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British queen’s death rekindles Australian republic debate

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British queen’s death rekindles Australian republic debate

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Many regarded Australians’ respect and affection for the late Queen Elizabeth II as the biggest obstacle to the country becoming a republic with its own head of state.

Now after her death and with a pro-republic Labor Party government in power, Australia’s constitutional ties to the British monarchy will again be open to first-order debate for the first time since change was rejected at a 1999 referendum.

During her long reign, the queen connected to Australia in ways that no monarch before her had done.

In 1954 she became the only reigning British monarch to visit Australia. Such was her star power, an estimated 70% of Australia’s population turned out to see her during a punishing two-month itinerary that took her and her husband Prince Philip to 57 towns and cities spread across vast distances. She visited 16 times, the final time in 2011 when she was 85.

Her face is the only monarch to appear on Australian money since decimal currency was introduced in 1966 when Australian dollars and cents replaced British-style pounds, shillings and pence.

Her eldest son, King Charles III, was officially proclaimed Australia’s head of state Sunday by the monarch’s Australian representative Governor-General David Hurley at a protocol-heavy ceremony at Parliament House that ended with a 21-gun salute.

Anthony Albanese, who describes himself as the first candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed, started laying the groundwork for an Australian republic when Labor was elected in May after nine years in opposition.

Albanese created a new position of Assistant Minister for the Republic and appointed Matt Thistlethwaite to the role in June. Thistlethwaite had said there would be no change in the queen’s lifetime.

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The prime minister has said that a republic referendum is not a priority of his first three-year term in government.

He is already planning a referendum to be held in the current term that would enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in Australia’s constitution. While details have yet to be finalized, the voice would provide a mechanism that would allow Indigenous representatives to address Parliament about laws that effect their lives.

Since news of the queen’s death broke Friday in Australia, Albanese has brushed off questions about an Australian republic.

“Now is not a time to talk about our system of government,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.

“Now is the time for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth, a life well lived, a life of dedication and loyalty including to the Australian people and for us to honor and grieve,” Albanese added.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton, a monarchist, has similarly avoided questions about why Australia needs a king.

The Australian Republic Movement, an organization that campaigns for Australia to become a republic and is unaffiliated with any political party, was widely criticized over a political statement issued soon after news of the queen’s death.

The statement referred to the queen’s comments surrounding the 1999 referendum that voted to maintain the British monarch as Australia’s head of state.

“The queen backed the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation during the referendum … saying that she has ‘always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means,’” the statement said.

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That referendum largely failed because Australians were divided about what kind of president they wanted. The monarch is represented in Australia by a governor-general who in recent decades has always been an Australian citizen. The governor-general is appointed by the monarch on the prime minister’s advice.

The referendum recommended that the monarch and the monarch’s representative be replaced by a president chosen by at least two-thirds of lawmakers in Parliament.

But many republicans wanted voters to elect the president as they do in the United States, so joined with monarchists in opposing the republic model then on offer.

The minor Greens party, which is influential in the Senate where no party holds a majority of seats, was also criticized for raising the republic within hours of the queen’s death.

“Now Australia must move forward. We need Treaty with First Nations people, and we need to become a Republic,” Greens leader Adam Bandt tweeted on Friday. Australia is rare among former British Empire countries in having no treaty with its Indigenous peoples.

Support for the republic movement surged in 1975 when Governor-General John Kerr used Queen Elizabeth II’s authority to dismiss Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to end a constitutional crisis.

There were suspicions that the British royal family had instructed Kerr to bring down a democratically-elected Australian government.

Historian and Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking fought a four-year legal battle to have correspondence between Kerr and Buckingham Palace released by the National Archive of Australia in 2020. Lower courts accepted that letters between the monarch and governor-general, two central figures in Australia’s constitution, were personal and might never be made public.

But the High Court found in Hocking’s favor in a 6-1 majority ruling that allowed the letters to be released.

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Kerr fired Whitlam to end a month-old Senate deadlock. Kerr appointed Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser caretaker prime minister on condition Fraser immediately called elections, which Labor lost.

While the queen was the monarch at the time, King Charles, then Prince Charles, had also influenced Kerr’s decision to fire Whitlam, Hocking said.

Charles had been discussing with Kerr the possibility of sacking Whitlam three months before Kerr became the only governor-general to bring down an Australian government.

“It’s clearly an influence on Kerr’s decision to dismiss the government — no doubt about that,” Hocking said.

“It’s an appalling involvement. It doesn’t do anyone service to pretend that’s not the case. We need to acknowledge that,” she added.

Albanese has said the 1975 crisis reinforced the need for an Australian head of state instead of a British monarch.

John Howard, a monarchist who was prime minister when Australians voted against severing their constitutional ties to their former colonial master, said those ties can survive the queen’s death.

“The strength of the monarchy in Australia was immeasurably increased by the personal popularity of the queen,” Howard said.

“That’s not to say it won’t continue. It will continue in a different form,” Howard added.

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

___

Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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