INDEPENDENT 2024-07-04 20:09:16


Pro-Palestinian protesters climb on roof of Australian’s parliament

Pro-Palestinian protesters climbed on the roof of Australia’s parliament in Canberra on Thursday and unfurled banners with slogans as police locked down the building in the wake of the security breach.

The protesters were taken away by police after they climbed down two hours later. It was not clear if any of them had been charged.

At least four protesters were seen on top of the building, holding banners with slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” in support of the embattled people of Gaza.

One banner read, “War crimes, enabled here”.

Israel launched a brutal ground and air war on Gaza after Hamas attacked southern Israel and killed nearly 1,200 people on 7 October last year.

The Israeli war has killed around 38,000 Palestinians so far, according to Gaza’s health ministry. It has also displaced 90 per cent of the territory’s 2.3 million population, according to the UN’s humanitarian agency, and left them facing starvation.

The security breach caused concern among Australian parliamentarians as the opposition coalition called for an investigation. “This is a serious breach of the parliament’s security,” the coalition’s home affairs spokesperson James Paterson said.

“The building was modified at great expense to prevent incursions like this. An investigation is required.”

MP Keith Pitt said there were “serious questions” that must be asked about how the protesters accessed the roof.

“I support an individual’s right to protest, that’s something that has been fought for and defended in this nation since we commenced,” he was quoted as saying by the ABC.

“But I don’t support an individual’s right to firstly put themselves at risk, as these individuals have done, and secondly to prevent the Australian public from accessing their parliament and seeing their representatives work.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters from the group Renegade Activists coordinated with advocates of other causes such as Indigenous people’s rights and the climate crisis.

At around 10am on Thursday, anti-coal protesters wearing “Rising Tide” shirts attracted the police and security personnel at the parliament building by glueing themselves to its marble pillars.

While they were being removed, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters climbed onto a portico above the main entrance, unfurling banners against Israel’s war in Gaza and in support of Indigenous Australians.

The activists on the roof read aloud a statement demanding the end of “American and Australian support for the genocidal state of Israel”.

They also sent out paper planes with their messages.

“To the Albanese government: we will not forget, we will not forgive, and we will continue to resist,” they said.

They also declared: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”

Shaun Murray, a spokesperson for Rising Tide, which organised the climate protest at the parliament, claimed ignorance when asked if they were aware other demonstrations would take place at the same time.

“No. I guess it’s just democracy in action. This government has got a shocking record on genocide and a shocking record on climate,” he told The Guardian.

Responding to the protests, defence minister Richard Marles said: “I think it’s really important that we do everything we can to take the temperature down here. It’s not about denying anyone their right to have their say — people should have their say — but that can be done in a respectful way, which contributes to the national debate without doing anything to disrespect other Australians, to put people in danger and to give rise to social disunity.”

Pro-Palestinian student protesters in Australia previously filled universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Canberra demanding they cut academic ties with Israel and end research partnerships with companies supplying weapons to the Israeli military.

Australian police find remains of missing child after crocodile attack

Australian police have found what appeared to be the remains of a 12-year-old child who went missing after a suspected crocodile attack.

The child went missing on Tuesday afternoon after going for a swim near the remote Northern Territory community of Palumpa, around 350km from Darwin, police said.

“This is devastating news for the family, the community and everyone involved in the search,” senior police sergeant Erica Gibson said on Thursday.

She said the recovery of the remains was “particularly gruesome, and a sad, devastating outcome”.

“Police are providing support to the family and community, along with the first responders who attended the scene.”

Ms Gibson said police were working to trap the crocodile believed to be responsible for the child’s death.

“Investigations will continue, that is a long and protracted matter,” she said. “The search element will still continue insofar as the croc traps and monitoring the activities in the waterways.”

The victim belonged to the remote Aboriginal community of Nganmarriyanga, also known as Palumpa. The family was visiting the creek for holidays, police told ABC Radio.

Police said they discovered the child’s T-shirt upstream on Wednesday and their search had shifted to the recovery stage.

Ms Gibson said the remains indicated injuries consistent with a crocodile attack.

“It was an extremely difficult 36 hours for the first responders involved in the search,” she said.

Members of the community in Palumpa had joined the search led by Northern Territory police.

The Northern Territory is home to some 100,000 saltwater crocodiles that are larger and more dangerous to humans.

The territory has a population of 252,469 but only about 364 people live in Palumpa, according to federal data.

Last month, a crocodile that had been terrorising people in the Northern Territory was killed and eaten by villagers. The reptile was blamed for devouring pets and chasing children and the local authorities deemed it a “significant risk to the community”.

Police said they shot the crocodile after consultation with traditional owners, elders, community members and the Parks and Wildlife officials.

In January, a nine-year-old boy was left fighting for life after being attacked by a crocodile while swimming in the territory.

Last year, an Australian man dramatically escaped an attack by a saltwater crocodile after prising its jaws off his head. Marcus McGowan, 51, from Brisbane, was snorkelling at a luxury private island resort on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia when he was attacked.

Death toll reaches 121 after turnout at religious event led to crush

At least 121 people, most of them women and children, were killed in a crowd crush at a religious event in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday.

Nearly 80 devotees were also injured in the stampede that occurred at a satsang, or religious gathering, in Hathras, about 200km southeast of New Delhi, at about 3.30pm local time, police said.

A preliminary investigation found that thousands more than expected turned up at the event and as it got over, hundreds attempted to collect the soil the religious preacher had walked on before he left the venue, The Indian Express reported.

Manoj Kumar Singh, a senior state official, said 72 of the deceased had been identified so far. “No person is missing.”

Bodies of the victims who were yet to be identified lay on blocks of ice inside a government hospital in Hathras, India Today reported.

Scores of relatives of the victims were gathered outside the hospital waiting to take the remains home.

Mr Singh said around 80,000 people were expected at the event but “many more arrived, breaching the limit”.

The Associated Press reported that the organisers had permission for only 5,000 people to attend the event, which was held in a tent. But, according to Reuters, nearly 250,000 people eventually gathered.

“I am told people rushed to touch his feet and tried to collect soil from where he walked and a stampede took place,” Mr Singh said, referring to the religious preacher. “Many people fell into a nearby drain.”

State authorities said even though the event had permission to go ahead from local law enforcement, a committee had been set up to investigate “if arrangements inside the venue were done properly or not”.

Uttar Pradesh’s police chief, Prashant Kumar, said “the organisers did not follow the conditions imposed” by the authorities for the programme, The Indian Express reported.

Several eyewitnesses described scenes of horror as the stampede began. One witness identified only as Shakuntala by the Press Trust of India said “people started falling one upon another, one upon another”.

“Those who were crushed died. People there pulled them out,” she said.

Vijay Singh, 45, from Agra told The Guardian that the “scenes were unbelievably horrific”.

His sister-in-law was among the victims. She was pushed into a ditch after the family were separated. “My wife said the crowd was pushing each other because they were struggling to breathe. My sister-in-law fell in the ditch and due to the violent pushing many others fell in the ditch.”

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced ex gratia relief of Rs200,000 (£1,887) each to the kin of the dead and Rs50,000 (£472) for the injured.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath was likely to visit Hathras on Wednesday.

“Our government will get to the bottom of this and give appropriate punishment to the conspirators and those responsible. The state government is investigating this entire incident. We will see whether it is an accident or a conspiracy,” he said on Tuesday.

Among those under the police scanner was the preacher, Suraj Pal Singh, 58, known by his followers as “Bhole Baba”. A former state police constable, he renamed himself Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari or Bhole Baba after quitting the force in the 1990s.

Police were trying to ascertain his whereabouts, ANI news agency reported.

Opposition members blamed state and federal governments, both run by Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, for the tragedy. “Look what happened and how many people have lost their lives. Will anyone be accountable?” Rajesh Kumar Jha, a member of parliament, asked.

He said the stampede resulted from an administrative failure to manage large crowds and warned that “people will keep on dying” if authorities did not take safety protocols seriously enough.

“Every year, these kinds of incidents keep repeating themselves, and we learn nothing,” Manoj Kumar Jha, another MP, told The New York Times. “Both the state and federal governments have failed to develop a sensitive approach toward crowd management. As a nation we are good at drawing crowds but not good at managing them.”

In 2013, at least 115 people died in a crowd crush at a temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. In a similar incident two years earlier, more than 100 devotees were killed in a stampede at a religious festival in the southern state of Kerala.

More recently in early 2022, at least 12 people died and more were injured in a stampede at the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu and Kashmir after a crowd of devotees tried to enter the shrine through a narrow entrance.

Additional reporting by agencies.

Scientists discover world’s oldest cave painting

Scientists have discovered artwork depicting three human-like figures interacting with a wild pig in what they have determined is the world’s oldest-known confidently dated cave painting – created at least 51,200 years ago.

The artwork was found on the ceiling of a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The discovery drives home the point that Europe was not the birthplace of cave art, as had long been assumed.

The researchers used a new scientific approach to determine the minimum age of the newly disclosed painting inside the Leang Karampuang cave in the Maros-Pangkep region of South Sulawesi province by using a laser to date a type of crystal called calcium carbonate that formed naturally on top of the painting.

“The method is a significant improvement over other methods and should revolutionize rock art dating worldwide,” said Maxime Aubert, a specialist in archaeological science at Griffith University in Australia and one of the leaders of the research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The scene, dominated by a representation of a pig measuring 36 inches by 15 inches (92 cm by 38 cm) that is standing upright along with three smaller human-like figures, is painted in a single shade of dark red pigment. There are other images of pigs in the cave as well.

The researchers interpreted the painting as a narrative scene, which they said would make it the oldest-known evidence of storytelling in art.

“The three human-like figures and the pig figure were clearly not depicted in isolation in separate parts of the rock art panel,” said Griffith University archeologist Adam Brumm, another of the study leaders.

“Rather, the juxtaposition of the figures – how they are positioned in relation to each other – and the manner in which they are interacting were clearly deliberate, and it conveys an unmistakable sense of action. There is something happening between these figures. A story is being told. Obviously, we don’t know what that story was,” Brumm added.

The researchers used the same dating method to reassess the age of another Sulawesi cave painting from a site called Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4, also depicting a narrative scene, this time depicting apparent part-human, part-animal figures hunting pigs and dwarf buffalo. It turned out to be at least 48,000 years old, upwards of 4,000 years earlier than previously thought.

“We, as humans, define ourselves as a species that tells stories, and these are the oldest evidence of us doing that,” Aubert said.

In the Leang Karampuang painting, the interaction between the human-like figures and the pig, a species still inhabiting the island, is somewhat cryptic.

“Two of these figures are holding objects of some kind, and at least one figure seems to be reaching towards the pig’s face. Another figure is positioned directly above the pig’s head in an upside down position,” Brumm said.

Little is known about the people who created the Sulawesi cave paintings. Aubert said the paintings may turn out to be older than the minimum age determined by the new testing and possibly date to the first Homo sapiens wave to sweep through the region, eventually reaching Australia about 65,000 years ago, on their migration out of Africa.

Until now, the oldest-known cave painting was one at Leang Tedongnge cave, also in Sulawesi, from at least 45,500 years ago.

The Leang Karampuang painting, the researchers said, predates the cave paintings of Europe, the earliest of which is at El Castillo in Spain, dating to about 40,800 years ago.

There is a hand stencil painting from Spain‘s Maltravieso cave that some scientists have dated to around 64,000 years ago and attributed to Neanderthals. Other scientists have disputed the age of the painting and have argued that it was created by Homo sapiens.

“This discovery of very old cave art in Indonesia drives home the point that Europe was not the birthplace of cave art, as had long been assumed. It also suggests that storytelling was a much older part of human history, and the history of art in particular, than previously recognized,” Brumm said.

“The earliest Sulawesi rock art is not ‘simple,’” Aubert added. “It is quite advanced and shows the mental capacity of people at the time.”

Nearly 500 hospitalised in Japan after taking red yeast supplements

Nearly 500 people in Japan have been hospitalised after consuming health supplements containing red yeast rice, the country’s health ministry said on Tuesday.

The dietary supplements from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co, billed as helping to lower cholesterol, have been under investigation since being linked to five deaths in March. The supplements have beni koji which contains Monascus purpureus, a species of red mould used as a food colouring.

In all, the supplements have been linked to 175 deaths. The exact causes of death haven’t been confirmed but the health and welfare ministry told Reuters in April that “beni koji may be the cause”.

As many as 492 people have been hospitalised as of Sunday, 291 of them with kidney diseases, the Japan Times reported.

Kobayashi, based in Osaka, has been making beni koji products for years, with about one million packages sold in the last three fiscal years. But there has been a problem with the supplements produced in 2023.

The firm has said it found potentially toxic puberulic acid that could be produced by blue mould penicillium in beni koji materials produced between April and October last year at its Osaka factory.

It has recalled the supplements, which could be purchased without a doctor’s prescription, and launched an investigation.

The government has criticised the company for taking two months to announce the health impacts of its products. Kobayashi began recalling products on 22 March after receiving reports of kidney ailments.

The firm has since apologised and issued a statement asking consumers to not consume the supplements. “Please stop taking our products and please do not use them in the future,” it said.

“We will fully cooperate with the investigation so that we can resolve the problems as early as possible,” the head of Kobayashi’s investor relations, Yuko Tomiyama, told reporters in April.

The products are consumed outside Japan as well, with Taiwan reporting cases of acute renal failure. The island’s food and drug administration is investigating three “unexpected health reactions” that it said may be linked to imported materials from Kobayashi, the official Central News Agency reported.

A Chinese consumers association has urged people to stop using the supplements, state media reported.

The Independent has reached out to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co for a comment.

Over a million South Koreans sign petition to impeach president

More than one million people have signed a petition calling for the impeachment of South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol.

The National Assembly’s website experienced delays and temporarily crashed after hundreds of thousands of people visited it to sign the petition earlier this week.

The petition, which went live on 20 June, urges the parliament to impeach Mr Yoon for alleged corruption, stoking war with North Korea and failing to stop the release of radioactive waste from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

The petition surpassed a million signatures on Wednesday, Korea Times reported, with a daily average of 100,000 signatures over a period of 10 days.

It is backed by the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, which said that the huge turnout reflected the public’s unfavourable view of Mr Yoon.

“The president must change first for the state affairs, now on the verge of a catastrophe, to get back on track,” the party’s floor leader Park Chan-dae said.

South Korea’s laws require the parliament to assign any petition that draws more than 50,000 signatures from the public to a committee, which must then decide whether to put it up for a vote.

The president’s office has accused the opposition of playing dirty tricks. “The DPK should immediately stop anti-civilisational attempts to destroy the constitution and its unheard-of legislative violence and coup d’etat,” a senior presidential official told Yonhap News Agency.

Political analysts have said the petition reflects anger and dissatisfaction with the president and that it could translate into mass protests if the parliamentary committee doesn’t put the petition up for a vote.

South Korea’s parliament has impeached two presidents, Roh Moo-hyun in 2004 and Park Geun-hye in 2017.

Mr Yoon, leader of the conservative People Power Party, became president in May 2022 after a narrow victory over Lee Jae-myung of the liberal Democratic Party.

His presidency has been beset by low popularity, with approval ratings lingering near 25 per cent since April.

Mr Yoon’s party faced a crushing defeat in April’s parliamentary election, widely perceived as a midterm confidence vote on the president.

Mr Yoon’s approval ratings dropped after he vetoed a bill seeking an investigation against first lady Kim Keon-Hee over the Dior bag controversy. He also obstructed another bill to investigate allegations that the president’s office interfered in a probe into the drowning of a marine corporal during a flood rescue mission last year.

Newly confident opposition walks out as Modi address new parliament

Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout as prime minister Narendra Modi delivered the first address of his new term to the Indian parliament on Wednesday.

The opposition INDIA bloc, led by the Congress party, feels emboldened after an unexpectedly impressive performance in last month’s national election. Belying expectations and exit polls, they denied Mr Modi an outright parliamentary majority, leaving him reliant on mercurial allies to rule for a third consecutive term.

As Mr Modi began speaking on a motion of thanks for the Indian president’s customary inaugural address, opposition members in the Rajya Sabha, the parliament’s upper house, demanded that he answer their questions about the situation in Manipur, a remote northeastern state ravaged by a deadly ethnic war.

The prime minister has not visited the state since the violence started more than a year ago.

Speaking in the house earlier, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi sought “justice” for Manipur.

The opposition lawmakers, shouting “justice for Manipur” as Mr Modi spoke, asked for their floor leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, to respond to the prime minister’s claims in his speech but were denied by the Rajya Sabha chair.

As the lawmakers walked out, Mr Modi said they were “running away because they cannot hear the truth”.

“They are not able to digest defeat,” he added.

Mr Kharge later said he and his allies walked out because Mr Modi has “a habit of lying”.

“We walked out because the prime minister said some wrong things to the house. It’s his habit to lie and say things beyond truth.”

Mr Modi’s address marked the conclusion of the first session of the new parliament.

The session saw fiery speeches by opposition members buoyed by their performance in the last election.

In a speech on Monday, Mr Gandhi hit out at Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist ruling party for allegedly inciting religious hatred and violence.

He also accused Mr Modi and his government of favouring billionaires Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani.

Some of his remarks were later expunged from the parliamentary record, reportedly after some ministers met the speaker and flagged “inaccuracies” in the opposition leader’s speech.

The decision sparked condemnation from the opposition.

Saying the truth cannot be expunged, Mr Gandhi told the speaker: “Taking off from records my considered remarks goes against the very tenets of parliamentary democracy.”

Seven killed and islands flattened as Beryl devastates Carribean

Hurricane Beryl is still marching westwards after tearing through the southeastern Caribbean, killing seven people and leaving two islands of Grenada in almost “complete destruction”.

The damage wrought by the earliest category 5 hurricane ever is just beginning to come to light as local authorities assess homes and buildings despite connectivity challenges.

“The hurricane has come and gone, and it has left in its wake immense destruction,” prime minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines said.

“On one island in the Grenadines archipelago, the Union Island, 90 per cent of homes have been severely damaged or destroyed.”

Grenada has also taken a severe hit.

“We have to rebuild from the ground up,” prime minister Dickon Mitchell said after visiting the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, which sustained the maximum damage from Beryl.

Carriacou, struck by the eye of the storm, was left “flattened” with more than 98 per cent of the buildings, including the main health facility and airport, damaged.

“The situation is grim,” Mr Mitchell said.

“There’s no power and there’s almost complete destruction of homes and buildings on the island. The roads are not passable, and in many instances, they are cut off because of the large quantity of debris strewn all over the streets.”

Two of the three deaths in Grenada were recorded on Carriacou. “The possibility there may be more fatalities remains a grim reality as movement is still highly restricted,” Mr Mitchell said.

Three people were also killed in Venezuela and one in St Vincent.

The hurricane also destroyed standing crops and uprooted trees. “There is literally no vegetation left anywhere on the island of Carriacou, the mangroves are totally destroyed,” Mr Mitchell said.

Beryl is the earliest ever category 5 storm ever recorded. It occurred as ocean heat in the Atlantic was already higher due to global heating, nearing levels usually seen in peak season in September.

This has raised alarm over what the rest of the Atlantic hurricane season could be like.

“It’s really scary stuff,” Steve Maximay, a climate and agriculture expert in Grenada, told The Independent.

”When you talk about category four and five, there are very few systems or protocols that can prepare you for that. You can have resilient buildings but category five winds can move concrete structures.”

Southern Grenada, where he stays, was largely spared but strong winds brought several trees down.

Grenada has millions of dollars worth of rebuilding to do as it recovers from the first storm and prepares for more hurricanes ahead.

Mr Mitchell called Beryl a direct result of the climate crisis.

Studies show hurricanes have been increasing in intensity and frequency in recent years and their worst impact is faced by island communities.

Beryl jumped from a category 1 to a category 4 storm within a few hours on Sunday.

“Beryl was in a perfect location for strengthening. There was very warm water, no dry air around the centre of circulation, and there’s been no wind shear,” said AccuWeather chief meteorologist Bernie Rayno.

“On the islands hit hardest by Beryl, it’s going to take months or even years to recover.”

The Alliance of Small Island States, which was created to have a unified voice for small island nations to address the ongoing climate crisis, called for the world to “end its obsession” with planet-warming fossil fuels.

“We have warned and warned that climate change impacts will only get worse,” it said in a statement. “Yet, we continue to be sacrificed on the frontlines of a climate crisis we did not cause.”

Mr Mitchell said: “We are no longer prepared to accept that it’s OK for us to constantly suffer significant, clearly demonstrated loss and damage arising from climatic events and be expected to rebuild year after year while the countries that are responsible for creating this situation — and exacerbating this situation — sit idly by.”

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