The Guardian 2024-04-25 16:01:45


Harvey Weinstein: New York court overturns 2020 rape conviction

Court rules judge who oversaw landmark trial was mistaken in allowing women whose accusations were not part of case to testify

The disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 conviction on sex crimes was overturned by a New York appeals court on Thursday.

In a 4-3 decision, the state of New York court of appeals ruled that the judge who oversaw Weinstein’s 2020 conviction prejudiced the ex-movie mogul with “egregious” improper rulings and was mistaken in allowing other women whose accusations were not a part of the 2020 case to testify.

“[Weinstein] was convicted by a jury for various sexual crimes against three named complainants and, on appeal, claims that he was judged, not on the conduct for which he was indicted, but on irrelevant, prejudicial, and untested allegations of prior bad acts,” read Thursday’s decision.

“We conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes … the remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial,” the decision continued.

In a striking dissent, Judge Madeline Singas accused the ruling majority of “whitewashing the facts to conform to a he-said/she-said narrative”, adding that the appeals court was participating in a “disturbing trend of overturning juries’ guilty verdicts in cases involving sexual violence”.

“The majority’s determination perpetuates outdated notions of sexual violence and allows predators to escape accountability,” Singas wrote.

In a separate dissenting opinion, Judge Anthony Cannataro called the ruling a “unfortunate step backwards” and credited the original decision as correcting the false belief that sexual assault occurs with a “the stereotypical stranger in a dark alley who isolates his victim or waits for her to be alone before launching a violent assault”.

Prosecutors in the firestorm case that kicked off the #MeToo movement must determine whether they will retry Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2020 for two sex crimes: forcing oral sex on a production assistant in 2006 as well as rape in the third degree of an actor in 2013.

He will remain imprisoned because he was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Weinstein was acquitted in Los Angeles on charges involving one of the women who testified in New York.

Weinstein’s attorneys previously attempted to get his rape conviction overturned in 2022 by a New York appellate court, arguing that the testimonies from women not apart of the criminal case prejudiced the judge. But the five-judge panel upheld the original decision.

The latest state court of appeals ruling reopens a painful chapter in America’s reckoning with sexual misconduct by powerful figures – an era that began in 2017 with a flood of allegations against Weinstein. His accusers could again be forced to relive their traumas on the witness stand.

Survivors of Weinstein shared their disappointment and outrage at the latest ruling. The actor Ashley Judd, one of the first people to publicly share allegations against Weinstein, told the New York Times: “That’s really hard for the survivors … We still live in our truth. And we know what happened.”

Advocacy groups have also condemned the appeals’ decision. In a statement, the Silence Breakers, a group of people who publicly called out Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, called the ruling “profoundly unjust” but added that it did not diminish the testimony of survivors.

“The man found guilty continues to serve time in a California prison. When survivors everywhere broke their silence in 2017, the world changed. We continue to stand strong and advocate for that change. We will continue to fight for justice for survivors everywhere,” the group said.

Weinstein’s attorney Arthur Aidala applauded the decision as “not just a victory for Mr Weinstein, but for every criminal defendant in the state of New York, and we compliment the court of appeals for upholding the most basic principles that a criminal defendant should have in a trial”, in remarks to the New York Times.

The overturning of Weinstein’s rape conviction is not the first time the decision of a milestone sexual abuse case has been reversed.

In 2021, Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out the sexual assault conviction of Bill Cosby on a legal technicality, after discovering an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented the actor from being charged in the case.

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Westfield security guards in Victoria say they requested additional protection months before mass Bondi stabbing

A Scentre Group spokesperson says the company has started providing Westfield staff with protective vests and will increase protection if review deems it necessary

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Westfield security guards in Victoria have claimed that their requests for more protection were not acted on in the months before the mass stabbing at Bondi Junction, while a union official has accused the retail giant of prioritising its brand image over their safety.

Two security guards based in Melbourne who either currently or previously worked in Westfield centres told Guardian Australia they asked for greater safety equipment as early as August last year but no steps were taken by their local centres, the parent company or their security employers.

Security staff in Westfield shopping centres are typically employed by security providers, which hold contracts with Westfield’s parent company Scentre Group, rather than working directly for Westfield. Both the workers Guardian Australia spoke to say they raised their concerns with Westfield centres and their security providers.

The New South Wales government recently announced a review of regulations for shopping centre security after the death of security guard Faraz Tahir and the injury of his colleague Muhammad Taha at Westfield Bondi Junction.

Helal Jawadi, a former security manager at Westfield Airport West in Melbourne, said last year after a series of violent incidents, including two knife threats, he repeatedly requested higher staff numbers and protective equipment, including stab-proof vests, body cameras and voice recorders.

But his requests for additional protective equipment were rebuffed by his centre’s management because it was “not the Westfield look”, he said.

“I gave them a couple of ideas, but Westfield won’t allow it, budget won’t allow it – even with a knife incident,” he alleged.

“Eventually, I just realised that it wasn’t going anywhere with all the complaints that I put in.”

Jawadi said he was told his centre’s management sent his requests up to Westfield’s parent company Scentre Group, but he heard nothing subsequently. Guardian Australia could not independently verify that Scentre had been informed of the requests.

He also said he raised his concerns with his employer, security provider Assetlink, but was told his requests were Scentre’s responsibility. In response to questions sent by Guardian Australia, Assetlink responded that it considered the claims to be serious and would investigate.

Jawadi said safety concerns and what he felt were dismissive attitudes to staff complaints had pushed him to resign.

“To them, we’re literally just the number that does the job for them,” he said.

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Knife threats and attacks in shopping centres have risen in recent years, according to the security industry’s peak body, Australian Security Industry Association Limited.

While safety fears have soared after Bondi’s stabbing and a machete fight in Victoria’s Woodgrove shopping centre last week, the Victorian Security Union said guards have been on alert since August last year, when a Westfield guard on Queensland’s Gold Coast was stabbed.

“The frontline workers knew that this was coming, and Westfield have put their head in the sand,” the VicSU secretary, Robert Szuhan, said.

“The Scentre group and managers in general are more concerned with the brand image of the shopping centres themselves than they are about the safety and concerns of security workers.”

A security worker at a different Westfield in Melbourne, speaking anonymously to protect their ongoing employment, claimed repeated requests since August for stab-proof vests were also met with silence.

VicSU said its members working in Westfield centres feared losing their jobs if they complained about limited access to protective equipment, thanks to the industry’s precarious contracting arrangements and casual workforce.

“Our members are often too concerned with how they will be treated after they raise their concerns … that they will be moved off site, rather than be listened to, and that they might be out of a job,” Szuhan said.

Guardian Australia understands Scentre Group is not aware of any formal requests from service providers for increased staffing or equipment.

A Scentre Group spokesperson said the company had started providing Westfield staff with protective vests and would increase protection for security guards if deemed necessary after a review.

“We are fully supportive of the security review the NSW premier has announced and will be participating in it,” the spokesperson said.

“Our security work in close cooperation with law enforcement to contribute to a safe environment.

“We are reviewing all aspects of security protective equipment and are supportive of increased protection for guards as is deemed necessary.

“Security team members at Westfield Bondi are wearing protective vests and we’re working with our service providers to provide these to our teams expeditiously, across the Westfield portfolio.”

Scentre’s chief executive, Elliott Rusanow, said last week the company had increased the number of security workers across Westfield sites.

The NSW government is considering giving security guards more powers and equipment.

“There are tough restrictions in place, both as to the power to detain as well as equipment that’s used by private security guards, so we’re looking at that closely,” the premier, Chris Minns, told ABC News Radio last week.

The premier’s office declined to comment further, but the premier has previously ruled out increasing guards’ access to stun guns or firearms.

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Before the special counsel’s office began presenting its case, Neil Gorsuch, a conservative justice, pondered whether rejecting Donald Trump’s claim of immunity would cause presidents to preemptively pardon themselves, in fear that a successor could decide to prosecute them.

“What would happen if presidents were under fear, fear that their successors would criminally prosecute them for their acts in office,” asked Gorsuch, who Trump appointed, in an exchange with his attorney John Sauer.

“It seems to me like one of the incentives that might be created as for presidents to try to pardon themselves,” Gorsuch continued, adding, “We’ve never answered whether a president can do that. Happily, it’s never been presented to us.”

“And if the doctrine of immunity remains in place that’s likely to remain the case,” Sauer replied.

Trump’s lawyer went on to argue that a finding against his immunity claim would weaken all future presidents:

The real concern here is, is there going to be bold and fearless action? Is the president going to have to make a controversial decision where his political opponents are going to come after him the minute he leaves office? Is that going to unduly deter, or is that going to dampen the ardor of that president to do what our constitutional structure demands of him or her, which is bold and fearless action in the face of controversy?

“And perhaps, if he feels he has to, he’ll pardon himself every four years from now on,” Gorsuch pondered.

“But that, as the court pointed out, wouldn’t provide the security because the legality of that is something that’s never been addressed,” Sauer replied.

US supreme court hears arguments on Trump presidential immunity case

The former president claims immunity in his federal election subversion case – is the court indulging his bid for a delay?

The US supreme court is hearing oral arguments in Donald Trump v United States, the former president’s appeal in his federal election subversion case, in which he claims presidents are immune from prosecution for acts committed in office.

In briefs to the court, lawyers for Trump said “a denial of criminal immunity would incapacitate every future president”.

Jack Smith, the special counsel who indicted Trump on four counts related to his attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden in 2020, argued: “Presidents are not above the law.”

Constitutional law experts overwhelmingly side with Smith. Nonetheless, as Trump seeks to delay all four of his criminal cases, in the hope he might regain power and have them dismissed, the six rightwingers and three liberals on the supreme court will give his immunity claim a hearing.

Trump appointed three of those rightwingers. That and his apparent desire to govern with impunity should he be re-elected have fueled alarm over whether the court is indulging his bid for delay.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and author of The Supermajority: How the Supreme Court Divided America, is among those who have dismissed Trump’s argument – and excoriated the court for even appearing to entertain it.

In a recent newsletter, Waldman pointed to the opening of Trump’s first criminal trial in New York this week, concerning hush-money payments to women claiming affairs.

“Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg is a serious prosecutor, and this is a serious prosecution,” Waldman wrote. “But it wasn’t supposed to be the first.

“That was supposed to be the federal trial, originally scheduled to start 4 March, about Trump’s drive to overthrow the 2020 election and block the peaceful transfer of power” – culminating in the deadly attack on Congress of 6 January 2021.

“Trump claims he is immune from prosecution as an ex-president. That’s a nonsensical argument, one the justices could have quickly dispatched. Instead, they have stalled.”

The Brennan Center participated in an amicus brief in which leading constitutional historians show how presidents have never been placed above the law.

“No plausible historical case supports [Trump’s] claim,” the brief says, pointing to how supreme courts have moved with speed on questions of presidential immunity at key moments in US history, including the Watergate scandal, the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the contested election of 2000.

Waldman wrote: “In US v Nixon in 1974, the court took just two weeks to rule that the president had to turn over his Oval Office tapes. Two weeks after that, [Richard] Nixon resigned [to be pardoned by Gerald Ford]. In 2000, Bush v Gore [over who won the presidential election in Florida, and thus the White House] took three whole days to resolve.”

In the Clinton case, in 2001, the president agreed a deal to avoid indictment.

Regardless of its ruling in the Trump case, Waldman said, the supreme court had now “given Donald Trump what he craved most: time.

“Smith first asked for the justices to get involved last December. Instead, they stayed their hand, and the DC circuit court of appeals unanimously ruled against Trump” in early February.

“Rather than affirming that ruling, or unfreezing the trial, the court [said in late February it would] hear the case on the very last day set for oral arguments this term, 25 April. All the while they purr that they are acting in an ‘expedited’ manner.

“Voters have a right to know if they are being asked to elect someone who is guilty of the most serious crimes that a president could commit against democracy itself. Indeed, that’s the very argument Trump made when he asked the court to quickly rule that a Colorado court could not bar him from the ballot” under the 14th amendment, a ruling the court supplied in early March, a month after oral arguments.

In the immunity case, Waldman said, “the justices have already done great damage.

“They engineered one of history’s most egregious political interventions – not with an ugly ruling, at least not yet, but by getting ‘the slows’. At the very least they should issue this ruling in three weeks. That would give trial judge Tanya Chutkan enough time to start the trial [before the election], if barely.”

In their amicus brief, the historians who reject Trump’s immunity claim cite the words of one of the first supreme court justices. In July 1788, in an address to the North Carolina convention that ratified the constitution, James Iredell said: “If [the president] commits any crime, he is punishable by the laws of his country.”

Waldman put it slightly more grandly, though still invoking the revolution in which Iredell played his part: “In our nation, the law must still be king. And presidents cannot be cloaked in the immunity of monarchs.”

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Rightwing US website that spreads election conspiracies declares bankruptcy

Gateway Pundit, run by Jim Hoft, is being sued for defamation by Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss and others

The Gateway Pundit, a rightwing website known for spreading election conspiracies, will declare bankruptcy as it faces lawsuits for defamation.

The site’s parent company, TGP Communications, will file for bankruptcy in Florida “as a result of the progressive liberal lawfare attacks against our media outlet”, founder Jim Hoft wrote on the website.

Those lawsuits include one from the Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who sued the organization in Missouri, where it is based, after the website perpetuated false claims that the two had been involved in election fraud in Georgia.

In a separate case, Freeman and Moss secured a $148m judgment against Rudy Giuliani for spreading election lies about them and defaming them. After the verdict, the former New York City mayor and Trump attorney filed for bankruptcy, complicating whether or how Freeman and Moss can get paid.

The Gateway Pundit also faces a suit in Colorado from a former Dominion Voting Systems employee, Eric Coomer, who alleges the outlet defamed him by claiming he rigged the election against Trump.

Election offices have faced waves of harassing messages after Gateway Pundit stories have been published, often targeting staff members with threatening and abusive language.

The defamation lawsuits are one strategy pro-democracy groups, private companies and individuals are using to attempt to hold people and organizations accountable for spreading election lies, especially ones that cause harm to people like Freeman, Moss and Coomer. Those on the defense often refer to these lawsuits as “lawfare”.

Hoft said that the company seeking bankruptcy protection was “not an admission of fault or culpability”, but instead a way to reorganize and consolidate lawsuits “when attacks are coming from all sides”. The company will be able to put the lawsuits it faces into one court, he wrote.

Even though the Gateway Pundit is based in Missouri, its parent company filed paperwork last week to become a limited liability company in Florida, where the bankruptcy claim was filed.

The Gateway Pundit said in its bankruptcy filing that it had between $500,000 and $1m in assets and between $100,001 and $500,000 in liabilities. A list of its 20 largest creditors contained mostly anonymous individuals.

RonNell Andersen Jones, a first amendment scholar at the University of Utah, said that maneuvering to declare bankruptcy showed the challenges of using defamation law to try and hold those who spread misinformation accountable.

“It seems to be an increasingly common maneuver for outlets accused of widespread libelous disinformation to declare bankruptcy in an effort to avoid or delay defamation damages,” she said. “Bankruptcy after trial is frustrating to defamation plaintiffs because it robs them of the chance to quickly and fully recover for their loss. Bankruptcy before trial is surely all the more frustrating.

“These moves keep us from being able to use libel law as a public truth-finding mechanism,” she added. “The goal here seems clear: for the defamer to essentially make itself judgment-proof rather than facing the libel trial and the potentially staggering consequences for the lie.”

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Environment groups accuse MasterChef of greenwashing after gas sponsorship deals unveiled

Channel Ten show’s planned use of biomethane and hydrogen in cooking challenges ‘completely out of sync’ with changing attitudes, critics say

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Environmentalists have accused the hit reality TV show MasterChef Australia of greenwashing after the Network Ten program announced sponsorship deals with gas companies.

The official sponsors for MasterChef’s 16th season include the Australian Gas Network (AGN), a subsidiary of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, which is responsible for a national fossil fuel distribution network.

The deal was revealed at the season launch on Monday. Gas industry representatives and Paramount, Network Ten’s owner, said the show would use open flame cooktops that run on biomethane in general competition and compete in a barbecue challenge on grills that use hydrogen. The cooking equipment is supplied by Jemena, which owns gas pipelines and distribution networks, and AGN.

Biomethane is created from organic waste such as human or animal waste or food. It otherwise has the same properties as fossil gas, but proponents argue it is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels because it is releasing carbon that is already in the biological cycle, and has not been extracted from the ground.

The hydrogen used on MasterChef is “grey hydrogen” made using gas through a process known as steam methane reforming, and also leads to emissions into the atmosphere. A MasterChef Australia website said the emissions would be offset by buying carbon credits. It said renewable hydrogen, which has zero emissions, was “intended for use in future seasons”.

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Conservation groups including Environment Victoria and the Climate and Health Alliance said they had written to MasterChef Australia urging them to switch to induction cooktops, a step taken by MasterChef programs in the UK, Italy, Denmark, and Spain.

Environment Victoria’s climate campaign manager, Joy Toose, said the gas sponsorship deal “only helps to greenwash the gas industry and create a false impression that biomethane and hydrogen are good replacements for methane gas”.

“Australian Gas Networks have been peddling these gases as solutions to replace methane gas in an attempt to protect their massive profits – but in reality they can’t do the job,” she said.

Toose said the MasterChef deal was “completely out of sync” with changing attitudes to gas, particularly in Victoria where the program is filmed. The Victorian government has banned gas connections in new homes on climate and health grounds.

“MasterChef is uniquely positioned to influence Australia’s cultural landscape as the nation’s most successful cooking program. It should be promoting healthier electric induction cooking that protects our kids’ health rather than peddling the gas industry’s false solutions,” she said.

“We know that neither biomethane nor hydrogen are credible solutions to our gas problem and both are still harmful to human health.”

Alison Reeve, the Grattan Institute’s climate change and energy deputy program director, said the sponsorship was “disappointing” and that the gas industry’s shift to saying people could use lower-emissions forms of gas was a tactic to encourage the use of its infrastructure.

She said lower-emission gases such as biomethane and hydrogen “at best” kept carbon dioxide levels consistent with current levels, but did not reduce them. They were also not economically competitive with electricity or fossil fuel gas, she said.

Ben Ewald from Doctors for the Environment said a gas cooktop was worse for health than clean electricity as it increased the risk of child asthma by 42%.

Advertisements run during MasterChef said “renewable gas” was a “part of the big picture” for Australia’s energy transition. “See it in action on MasterChef Australia,” the advertisements said.

In a joint statement, Network Ten and Endemol Shine Australia, which produces MasterChef Australia, said the show had used gas and “this season we’ve been able to use biomethane, a renewable gas made from organic waste”.

A spokesperson for AGN said “millions of Australians love gas”, and it was “providing biomethane and hydrogen to practically demonstrate that customers can continue to cook the way they know and love with a low carbon solution that can be delivered by existing gas networks to support Australia’s transition to net zero”.

“This means Australian customers from households to large industry can retain the choice of an energy fuel that suits their needs with fewer emissions than natural gas,” it said.

The viability of delivering pure hydrogen for domestic use through existing infrastructure is as yet unproven, with a number of trials of the technology in the UK being abandoned due to either lack of supply, consumer fears or other barriers.

The president of Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association of Australia, Ross Jamieson, applauded the sponsorship. He said it showed that “carbon-renewable gas has a strong future in Australia as we transition to a net zero economy”.

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Environment groups accuse MasterChef of greenwashing after gas sponsorship deals unveiled

Channel Ten show’s planned use of biomethane and hydrogen in cooking challenges ‘completely out of sync’ with changing attitudes, critics say

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

Environmentalists have accused the hit reality TV show MasterChef Australia of greenwashing after the Network Ten program announced sponsorship deals with gas companies.

The official sponsors for MasterChef’s 16th season include the Australian Gas Network (AGN), a subsidiary of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, which is responsible for a national fossil fuel distribution network.

The deal was revealed at the season launch on Monday. Gas industry representatives and Paramount, Network Ten’s owner, said the show would use open flame cooktops that run on biomethane in general competition and compete in a barbecue challenge on grills that use hydrogen. The cooking equipment is supplied by Jemena, which owns gas pipelines and distribution networks, and AGN.

Biomethane is created from organic waste such as human or animal waste or food. It otherwise has the same properties as fossil gas, but proponents argue it is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels because it is releasing carbon that is already in the biological cycle, and has not been extracted from the ground.

The hydrogen used on MasterChef is “grey hydrogen” made using gas through a process known as steam methane reforming, and also leads to emissions into the atmosphere. A MasterChef Australia website said the emissions would be offset by buying carbon credits. It said renewable hydrogen, which has zero emissions, was “intended for use in future seasons”.

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Conservation groups including Environment Victoria and the Climate and Health Alliance said they had written to MasterChef Australia urging them to switch to induction cooktops, a step taken by MasterChef programs in the UK, Italy, Denmark, and Spain.

Environment Victoria’s climate campaign manager, Joy Toose, said the gas sponsorship deal “only helps to greenwash the gas industry and create a false impression that biomethane and hydrogen are good replacements for methane gas”.

“Australian Gas Networks have been peddling these gases as solutions to replace methane gas in an attempt to protect their massive profits – but in reality they can’t do the job,” she said.

Toose said the MasterChef deal was “completely out of sync” with changing attitudes to gas, particularly in Victoria where the program is filmed. The Victorian government has banned gas connections in new homes on climate and health grounds.

“MasterChef is uniquely positioned to influence Australia’s cultural landscape as the nation’s most successful cooking program. It should be promoting healthier electric induction cooking that protects our kids’ health rather than peddling the gas industry’s false solutions,” she said.

“We know that neither biomethane nor hydrogen are credible solutions to our gas problem and both are still harmful to human health.”

Alison Reeve, the Grattan Institute’s climate change and energy deputy program director, said the sponsorship was “disappointing” and that the gas industry’s shift to saying people could use lower-emissions forms of gas was a tactic to encourage the use of its infrastructure.

She said lower-emission gases such as biomethane and hydrogen “at best” kept carbon dioxide levels consistent with current levels, but did not reduce them. They were also not economically competitive with electricity or fossil fuel gas, she said.

Ben Ewald from Doctors for the Environment said a gas cooktop was worse for health than clean electricity as it increased the risk of child asthma by 42%.

Advertisements run during MasterChef said “renewable gas” was a “part of the big picture” for Australia’s energy transition. “See it in action on MasterChef Australia,” the advertisements said.

In a joint statement, Network Ten and Endemol Shine Australia, which produces MasterChef Australia, said the show had used gas and “this season we’ve been able to use biomethane, a renewable gas made from organic waste”.

A spokesperson for AGN said “millions of Australians love gas”, and it was “providing biomethane and hydrogen to practically demonstrate that customers can continue to cook the way they know and love with a low carbon solution that can be delivered by existing gas networks to support Australia’s transition to net zero”.

“This means Australian customers from households to large industry can retain the choice of an energy fuel that suits their needs with fewer emissions than natural gas,” it said.

The viability of delivering pure hydrogen for domestic use through existing infrastructure is as yet unproven, with a number of trials of the technology in the UK being abandoned due to either lack of supply, consumer fears or other barriers.

The president of Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association of Australia, Ross Jamieson, applauded the sponsorship. He said it showed that “carbon-renewable gas has a strong future in Australia as we transition to a net zero economy”.

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When asked why AMI paid Karen McDougal, David Pecker paused for a few second.

We purchased the story so it wouldn’t be published by any other organization.

When asked to clarify, Pecker said, reiterated:

We didn’t want this story to embarrass Mr Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign” – ‘we’ being ‘myself and Michael Cohen.’

Stock markets fall after sharp US growth slowdown

Commerce department says gross domestic product growth decelerated to 1.6% at start of year as consumers slowed spending

America’s leading stock indices came under pressure on Thursday after official data revealed that US economic growth slowed sharply to its weakest rate in almost two years.

But as high interest rates take their toll on the world’s largest economy, inflation continues to loom large.

The Dow Jones industrial average had fallen 1.8% by late morning in New York. The S&P 500 dropped 1.5%. The technology-focused Nasdaq declined 1.9%.

Gross domestic product increased at an annualized rate of 1.6% in the first quarter, significantly short of the 2.4% rate expected by economists.

But a closely watched measure of inflation also rose faster than anticipated, raising questions about the Federal Reserve’s next steps in its fight to bring down price growth.

The so-called “core” personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index – which strips out volatile food and energy costs – rose 3.7% in the first three months of the year, according to a report published by the commerce department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The same measure rose by 2% in the last quarter of 2023. While economists had expected an acceleration, the reading was higher than the average 3.4% forecast.

Inflation has been easing in the US, with unemployment remaining low and growth largely resilient, raising hopes that the Fed will guide the world’s largest economy to a so-called “soft landing”, where price growth normalizes and recession is avoided.

But Thursday’s data on the first quarter – with growth fading, and inflation on the rise – will test this confidence.

“Q1’s sluggish increase in GDP likely sets the tone for the rest of 2024,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, predicting that core PCE inflation “will rise at an annualized rate much closer to 2%” over the next few months.

The first quarter’s core inflation reading could “spook the Fed a little”, said Ryan Sweet, chief US economist at Oxford Economics. “The core PCE deflator rose 3.7% at an annualized rate in Q1, nearly double the clip seen in each of the prior two quarters and stronger than either we or the consensus anticipated.”

While inflation has slowed dramatically since peaking at its highest level in a generation two summers ago, prices still remain far higher than where they stood before the pandemic.

The economy is at the heart of this year’s presidential election campaign, as voters mull whether they felt better off under Joe Biden, or the Trump administration.

“The landing is, and will be, soft,” Biden declared during his State of the Union address last month. “It takes time, but the American people are beginning to feel it. Consumer studies show consumer confidence is soaring.”

But Donald Trump, who is fighting to regain the presidency in November, has claimed inflation is “killing America” under Biden.

On Thursday Janet Yellen, Biden’s treasury secretary, told Reuters that the US economy “continues to perform very, very well”, describing the latest growth as “peculiar, but not concerning”.

Associated Press contributed reporting

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Peter Dutton backs Elon Musk and contradicts Sussan Ley on ‘silly’ demand for global removal of stabbing footage

The opposition leader says Australia ‘can’t be the internet police of the world’ amid dispute between the eSafety commissioner and X over Wakeley stabbing content removal

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The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has labelled the eSafety commissioner’s demands for the global removal of footage of the alleged Wakeley stabbing as “silly”, a comment that appears to put him at odds with his deputy, Sussan Ley.

In an interview on Thursday, Dutton appeared to side with Elon Musk on a key part of the government’s dispute with X over online video of the incident, saying Australia “can’t be the internet police of the world” and that federal law should not influence what content can be seen overseas.

Dutton was scathing of the actions of X, Facebook and other big tech platforms, claiming they were “distributing child pornography and allowing groups to share videos of children being raped”. But on a key question in the federal court proceedings between the eSafety commissioner and X, as to whether the Australian regulator’s orders can apply globally, Dutton appeared to back Musk’s stance.

“We can have a say about what images are online here in our country, we can’t influence what happens elsewhere in the world. I think it’s silly to try that,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.

“We can’t be the internet police of the world, I know the prime minister’s trying that at the moment,” he said.

“If we have a situation where you’ve got a cleric being stabbed, and that’s inciting violence, the law is very clear about the ability to take that down – but I don’t think the law extends to other countries, nor should it.”

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Dutton faces a Coalition party room which includes vocal supporters of Musk and opponents of the eSafety ruling. The LNP senator Matt Canavan claimed on Wednesday “the PM has launched a useless and ineffective jihad against a video that MORE people have seen because of his over the top reaction”.

But Ley said she was “disappointed” in Musk and backed the eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, “100%”.

“I’m for X obeying the law, and I’m not for the actions and the statements of our eSafety commissioner being ignored,” Ley said.

The Sky News Australia host Peter Stefanovic said: “But he [Musk] argues that’s fine if you want to mute it here, but we should have no rights to be able to tell X what to do in its own country or other countries beyond our borders.”

Ley responded: “That’s patently ridiculous, of course we should.”

On Monday, the federal court ordered Musk’s X to hide posts containing videos of the Sydney church stabbing from users globally, after the eSafety commissioner sought an injunction. The Australian federal police told the court of fears the video could be used to encourage people to join a terrorist organisation or undertake a terrorist act.

On Wednesday, the court extended the interim injunction, ordering the posts be hidden from view until 5pm on 10 May 2024, ahead of another injunction hearing.

X and Musk have raised concerns about the global order. X’s legal representative, Marcus Hoyne, told the court on Wednesday there were significant legal issues to do with eSafety’s powers over content overseas.

The eSafety commissioner claimed some of the tweets in question were able to be viewed using a virtual private network connection, suggesting many were still accessible from other countries.

An X spokesperson said on Wednesday: “X is in compliance with Australian law, has restricted all the relevant content in Australia and is removing any content that praises or celebrates the attacks.”

Musk posted this week that “no president, prime minister or judge has authority over all of Earth! This platform adheres to the laws of countries in those countries, but it would be improper to extend one country’s rulings to other countries”.

“Our concern is that if ANY country is allowed to censor content for ALL countries, which is what the Australian “eSafety Commissar” is demanding, then what is to stop any country from controlling the entire Internet?”

Asked on 2GB about the standards accepted on social media, Dutton said online platforms should be held to the same laws that apply offline, raising issues about defamation and discrimination, and adding the owners of said platforms must “act in a responsible way”.

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Peter Dutton backs Elon Musk and contradicts Sussan Ley on ‘silly’ demand for global removal of stabbing footage

The opposition leader says Australia ‘can’t be the internet police of the world’ amid dispute between the eSafety commissioner and X over Wakeley stabbing content removal

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The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has labelled the eSafety commissioner’s demands for the global removal of footage of the alleged Wakeley stabbing as “silly”, a comment that appears to put him at odds with his deputy, Sussan Ley.

In an interview on Thursday, Dutton appeared to side with Elon Musk on a key part of the government’s dispute with X over online video of the incident, saying Australia “can’t be the internet police of the world” and that federal law should not influence what content can be seen overseas.

Dutton was scathing of the actions of X, Facebook and other big tech platforms, claiming they were “distributing child pornography and allowing groups to share videos of children being raped”. But on a key question in the federal court proceedings between the eSafety commissioner and X, as to whether the Australian regulator’s orders can apply globally, Dutton appeared to back Musk’s stance.

“We can have a say about what images are online here in our country, we can’t influence what happens elsewhere in the world. I think it’s silly to try that,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.

“We can’t be the internet police of the world, I know the prime minister’s trying that at the moment,” he said.

“If we have a situation where you’ve got a cleric being stabbed, and that’s inciting violence, the law is very clear about the ability to take that down – but I don’t think the law extends to other countries, nor should it.”

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Dutton faces a Coalition party room which includes vocal supporters of Musk and opponents of the eSafety ruling. The LNP senator Matt Canavan claimed on Wednesday “the PM has launched a useless and ineffective jihad against a video that MORE people have seen because of his over the top reaction”.

But Ley said she was “disappointed” in Musk and backed the eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, “100%”.

“I’m for X obeying the law, and I’m not for the actions and the statements of our eSafety commissioner being ignored,” Ley said.

The Sky News Australia host Peter Stefanovic said: “But he [Musk] argues that’s fine if you want to mute it here, but we should have no rights to be able to tell X what to do in its own country or other countries beyond our borders.”

Ley responded: “That’s patently ridiculous, of course we should.”

On Monday, the federal court ordered Musk’s X to hide posts containing videos of the Sydney church stabbing from users globally, after the eSafety commissioner sought an injunction. The Australian federal police told the court of fears the video could be used to encourage people to join a terrorist organisation or undertake a terrorist act.

On Wednesday, the court extended the interim injunction, ordering the posts be hidden from view until 5pm on 10 May 2024, ahead of another injunction hearing.

X and Musk have raised concerns about the global order. X’s legal representative, Marcus Hoyne, told the court on Wednesday there were significant legal issues to do with eSafety’s powers over content overseas.

The eSafety commissioner claimed some of the tweets in question were able to be viewed using a virtual private network connection, suggesting many were still accessible from other countries.

An X spokesperson said on Wednesday: “X is in compliance with Australian law, has restricted all the relevant content in Australia and is removing any content that praises or celebrates the attacks.”

Musk posted this week that “no president, prime minister or judge has authority over all of Earth! This platform adheres to the laws of countries in those countries, but it would be improper to extend one country’s rulings to other countries”.

“Our concern is that if ANY country is allowed to censor content for ALL countries, which is what the Australian “eSafety Commissar” is demanding, then what is to stop any country from controlling the entire Internet?”

Asked on 2GB about the standards accepted on social media, Dutton said online platforms should be held to the same laws that apply offline, raising issues about defamation and discrimination, and adding the owners of said platforms must “act in a responsible way”.

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Tanya Plibersek rejects claims renewable projects are being held up by approval delays

The environment minister says she is approving windfarms at the fastest rate in history amid industry concerns about an ‘alarming’ slowdown

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Tanya Plibersek has said she is approving windfarms faster than any previous environment minister, rejecting industry claims the sector faces deteriorating investment conditions and lengthening delays.

Renewable energy firms have raised concerns that securing environmental approval is becoming more difficult, particularly for wind. Challenges are unlikely to ease soon, given the government’s recent decision to postpone conservation law reforms until after the next election, putting at risk emissions reduction goals, they say.

However, Plibersek denied her department’s handling of proposals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act was hampering the industry’s advance.

“I am approving onshore wind projects at the fastest rates in Australian history,” she told Guardian Australia. “On average, the Labor government is approving onshore wind projects up to three times quicker than the previous Liberal and National governments.

“I have ticked off enough renewable energy projects to power almost 3m homes – that includes three huge new windfarms that will power 623,000 homes,” Plibersek said. “It’s important that we support renewable energy projects, but it has to be the right kind of development, in the right place, done in the right way.”

Precise comparisons between governments are difficult since Plibersek inherited many projects from her predecessor, Sussan Ley.

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Industry analysis supplied to Guardian Australia indicates 10 onshore windfarms won environment department approval during Plibersek’s 23 months in office, requiring an average of 112 weeks from application to decision.

Over a similar stint at the end of the Morrison government, Ley’s department approved at least 10 windfarms, raising doubts approvals were getting ticked off three times faster as Plibersek has claimed, one senior industry official said.

Simon Corbell, the chief executive of the Clean Energy Investor Group, said the approval process was stacked against developers. Additional information requests, for instance, “stopped the clock” but routinely added years to the procedure.

“We’re aware of multiple projects owned by our members which have been in the EPBC process for several years,” Corbell said. It was common for firms to get multiple requests for further information, such as requiring additional ecological surveys, that added years to the process.

“In one case I’m aware of, several years later, [a developer got] another one, which again resulted in a further stop-the-clock decision,” he said. “Right now, the EPBC legislation is one of the biggest issues for our sector.”

A chorus of concern has been building about the pace of construction and connection of new wind and solar plants in Australia.

The Clean Energy Council last month warned of an “alarming” slowdown in new projects securing final investment signoff, quite apart from environmental or planning approval. All up, $1.5bn was secured for new renewable projects in 2023 – less than a quarter of the $6.5bn tally for 2022 – with no windfarms among them.

Over the past five years, about 1.3 gigawatts of windfarms has been approved on average annually. That tally, though, is only about a third of the 4.3GW needed to be installed each year if the government’s 2030 target of powering the grid with 82% renewables is to be reached, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

The government has sought to turbo-charge development with its capacity investment scheme (CIS) that will guarantee a floor and ceiling price for generation. The energy minister, Chris Bowen, on Monday announced the first CIS auction for 6GW of new renewables – the single largest such tender in Australian history.

Corbell said stresses on the approval process were “only going to increase once the CIS starts to roll out”.

“You’re going to have projects that are contracted or provided with a degree of underwriting support [that] potentially still need to progress through federal environmental approvals or state planning agreements,” he said. “So that’s going to be really significant pressure.”

Plibersek said environmental approval decisions would accelerate for renewables and critical minerals projects after her department secured a $100m spending increase.

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Australia’s skilled mechanics shortage forcing insurers to write off electric vehicles after minor accidents

Lack of parts and outdated laws also contributing to long repair wait times and ballooning premiums

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Electric vehicles are routinely being written off after minor accidents, as a shortage of skilled mechanics and parts, as well as outdated laws, leads Australian insurers to scrap EVs prematurely instead of repairing them.

Despite the scarcity of supply that has plagued the local market in recent years, in part due to the lack of a fuel-efficiency standard, the financial reality of insuring EVs is continuing to consign them to scrap yards while inflating premiums for owners.

Multiple factors – mostly related to complications to do with the vehicles’ batteries – are leading insurers to more readily scrap EVs compared with a conventional petrol version suffering the same damage in a collision.

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The relative infancy of Australia’s EV repairing capability is one key factor, according to Matt Hobbs, CEO of the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA).

“When you look at the need to upskill the industry, we’ve got a problem and we’ve had one for a while,” Hobbs said.

Even minor repairs require a mechanic who has undertaken autoelectrician training to work on a battery or its case.

“It’s not necessarily obvious on any car what the damage is underneath,” Hobbs said. “Now when you’ve got a 400 volt battery and you’re looking under a panel … you need to depower the battery, remove it, then re-energise it … to safely work an EV.”

Hobbs said it costed between $5,000-$7,000 to upskill a mechanic to repaid electric vehicles in Australia. The MTAA is hoping for changes to the government’s new energy apprenticeship program, including easing requirements, to ensure the skills deficit is addressed.

Roughly one in 10 repairers in Australia are certified to service EVs, according to data from the Australian Automotive Service and Repair Authority.

In the United Kingdom, where a similar proportion of mechanics are qualified to work on EVs, seemingly simple crashes are causing complete write-offs, Bloomberg reported one insurer saying last week.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) acknowledged insurers were forced to make similar decisions locally.

The shortage of mechanics not only balloons wait times, but in some instances EVs have to be transported long distances to the closest repair facility, adding costs, the ICA said.

Additionally, there is a shortage of locally held spare parts, particularly for vehicles and brands that are newer to the market, which prolongs repair times. Local laws also make it illegal to repair EVs in various conditions.

An insurance industry source said insurers had seen cases of scratched battery packs where the cells inside were likely undamaged. But the vehicle would still need to be written off if it could not be seen by a trained mechanic who could access the diagnostic data.

Behyad Jafari, the Electric Vehicle Council chief executive, said that up until recently, laws governing vehicle repair in some states were even more severe.

“In early regulations, almost any crash would result in an electric car being written off due to the issue of the battery,” he said.

He said EV industry groups and insurers had worked with regulators in recent years to broaden the scope of when an EV can be repaired.

The Electric Vehicle Council says the laws are too prescriptive and it believes mechanics and insurers should have more scope to repair in more circumstances.

An ICA spokesperson said the group was also calling for the “reform of laws governing written off vehicles to enable more vehicles to be safely repaired instead of scrapped, including EVs”.

The ICA said insurance premiums for electric vehicles were being inflated due to complications around batteries and repairs, as well as the fact that EVs generally cost more to buy.

But the EV industry remains frustrated by those increased premiums because, in general, EVs that are not involved in a crash are likely to require considerably less servicing over its lifetime.

Danny Martin, an industry analyst at IBISWorld, said EVs cost on average 18% more to insure than an internal combustion engine counterpart.

“Sometimes damage to electric vehicle batteries can be almost prohibitively complex and in some cases it’s too expensive to fix – they might need to scrap the car from a financial perspective,” Martin said.

Steven Du, the NSW representative for the Tesla Owners Club of Australia and NSW vice-chair of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, said the wait for repairs was improving.

“A few years ago, a repair after a crash was taking a couple of months, but now they can be quite speedy,” he said, acknowledging the experience can be faster for Teslas given their market share and availability of parts.

He said EV owners were acutely aware of premature write-offs and the need for upskilling mechanics to improve repairs and bring down premiums.

“If we do nothing about it we’ll remain with crippled cars,” Du said.

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Road not taken: the moment Andrew Giles passed on chance to shut down detention court case

FoI documents show immigration minister refused to grant a visa or release NZYQ into community detention before Five Eyes allies rejected request for deportation

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Andrew Giles closed off an avenue to avoid the high court case on indefinite detention before the Australian government made a failed attempt to head off defeat by deporting the plaintiff, a new document reveals.

A submission to the immigration minister, released under freedom of information, shows that on 18 September Giles refused to give NZYQ a visa or release him into community detention, nine days before the government approached its Five Eyes allies to deport him.

The government lost the high court challenge in November, resulting in the release of more than 150 immigration detainees.

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In November Guardian Australia revealed that on 26 May the government considered releasing the man at the centre of the case “in light of [the] litigation risk” that his challenge would overturn a 20-year-old precedent on the legality of indefinite detention.

The second stage submission, cleared by the department on 27 August, shows this remained a live option as late as mid-September.

The document is heavily redacted and reveals little about the minister’s reasons. It notes NZYQ’s criminal history, that he “was convicted of one child sex offence and served three years and four months” in prison, and sex offender counselling had been arranged for him.

On 31 May, at the initial stages of the case, the commonwealth had conceded it was impossible to deport NZYQ, a stateless Rohingyan man who had pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old boy.

But on 29 August the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, met senior departmental officials, ordering them to progress all avenues to deport NZYQ, including asking the Five Eyes allies to take him, later summarised by an official as a “no stone unturned” approach.

The Albanese government had changed course, seeking to either end the challenge by removing NZYQ or to distinguish his case from the precedent of Al Kateb by arguing that it was not impossible to deport him.

On 14 September Giles’ office was asked if he was comfortable with the approaches to the Five Eyes. A staffer confirmed he was on 16 September.

Giles signed the submission on 18 September, declining to intervene by granting NZYQ a visa, a move which would have shut down his court challenge. The department had asked for a response by 30 September.

According to documents in the NZYQ court file, despite O’Neil’s order of 29 August it was not until 27 September that the home affairs department emailed regional directors seeking their assistance contacting Five Eyes officials to discuss removing NZYQ.

Rejections flowed within days, with officials responsible in the high commissions to the UK and New Zealand relaying their negative response on 28 September, and an email on 1 October indicating the Canadian immigration department’s response was “as close to a ‘no’ as we are likely to receive”.

The US promised to take a “hard look” at NZYQ’s case, which the commonwealth used to argue at the 8 November hearing that it was still possible the plaintiff could be deported. It was unsuccessful.

The high court ruled there was “no real prospect of the removal of the plaintiff from Australia becoming practicable in the reasonably foreseeable future” and that detention is unconstitutional in those circumstances.

The shadow immigration minister, Dan Tehan, said “once again this highlights how poorly the government handled this issue from start to finish”.

“Clare O’Neil needs to answer why it took a month for her department to approach Five Eyes countries after having made the decision to do so. Andrew Giles also needs to answer the question: why did he cut off a possible option to keep Australia’s ability to detain people before all avenues had been exhausted to remove NZYQ from the country?”

A government spokesperson said: “These documents make it clear the government took every step to prevent the release of these individuals.”

“Community safety has always been our top priority and we continue to take all possible steps to remove people from Australia.”

In November O’Neil said the government had been “advised that it was likely that the commonwealth would win the case”. The minister later clarified that she had not been referring to legal advice, but was instead referring to operational advice about the prospects of removing the plaintiff.

Earlier in April Guardian Australia revealed that Giles was warned of legal “risks” associated with immigration detention within months of Labor’s election, including a need for his department to be able to show “concrete and robust steps” to deport some non-citizens.

A spokesperson for Giles and O’Neil said at that time: “At no stage has the opposition been able to identify an action they would have taken which would have resulted in a different outcome.”

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A way to make a livin’: Jennifer Aniston set for 9 to 5 reboot

Aniston’s production company will reportedly reimagine the hit 1980 Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton comedy about sexism in the workplace – with a script by Diablo Cody

Jennifer Aniston’s production company, Echo Films, are to reimagine classic comedy 9 to 5 for a modern day audience, according to reports. The script is being written by Juno and Young Adult writer Diablo Cody.

No plot details have yet been revealed, but the 1980 original centred on three female colleagues in an office who team up to take revenge on their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” boss. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman starred in the film, which was scripted by Patricia Resnick with Colin Higgins, who also directed. It was based on an idea by Fonda, who commissioned the film as a vehicle for herself and Tomlin before bringing Parton on board.

The film made over $100m and helped launch the acting career of Parton – whose theme song of the same name went to No 1 in the US for a fortnight and became one of the biggest tracks of the decade. The film spawned a five-series spinoff TV show, and a stage musical, featuring new songs by Parton, which opened on Broadway in 2009.

It also loosely inspired the 2011 film Horrible Bosses, which featured Aniston as the abusive boss of Charlie Day’s dental nurse, whom he attempts to have murdered. Aniston also collaborated with Parton on 2018’s Dumplin, for which they co-sang the song Push and Pull.

Since then, Aniston has starred in only two movies, 2019’s Murder Mystery and its 2023 sequel, both opposite Adam Sandler and for Netflix. She has also been seen in Apple TV’s The Morning Show.

A possible sequel to 9 to 5 featuring the three original leads had been mooted since the early 1980s, but was finally dropped in 2019. Three years later they appeared together in the final episode of Grace and Frankie.

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