India expels Canadian diplomat amid fallout over alleged assassination

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India, was gunned down on 18 June outside a Sikh cultural centre in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

India dismissed allegations that its government was linked to the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada as “absurd” on Tuesday, expelling a senior Canadian diplomat and accusing Canada of interfering in India’s internal affairs.


It came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described what he called credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India who was gunned down on 18 June outside a Sikh cultural centre in Surrey, British Columbia, and Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat.

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau told Parliament Monday. “In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”

The duelling expulsions come as relations between Canada and India are tense. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just cancelled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall.

In its statement announcing the expulsion, India’s Ministry of External Affairs wrote that “the decision reflects Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”

Nijjar was organising an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh nation at the time of his death. Indian authorities announced a cash reward last year for information leading to Nijjar’s arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.

India has repeatedly accused Canada of supporting the Sikh independence, or Khalistan, movement, which is banned in India but has support in countries like Canada and the UK with sizable Sikh diaspora populations.

In March, the Modi government summoned the Canadian High Commissioner in New Delhi to complain about Sikh independence protests in Canada. In 2020, India’s foreign ministry also summoned the top diplomat over comments made by Trudeau about an agricultural protest movement associated with the state of Punjab, where many Sikhs live.

Canada has a Sikh population of more than 770,000, or about 2% of its total population.

Trudeau told Parliament that he brought up Nijjar’s slaying with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 meeting in New Delhi last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.

India’s foreign ministry dismissed the allegation as “absurd and motivated.”

“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it wrote in a statement issued earlier Tuesday.


At the G20 meeting, Modi expressed “strong concerns” over Canada’s handling of the Punjabi independence movement among the overseas Sikhs during a meeting with Trudeau at the G20, the statement added.

The statement called on Canada to work with India on what New Delhi said is a threat to the Canadian Indian diaspora and described the Sikh movement as “promoting secessionism and inciting violence” against Indian diplomats. Earlier this year, supporters of the Khalistan movement vandalised Indian consulates in London and San Francisco.

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said Canada had expelled a top Indian diplomat, whom she identified as the head of Indian intelligence in Canada.

“If proven true this would be a great violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other,” Joly said. “As a consequence, we have expelled a top Indian diplomat.”

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Canada’s national security adviser and the head of Canada’s spy service have travelled to India to meet their counterparts and to confront the Indian intelligence agencies with the allegations.


He called it an active homicide investigation led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Joly said Trudeau also raised the matter with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”

Joly also said she would raise the issue with her peers in the G7 on Monday evening in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly.

Canadian opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who is himself Sikh, called it outrageous and shocking. Singh said he grew up hearing stories that challenging India’s record on human rights might prevent you from getting a visa to travel there.


“But to hear the prime minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between a murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil by a foreign government is something I could never have imagined,” Singh said.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nijjar an outspoken supporter of Khalistan who “often led peaceful protests against the violation of human rights actively taking place in India and in support of Khalistan.”

“Nijjar had publicly spoken of the threat to his life for months and said that he was targeted by Indian intelligence agencies,” the statement said.

Nijjar’s New York-based lawyer, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, has said Nijjar was warned by Canadian intelligence officials about being targeted for assassination by “mercenaries” before he was gunned down.

India’s main opposition party issued a statement backing Modi’s position. The Congress Party wrote that “the country’s interests and concerns must be kept paramount at all times” and that the fight against terrorism has to be uncompromising, especially when it threatens the nation’s sovereignty.

Indian authorities have targeted Sikh separatism since the 1980s, when an armed insurgency for an independent Sikh state took off in Punjab state.

In 1984, Indian forces stormed the Golden Temple in the state’s Amritsar city to flush out Sikh separatists, who had taken refuge there. The controversial operation killed around 400, according to official figures, although Sikh groups estimate the toll to be higher.

The prime minister who ordered the raid, Indira Gandhi, was killed afterwards by two of her bodyguards, who were Sikh. Her death triggered a series of anti-Sikh riots, in which Hindu mobs went from house to house across northern India, pulling Sikhs from their homes, hacking many to death and burning others alive.

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EU action can help put a stop to killings of human rights defenders

It has been almost eight years since the Paris Agreement was finalised. In that time, at least 1,390 defenders advocating for a healthy environment and rights linked to land have been killed, Mary Lawlor writes.

Human rights defenders in every region of the world are peacefully organising and advocating to ensure equitable access to land and prevent environmental destruction. 


Their activism and leadership is key to the realisation of societies in which respect for human rights is a reality, including the right to a healthy environment. Yet fatal attacks against these defenders continue.

According to the latest research by the NGO Global Witness, 177 land and environmental rights defenders were killed in 2022. 

The stories documented in the organisation’s new report are heavy and painful. Five children were among those killed in the attacks, including nine-year old Jonatas de Oliviera dos Santos, who was targeted in retaliation for his father’s work in Brazil.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, agreed by consensus by all member states at the UN General Assembly in 1998. 

It is in the declaration that we find the right to defend rights codified. There needs to be a new resolve to make good on that right in order to stop the killings, both where state and non-state actors are implicated, and the EU — with its new law on environmental and human rights due diligence — can play a key role.

Latin American, Indigenous and campesino defenders targeted

Almost 90% of the deaths recorded by Global Witness took place in Latin America, and more than a third of those killed were Indigenous defenders, with close to a quarter campesino advocates — small-scale farmers, peasants and agricultural workers. 

Those most at risk of these fatal attacks are advocating in their local communities, often in rural areas where access to land is an imperative for the fulfilment of human rights.

One of the killings detailed in the report is that of Rarámuri Indigenous leader José Trinidad Baldenegro, from the Coloradas de la Virgen community in the south of Chihuahua in Mexico. 

Indigenous defenders from the community have been opposing deforestation from illegal logging for decades, despite a series of assassinations of those involved. 

In 1986, when he was 11 years old, José’s father was killed. His brother, the environmental activist Isidro Baldenegro, was murdered in 2017. Julián Carrillo, another Indigenous defender engaged in the community’s struggle, was killed in 2018.

What does effective protection look like?

Killings not only take the life of the victims, but have a massive impact on the families of those targeted and the communities they come from.


After Julián Carrillo was killed in 2018, his family left the community for fear of further retaliation. In a rare instance of accountability through the courts, investigations in Mexico led to prosecutions for Julián’s murder, yet such examples remain the exception, with impunity for killings remaining extremely common.

Killings in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Honduras account for 139 of the assassinations documented by Global Witness last year. 

All of these states have mechanisms specifically designed for the protection of human rights defenders, and are making efforts to improve the practical support they can offer through them and address issues in how they operate. Yet these efforts need to intensify. 

The states most affected by killings should work together to share good practices and learn from defenders about what effective protection might look like, in particular in rural contexts. 

They should support defenders to make links with one another to share self-protection and quick-response strategies that need to be viewed as going hand-in-hand with state-based protection. There has been some progress and solutions are possible.


No more business as usual: regulation needs to address root causes

Despite the heavy concentration of killings in a small number of states — with the Philippines also a country of high concern, given the 11 killings recorded there — the root causes of the attacks cannot be reduced to the conditions in a few national contexts.

More than 12% of the killings recorded in 2022 were linked to business activities and supply chains, where the responsibility to act extends beyond borders. 

The negative human rights impacts and related risks for defenders opposing them have been well-documented when it comes to high-impact sectors, including mining, logging and agribusiness. 

The home states of companies active in these industries need to draw a line under toxic business practices and effectively legislate to prevent them.

That includes EU member states, and the EU can make a difference by obliging companies across all sectors to assess risks for human rights defenders under the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. 


They should also ensure investors do not fund projects where defenders could be under threat.

Positive positions, if imperfect, have been adopted by the European Council and the European Parliament in relation to provisions for defenders in the directive, and they must be improved still — not watered down — as negotiations progress.

Protect defenders to protect the climate

The need to protect defenders, including through binding obligations for companies, and to offer them greater support is magnified by the urgent global imperative to combat climate change and mitigate its impacts.

It has been almost eight years since the Paris Agreement was finalised. In that time, at least 1,390 defenders advocating for a healthy environment and rights linked to land have been killed. 

In 2022, as the Global Witness report lays out, at least 39 land and environmental defenders were killed in the Amazon, an area both crucial for mitigating climate change and set to be highly impacted by it.

As part of the prioritisation of social justice and inclusion which, as the IPPC has stated, is essential to enable a just transition away from our current high-carbon economy, states should embrace human rights defenders as allies in fulfilling their human rights and climate obligations.

They should make good on promises to improve their protection, support their networks and advocacy, including at COP28, and listen them to ensure risks to human rights are addressed and violations remedied.

Mary Lawlor is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Spanish scientist helps free Australia’s ‘worst female killer’

Kathleen Folbigg spent twenty years in prison being demonised for killing her four children, until a Spanish scientist helped to free her, and expose one of Australia’s biggest injustices.

An Australian woman who spent 20 years in prison for killing her four children was pardoned and released on Monday following an inquest into her guilt.

Kathleen Folbigg, now 55, was dubbed “Australia’s worst serial killer” after being convicted in 2003 of murdering three of her children, and convicted of manslaughter in the death of the fourth. 

According to prosecutors, her children, aged between nine weeks and three years, had been suffocated to death by Folbigg, who has always rejected these accusations, claiming that each of their deaths was linked to a natural cause.

A pardon on the grounds of reasonable doubt was seen as the quickest way to secure her release from prison — a subsequent inquiry could see her convictions quashed completely. 

Kathleen Folbigg spent her two decades in prison being demonised. 

Once the most reviled name in Australia, Folbigg has been cleared thanks in part to a Spanish scientist Carola García Vinuesa, who, along with other colleagues, has managed to show the children could have died of natural causes.

“The theory that she had killed her children had no evidence. The only evidence was circumstantial, because she was the one finding them dead,” García Vinuesa told Euronews.

“Folbigg is very grateful, not only to us – the scientists – but also to her lawyers, who have done most of the work for free,” she adds.

Australia’s ‘most notorious killer’

The first to die was her son Caleb, aged 19 days. One night, Kathleen woke up because she needed to go to the toilet. She checked on her baby and realised he wasn’t breathing.

“There’s something wrong with my baby,” she shrieked. Her husband came running, and they tried to resuscitate the child, but by the time the ambulance arrived he was dead.

After this she lost Patrick when the baby was just eight months old. Ten-month-old Sarah and 18-month-old Laura died later. Two of the children had died of sudden infant death syndrome. The trauma was huge so Folbigg and her husband’s relationship deteriorated and the couple decided to get a divorce.

Years later, her former husband found Folbigg’s personal diary. Some of the lines his ex-wife had written set alarm bells ringing, like when she wrote that her daughter Sarah had “gone away with a little help”. He was so shocked he gave the diaries to the police.

Although there was no evidence against her, at the time, there was a lot of weight put placed on the ‘Meadow’s Law’ theory about sudden infant deaths, which has now been discredited.

British pediatrician Roy Meadow believed that one sudden death is a tragedy, two are suspicious and three is considered murder until proven otherwise. His theories have since been largely debunked, and he was struck off the UK medical register for a number of years. 

How did a Spanish scientist get involved in the case?

In Australia, the jury convicted Folbigg accusing her of suffocating her four children, but she always maintained her innocence. 

Nobody believed her story, until García Vinuesa decided to help her.

The Spanish scientist had never heard of Folbigg’s case, until one afternoon when she received a call from a former student. 

David Wallace, who did his dissertation with García Vinuesa’s research group, was watching a television programme when Folbigg popped up on screen.

Wallace, who had also studied law, had his doubts and wanted the scientist’s opinion. 

“He called more researchers, but the rest must not have been interested. I was really surprised when I heard about the case,” says the Spaniard, whose team had pioneered the sequencing of the human genome.

“Two of Folbigg’s children had been very ill before dying and this really made me question the case, so I contacted Folbigg’s lawyers to tell them it was worth doing genetic research,” she adds.

Genetic research

The researcher knew that up to 35% of cases of sudden death can be explained by genetic factors, and with this in mind, García Vinuesa called her colleague, geneticist Todor Arsov. 

They decided to draw up a list of genes that can cause sudden death.

The next step in their scientific investigation was to visit Folbigg in prison and sequence her genome. 

“We discovered that there was a mutation in a gene that encodes calmodulin, and this is one of the most well-known causes of sudden death in infancy,” García Vinuesa tells Euronews.

“I wrote to Kathleen’s lawyers and told them we had found this mutation. We wanted to do a full cardiovascular work-up. We also needed to sequence the childrens’ and father’s genome,” she adds.

In 2018, a petition raising doubts over some of the evidence presented at Folbigg’s trial led to the first of two inquiries into Folbigg’s case. Two teams of immunologist-geneticists were called.

García Vinuesa’s team found a gene mutation in two of Folbigg’s daughters, while the other two children had severe epilepsy and respiratory distress.

They contacted Peter Schwartz, one of the most famous geneticists in the world, working at the Auxological Institute in Milan. He had just studied a similar case and, after analysing the information, agreed that it was the most likely cause of the children’s deaths.

“We sent it to the judge and thought that would be enough, but the judge decided that he preferred the evidence of the diaries”, she says. The judge stated he didn’t need a psychiatrist to explain the mother’s diary entries.

He also sided with arguments presented by the prosecution’s team of immunologists who disagreed with García Vinuesa.

At the original trial, the jury never had access to Folbigg’s full diaries, only excerpts taken out of context in the aftermath of the deaths of her children. 

“Those notes were not a confession, she only said she felt guilty. In this last inquiry into Folbigg’s case, nine experts – forensic experts, psychiatrists, linguists – analysed it and agreed that they were expressions of a grieving mother and did not contain an admission of criminal guilt,” says García Vinuesa. 

Fighting for Folbigg’s release

When talking about the personal toll, García Vinuesa says she had to face the frustration felt when the court did not understand science and decided not to call in the necessary experts to analyse her findings.

Instead of calling in more experts, the judge said he preferred the expertise of the other team of immunologists and the evidence of Folbigg’s diary which, to Carola García Vinuesa, seemed very subjective.

Despite the judge’s verdict, García Vinuesa and her colleagues published their findings and asked the Australian Academy of Science to support the science. “Since all legal pathways had been exhausted, they made a petition to the governor of New South Wales. They asked for her pardon”.

This petition was signed by 90 scientists and medical experts from around the world, among them were two Nobel laureates.

Folbigg’s freedom wasn’t an option at first, but this letter changed the social climate and improved her life in prison. “Her colleagues, who mistreated her because she was a child murderer, changed their attitude and helped her,” she says.

In May 2022, the governor had his decision made: there would not be a pardon for Folbigg, but he announced a new review of the case.

This time round they had more support. “The Australian Academy of Science got legal representation and had a team of lawyers who were able to advise who were the best experts in the world in each field. Also what kind of questions they should be asking these experts.”

“It’s making sure that the system is fair and can be assessed transparently.”

After Folbigg’s legal pardon, García Vinuesa feels satisfied at last, but looks back with a bittersweet feeling. 

“Scientifically it has been a challenge. It has been a very hard, intense and sometimes a painful process”.

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Video of police brutally beating Tyre Nichols sparks US-wide protests

Authorities released video footage Friday showing Tyre Nichols being beaten by five Memphis police officers who held the Black motorist down and repeatedly struck him with their fists, boots and batons as he screamed for his mother.

The video is filled with violent moments showing the officers, who are also Black, chasing and pummeling Nichols and leaving him on the pavement propped against a squad car as they fist-bump and celebrate their actions.

The footage emerged one day after the officers were charged with murder in Nichols’ death. 

The chilling images of another Black man dying at the hands of police renewed tough questions about how fatal encounters with law enforcement continue even after repeated calls for change.

Protesters gathered for mostly peaceful demonstrations in multiple cities, including Memphis, where several dozen demonstrators blocked the Interstate 55 bridge that carries traffic over the Mississippi River toward Arkansas. Lorries were backed up for a distance.

In Washington, dozens of protestors gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House and near Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Other cities nationwide braced for demonstrations, but media outlets reported only scattered and nonviolent protests. Demonstrators at times blocked traffic while they chanted slogans and marched through the streets of New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

Nichols’ relatives urged supporters to protest peacefully.

“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said Thursday. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”

Christopher Taylor was one of the protesters at the Interstate 55 bridge on Friday. He said he watched the video. The Memphis native said it was horrible that the officers appeared to be laughing as they stood around after the beating.

“I cried,” he said. “And that right there, as not only a father myself but I am also a son, my mother is still living, that could have been me.”

US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both condemned the Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols that ended in his death.

The president said in a statement that he was “outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video” of the beating and said people who see it will be “justifiably outraged”.

But he also urged protesters to avoid any violence.

“Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve,” Harris said.

She said the video images would “open wounds that will never fully heal”.

Earlier on Friday, Biden said he spoke with Nichols’ mother earlier in the day and told her that he would be “making a case” to Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act “to get this under control.” 

The legislation, which has been stalled, is meant to tackle police misconduct and excessive force and boost federal and state accountability efforts.

‘Stop, I’m not doing anything’

The recording shows police savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes while screaming profanities at him throughout the attack. 

The Nichols family legal team has likened the assault to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

After the first officer roughly pulls Nichols out of a car, Nichols can be heard saying, “I didn’t do anything,” as a group of officers try to wrestle him to the ground.

One officer is heard yelling, “Tase him! Tase him!”

Nichols calmly says, “OK, I’m on the ground.”

“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Nichols says. “I’m just trying to go home.”

“Stop, I’m not doing anything,” he yells moments later.

Nichols can then be seen running as an officer fires a Taser at him. The officers then start chasing Nichols.

Other officers are called, and a search ensues before Nichols is caught at another intersection. The officers beat him with a baton and kicked and punched him.

Security camera footage shows three officers surrounding Nichols as he lies in the street, cornered between police cars, with a fourth officer nearby.

Two officers hold Nichols to the ground as he moves about, and then the third appears to kick him in the head. Nichols slumps more fully onto the pavement with all three officers surrounding him. The same officer kicks him again.

The fourth officer then walks over, draws a baton and holds it up at shoulder level as two officers hold Nichols upright as if he were sitting.

“I’m going to baton the f— out you,” one officer can be heard saying. His body camera shows him raise his baton while at least one other officer holds Nichols. The officer strikes Nichols on the back with the baton three times in a row.

The other officers then appear to hoist Nichols to his feet, with him flopping like a doll, barely able to stay upright.

An officer then punches him in the face, as the officer with the baton continues to menace him. Nichols stumbles and turns, still held up by two officers. 

The officer who punched him then walks around to Nichols’ front and punches him four more times. Then Nichols collapses.

Two officers can then be seen atop Nichols on the ground, with a third nearby, for about 40 seconds. Three more officers then run up, and one can be seen kicking Nichols on the ground.

As Nichols is slumped up against a car, not one of the officers renders aid. The body camera footage shows a first-person view of one of them reaching down and tying his shoe.

It takes more than 20 minutes after Nichols is beaten and on the pavement before any sort of medical attention is provided, even though two fire department officers arrived on the scene with medical equipment within 10 minutes.

Throughout the videos, officers make claims about Nichols’ behaviour that are not supported by the footage or that the district attorney and other officials have said did not happen. 

In one of the videos, an officer claims that during the initial traffic stop, Nichols reached for a gun before fleeing and almost had his hand on the handle, which is not shown in the video.

After Nichols is in handcuffs and leaning against a police car, several officers say that he must have been high. Later an officer says no drugs were found in his car, and another officer immediately counters that Nichols must have ditched something while he was running away.

‘Heinous, reckless and inhumane’

Authorities have not released an autopsy report, but they have said there appeared to be no justification for the traffic stop, and nothing of note was found in the car.

The video raised questions about the role and possible culpability of the other officers at the scene, in addition to the five who were charged. The footage shows a number of other officers standing around after the beating.

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis has said other officers are under investigation for their part in the arrest. Davis described the five officers’ actions as “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

During the traffic stop, the video shows the officers were “already ramped up, at about a 10,” she said. The officers were “aggressive, loud, using profane language and probably scared Mr. Nichols from the very beginning.”

“Police are trained to understand that people might flee just because they are scared,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who studies use of force.

Court records showed that all five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody.

The officers each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Four of the five officers had posted bond and been released from custody by Friday morning, according to court and jail records.

Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

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How to be prepared in case of a shooting without living in fear | CNN


At first, Brandon Tsay froze when a gunman aimed a firearm at him, he said. He was sure those would be his last moments.

But then something came over Tsay, who was working the ticket counter in the lobby of his family’s Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, a dance hall in Alhambra, California.

He lunged toward the armed man and struggled through being hit several times in order to wrestle the gun away, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday evening.

The gunman had already killed 11 people and injured 10 others before arriving at Tsay’s workplace.

Tsay’s courage saved his life that day, but probably also saved countless more, said Ronald Tunkel, a former special agent with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who was trained as a criminal profiler.

While Tsay’s actions show heroism and bravery, what he did is more possible than people think, said Dr. Ragy Girgis, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.

“People have a great capacity for responding to tragedies like these. People wouldn’t realize how heroically they could respond,” he said.

Fortunately, most people will not find themselves in a situation in which they will have to respond to a mass shooter, Girgis said. But incidents like these are all too common and on the rise in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

There is not much research on intervention in mass shootings by civilians, Girgis said.

Still, as the US sees mass shootings on a regular basis, companies, nonprofits and schools are training people about how to respond. Tunkel and Jon Pascal, an instructor for both Krav Maga Worldwide and the Force Training Institute, say they are seeing more training and protocols around active shooting situations for everyday people.

A word of warning: If your awareness around safety starts to contribute to anxiety or interfere with life in a meaningful way, it may be time to consult a mental health expert, said psychiatrist Dr. Keith Stowell, chief medical officer of behavioral health and addictions for Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health.

Tunkel said being able to respond effectively to emergency situations takes two things: awareness and preparation.

Create “a habit of safety,” Pascal recommended. That means that people should routinely make note of the mood of crowds they are in, the exits and entrances, and what tools are available around them in case they need to respond to a scary event.

“We don’t want to walk around paranoid and not live our lives, but I think if we make personal safety a habit, it becomes something normal,” he said.

Your worst-case scenario is probably never going to happen, but being prepared means you have ways to take care of yourself and those around you if it does, Pascal added.

In addition to implementing awareness of your surroundings, Pascal recommends making a plan for how you will respond in case of medical, fire or violent emergencies.

It is always important to look for two ways of exiting a building in case danger or an obstacle is blocking one, he said. And at home or in workplaces, he recommended taking note of doors that can be locked and things that can be used to barricade.

Once you have the plan, practice it, he added. That bookcase might look like the perfect barricade in your head, but then be impossible to move in an emergency, Pascal said. And you want to be sure your escape routes don’t have locked doors you can’t open.

But preparation can also take the form of training — and it doesn’t have to be long-term, intensive and specific to the situation, Tunkel said.

Self-defense or active shooter training can help give you knowledge and strategies to use quickly if ever they are needed, Pascal said. But even more general training can help give you the mental and physical responses needed in case of emergency, Tunkel said.

Weight lifting and team sports can show you that you are physically capable of responding, he said. Yoga and meditation can train your breath and brain to stay calm and make good decisions in crisis, he said.

And in a dangerous situation, acting quickly and decisively is often safest, Pascal said.

It’s hard to be decisive when bullets are flying. Many victims of mass shootings have reported that the events were confusing and that it was hard to tell what was happening, Girgis said.

And if people don’t know what is happening, they often rely on their instincts to make decisions on what to do next, which can be scary, Pascal said.

The human brain likes categories to make things simpler, so it will often default to relating new things to those we have been exposed to before, Stowell said. When a person hears a popping noise, they might be likely to assume the sound is something familiar like a firecracker, he added.

Instead, Pascal advised people — whether they think they hear balloons popping or gunshots — to stop, look around to gather as much information as they can about what is going on around them, listen to see if they can learn anything from the sound, and smell the air.

Because where there are gunshots, there is often gunpowder, Pascal said.

Once someone has gathered what information they can, it is important to trust your perception of danger, Tunkel said.

Knowing there is danger activates a fight-or-flight response, which humans have honed over thousands of years to respond to predators, Stowell said.

But when a person is in a dangerous situation that is so far from anything they’ve experienced before, it is not uncommon for them to freeze, he added.

That is where training of any kind comes in. Even if it doesn’t teach you every detail of how to respond, it gives your brain a set of knowledge to fall back on in a terrifying situation, Stowell said.

Wrestling a gun away isn’t the only way to act when there is a mass shooter, Pascal said.

The US Department of Homeland Security developed a protocol called “Run, hide, fight.”

“Run” refers to the first line of defense — to get yourself away from a dangerous situation as quickly as possible, Pascal said. You can encourage others to run away too, but don’t stay back if they won’t leave with you.

If it isn’t possible to run, the next best option is to hide, making it more difficult in some way for the perpetrator to get to you, he said.

If none of those are an option, you can fight.

“You don’t have to be the biggest, strongest person in the room,” Pascal said. “You just have to have that mindset that no one is going to do this to me and I’m going home safe.”

Even though most people are capable of responding to danger in some way, it is important not to judge how much or how little a bystander or victim acts, Tunkel said.

“What may be reasonable for one person in one situation is not for someone else in another situation,” Pascal said.

No matter how well a person has been trained, mass shootings are “beyond the scope of anything we’ve had to experience in our everyday lives,” Stowell said. “There’s no real expectation of a right response, despite training.”

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The world hitting ‘peak baby’ and other stories you might have missed this year

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, 2022 was full of big stories. 

After two years dominated by COVID-19, these headlines took attention away from a pandemic that stubbornly rages on.

We’ve compiled a list of your 15 most-read for the year.

Anthony Albanese led Labor back from the political wilderness in 2022. (AP: Rick Rycroft)

After almost a decade in the political wilderness, Australian voters returned Labor to office in 2022, led by Anthony Albanese.

While self-described “bulldozer” Scott Morrison had made a last-ditch pitch to voters to keep him in power, his unpopularity would play a key role in a raft of Coalition seat losses.

Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg was just one of those high-profile candidates sent packing, amidst a so-called “teal” (independent) wave.

A disgruntled-looking Novak Djokovic spreads his arms wide as he looks down at the court  after a point during a match.
The federal government spectacularly deported Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open. (AP: Kamran Jebreili)

Confusion reigned in January when nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was granted an exemption to travel to Australia without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

With Melburnians having spent more than 260 days in lockdown, there was also a fair share of public anger at the seeming double standard.

The federal government subsequently stepped in, announcing that it would deport the 34-year-old, with Djokovic spending the night in immigration detention as his lawyers appealed.

The fiasco made headlines around the world, with the world number one eventually deported on the eve of the tournament. 

A man in a suit stands in front of a red backdrop.
At least 6,702 civilians have died since Russia invaded Ukraine. (AP: Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo)

News first broke in February that Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorised a military operation in the Eastern European country.

As of December, war still rages in Ukraine, with scores of civilians dead and millions displaced.

A recent UN report, released on December 4, estimated that 6,702 civilians had died, with Russian forces killing at least 441 in the first weeks of the invasion.

All is not going to plan for Putin, however, with discussion recently turning to the possibility of Ukraine recapturing all of its southern territory — even liberating Crimea.

A huge grey cloud rises from a submarine volcano, as a forked bolt of lightnight hits the left side of the rising ash plume.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted off Tonga in January, causing widespead chaos.(Reuters: Tonga Geological Services)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption came to a powerful climax in the middle of January, causing tsunamis locally as well as in New Zealand, Japan, the US, Russia and Peru, to name a few.

Australia’s east coast and islands were also issued tsunami alerts, while at least six people were reported dead.

NASA later declared that the Tongan tsunami was hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold smiles with the police badge behind them.
Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were killed in a deadly siege in rural Queensland in December.(ABC News: Lewi Hirvela/Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

Two police officers and a member of the public lost their lives in horrific circumstances in December, after police were called out to a property in Wieambilla, west of Brisbane, searching for a missing Dubbo man.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said Constable Rachel McCrow (29), Constable Matthew Arnold (26) and neighbour Alan Dare (58) were killed in a “ruthless, calculated and targeted execution”.

“Just such a tragedy, this should never happen,” Leavers said.

“They’re both under 30, they’ve hardly lived life and their lives have been cut short.”

Rapid antigen test kits for detecting COVID-19
Should you be asking for an antibody test to see if you’ve been infected with COVID-19?(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

This article starts with a scene from the start of the year that could well describe the situation today.

Omicron cases are much higher than official numbers, and it’s increasingly difficult to access a PCR test to find out whether or not the scratch in your throat is COVID or hayfever.

So how do you know if you’ve actually been infected with COVID-19?

Antibody tests can answer that question (depending on the time frame in which the test is done, and whether you mounted a detectable response to infection), but experts like AMA vice-president Chris Moy say there should be a clear clinical reason for conducting them.

A good example of when an antibody test might be appropriate is if someone is experiencing symptoms consistent with long-COVID.

hundreds of little human models in a big crowd
The world is now inhabited by over 8 billion people, but there may never be more children alive than there are today. 

By the time you read this paragraph, the world’s population grew by around 20 people, writes Casey Briggs.

That’s about the best way to wrap your head around what it means for the world to be inhabited by eight billion people.

But while population growth has been rapid — increasing by seven billion in the last two centuries — we are now at “peak baby”, meaning there will never again be more children alive than there are today.

That’s in part because fertility rates are plummeting across the globe, although trends differ geographically: just eight countries are projected to be responsible for more than half the world’s population increase by 2050.

a young girl smiling and holding an umbrella
Charlise Mutten, 9, was on holiday in the Blue Mountains before she was allegedly murdered by her mother’s fiancé.(Supplied)

Five days after nine-year-old Charlise Mutten was last seen in the Blue Mountains, police charged 31-year-old Justin Stein with her murder.

Police alleged Stein, who was engaged to Charlise’s mother, acted alone, after Charlise’s remains were found in a barrel in the bush near the Colo River.

A number of inconsistencies in Stein’s story raised suspicions, including his purchase of 20 kilogram sandbags from a hardware store, and fuel for his boat.

Charlise lived with her grandmother in Coolangatta in Queensland, but had been holidaying in NSW with her mother and Mr Stein.

Stan Grant speaks about not being seen as a human being image
Stan Grant wasn’t afraid to talk about the big issues facing First Nations people in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. (Four Corners )

In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Stan Grant’s analysis focused on the stuff “we aren’t supposed to talk about”: colonisation, empire, violence, Aboriginal sovereignty and the republic.

He wrote of his anger at the ongoing suffering and injustice of First Nations people — in particular those “languishing in cells. Those who take their own lives. Those who are caught in endless cycles of despair”.

He also reflected on the inevitable online abuse he and his family would receive in the wake of his column, before resolving not to be scared into silence.

“Why? Because a voice is all we have. Because too often that voice is silenced.”

A framed photograph of Shane Warne on the cricket pitch says 'THANK YOU SHANE'.
The news that 52-year-old Shane Warne had died of a heart attack prompted a global outpouring of grief. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

For many, “Warnie” was larger than life, a once-in-a-generation cricketer famous for reinvigorating the art of leg spin, as well as his embodiment of the “Aussie larrikin” trope.

So it was with great shock that many responded to the news that he had died of a heart attack in Thailand, aged just 52, leaving behind the three children he had with his former wife Simone Callahan.

It led to an outpouring of grief around the world, with Premier Daniel Andrews offering a state funeral and the MCG rebranding the Great Southern Stand the “Shane Warne Stand” in the Victorian’s honour.

The Foo Fighters lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl, with drummer, Taylor Hawkins.
Taylor Hawkins (left) had been the Foo Fighters’ drummer for the last 25 years.(AP: Kevin Winter)

The announcement that Taylor Hawkins had died at age 50 came just hours before the Foo Fighters were due to take the stage at a Colombian music festival in Bogota.

Hawkins had been the band’s drummer for the last 25 years, taking over from original drummer William Goldsmith in 1997.

Apart from founder Dave Grohl (formerly of Nirvana), he was arguably the most recognisable face of the band, and is survived by his wife Alison and their three children.

Water rises over a riverfront restaurant precinct, making the restaurants look like part of the river
South-east Queenslanders were hit with “unrelenting walls of water” in February. (Supplied: Shae Laura)

In February, south-east Queensland was battered by what Premier Anastacia Palaszcuk described as “unrelenting walls of water”.

Multiple lives were lost as thousands of homes flooded, tens of thousands were evacuated, schools were closed and businesses were left without power.

It was just the start of a series of floods that would occur in Queensland and New South Wales over the coming months, devastating communities in both states.

A woman with long brown hair and a green blouse smiles while looking at the camera.
Julia Hunt wants to destigmatise public housing in Australia.(Supplied: Julia Hunt)

Victorian Liberal MP Wendy Lovell offended many in March when she told parliament that social housing should not be placed in affluent suburbs.

This article explores the stigma of growing up in social housing, and its increasing association — from the 1970s onwards — with “crime and criminality, disorder, anti-social behaviour [and] welfare dependency”.

Author Bridget Judd explores the efforts of youth worker Julia Rudd and others to combat “postcode discrimination”, writing: “For those living in public housing, it’s not an abstract policy discussion, it’s home.”

Rain on the lense
BOM didn’t have good news for us about the long-term weather outlook. (Matt Grbin)

Natural disasters (and the ongoing effects of climate change) were in the headlines again in October, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) releasing a long-range forecast — until April 2023 — for Australia’s “upcoming severe weather season”.

The state-by-state forecast warned of an increased risk of widespread flooding for eastern and northern Australia, as well as an increased risk of an above-average number of tropical cyclones and tropical lows.

None of it read like great news, as many of us are experiencing currently.

The Queen shaking hands with Liz Truss in a living room
Liz Truss was sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II just two days before the monarch died. (Reuters: Jane Barlow)

Liz Truss’ prime ministership might have lasted just 44 days, but it will be remembered for the most dramatic series of events.

Truss was famously sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6, just two days before the monarch died.

She then implemented a raft of economic measures that saw the world’s sixth-biggest economy abruptly crash, saved only by extraordinary interventions from the Bank of England.

After a series of humiliations and U-turns, the British tabloid the Daily Star then set up a live feed of an unrefrigerated iceberg lettuce, asking who would last longer, the lettuce or Truss.

The lettuce won. 

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