convicted in a separate trial for his actions in the Theranos scheme, and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

He also had two years reduced from his sentence in July and will be released from federal prison on 1 April 2034, according to the prisons bureau website.

Explore more on these topics

  • Elizabeth Holmes
  • Theranos
  • US crime
  • US prisons
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

British woman admits role in global monkey torture network

Holly LeGresley, 37, whose username was ‘The Immolator’, uploaded images and videos to online group

A British woman has pleaded guilty to being part of a global monkey torture network.

Holly LeGresley, 37, from Kidderminster in Worcestershire, admitted uploading 22 images and 132 videos of monkeys being tortured to an online chat group.

She was charged after an investigation by the BBC into the torture of monkeys overseas. The investigation exposed a global network involving a private online group paying people in Indonesia to kill and torture baby monkeys on video.

The BBC said LeGresley used the username “The Immolator” and ran a poll for members of the group on which method of torture should be inflicted upon an infant monkey.

LeGresley pleaded guilty to charges of publishing obscene articles and intentionally encouraging animal cruelty at Worcester magistrates court on Tuesday.

The court heard West Mercia police charged LeGresley after being informed by the National Wildlife Crime Unit, a UK police department.

A second defendant, Adriana Orme, 55, of Ryall, near Upton-upon Severn, Worcestershire, did not indicate any plea to similar charges.

The court was told the women had “not carried out monkey torture themselves”.

The prosecutor, Angela Hallan, told the court LeGresley had been charged after being identified as having been part of online chat groups, after the BBC was involved in “exposing the trade”.

Orme is alleged to have published an obscene article by uploading one image and 26 videos of monkey torture between 14 April and 16 June 2022, and to have encouraged or assisted the commission of unnecessary suffering by making a £10 payment to a PayPal account on 26 April 2022.

LeGresley, who left court in a face mask, admitted uploading images of monkey torture between 25 March and 8 May 2022, and making a payment of £17.24 to a PayPal account to encourage cruelty on 25 April of the same year.

LeGresley will be sentenced on 7 June. The case against Orme was transferred to the crown court, where she was ordered to appear on 5 June.

  • PA Media contributed to this report

Explore more on these topics

  • UK news
  • news
Share

Reuse this content