The Guardian 2024-03-29 10:01:07


Former AFL player Eddie Betts shares video of racist abuse hurled at children playing in yard

Victoria police launch investigation after Indigenous star posts CCTV footage on Instagram and states ‘Aboriginal kids deserve to be able to play safely’

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Victoria police are investigating after Indigenous AFL great Eddie Betts shared footage of his children being racially abused in their own yard while stating “we are not even safe in our own homes”.

Betts shared security camera footage on social media on Thursday night showing a white car driving down a street before slowing down in front of a home. A person then yells out racial slurs.

The footage shared on Instagram shows four children playing basketball in the fenced yard as the car drives past.

“Aboriginal kids deserve to be able to play safely, free from racism and abuse over the fence,” Betts posted.

“We are not even safe in our own homes. If you know who this is please let them know I’m open to having a chat about how much this hurts our kids 💔”

On Friday morning, Betts posted: “Thanks everyone for your support … it’s not going to stop the kids from playing ball” alongside a picture of the children back on the basketball court.

Victoria police on Friday afternoon said they had received a report regarding “verbal racial abuse toward children outside a property in Glen Iris”.

The police alleged a car drove past the home after 8.30pm on Thursday and someone “yelled from the windows before driving away”.

Earlier, a spokesperson said the force took such matters “very seriously” and asked anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.

“Crimes motivated by prejudice cause serious harm to victims, often leaving them, and their communities, feeling vulnerable, threatened and isolated,” they said.

“Victoria police do not tolerate violence, including that which is motivated by prejudice, racism or discrimination. People who experience or witness crimes or incidents motivated by prejudice should report them to police at their local police station.”

A spokesperson for Betts’ foundation said while Eddie was unfortunately used to racism in his daily life “the overtness and aggression directed at his young kids and nephews, in their house, has really upset him and their families”.

“Aboriginal kids deserve freedom to play sport, go to school and go about their lives free of racism and abuse,” the spokesperson said on Friday.

“Eddie will continue to have conversations with Australia on how racism manifests in different ways and thanks everyone for their support – we need everyone to be part of this solution.”

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, described the footage as “sickening and disgusting”. She said such behaviour had “no place” in the state.

The premier said Betts was a “strong and proud Indigenous man who’s talked about his own experiences and it must be pretty painful to see his kids go through that”.

“I’m really sorry his kids have had to go through that experience because it is absolutely sickening behaviour.”

The AFL chief executive, Andrew Dillon, and the league’s general manager of inclusion, Tanya Hosch, thanked Betts “for bringing this disturbing behaviour to our attention”.

“We must not look away,” they said in a joint statement.

“We invite everyone to follow Eddie’s example in calling out racism when you hear, read or see it. We invite everyone to report racism wherever possible. Racism is wrong. Racism is harmful. Racism requires a response.”

The AFL Players’ Association offered its support and called the incident awful.

“No one should ever have to experience this. We stand with you Eddie,” the group wrote.

Betts retired from the AFL in 2021 after a career spanning 350 games with Carlton and Adelaide. He has been outspoken about the racist abuse he faced during his career – both on and off the field.

In 2016 someone in the crowd threw a banana at him during a match.

In a 2022 interview with NITV, Betts said that “profile or no profile, I’m going to be racially abused” because he is “Blak in Australia”.

“I’ve just got a platform now … but people don’t like me talking about it,” he said at the time. “They want to put me back in my box. They don’t like me standing up.”

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Man shot dead in ‘very targeted’ attack in Melbourne’s north, police say

Victoria police say victim of Glenroy shooting was known to them and had a criminal record

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Police are treating the fatal shooting of a man at a strip of shops in Melbourne’s north as a targeted attack.

The man was shot dead in a car park outside shops on Justin Avenue at Glenroy just after 4.30am on Good Friday.

He was found lying next to a red Hyundai i30 that police believe he was driving in the lead-up to his death.

Victoria police homicide squad detectives are appealing for anyone who saw the car to come forward.

Police would not reveal the dead man’s identity but Det Insp Dean Thomas said he was known to police and had a criminal record.

“I stress at this stage it appears to be very targeted,” Thomas said on Friday.

“There is absolutely nothing to link this to any of the tobacco incidents that have been occurring, or any other homicides or other shootings that have occurred.

“But we keep an open mind with everything we do.”

Neighbours said they heard one shot fired in the area at about 4.30am.

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Police were trying to determine the man’s movements before he was shot dead, and said they did not know how many people they were looking for in relation to the attack.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Thomas said.

“The appeal this morning is for anyone out there that has information to share that with us.”

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Laurence Fox’s London mayor hopes end after errors filling in forms

Former actor and Reclaim party candidate will have his fee and deposit returned after mistakes

The former actor Laurence Fox will not be a candidate at the London mayoral elections after failing to fill in the nomination forms correctly.

London Elects, which administers the mayoral and London Assembly elections, said the Reclaim party leader had submitted the papers shortly before the deadline on Wednesday, which were subsequently found to contain errors.

Fox, who last acted on screens in a 2022 film distributed by the far-right website Breitbart, is understood to have failed to provide enough signatures of support in two London boroughs, while three supporters from other boroughs could not be found in records.

Fox, who has been the leader of the rightwing populist Reclaim party since 2020, claimed on X in since-deleted posts that the actions were the result of “political corruption”. In response, London Elects issued a lengthy rebuttal.

London Elects said: “The Reclaim party candidate’s representatives met with London Elects for the first time on Tuesday 26 March, less than 24 hours before the close of the nominations deadline. At that time, the paperwork was incomplete.

“Mr Fox’s representatives were advised to ensure that completed forms were submitted well before the Wednesday 4pm statutory deadline. The paperwork was submitted very shortly before 4pm.

“Upon inspection, the nomination forms contained errors which – the deadline having passed – were too late for Mr Fox’s team to correct. The conclusion of London Elects was that the requirements of the nomination process were not completed by the deadline.

“The Greater London Returning Officer is bound by electoral law and has no ability to allow anything other than fully compliant nominations, submitted by the deadline, to stand.”

In his deleted posts, Fox claimed that his party had “checked, double checked and then triple checked our nominations” and would appeal against the decision, which he claimed was the result of “political corruption”. It is understood that there is no avenue for appealing against the decision by London Elects.

In an email also tweeted by the actor, election officials said nomination papers from two boroughs did not have the 10 supporters required, while three supporters from other boroughs “could not be reconciled to voter register records”.

The email said Fox would be refunded the £20,000 fee and deposit paid for the mayoral nomination, plus another £5,000 Reclaim had overpaid “in error”.

At the last London mayoral election in 2021, Fox received 47,634 votes – less than 2% of the total cast – and lost his £10,000 deposit, which is returned to candidates who receive more than 5% of the vote.

In June 2023, Fox contested the 2023 Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection triggered by Boris Johnson’s resignation. Fox received 2.3% of the vote, finishing fourth and losing his deposit.

The media watchdog ruled this month that an episode of Dan Wootton Tonight on GB News broke broadcasting rules for when Fox questioned who would want to “shag” a female journalist. The remarks made by Fox, who was subsequently sacked from the channel, in which he asked “Who would want to shag that?” about JOE Media’s political correspondent Ava Evans, received 8,867 complaints.

The full list of candidates for the mayoral election is expected to be published on Thursday afternoon. The two main candidates are expected to be the Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan and the Conservative Susan Hall.

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Royal reverse as Nine’s 60 Minutes goes from ‘scandal’ to sympathy for Princess of Wales

Amanda Meade

Original story scrutinised ‘Catherine’s photoshopping blunder’ but its replacement heaped praise on ‘a courageous woman’. Plus: David McBride v the ABC

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Nine’s 60 Minutes did a reverse ferret on its story about the Princess of Wales, titled Crown and Out, which it had slated for Sunday.

After the promotional material had gone out spruiking the “scandal of Princess Catherine’s photoshopping blunder” and “the fact the star royal hadn’t been seen in public for so long” came Kate’s announcement she had cancer.

Crown and Out was to be the second week London reporter Adam Hegarty had asked royal insiders “what’s really going on” and “which member of the family might be competent enough to restore the shine to the crown?”

The negative story about the royals was quickly dropped and replaced with one completely different in tone.

When it went to air the show opened with the words: “Devastating. Frightening. Overwhelming. For anyone, a diagnosis of cancer is tough to comprehend. But it’s even more so when you’re one of the most recognised people on the planet.”

“In little more than 36 hours though, Catherine, Princess of Wales has shown what a courageous woman she is,” the voiceover says. “She’s also, inadvertently, taught the world a valuable lesson. That gossip and rumour are more often than not, the furthest things from the truth.”

Not a word about the program’s role in airing the “endless speculation” of course.

Sending Adelaide’s best

Meanwhile, Murdoch’s South Australian tabloid, the Advertiser, devoted six pages of reader messages to Kate, which we are sure will warm the princess’s heart when she gets a copy of the Tiser.

“Australians have opened their hearts to the Princess of Wales after her shock cancer diagnosis, with messages to be sent to London,” the editorial said.

“The Advertiser today publishes reader messages praising the mother of three’s grace and courage. Every reader who left a note is named. Governor Frances Adamson will now pass on the outpourings directly to Kensington Palace.”

McBride v ABC

David McBride’s legal team has accused the ABC of breaching an undertaking not to broadcast a Four Corners program about the former army lawyer until after he was sentenced.

McBride’s lawyer, the former Gold Walkley-winning journalist Mark Davis, told the Weekly Beast he and his team eventually agreed to be filmed behind the scenes after the ABC repeatedly assured him the program would not go to air until after McBride was sentenced.

“That undertaking effectively resolved our concerns about revealing any element of David’s defence during the trial,” Davis said.

But after the sentencing, initially due on 12 March, was delayed until May, Four Corners told Davis by text they had scheduled the program for Monday 25 March. He said he was furious and made it known to the program.

“To see a respected program trash court reporting conventions, burn sources and subjects and project an air of untrustworthiness just can’t be ignored,” Davis said.

The ABC initially told Weekly Beast that McBride was comfortable with the date of the broadcast and did not deny they had given Davis an undertaking not to broadcast before the sentencing date.

“Throughout the five months of filming the Four Corners team had ongoing discussions with David McBride, his PR representative and members of his legal team about the possible broadcast date, which changed due to the changing court dates,” an ABC spokesperson told Weekly Beast.

“This included discussing with each of McBride, his PR and Mark Davis the options of broadcasting either before or after sentencing submissions. Mr McBride made it clear to Four Corners he was comfortable with the program running on 25 March. Mr Davis was kept informed.”

Subsequently, after Weekly Beast was published, a spokesperson said the ABC rejected the allegation by Davis and insisted “we didn’t give Davis an undertaking”.

Eau de Alone

The Weekly Beast thought SBS had hit send too early on an April Fools’ Day joke when an announcement arrived that the multicultural broadcaster had created a limited edition, unisex fragrance called Alone Cologne. Designed to mark season two of its hit show Alone Australia, it is “a fragrance capturing the essence of being alone in the wilderness with an ‘an ode to odour’”.

Alone Cologne is described as “stale notes of campfire soot, rain-soaked dampness and earthy moss”.

Having received a box containing Alone Cologne in the Guardian Australia office, we can confirm it has “overwhelming notes of rotten game flesh, which sing in harmony with smoked fish skin, unwashed skin and greasy hair”. It’s a mixture of sweat, halitosis and bodily fluids in the New Zealand wilderness.

It wasn’t until we read the fine print we realised it was not a crazy promotional spin-off product from SBS’s marketing department, it was a crazy social media influencer campaign to spread the message about the show, which debuted on Wednesday.

The clue: “This limited-edition fragrance has been released into the wild to celebrate the premiere of Alone Australia Season 2. It is not available for sale.”

Meta about-face

Some guests at the 22nd annual IT Journalism awards at Doltone House in Sydney on Friday night thought it was a little odd that Meta was one of the major sponsors.

After all, hadn’t Facebook’s parent company declared it would not enter into new deals to fund journalism, kicking off a fight with the Albanese government that could see the company designated under the news media bargaining code.

Presenting an award at the event, Meta’s head of communications, Joanna Stevens, acknowledged the elephant in the room.

“I just want to say it’s really a great privilege to be part of tonight,” Stevens said. “Despite what you may have read recently we really do value great journalism. And we’re really proud to be associated with tonight and we really do think that everyone here does a fantastic job.”

Her glowing assessment of the relationship between Facebook and the media certainly isn’t reflected in most of the coverage of late. The Australian and the Australian Financial Review have declared Meta is at war with the media and the Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a “tech tyrant”.

Another major sponsor, Optus, also acknowledged that its 2022 data breach and November 2023 national outage, while bad news for the company, had been a great source of news for tech reporters.

Guardian Australia’s investigations reporter Ariel Bogle picked up two awards for her reporting, including best news journalist and best technology issues journalist.

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Russian police detain journalist who filmed last video of Alexei Navalny alive

Rights groups say Antonina Favorskaya is accused of links to Alexei Navalny’s ‘extremist organisation’ and is one of six journalists held this month

A journalist who filmed the last video of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny before he died, Antonina Favorskaya, has been detained by authorities.

Favorskaya covered the trials of Navalny for several years and media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday she was one of six journalists across the country held this month.

Russian authorities detained Favorskaya late on Wednesday and accused her of taking part in an “extremist organisation” by posting on the social media platforms of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Russian human rights group OVD-Info said.

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, said that Favorskaya didn’t publish anything on the foundation’s platforms and suggested that Russian authorities targeted her because she was doing her job as a journalist.

Navalny died in an Arctic penal colony in February.

OVD-Info said that Favorskaya was initially detained on 17 March after laying flowers on Navalny’s grave.

She spent 10 days in jail after being accused of disobedience towards the police, but when that period of detention ended, authorities charged her again and ordered her to appear on Friday in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, OVD-Info said.

She is one of several Russian journalists targeted by authorities as part of a sweeping crackdown against dissent in Russia.

Two other journalists, Alexandra Astakhova and Anastasia Musatova, were also temporarily detained after they came to meet Favorskaya in the detention centre where she was being held, Reporters Without Borders said.

Ekaterina Anikievich, of the Russian news site SOTAvision, and Konstantin Yarov from RusNews, were also detained by police while covering the search of Favorskaya’s home.

Yarov told RusNews that he was beaten while in custody: “They kicked me, put a foot on my head, twisted my fingers, mocked me when I tried to get up, demanded to show my rucksack as if it might contain explosives.”

In Ufa, 1,300km (800 miles) east of Moscow, Russian authorities detained Olga Komleva, a reporter for RusNews, on Wednesday.

They also accused her of extremism and involvement with Navalny and his organisation, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has been designated an extremist organisation by Russian authorities, which means that people associated with it can face prison sentences.

With Associated Press and AFP

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Russian police detain journalist who filmed last video of Alexei Navalny alive

Rights groups say Antonina Favorskaya is accused of links to Alexei Navalny’s ‘extremist organisation’ and is one of six journalists held this month

A journalist who filmed the last video of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny before he died, Antonina Favorskaya, has been detained by authorities.

Favorskaya covered the trials of Navalny for several years and media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday she was one of six journalists across the country held this month.

Russian authorities detained Favorskaya late on Wednesday and accused her of taking part in an “extremist organisation” by posting on the social media platforms of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Russian human rights group OVD-Info said.

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, said that Favorskaya didn’t publish anything on the foundation’s platforms and suggested that Russian authorities targeted her because she was doing her job as a journalist.

Navalny died in an Arctic penal colony in February.

OVD-Info said that Favorskaya was initially detained on 17 March after laying flowers on Navalny’s grave.

She spent 10 days in jail after being accused of disobedience towards the police, but when that period of detention ended, authorities charged her again and ordered her to appear on Friday in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, OVD-Info said.

She is one of several Russian journalists targeted by authorities as part of a sweeping crackdown against dissent in Russia.

Two other journalists, Alexandra Astakhova and Anastasia Musatova, were also temporarily detained after they came to meet Favorskaya in the detention centre where she was being held, Reporters Without Borders said.

Ekaterina Anikievich, of the Russian news site SOTAvision, and Konstantin Yarov from RusNews, were also detained by police while covering the search of Favorskaya’s home.

Yarov told RusNews that he was beaten while in custody: “They kicked me, put a foot on my head, twisted my fingers, mocked me when I tried to get up, demanded to show my rucksack as if it might contain explosives.”

In Ufa, 1,300km (800 miles) east of Moscow, Russian authorities detained Olga Komleva, a reporter for RusNews, on Wednesday.

They also accused her of extremism and involvement with Navalny and his organisation, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has been designated an extremist organisation by Russian authorities, which means that people associated with it can face prison sentences.

With Associated Press and AFP

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‘A lot of question marks’: $70m renewable-energy microgrid project divides Daintree

The financial viability of the government-subsided scheme in the world heritage-listed area is just one of its many unknowns

There are some mixed feelings in the Daintree community in far north Queensland about building a renewable-energy microgrid.

The 8MW solar farm with a 20MW battery and a 1MW clean hydrogen plant was pushed through parliament weeks before the 2022 election by the Morrison government with the promise of it providing renewable power by 2024.

The federal MP for Liechhardt, Warren Entsch, who has been championing the Daintree microgrid project for several years, was instrumental in brokering the deal with Scott Morrison, then prime minister, as an election sweetener.

“This project is rock solid, it will save some 4 million litres of diesel being burnt a year … and when they lay the power lines, they will also put down fibre optic cables so it will improve communications in the area as well,” Entsch tells Guardian Australia.

However, access to the Daintree is still limited in the aftermath of Cyclone Jasper in December, and final costings, deadlines and investors for the originally estimated $70m microgrid are all uncertain.

Daintree resident Doug Quarry and environmentalist and former Daintree resident Mike Berwick had three freedom of information applications to the Australian government refused in full or in part, seeking documentation relating to the decision to award $18.75m to Volt Advisory Group to build the proposed microgrid.

A response in February from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) said the FOI request was refused “on the basis that all reasonable steps have been taken to locate the document/s requested and I am satisfied that they cannot be located or do not exist”.

Berwick questions whether the Morrison government undertook a proper tender process before awarding Volt Advisory the grant. “This amounts to government-subsidised development with no demonstrable conservation dividend in one of the world’s rarest and most irreplaceable ecosystems, where conservation investment should be a priority.”

Berwick was a conservation activist in the Daintree blockade in the early 80s – the protests that eventually led to the region becoming listed as a world heritage area. He later became mayor of the Douglas Shire from 1991 to 2008, and has sat on various scientific, agricultural and waste management boards, committees and advisory bodies.

“There is much that could be done for conservation and presentation with that kind of money – public education, buy back, ecosystem restoration, conservation grants and covenants, weed and pest management – all desperately needed both in the wet tropics world heritage area and in the rest of forest, all recently listed as endangered,” Berwick says.

In 2019 the Queensland government’s KPMG report on the viability of a microgrid in the Daintree concluded it “presents numerous technical and commercial risks and is likely to be financially unviable without significant upfront and ongoing government support”.

The report recommended an alternative that “enhancements could be made to residents existing SPS [stand alone systems]”.

Ecologist Dr Hugh Spencer, a long-time Daintree resident, established the Cape Tribulation tropical research station in 1988 in the wake of the 1984 Daintree blockade. He says that initially a microgrid sounded like a good idea, but this proposal “just didn’t stack up”.

“One important point is interconnectivity. There is no opportunity for feed in from existing standalone power systems … Then there are lots of restrictions once you do connect.”

The minister for climate change and energy, Chris Bowen, did not respond to Guardian Australia’s queries of whether the KPMG report had been considered, but a DCCEEW spokesperson says that “Volt Advisory has commenced work on detailed design and approvals” and that “after a careful examination, the delegate for the minister of the environment and water has determined that the proposed Daintree microgrid project will not require further federal environmental assessment”.

North Queensland senator Nita Green tells Guardian Australia: “To date, $1.55 million of the $18.75 million has been released to Volt Advisory Group, with the remaining funds to be paid across multiple deliverables.”

Third-generation Daintree resident Lawrence Mason burns through some 700 litres of diesel a week to run a shop, a cafe and a tour company in the region.

“The KPMG report in no way addressed my power needs or problems,” Mason says. “It was a typical governmental report written with an outcome in mind. As far as I know, no businesses here were consulted at all.”

Mason says the microgrid “represents an awesome opportunity for us to pool our power together and use one power source, which is way more efficient than the way we get power now”.

He says the people opposing it who were instead suggesting subsidising standalone systems “have very, very minimal power requirements”.

“For me, though, I’m running a busy cafe, I’ve got three cold rooms,” he says.

“The fact that people are opposing a renewable microgrid without a solution to the massive amounts of diesel that are burned here is just ludicrous.”

In July last year Volt Advisory Group received its permit for a section of network traversing through a part of the Wet Tropics world heritage area, and last September the project received an individual exemption from the Australian energy regulator.

The Douglas Shire council development application was approved in February.

Richard Schoenemann, director of Volt Advisory, says it has been developing the project for the past seven years. “There have been many meetings, including many one-on-one discussions with members of the community,” he says.

“The general consensus from residents and businesses is that they are sick of one survey after another and just want a system that works.”

Schoenemann says the grid will provide power at a lower rate than Ergon Energy Retail, but that “final pricing will be set after revised construction costs post-disaster [Cyclone Jasper] are known”.

Jabalbina, the registered native title body corporate of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji lands, which include the Daintree national park, “sees the Daintree microgrid as a positive”, says the CEO, Josh Paterson. The traditional owners’ group is “pursuing options that will see the Jabalbina and Yalanji poeople as equity partners” in the project alongside Volt Advisory.

“We are confident the project will respect the cultural landscape and contribute to the ongoing protection of the environmental values of our bubu [land],” Paterson says.

Living in the Daintree since 2015, Jeremy Blockey operates the Cape Trib Farm with his family, a tropical fruit business that also provides accommodation for tourists.

“I’m a supporter of the microgrid concept – why wouldn’t our green shire want to promote the iconic Daintree as a leader in renewable energy?” he says.

“But at the moment, there are a lot of question marks around the viability of this project, and the fact that it’s gone on for so long and we still don’t have an identified investor.

“So if this project is all signed, sealed and delivered, why have we been waiting for four years for that investment to come forward?”

Blockey has concerns over the microgrid’s long-term financially viability.

“If the facilities fade away into company administration, what happens then? Will the state government be forced to step in? We could all be hung out to dry with no power, having decommissioned our individual power plants, solar, diesel or otherwise,” he says.

“To me that seems to be a high-risk strategy. Let’s have some detail and transparency around the financial viability before we lock the gen-shed door and throw the key away.”

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Crystal Mason: Texas woman sentenced to five years over voting error acquitted

Appeals court rules Mason, now 49, did not know she was ineligible when she voted in 2016 and throws out conviction

A Texas appeals court has thrown out a five-year prison sentence for Crystal Mason, a Texas woman who was sentenced for trying to cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election that was rejected.

Mason, now 49, attempted to vote in Fort Worth in the 2016 even though she was ineligible because she was still on supervised release – which is like probation – for a tax felony. She has always maintained she had no idea she was ineligible and only tried to cast a ballot because her mother urged her to.

A judge convicted her in a 2018 trial that lasted just a few hours.

Mason’s case became well known nationally and struck a chord as an example of an egregious punishment for a voting mistake. Many saw it as a thinly veiled effort to intimidate Black voters.

In 2022, Texas’s highest criminal court told a lower appellate court it had to reconsider a ruling upholding Mason’s conviction. On Thursday, that court said there was not sufficient evidence Mason knew she was ineligible to vote.

Justice Wade Birdwell wrote for the court in its Thursday ruling: “We conclude that the quantum of the evidence presented in this case is insufficient to support the conclusion that Mason actually realized that she voted knowing that she was ineligible to do so and, therefore, insufficient to support her conviction for illegal voting.”

Mason, who has remained out of prison on an appeal bond, said in a telephone interview on Thursday evening that she received the news while going through a drive-through and became emotional. “I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no other citizen has to face what I’ve faced and endured for the past seven years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack,” she added.

Although Mason was not particularly involved in politics before her case, she has since become much more engaged in raising awareness about voting rights. In 2022, she opened a rally for Beto O’Rourke.

A key piece of evidence in the case was testimony from the head poll worker, Mason’s neighbor, who assisted her with filling out the provisional ballot. Before submitting it, he said he went over an affidavit with her in which she had to affirm she was not serving a criminal sentence. The affidavit is poorly designed – it crams an admonition in both English and Spanish in relatively small print on one side, and requires the voter to fill out information on the other.

Mason signed the affidavit, but says she never understood that it meant she could not vote. The court on Thursday agreed there was not sufficient evidence to show she “actually realized” the affidavit meant she could not vote.

Alison Grinter Allen, one of her lawyers, said: “Crystal has gone through so much, and all of Texas owes her a great debt of gratitude. Through eight years, never once did she stop fighting, never once did she take her eyes off of the fact that this case was about every single voter in Texas.”

Despite her acquittal, the case has taken a significant toll on Mason and her family.

After Mason was arrested in 2017, she lost her job at a bank. She was also sent back to federal prison for several months for being arrested while on probation for a federal crime. During that time, she almost lost her home to foreclosure.

“Although I’ve cried for seven years straight, seven nights a week … I’ve also prayed for seven years straight, seven nights a week. Prayed that I would remain a free black woman,” she said in a statement.

“I am overjoyed to see my faith rewarded today.”

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  • Russian missile and drone attacks overnight damaged Ukrainian thermal and hydro power plants, electricity grid operator Ukrenergo said on Friday. There were emergency shutdowns in the south-eastern Dnipropetrovsk region. The Dnipropetrovsk governor, Serhii Lysak, said “critical infrastructure” was bombed and a man taken to hospital. Explosions were heard in Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmelnytskyi regions and the city of Dnipro after Russian cruise missiles were spotted, national media outlet Suspilne reported.

  • Poland scrambled planes as Ukraine came under missile attack on Friday morning, the Polish defence force said. The operational command said Polish and allied aircraft were activated due to “intense activity of long-range aviation of the Russian Federation” related to missile strikes against targets in Ukraine.

  • A Russian SU-35 Flanker fighter jet has crashed into the sea off Sevastopol, Crimea. Footage online showed a jet on fire, spiralling into the ocean and exploding. The Russian-installed governor of the illegally occupied region, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said on Thursday the pilot ejected and was picked up by rescuers but gave no details as to the cause of the crash.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, told the speaker of the US House of Representatives during a phone call on Thursday that it was vital for Congress to pass a new military aid package for Ukraine. Mike Johnson, the speaker, has held up a bill for months that would supply $60bn in military and financial aid.
    “We recognise that there are differing views in the House of Representatives on how to proceed, but the key is to keep the issue of aid to Ukraine as a unifying factor,” Zelenskiy said.

  • Zelenskiy said he briefed Johnson about the situation on the battlefield and also spoke about “the dramatic increase in Russia’s air terror”. The Ukrainian military later said that its top commander, Oleksander Syrskyi, spoke to the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Charles Brown, about battlefield issues.

  • Zelenskiy, in a CBS interview, has warned that Vladimir Putin will push Russia’s war “very quickly” on to Nato soil unless he is stopped in Ukraine. Zelenskiy acknowledged that his troops are not prepared to defend against another imminent major Russian offensive, and highlighted the urgency for American Patriot missile defence systems and more artillery.

  • The US is telling American companies making and selling parts that can be used in missiles and drones to stop shipping their goods to more than 600 foreign parties who might divert them to Russia. The parts have been found in Russian munitions recovered in Ukraine.

  • A Russian court on Thursday sentenced journalist Mikhail Feldman to two years in prison for denouncing Moscow’s full-scale military offensive on Ukraine.

  • Against the backdrop of war in Ukraine, several central and eastern European countries began marking on Thursday the 20th anniversary of the largest expansion of Nato when formerly socialist countries became members.

Bolivian Indigenous groups assert claim to treasure of ‘holy grail of shipwrecks’

Descendants of enslaved miners who dug up gold, silver and emeralds worth billions call on Colombia to halt plan to lift cargo

Indigenous communities in Bolivia have objected to Colombia’s plans to recover the remains of an 18th-century galleon believed to be carrying gold, silver and emeralds worth billions, calling on Spain and Unesco to step in and halt the project.

Colombia hopes to begin recovering artefacts from the wreck of the San José in the coming months but the Caranga, Chicha and Killaka peoples in Bolivia argue that the excavation would rob them of their “common and shared” heritage.

A substantial part of the treasure on board the San José is believed to have been mined by enslaved Indigenous peoples in Bolivia, so Colombia’s plans to lift the remains without consulting the slaves’ descendants would violate international law, the communities said in a letter to Unesco this week.

“Not having our consent, our participation and without taking into account how it will impact the present and future of our communities is irresponsible and contrary to justice,” they wrote.

“We do not have the right to forget, and nor do Spain or any of the American republics … have the right to erase or change our memory.”

The San José was carrying an immense bounty of gold, silver and emeralds from Latin America back to Spain in 1708 when it was sunk by a British fleet off the coast of Cartagena.

Since the wreck was located 600 metres (nearly 2,000ft) underwater in 2015, the discovery has been mired in international legal disputes including an ongoing case in The Hague.

Colombia, Spain and a US salvage company all lay claim to the wreck – which has been dubbed the “holy grail of shipwrecks” –and its cargo, thought to be worth as much as $17bn (£13bn).

The Colombian government announced in February that it would soon begin exploring the shipwreck and eventually hopes to build a museum dedicated to the 150ft (46-metre) vessel.

The government has put aside $7.3m for the first exploration phase which will require hi-tech robots to scour the seabed.

But the Bolivian Indigenous communities argue that Colombia does not have the right to explore the San José without including the descendants of those who mined the precious metals which went into the treasures onboard.

Much of the San José’s cargo is believed to have been dug up from the Potosí mines in southern Bolivia, making it “shared historical and cultural heritage”, they said.

The Bolivian communities have requested that Spain and Unesco intervene before Colombia can begin unilaterally lifting the remains of the wreck from the seabed.

“The memory of our people is attached to those remains that rest on those sunken ships, in a way that we do not choose, as one of the peoples who gave their work and their own history to work in the mines of Cerro Rico de Potosí,” the letter reads.

The Potosí mines were the largest in the world and an economic engine of the Spanish empire. Historians believe that before the mountains were stripped bare of the precious metal they were the source of more than half of the world’s silver.

The riches were dug up by Indigenous and African slaves then carried on llamas to the coast and transported to Europe on Spanish treasure fleets such as the San José to fund colonial wars.

“We think that extracting important fragments from that era from the bottom of the ocean is like discovering an island, and on that island live our memories and the objects that the work of our ancestors created,” the three Indigenous Bolivian groups said.

The director of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, Alhena Caicedo, recently told the Guardian that, in accordance with Unesco’s requests, the country would not sell any precious artefacts recovered.

The exclusion of Indigenous communities in the discussion of the fate of the San José was “inexplicable”, said José Mario Lancho, a lawyer in Madrid representing the three Bolivian groups.

“We have enough rights, enough historical experience and I want to believe enough morals to be able to accept and accommodate the claims of those communities …intervening in the site without the consent of these people would be a form of plunder,” he told the Guardian.

Spain and Colombia were missing out on a “a historic opportunity” for reconciliation, he added.

Should the Colombian government lift any elements from the San José and use them for profit, even if they are placed in a museum, Indigenous communities should be paid “fair compensation for the use of our cultural legacy”, the Bolivian communities argued in their letter.

The Colombian ministry for culture did not comment on the letter but said that it had invited another Indigenous community, the Qhara Qhara, to participate in its plans to explore the ship’s remains.

While the Caranga, Chicha and Killaka lay claim to the San José’s treasure on the grounds that their ancestors were forced to dig up and process the silver, the Qhara Qhara lay claim to the archaeological treasures through their rights to the land.

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Girl, 10, ‘left inoperable’ after planned NHS surgery cancelled seven times

Eva Tennent, whose operations were scheduled in Edinburgh, has Rett syndrome and advanced scoliosis

A 10-year-old girl’s spinal condition has become inoperable after her planned surgery was cancelled seven times in six months, her mother has claimed.

Eva Tennent suffers from Rett syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects brain development, and has advanced scoliosis that causes her spine to twist and curve to the side.

The curvature of her spine was 60.89 degrees in May 2022, went up to 107.9 degrees last year and is now at 110 degrees, her mother, Jill Lockhart, told BBC News.

Lockhart said her daughter had surgery planned seven times since September last year, but each time it had been cancelled.

She claimed three of her operations at Edinburgh Royal hospital for children and young people (RHCYP) were postponed due to staff shortages, while the most recent cancellations were down to her daughter’s poor respiratory health, which she alleged was a result of the delay in operating. She was most recently set for surgery on 28 March.

Lockhart told the BBC: “She was deemed operable in September, October and November – and they were only cancelled because of bed and nurse shortages.

“They have left it so long, and now they are saying it’s too late. It feels like my daughter’s chances of survival have been sacrificed.”

“We were told last week that the operation could go ahead. Now, we’re being told she’s inoperable and I can’t get a proper explanation from the hospital why this situation has changed so quickly.

“If Eva had this operation, she could live for another 15 to 30 years with her condition. Without it, she may die.”

Last year, a BBC Disclosure investigation into NHS Scotland revealed claims that nursing shortages at the Edinburgh RHCYP were contributing to some children waiting up to three times longer than pre-pandemic for spinal surgery.

Tracey Gillies, the medical director of NHS Lothian, said: “We do not comment on individual members of staff. If a clinician was not to be at work for any reason, patients and their families would be told if it impacted on their care and their case would be reassigned to another surgeon, as soon as possible – particularly if it was time sensitive.

“In cases of a specialist service, it can often be necessary to link in with the closest centre to ensure the patient is care for appropriately. NHS Lothian has provided the Scottish National Spinal Service since 2005 and we continue to work closely with National Services Scotland.

“We do not discuss individual patients without their consent and we would urge any patients and their families to contact us directly to discuss their concerns and questions about their care.

“We do know that rescheduling elective procedures can be very upsetting for our patients and their families. We apologise sincerely to those who have been affected, especially those who have been rescheduled a number of times.

“We have been open and honest about the significant pressures being experienced across our entire healthcare system and their negative impact on elective procedures and waiting times.”

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