The Guardian 2024-05-14 16:02:27


Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked: “In early 2018, did you receive a letter, a complaint letter, from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about your $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”

Michael Cohen said “I did.” He got a lawyer to help him in the matter.

Who paid for his representation? Cohen says the Trump Organization.

Cohen read aloud a 8 February 2018 message from his lawyers in the FEC matter responding to the commission’s complaint letter.

In a private transaction in 2016, before the US presidential election, Mr Cohen used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of 130,000 to Ms Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly.

Was it true or false? “It’s a true statement but it’s deceptive, misleading.”

Why? “It was neither the Trump Organization nor campaign – it was either the Trump Revocable Trust or Trump himself.”

Did you intend for it to be misleading? “Yes ma’am.” Why?

In order to protect Mr Trump, to stay on message, in order to demonstrate loyalty.

Federal Liberals charging up to $2,000 for budget fundraisers within Parliament House

Plans by MPs to host drinks event are criticised as ‘bad form’, while Labor holds events at Realm Hotel and National Press Club

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Federal Liberal MPs are charging between $1,000 and $2,000 for a ticket to budget-reply fundraising events within Parliament House despite rules outlawing the practice years earlier.

Helen Haines, a crossbencher who has been instrumental in pushing for the ban on political fundraisers within the building, said she was “shocked” to learn MPs had managed to find a loophole.

Guardian Australia understands the House presiding officer, Speaker Milton Dick, was not made aware of the fundraisers because they are being held in private offices rather than in public areas of the building. A spokesperson from the Speaker’s office reminded “all members that Parliament House isn’t an appropriate place for political fundraising”.

“The dignity of Parliament House must always be maintained in line with the Australian public’s expectation,” the spokesperson said.

The federal budget is big business for the major political parties, with both Labor and the Liberals fundraising off the back of the annual event.

NSW Liberal MPs including Sussan Ley, Angus Taylor, Paul Fletcher and Julian Leeser are hosting drinks in the parliament, followed by a dinner at Old Parliament House following the budget-in-reply speech by opposition leader Peter Dutton on Thursday. Tickets for the event are being sold for between $1,000 and $2,000.

The event is described as a “private cocktail-style event” with “grazing boards and drinks served” ahead of Dutton’s budget response.

Registration includes a “complimentary” ticket to watch the opposition leader deliver his speech in the House of Representatives gallery, which is a free event.

The events are being advertised separately by the NSW Liberal branch, after the Labor government banned political fundraising events in the “bookable” areas of Parliament House in October 2022. That included public areas such as the Great Hall and function rooms but does not cover parliamentarian offices or the rooms reserved for political parties’ use in the taxpayer-funded building.

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A spokesperson for Ley, the most senior Liberal hosting an event, said “all events that the deputy leader of the opposition hosts comply with fundraising rules, regulations and guidelines and this event is no different”.

Haines, who has been running a campaign to bring more transparency to political fundraisers, described it as “bad form”.

“I think that the Speaker of the House made a set of rules in regard to fundraising in what is the people’s House,” she said.

“And yes, this is not in the public area. It’s in the members’ room as I understand. But when you make rules, it’s not just about the rule. It’s about the spirit of the rule. And I think this is really in breach of the spirit of what the Speaker has tried to do.”

Labor is holding its own fundraisers off the back of the budget, with events to be held outside Parliament House at the nearby Realm Hotel and the National Press Club. A dinner to be attended by the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, at the Labor Business Forum event at Realm had tickets for $5,000 a head, while the NPC event went for $1,500 a head.

The events are under the disclosure threshold for declaration, which Haines said should be lowered to ensure transparency.

“For me this goes to political donations reform more broadly and around what we consider a political donation and, in my view, a ticket for access to see the treasurer or a senior minister or a member of government at $1,000 a head means that an everyday Australian can’t come buy that access,” she said.

“And, to me, that’s the problem with this and these are below the declarable thresholds so the general public never know really how much access is purchased through these cosy dinners.

“Have the dinner if you want to have a dinner but it should be declarable … the Labor party talk a big game on this but I think they need to get real on this when it comes to these dinners and things as well.”

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Israeli tanks reach residential areas as IDF pushes further into Rafah

Witnesses report clashes in streets after seeing tanks cross strategically important Salah al-Din road

Israeli tanks have advanced further into eastern Rafah, reaching some residential districts of the southern border city in Gaza.

Witnesses reported seeing tanks crossing the strategically important Salah al-Din road into the Brazil and Jneina neighbourhoods.

“They are in the streets inside the built-up area and there are clashes,” one person told Reuters.

A UN official said the most advanced Israeli positions were about 2km from his office.

Hamas’s armed wing said it had destroyed an Israeli troop carrier with a missile in the eastern al-Salam neighbourhood, killing some crew members and wounding others. The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the unconfirmed report.

In a roundup of its activities, the IDF said its forces had eliminated “several armed terrorist” cells in close-quarter fighting on the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. In the east of the city, it said it had also destroyed militant cells and a launch post from where missiles were being fired at IDF troops.

Between 360,000 and 500,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah in the past week after Israeli warnings to evacuate eastern and central neighbourhoods before assaults that look set to open a bloody new phase of the war.

In the north of the territory, where Israeli troops launched a series of operations over the weekend, there were reports of the most intense battles for many weeks, forcing another 100,000 to flee after receiving instructions from the Israeli military.

Israel’s international allies and aid groups have repeatedly urged against a ground incursion into Rafah, warning of a potential humanitarian catastrophe. The US recently blocked a shipment of heavy bombs to Israel that might have been used in the operation.

In recent days, roads heading north and west have been choked with cars, trucks, trolleys and pony carts laden with people and their possessions moving towards an “expanded humanitarian zone” on the coast.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has so far rejected US pressure to hold off on a full-scale attack on the city, despite Washington’s threats to further restrict arms deliveries.

Medics reported heavy air activity over Rafah, with the constant sound of drones overflying streets as thousands of displaced people and residents continued to dismantle shelters, stalls and other makeshift structures.

Witnesses reported that roads were much emptier than previous days in Rafah on Tuesday, though those heading west to the “expanded humanitarian zone” designated by the IDF were still very congested.

The fighting has forced many big aid organisations to shut down or cut operations across Gaza, amid increasingly acute shortages of fuel, food and clean water.

Health officials said they had received a consignment of emergency fuel and that healthcare was being prioritised over other services, meaning the few remaining hospitals in Rafah have a enough fuel to maintain reduced services for about six days.

Medical stocks in most facilities in Rafah were sufficient to last “a month”, UN officials said last week.

Dr James Smith, a British medic working in Gaza, said the Rafah crossing point was “completely unrecognisable”, with significant destruction following its seizure by the IDF last week. .

“There was nothing but dust and sand … The only thing I could discern was the archway that marks the entrance to the Rafah crossing, otherwise everything else destroyed beyond recognition,” Smith said in a voice note. The crossing was a key route for aid into Gaza and the only place individuals could enter or leave the territory.

The risks to aid workers in Gaza were again made clear when a UN vehicle on Monday came under fire in Rafah, resulting in the death of a member of the organisation’s department of safety and security and the injury of another as they were travelling to the European hospital.

A spokesperson for the UN said the secretary general, António Guterres, was “deeply saddened” and condemned all attacks on UN personnel and called for a full investigation.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, said he received a call at about 12.30pm from “a colleague saying there had been an explosion on the vehicle she was travelling in”.

“She said she was injured and the man who was with her had died,” De Domenico, who is now in Rafah, said. “We tried to reassure her and get her to explain where she was. Eventually, we were able to locate the vehicle thanks to GPS. The car was on a deserted road, very close to the combat zones. The road was strewn with debris.”

De Domenico said the woman was found a short distance from the vehicle, which his colleagues have been unable to retrieve.

In a separate development on Tuesday, the international court of justicesaid it would hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to discuss emergency measures sought by South Africa over Israel’s attacks on Rafah.

The measures form part of a continuing case South Africa filed at the ICJ in December last year, accusing Israel of violating the genocide convention during its offensive against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law and has called the genocide case baseless.

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Antisemitism in Europe leading some to hide Jewish identity, says leading rabbi

Pinchas Goldschmidt warns ‘situation in the streets’ since 7 October Hamas attack is destabilising societies

A leading rabbi has warned that threats and harassment are leading some Europeans to hide their Jewish identities, cautioning that the rise in antisemitism could destabilise European societies.

Jewish communities across Europe have been grappling with an increase in hate speech, vandalism, harassment and threats since Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza.

“The statistics speak of a rise of hundreds of percentages all over Europe,” said Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, an Orthodox rabbinical alliance.

In an interview with the Guardian in Brussels, Goldschmidt said that “many Jews are trying to hide their Jewishness”. “One of the most asked questions to the rabbis since October 7 is if you can take off the mezuzah [a religious parchment in a case] off your door,” he said, adding: “This says a lot.”

Other precautions some people were taking included wearing hats instead of the traditional kippah in the street and “when they go into Ubers not speaking Hebrew”, the rabbi said.

“There used to be a red line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism,” Goldschmidt said. “We have seen this red line disappear.”

Watchdogs have pointed to a dramatic increase in incidents since October. Rias, which monitors antisemitism in Germany, documented a 320% increase in incidents in the month after 7 October.

The Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) has said that in the three months following Hamas attacks, antisemitic incidents were equivalent in number to those in the previous three years combined.

Asked if he feared that threats and harassment would cross more into the realm of violence, Goldschmidt said: “It never stops with words.”

In recent weeks, Warsaw’s main synagogue was attacked with firebombs and the president of the Belgian union of Jewish students was assaulted in Brussels. Within the Jewish community, there are growing concerns about the safety of students on European campuses.

Emma Hallali, the president of the European Union of Jewish Students, said: “Jewish students on campuses are standing at the frontlines; they are the ones having to face the wave of antisemitic violence amid protests and encampments on campuses.

“Universities are not doing enough to protect Jewish students, with some students leaving the campuses and preferring to work from home.”

Hallali added: “Jewish students will not and should not tolerate nor accept when some students are calling for the death of Jews, excluding them from entering their campuses, or beating them up because they are wearing a star of David, holding an Israeli flag, or speaking Hebrew.”

Goldschmidt, who is the exiled chief rabbi of Moscow and left Russia after refusing to back the invasion of Ukraine, said antisemitism was not only a matter for the Jewish community. “I think that, at the end of the day, this is not a problem of the Jewish community. At the end of the day, this is a major problem for Europe,” he said.

“This situation in the streets is destabilising our societies,” he added, saying he believed ongoing “turbulence” could drive voters away from establishment parties.

Goldschmidt also warned about the impact of misinformation and suggested looking at “who are the beneficiaries of this turbulence, which countries are interested in the weakening of the European project, of democracy in Europe”.

In a message to European leaders, he said: “It is as much your problem as it is our problem.”

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Australian medics staffing new Red Cross hospital in Rafah as Israeli offensive intensifies

Field hospital will be able to provide medical care for about 200 people a day amid spiralling health crisis in Gaza

Australian medical workers are staffing a new Red Cross field hospital established in Rafah, in southern Gaza, as continued hostilities deepen a spiralling health crisis in the territory.

Israeli offensives have intensified in Gaza with witnesses reporting helicopter strikes and street battles in Rafah as hundreds of thousands of people flee intense fighting across the city.

There are now two Australians working at the new 60-bed Red Cross field hospital with three new candidates planned to rotate into the hospital this month.

The newly established field hospital will provide emergency surgical care; obstetric, gynaecological, maternal and newborn care; paediatric care; as well as an outpatient department. It will also have the capacity to provide mass casualty management.

It will be able to provide medical care for approximately 200 people a day.

The population of Rafah swelled from 280,000 to more than 1.5 million people over the initial months of the conflict, as displaced Palestinians fled bombardment and sought sanctuary in Gaza’s south.

But, after a warning from the Israel Defense Forces ahead of its initial attacks on Rafah in the past week, an estimated 500,000 civilians have left the city. Roads heading north and west are described as being choked with cars, trucks, trolleys and pony carts laden with people and their possessions.

There are acute shortages of food, fuel and clean water in Gaza and aid convoys into the territory have been attacked by Israeli settlers.

Gaza’s healthcare has been devastated by the six-month conflict.

According to the World Health Organization, 23 of the 39 hospitals in Gaza are no longer functioning and those that are still operational are overwhelmed by the number of patients, the severity of their health needs, dwindling resources to treat them and displaced people looking for safe shelter.

“Medical staff are faced with people arriving with severe injuries, increasing communicable diseases which could lead to potential outbreaks, and complication related to chronic diseases untreated that should have been treated days earlier,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.

“Amputations are common, as well as acute respiratory infection, gastrointestinal illnesses and skin diseases which are spreading rapidly through displaced communities due to a lack of clean water, sanitation, and access to food.

“Chronic and serious illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, infectious and non-communicable diseases, to name a few, are not receiving the attention they deserve because the priority is to treat the critically wounded.”

The ICRC and the Red Cross national societies of 11 countries – including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland and Japan – are combining to establish and run the field hospital.

The Red Cross field hospital is being set up to support the work of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS). Seventeen PRCS workers have been killed while on duty and a number of facilities have been damaged including Al-Amal and Al Quds hospitals.

The conflict began when Hamas attacked southern Israel on 7 October killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking another 250 hostage. Hamas still holds about 100 people captive and the bodies of another 30.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict began and nearly 8,000 of those are children, according to Palestinian officials.

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Queensland officially drought-free for first time since 2013

Shires in state’s west the last to have drought declarations revoked after heavy rain earlier this year

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Queensland has been declared completely free of drought for the first time in 11 years.

Months of flooding rains have transformed much of the state’s dusty red-earth interior into a network of swollen creeks and rivers awash with green shoots and birdlife.

Diamantina and Bulloo shires, located more than 1000km west of Brisbane in Queensland’s channel country, this month became the last two local government areas to have their drought declarations officially revoked. They had been in drought since 2013.

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Droughts are “burnt into the psyche” of Jo Sheppard, the chief executive of the Queensland Farmers Federation, experiencing many as she grew up on a cattle station in the neighbouring Paroo shire.

“A 10-year drought is incredibly difficult to endure … it takes its toll psychologically, it’s that uncertainty, you have no idea when a drought will end.” Sheppard said.

The state’s drought-free status is cause for celebration, she said. “It’s a rare occurrence and certainly welcome.”

Notwithstanding the state-wide declaration, there are still large pockets of land untouched by significant rainfall. According to the department of agriculture and fisheries, 35 properties across Queensland still hold “individual droughted property” status.

Pat Gibson grazes cattle in the Diamantina shire. Rainfall in January was welcome relief to some of the worst conditions he’d ever seen, but he remains cautious about the years ahead.

“It’s always teetering on the borderline of drought out here,” he said. “It’s central Australia, you’re on the edge of the Simpson desert, you know it’s going to be around the corner.”

In 2015, drought declarations peaked when 88% of Queensland was identified as in drought.

The chair of the Agforce sustainability committee and central Queensland grazier, Mark Collins, said extensive rainfall across much of the state has given many producers “breathing space” to “enjoy the moment”.

Global heating has exacerbated recent droughts in Australia, and is predicted to increase their length and intensity in the future. “We’ll keep adapting as best we can, farmers are innovative,” Collins said. “The cycle of drought and flood is one we are accustomed to.”

The federal government last week pledged $519m over eight years to fund the next stage of the Future Drought Fund, with a greater emphasis on global heating adaptation. The Productivity Commission last year found the fund, introduced by the previous Coalition government in 2019, underspent its annual budget and should focus more on programs with “lasting public benefit”.

Sheppard said farmers are becoming increasingly prepared for drought. “I saw that within my own family in my lifetime … we certainly become a lot more strategic, rather than just hoping that the drought breaks,” she said.

Wangkamahdla woman, Avelina Tarrago, said the rains have had a “spectacular” impact on the landscape.

“The land has been needing that nourishment for a long time,” Tarrago said. “It’s wonderful going out on country after those rains, the bush flowers and foods that come out, it’s phenomenal.”

A fifth-generation grazier in Queensland’s channel country, Stephen Tully, said drought is analogous to the landscape. “It can be this slow cancer that creeps across everything in the landscape, you notice it in the animals, the birds, everything starts to disappear.”

“But when it does rain, the country celebrates, it’s boom and bust, it’s always been like that,” Tully said.

Karen Monaghan, a Wangkangurru Yarluyandi traditional owner from Queensland’s channel country, said drought affects “every crevice” of outback life. Lately she’s been spending her mornings by the Thompson River in central Queensland.

“Usually it’s a dusty creek bed,” Monaghan said. “Now the lilies are up and the birds are going crazy trying to catch small fish.”

“It’s a beautiful sight. It brings you life.”

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Queensland officially drought-free for first time since 2013

Shires in state’s west the last to have drought declarations revoked after heavy rain earlier this year

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter
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Queensland has been declared completely free of drought for the first time in 11 years.

Months of flooding rains have transformed much of the state’s dusty red-earth interior into a network of swollen creeks and rivers awash with green shoots and birdlife.

Diamantina and Bulloo shires, located more than 1000km west of Brisbane in Queensland’s channel country, this month became the last two local government areas to have their drought declarations officially revoked. They had been in drought since 2013.

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Droughts are “burnt into the psyche” of Jo Sheppard, the chief executive of the Queensland Farmers Federation, experiencing many as she grew up on a cattle station in the neighbouring Paroo shire.

“A 10-year drought is incredibly difficult to endure … it takes its toll psychologically, it’s that uncertainty, you have no idea when a drought will end.” Sheppard said.

The state’s drought-free status is cause for celebration, she said. “It’s a rare occurrence and certainly welcome.”

Notwithstanding the state-wide declaration, there are still large pockets of land untouched by significant rainfall. According to the department of agriculture and fisheries, 35 properties across Queensland still hold “individual droughted property” status.

Pat Gibson grazes cattle in the Diamantina shire. Rainfall in January was welcome relief to some of the worst conditions he’d ever seen, but he remains cautious about the years ahead.

“It’s always teetering on the borderline of drought out here,” he said. “It’s central Australia, you’re on the edge of the Simpson desert, you know it’s going to be around the corner.”

In 2015, drought declarations peaked when 88% of Queensland was identified as in drought.

The chair of the Agforce sustainability committee and central Queensland grazier, Mark Collins, said extensive rainfall across much of the state has given many producers “breathing space” to “enjoy the moment”.

Global heating has exacerbated recent droughts in Australia, and is predicted to increase their length and intensity in the future. “We’ll keep adapting as best we can, farmers are innovative,” Collins said. “The cycle of drought and flood is one we are accustomed to.”

The federal government last week pledged $519m over eight years to fund the next stage of the Future Drought Fund, with a greater emphasis on global heating adaptation. The Productivity Commission last year found the fund, introduced by the previous Coalition government in 2019, underspent its annual budget and should focus more on programs with “lasting public benefit”.

Sheppard said farmers are becoming increasingly prepared for drought. “I saw that within my own family in my lifetime … we certainly become a lot more strategic, rather than just hoping that the drought breaks,” she said.

Wangkamahdla woman, Avelina Tarrago, said the rains have had a “spectacular” impact on the landscape.

“The land has been needing that nourishment for a long time,” Tarrago said. “It’s wonderful going out on country after those rains, the bush flowers and foods that come out, it’s phenomenal.”

A fifth-generation grazier in Queensland’s channel country, Stephen Tully, said drought is analogous to the landscape. “It can be this slow cancer that creeps across everything in the landscape, you notice it in the animals, the birds, everything starts to disappear.”

“But when it does rain, the country celebrates, it’s boom and bust, it’s always been like that,” Tully said.

Karen Monaghan, a Wangkangurru Yarluyandi traditional owner from Queensland’s channel country, said drought affects “every crevice” of outback life. Lately she’s been spending her mornings by the Thompson River in central Queensland.

“Usually it’s a dusty creek bed,” Monaghan said. “Now the lilies are up and the birds are going crazy trying to catch small fish.”

“It’s a beautiful sight. It brings you life.”

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Australia put on La Niña watch by Bureau of Meteorology as Pacific sea surface temperatures cool

Weather bureau says there is now a 50/50 chance of La Niña forming this year

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Australia has been placed on La Niña watch by the Bureau of Meteorology with early signs the climate pattern linked to cooler and wetter conditions across most of the country could form later this year.

The bureau said there was now a 50/50 chance of La Niña forming this year with sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific steadily cooling since December.

But the bureau stressed that record high global sea surface temperatures seen between April 2023 and April 2024 meant that past experiences of how conditions in the Pacific could change “may not be reliable”.

Australia’s summers of 2020, 2021 and 2022 were all influenced by La Niña in a rare “triple dip” event, before the system – known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – flipped to the generally warmer and drier El Niño phase last summer.

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The US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week put the chance of a La Niña developing between July and September at 69%.

“Moving to La Niña watch does not mean that the bureau is declaring that a La Niña event is under way,” the bureau said.

Bureau climate manager Dr Karl Braganza stressed the bureau’s long-range forecasts were not dependant on the state of the ENSO cycle.

“The best guidance for future rainfall or temperature forecasts is the bureau’s long-range forecast,” he said.

“The long-range forecast for June to August is showing an increased chance of above average rainfall for parts of eastern Australia, and parts of Western Australia and South Australia.

“There are roughly equal chances of above or below median rainfall for most of eastern Australia, including much of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.”

The current long-range forecast, which will be updated at the end of this month, shows that maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to be warmer than usual across the entire country.

Three of the seven climate models surveyed by the bureau, which includes its own, suggest the Pacific will enter La Niña territory by September.

Another climate “driver” that can influence Australia’s weather – known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) – had been heading towards a positive phase that can see less rainfall and higher temperatures in winter and spring.

But after seven weeks of being in positive territory the development of a positive IOD, which requires thresholds to be met for eight weeks, may now have stalled, the bureau said.

While the bureau’s modelling suggested positive IOD conditions could still develop, the latest forecasts were suggesting a weaker event.

“At this time of year, historical skill of IOD forecasts beyond autumn is low,” the bureau said.

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Victorian law aims to help sexual assault victims report crimes by providing defamation immunity

Exclusive: government hopes proposed law will encourage people to come forward to police without fear of legal action

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Victims of sexual assault and harassment will be immune to defamation lawsuits for reporting crimes to Victorian police under new legislation to end concerns that the threat of legal action was having a “chilling effect” on people coming forward.

The state government is set to introduce the justice legislation amendment (integrity, defamation and other matters) bill on Wednesday, which will also make it easier to gather evidence in family violence matters.

If passed, it will extend the existing defamation defence of absolute privilege to reports made to police.

The attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, said the reform would protect any Victorian who made a report to police, granting them complete immunity if their alleged perpetrator tries to bring a defamation suit against them.

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“We know how hard it can be for victim-survivors to report what happened to them. These reforms remove some of the barriers they face in their bravery by coming forward,” Symes said.

“With these changes, we’re making sure our justice system responds better to serious offending like family violence and sexual assault, and is more accessible to all Victorians.”

Reports made to the media will not be covered under the change, which has followed several years of work by federal, state and territory attorneys general – collectively known as the Standing Council of Attorneys-General (Scag).

The reform was led by the Victorian government, which released a consultation paper on the issue in 2022, and found the current defamation laws can have a “chilling effect on reporting sexual abuse or harassment”.

“While reports to the media are not in scope for this reform, these high-profile cases can create public perceptions that question the credibility of victim-survivors and a culture of fear of reporting allegations,” the paper read.

“This perception that victim-survivors will be sued for speaking up can sometimes become a reality when they are threatened with defamation suits.”

The paper said between 70% and 90% of Australians who had been sexually assaulted “had not reported their most recent assault to police”.

In a submission on the proposal, Victoria Legal Aid said it acted for several clients who were threatened with defamation when they raised concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“I felt scared to make any further reports and scared to speak publicly in fear of being sued for defamation,” one woman told Legal Aid.

The bill also clarified the liability and responsibility of “digital intermediaries”, such as search engines and social media platforms, when a third party uses an online service to publish defamatory content.

This change was pushed by the former New South Wales attorney general Mark Speakman and followed a high court ruling in 2021 that found media companies could be held liable for allegedly defamatory comments posted to their Facebook pages.

A Scag meeting in September last year failed to reach unanimous agreement on both changes being adopted by the Victorian government.

While NSW and Victoria committed to introduce laws to come into effect by July, South Australia said it only supported “aspects” of them.

The Victorian bill also allows police-issued body-worn camera footage to be used as evidence in court cases involving a family violence offence or family violence intervention order.

This form of evidence was a recommendation of the royal commission into family violence and reduces the trauma of victims having to make a formal written statement and paperwork for police.

A trial of digitally recorded evidence-in-chief first began in 2018 but was expanded in 2021.

Victorian police told the auditor general in 2022 they could not provide any examples where body-worn camera footage was used in family violence proceedings but that many cases were not proceeding to court.

“Many offenders choose to plead guilty rather than contest a charge if there is video footage,” the report said.

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Car companies spending up on ads for SUVs despite Australia’s new fuel efficiency standards

Advertising expenditure on the large, highly polluting vehicles leapt by 29% between 2022 and 2023

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Carmakers continue to aggressively market SUVs and 4x4s to Australians even as the government rolls out new fuel efficiency standards.

Advertising expenditure on the large, highly polluting vehicles leapt by 29% between 2022 and 2023 – and 59% since 2010 – undermining the environmental benefits of rising electric car use and countering new vehicle efficiency standards, according to climate advocacy group Comms Declare.

Its analysis of digital, television, outdoor, radio, cinema and print advertising data showed that spending on advertisements for SUVs rose to $125m in 2023. Online advertising dominated and brand sponsorship alone increased by 412% since 2010.

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The advertising figures coincided with an 188% increase in SUV sales, with the vehicles now accounting for well over half of the market.

And, despite the $52m spent on advertising electric and hybrid vehicles in 2023 – and a 60% increase in their sales – overall advertising expenditure on low emissions vehicles more than halved since 2010, largely due to a collapse in the advertising of small cars, the data showed. Sales of hatchbacks and sedans remained steady.

The authors noted that Australia is unique in that its roads are so heavily dominated by “gas guzzling” SUVs and 4x4s. A report by the same group last year found that 55% of all new passenger vehicles sold in Australia in 2021 had an emissions intensity of more than 160 g/km of CO2 emitted, compared with just 10% in Europe.

Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles are responsible for 60% of Australia’s transport emissions and more than 10% of Australia’s total emissions.

“Vehicle importers spent $651m on ads in 2023 and those ads rarely, if ever, carry information about emissions or running costs”, stated the report, which calls for advertising restrictions and fuel efficiency information to be included in adverts.

The founder of Comms Declare, Belinda Noble, said the trend of increased advertising for larger vehicles was expected to continue even as fuel efficiency standards are brought in.

The Albanese government’s proposed new fuel emissions standards bill will see car companies reducing the average emissions of new cars and incentivise companies to sell cleaner models in greater numbers and varieties from 2025. It also aims to reduce “greenwashing” in advertising.

“A cynic would say makers of the most polluting cars are trying to off-load their cars before the [standards] come in,” she said.

“It’s something that the government should be mindful of, that while the fuel emissions provisions are a fantastic step forward, car importers will still try to push the most profitable, big polluting cars.

“That’s a headwind that we are going to have to tackle if we really want to reduce our transport emissions.”

She said the bill should force carmakers to declare the fuel efficiency of vehicles in advertisements, as is policy in France and Denmark.

Alongside their environmental impacts, SUVs have been criticised for their dangers to other road users.

The president of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, Dr Chris Jones, said the upfront disclosure of a car’s emissions was “absolutely essential”.

“Just like cigarette advertising, people should be aware that they’re buying a potentially dangerous product,” he said.

Toyota Australia president and chief executive officer, Matthew Callachor, said the Japanese brand, which makes some of Australia’s most popular 4x4s, had “long supported the introduction of an ambitious fuel-efficiency standard that is calibrated to the unique requirements of the Australian market and leaves no-one behind.

“Our task now is to get on with the job of delivering diverse technologies that will enable our customers to choose vehicles with lower or zero carbon emissions that best suit their circumstances,” he said in a statement.

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  • Gunmen attacked a prison van in Normandy, killing at least two prison officers and freeing the high-security inmate they were transporting.

  • A huge manhunt is now underway.

  • A police source said several individuals, who arrived in two vehicles, rammed the police van and fled.

  • “Everything is being done to find the perpetrators of this crime,” the president, Emmanuel Macron, wrote on X. “We will be uncompromising.”

  • The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said “all means are being used to find these criminals. On my instructions, several hundred police officers and gendarmes were mobilised.”

  • The French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, said the attack had targeted the French republic and the justice system.

  • The Paris prosecutor named the fugitive prisoner as Mohamed Amra, born in 1994, saying that last week he had been convicted of aggravated robbery and also charged in a case of abduction leading to death.

  • French authorities asked the public not to re-share videos of the incident on social media.

  • Gunmen attacked a prison van in Normandy, killing at least two prison officers and freeing the high-security inmate they were transporting.

  • A huge manhunt is now underway.

  • A police source said several individuals, who arrived in two vehicles, rammed the police van and fled.

  • “Everything is being done to find the perpetrators of this crime,” the president, Emmanuel Macron, wrote on X. “We will be uncompromising.”

  • The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said “all means are being used to find these criminals. On my instructions, several hundred police officers and gendarmes were mobilised.”

  • The French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, said the attack had targeted the French republic and the justice system.

  • The Paris prosecutor named the fugitive prisoner as Mohamed Amra, born in 1994, saying that last week he had been convicted of aggravated robbery and also charged in a case of abduction leading to death.

  • French authorities asked the public not to re-share videos of the incident on social media.

Eight killed after bus carrying migrant workers crashes in Florida

About 53 people were onboard bus heading to local watermelon farm to work for private company when crash occurred

Eight people were killed and dozens injured after a bus carrying migrant workers to a local farm crashed in Florida early Tuesday.

The crash happened around 6.30 am in west Marion county, Florida, according to the Florida highway patrol, WCJB reported.

About 53 people described as “migrant workers” were onboard the bus at the time of the crash, according to Florida highway patrol. They were reportedly being taken to a local watermelon farm to work for a private company at the time of the accident, the Ocala StarBanner reported.

There was no company name listed on the side of the bus involved in the deadly accident, the StarBanner also reported.

The owner of the private company was reportedly on the bus at the time of the crash. They were taken to a local hospital following the accident.

At least eight people were critically injured from the accident. An additional 37 people were also transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, WCJB reported.

Authorities have since closed a portion of Florida’s State Road 40 West following the deadly crash.

Florida highway patrol is investigating the crash, according to the Marion county sheriff’s office.

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‘Magical thinking’: hopes for sustainable jet fuel not realistic, report finds

IPS report says replacement fuels well off track to replace kerosene within timeframe needed to avert climate disaster

Hopes that replacement fuels for airplanes will slash carbon pollution are misguided and support for these alternatives could even worsen the climate crisis, a new report has warned.

There is currently “no realistic or scalable alternative” to standard kerosene-based jet fuels, and touted “sustainable aviation fuels” are well off track to replace them in a timeframe needed to avert dangerous climate change, despite public subsidies, the report by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive thinktank, found.

“While there are kernels of possibility, we should bring a high level of skepticism to the claims that alternative fuels will be a timely substitute for kerosene-based jet fuels,” the report said.

Chuck Collins, co-author of the report, said: “To bring these fuels to the scale needed would require massive subsidies, the trade-offs would be unacceptable and would take resources aware from more urgent decarbonization priorities.

“It’s a huge greenwashing exercise by the aviation industry. It’s magical thinking that they will be able to do this.”

In the US, Joe Biden’s administration has set a goal for 3bn gallons of sustainable aviation fuel, which is made from non-petroleum sources such as food waste, woody biomass and other feedstocks, to be produced by 2030, which it said will cut aviation’s planet-heating emissions by 20%. Globally, flying accounts for about 2% of all emissions, with the world’s wealthiest people the prime instigators of this form of pollution.

This sustainable fuels target will require an enormous 18,887% increase in production, based on 2022 production levels, this decade, the new report found.

“It’s just not scalable,” said Collins.

This is despite plenty of recent taxpayer support – last week, the US Congress agreed to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration for a further five years, with expanded funding for sustainable aviation fuels development. Tax breaks for producing these fuels are also offered via the Inflation Reduction Act.

Various airlines have included goals around sustainable aviation fuels in their own promises to cut pollution. Virgin Atlantic garnered headlines last year by staging the first transatlantic flight using 100% of these fuels, rather than in a blend with traditional jet fuel.

“The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the airline, about the flight.

But the new Institute for Policy Studies report argues that the airline industry has missed previous goals to ramp up sustainable aviation production and that boosting use of the fuel source may even damage the environment and global climate targets.

Burning sustainable aviation fuels still emits some carbon dioxide, while the land use changes needed to produce the fuels can also lead to increased pollution. Ethanol biofuel, made from corn, is used in these fuels, and meeting the Biden administration’s production goal, the report found, would require 114m acres of corn in the US, about a 20% increase in current land area given over to to the crop.

In the UK, meanwhile, 50% of all agricultural land will have to be given up to sustain current flight passenger levels if jet fuel was entirely replaced.

“Agricultural land use changes could threaten global food security as well as nature-based carbon sequestration solutions such as the preservation of forests and wetlands,” the report states. “As such, SAF production may actively undermine the Paris agreement goal of achieving greatly reduced emissions by 2050.”

Phil Ansell, director of the Center for Sustainable Aviation at the University of Illinois, said the aviation industry had been faced with a much steeper challenge than other sectors to decarbonize. Large commercial airliners cannot be outfitted with batteries, unlike cars, due to their weight, while progress in other fuel forms, such as hydrogen, has been complicated.

“There’s an underappreciation of how big the energy problem is for aviation. We are still many years away from zero pollution flights,” he said.

“But it’s true that the industry has been slow to pick things up. We are now trying to find solutions, but we are working at this problem and realizing it’s a lot harder than we thought. We are late to the game. We are in the dark ages in terms of sustainability, compared to other sectors.”

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Revealed: US university lecturer behind far-right Twitter account and publishing house

Guardian investigation identifies Jonathan Keeperman, a former lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, as ‘Lomez’

A Guardian investigation has identified former University of California, Irvine (UCI) lecturer Jonathan Keeperman as the man behind the prominent “new right” publishing house Passage Press and the influential Twitter persona Lomez.

The identification is based on company and property records, source interviews and open-source online materials.

The reporting has revealed that Keeperman’s current status as a key player and influential tastemaker in a burgeoning proto-fascist movement came after years of involvement in far-right internet forums.

Much of that journey coincided with his time at one of the country’s most well-regarded writing programs: Keeperman first came to UCI as a master of fine arts (MFA) student, and was also a lecturer in the English department from 2013 to 2022, according to public records.

The emergence of Passage Press and other such publishers has been a key part of the development of a swathe of the current American far right, which is seeking to capture US institutions – or develop far-right equivalents – as part of a political and cultural war against what it sees as the dominance of a liberal “regime” in America.

In a June 2023 podcast interview, Keeperman characterized Passage Press and its literary prize as part of this effort to “build out alternative infrastructure, alternative institutions”.

It is a fight wholeheartedly embraced by Donald Trump and his supporters in the Republican party, especially in their railing against “the deep state” and promises of retribution should Trump win the 2024 presidential election.

The Guardian repeatedly contacted Keeperman requesting comment on this reporting, at a personal Gmail address and a Passage Press address, and left a voicemail message at a telephone number that data brokers listed as belonging to Keeperman, but which carried a message identifying it as belonging to a member of his household.

Keeperman did not directly respond to these requests. However, hours after a request on 1 May, “Lomez” on X castigated “lying, libelous journalist-activists” and appeared to make veiled legal threats. Another detailed request was sent on 5 May, and just an hour later, Passage Press’s star writer posted about a “major legacy media outlet threatening to dox a pseudonymous Twitter account”.

Scary ideas – and wanting to be recognized

Passage Press books include a Tucker Carlson-blurbed anthology of writings by “human biodiversity” influencer Steve Sailer; a similar retrospective from “neo-reactionary” guru Curtis Yarvin; and a print version of the biannual Man’s World.

Like many other far-right publishers, Passage’s list is bolstered by reprints of out-of-print or public-domain books by historical fascist and reactionary writers. These include books by radical German nationalist and militarist Ernst Jünger; Peter Kemp, who fought as a volunteer in Franco’s army during the Spanish civil war; and two counter-revolutionary Russian aristocrats, White Russian general Pyotr Wrangel and Prince Serge Obolensky.

A James McAdams, professor of international affairs at the University of Notre Dame, who has done extensive research on far-right thinkers and publishing houses, said such publishers operate “on the level of ideas – scary ideas – but it’s also about wanting to be recognized, and finally it’s about money”.

“This is a source of money,” McAdams continued. “The general public does not know about Ernst Jünger, but you can sell his books to the far right, and you can make money.”

Passage Press differs from many others in its niche in offering new work by the contemporary far-right’s intellectual celebrities, and in curating in-person events and a far-right literary award.

The publisher also produces high-end limited editions of selected titles. The “patrician edition” of Noticing, a book by Sailer, for example, is “bound in genuine leather, gold-foil stamping” and “Smyth-sewn book block”, according to the website.

Though lavishly produced, the “patrician” offerings appear to have generated significant income for Passage. At the time of reporting, Passage had sold out its limited run of 500 patrician editions of Noticing at $395 apiece, according to the website. This equates to some $195,000 in revenue. An earlier patrician edition of winning entries in the 2021 Passage prize sold 250 editions at $400 apiece, according to the website, representing another $100,000 in revenue.

The publication of Noticing – also available as a $29.95 paperback – was spun out into a series of in-person events in Austin, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City, held in March, April and May.

Passage offered a $75 bundle comprising a copy of the book and a ticket to an in-person event, though the website warned prospective attendees: “Location details will be delivered via email. No photos or recordings of any kind will be permitted at these events.”

Buyers of the patrician edition could attend “salon events” in these cities for a $300 upcharge. These were advertised as “small, intimate spaces that include dinner, an open bar, and a unique conversational setting with Steve and special guests”. The website did not indicate how many salon tickets were available, but at the time of writing they had sold out.

Passage Press has also commenced publishing a print version of the hitherto online-only magazine Man’s World, which is helmed by the pseudonymous editor “Raw Egg Nationalist” (“REN”), a British writer who was described in left-right syncretist magazine Compact as “one of the brighter stars in a sprawling constellation of rightwing social-media influencers who exalt nature, tradition, and physical fitness”.

REN, who has previously published cookbooks with white nationalist publisher Antelope Hill, batters his social media followers and Substack subscribers with dubious dietary and health information along with “anti-globalist” conspiracy theories. He came to wider prominence when he was featured in a 2022 documentary, The End of Men, produced by Tucker Carlson when Carlson still worked at Fox News.

“REN and Man’s World represents a paradigm case of how masculinity is being articulated at the heart of rightwing politics,” said Scott Burnett, an assistant professor of African studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Pennsylvania State University.

“There’s stuff in Man’s World that is fascist, sometimes bordering on neo-Nazi,” he added, but it is draped in “an ironic gauze”.

Currently, Passage is soliciting entries for the third annual Passage prize, an art and literature prize for rightwingers who feel “straight-jacketed by the increasingly hysterical and vicious gatekeepers of their institutional homes”.

‘L0m3z’ on Twitter

In previous coverage, Lomez and REN have been identified as prominent members of the so-called “new right”, a term that has gained currency as a description of a cluster of illiberal, anti-democratic, “counter-revolutionary” tendencies in rightwing politics in the US.

Lomez acquired early influence in the new right movement by means of the L0m3z account on X, which has 55,000 followers at the time of reporting.

Internet archives have preserved a range of the posts with which he attracted a large audience, but also suggest he has deleted many of these.

One of the account’s themes is an antipathy for racial justice protests, especially after the George Floyd protests in 2020.

Lomez also supported those who responded to protests with violence, posting at the end of Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial: “Rittenhouse is a hero. He is a symbol, in word and deed, and in his baseless persecution, of what is good and decent and courageous and the forces arrayed against those qualities. May a million Kyle Rittenhouses bloom.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments also have constituted a consistent theme on the account. In January 2020, he wrote he was “coming around to the idea that the most powerful and effective political argument against the left in 2020 is probably simple as: shut up fag.”

Journalists have also been a favorite target of the account. A post reads: “the press are in fact the enemy. They are mewling midwit scum. Sniveling liars and desperate status junkies. My abiding contempt for them is only ever confirmed.”

A list of “policy proposals” begins with “lamppost the journos” – an apparent call for summary lynchings of members of the media.

As the Twitter account grew, Lomez increasingly engaged in chummy interactions with prominent far-right figures including self-described eugenicist Bo Winegard, but above all with culture warrior Christopher Rufo, with whom Lomez has had dozens of interactions.

The Guardian has reported in several stories in recent months on Rufo’s links with far-right media outlets, would-be “warlords” and proponents of scientific racism.

Rufo has characterized these stories on social media as illegitimate “guilt by association”.

The former MFA student in print

Keeperman was able to parlay the growing clout of his Twitter account into commissions at the many rightwing media outlets that allowed him to publish under a social media pseudonym.

Early bylines included a March 2020 piece in the Claremont Institute’s publication, the American Mind, in which he argued that “retards” better anticipated the impact of the early stages of the Covid pandemic than “midwit experts”, and a March 2021 piece at online far-right magazine IM-1776, in which he encouraged readers to believe that they were involved in a “fifth-generation war” against their perceived political enemies.

More recently, in a February piece at the Federalist, Lomez argued that the prosecution of “alt-right” personality Douglass Mackey, once known online as “Ricky Vaughn”, represents the state using an “expansive reading of civil rights law to punish their political enemies and flex their tyrannical authority”.

Mackey was sentenced to seven months in prison last October for election interference over his dispatch of mass text messages in November 2016 urging Black recipients to “vote by text” instead of casting a legitimate vote, with the messages purporting to be sponsored by the Clinton campaign. Mackey is currently appealing that verdict.

Keeperman’s most influential publication as Lomez, however, may have been an essay published in “theocon” outlet First Things, which popularized a new right anti-feminist concept: “the longhouse”. The essay defines the longhouse as a metaphor for the supposed “overcorrection of the last two generations toward social norms centering feminine needs and feminine methods for controlling, directing, and modeling behavior”.

This metaphor has been widely adopted by writers on the anti-feminist right, including Rufo, religious conservative Rod Dreher and writers for outlets such as the American Mind.

In the piece, “Lomez” proffered the Passage prize competition, then accepting submissions in its second iteration, as a way “to remedy this problem, to provide an arena for the competing visions that exit from the longhouse will require”.

But it was in launching the first Passage prize in late 2021 that Keeperman inadvertently offered crucial clues that tied him to the Lomez persona.

How the Guardian identified Keeperman

Keeperman appears to have made considerable efforts to limit his online footprint, thereby reducing the possibility that he would be linked to the Lomez persona. Keeperman has no discoverable profiles in his own name on social media, blogging or professional-networking sites.

The identification was made possible by unavoidable traces left in public records such as property deeds and public salary records, but also by the sequence of events that led up to the announcement of the first Passage prize.

According to Whois records, the domain passageprize.com was registered on 6 October 2021 via a domain name registrar who anonymized the domain’s true owner.

One day later, Passage Press LLC was registered in New Mexico. Filings name Jonathan Keeperman as the sole member of the LLC and online legal services company LegalZoom.com Inc as the organizer.

At that time, only one other company called Passage Press LLC existed in any US jurisdiction – that one was owned by a female freelance technical writer and editor in Colorado and had been established in 2014, and its website is now dormant.

The Keeperman-founded New Mexico company was dissolved in December 2023. Passage Press LLC was re-registered in Delaware on 9 May 2022. The Delaware registration only identifies a corporate services company as agent and director.

Although the New Mexico LLC registration was registered at a mailbox provider in Garden City, Idaho, another company that lists Keeperman as a member – Paradise Valley Partners – is registered at a Livingston, Montana, address. The property at that address is co-owned by Keeperman, according to Park county property records.

Less than a week after the 2021 domain and New Mexico company registrations, “Lomez” announced the Passage prize on his Twitter account. Snapshots preserved by internet-archiving services indicate that by at latest 14 October 2021, a webpage at the passageprize.com was soliciting entries for the Passage prize, “a literature and arts contest” with “a $10,000 prize pool”.

The proximity in time of the domain registration, Lomez’s competition announcement and the company registration identifying Jonathan Keeperman as Passage Press’s sole member offer one line of evidence for the identification of Keeperman as Lomez.

Posts by “Lomez” on what is now X reveal crucial details that line up with Keeperman’s biography.

In January, he posted that he was the third child in his family, which matches details offered in public accounts, including a parent’s published biography.

That obituary says that Keeperman’s parent died on 1 October 2022. On 3 October 2022, a post by Lomez indicates that his father had died in the immediate past.

Also, a range of posts indicate that the person behind Lomez worked at a university, attended graduate school and spent extended time in an academic milieu.

A 20 September 2022 tweet indicates that “Lomez” has decided to resign from his job, blaming a “bio-statist ukase”.

The date coincides with the beginning of the University of California, Irvine’s 2022-2023 academic year. A personnel record obtained via records request from UCI indicates that Keeperman departed UCI at the end of that academic year, finishing in his then-100% remote position on 30 June 2023. The record gives the reason as “resign – moved out of area”.

The tweet referencing unwelcome decrees came weeks after UCI’s August 2022 policy changes that generally required staff to spend several days a week on campus, and tightened eligibility for wholly remote work and out-of-state remote work for UCI employees. In July 2022, UCI’s chancellor announced an extension of the university’s pandemic mask mandate through that school year.

As Lomez, the Montana-based Keeperman posted conspiracy-tinged tweets about masks and vaccines before and since the tweet indicating his departure from UCI.

This alignment of Twitter posts and biographical events in Keeperman’s life are another line of evidence for him being behind the “Lomez” persona.

UCI connections

Until his departure from UCI, Keeperman had been a composition teacher in the English department. California salary records published by Nevada Policy show Keeperman earning a UCI salary every year from 2013 to 2022, except for the pandemic year of 2020; the UCI personnel record indicates that he originally began working for the university in January 2009; his earliest rating on RateMyProfessors.com is from July 2010.

In 2015, a local media report from Santa Monica announcing a book reading by authors recently published in the Santa Monica Review, described him as one of two “recent grads of the UC Irvine creative writing MFA program”.

In 2016, Keeperman was mentioned by another southern California media outlet when it published a press release from the UCI College Republicans. The release was a response to the club’s suspension following their invitation of conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos on to the campus.

The title of the planned Yiannopolous talk was “Social justice is cancer”, according to contemporaneous media reports. At that time, Yiannopoulos’s campus visits were attracting protests and counter-protests in the UK and the US.

The press release featured a supportive quote from Keeperman, in which he said: “Freedom of speech is an extraordinary right that requires extraordinary vigilance to uphold. We must do everything possible at our universities to allow for the exchange of all political ideas, even those that may shock and offend, and allow for rebuttal to those ideas through civil debate.”

No other UCI faculty were quoted in the release.

Keeperman was also involved in labor activism as a member of UCI’s American Federation of Teachers chapter, and spoke at several conferences about labor conditions for lecturers, who are not tenured.

A former colleague of Keeperman’s, who worked closely with him in such activism within the UC system, positively identified Keeperman’s voice from recordings of his many guest appearances on far-right podcasts.

An early persona: Mr Lomez

One of those podcast appearances as Lomez was an episode of the Carousel published on 10 May 2023. Host Isaac Simpson asked “Lomez” about his history online.

“I’m on my third [Twitter] account,” “Lomez” replied. “They’ve all been some version of Lomez. My, I mean, I’ve been posting in this Twitter space since about 2015-ish.”

He added: “I knew a lot of people from Steve Sailer’s comment section on his old iSteve blog, and a lot of the people who I ended up following on Twitter initially were people I recognized or were familiar to me from, from that comment section, and it was the kind of people that Sailer would link to.”

On the question of his online history, “Lomez” concluded: “Actually, I ran a blog. I’m not going to talk about it too much because there’s potentially doxable material there, but I actually ran a blog at one point that … well, I’ve already said too much, so anyway, I’ll just stop there.”

An individual with the screen name “Mr Lomez” was a frequent commenter on Steve Sailer’s iSteve blog between 2012 and 2014. The archives of Sailer’s early blogging have since been transferred – along with comments – to the Unz Review, an aggregator of far-right content run by antisemitic software millionaire Ron Unz.

Mr Lomez posted criticisms of affirmative action in college admissions, commentary on the trial of George Zimmerman over his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, and complaints about anti-immigrant parties being characterized as “far-right” in media coverage.

Mr Lomez also frequently flexed literary expertise, a deep knowledge of sports and a particularly intimate familiarity with college athletics.

In a post on 23 February 2013, Sailer was critical of the William Pereira-designed architecture at the UCI campus, with his post including a photograph of the Social Science Tower.

“Mr Lomez” commented: “My office is in that building. It’s as bad on the inside as it is on the out – claustrophobic and soulless. I feel like I’m in a rat maze.”

Keeperman maintained a separate blog under “Mr Lomez” in 2006 and 2007.

The self-portrait – which includes a photo – that begins in the first post on that blog, made on 29 November 2006, appears to be of the same person depicted in the few other publicly available images of Keeperman, including one in a now-paywalled (but archived) article at the California Federation of Teachers website, and others in a third-party archive of his wedding photos, which link to the archive using Keeperman’s wife’s name on Facebook.

In comments on the blog, interlocutors address him as “Joey”. University of California, San Diego men’s basketball media guides indicate that a “Joey Keeperman” played for the team in 2001-02, when Keeperman was 19.

Local news and high-school basketball reporting from 2000 indicates that as a high-school senior, Keeperman was an accomplished football wide receiver and star basketball player for Campolindo high school in Moraga, in northern California. “Joey” and “Jonathan” are used interchangeably in the coverage.

Moraga is the same northern California town where Keeperman was raised, according to the 2022 parental obituary, and is also where Keeperman celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1996, according to a contemporaneous issue of the Jewish News of Northern California.

Posts on the blog detail his travels in south-east Asia, including destinations “Lomez” has mentioned on Twitter. Another post mentions a sibling’s health problems, and that sibling’s first name matches that of one of Keeperman’s siblings.

In the last posts on the blog, there are hints of the racial thinking that “Mr Lomez” would later express on Sailer’s blog.

On 2 May 2007, in response to a New York Times report on a study that found racial bias in NBA refereeing, Keeperman made an argument characteristic of “human biodiversity” proponents: “I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that black players get called for more fouls because black players do in fact commit more fouls.”

Keeperman added: “Before calling me a racist, at least hear me out.”

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Roman Polanski acquitted of defamation by French court

British actor Charlotte Lewis had claimed she was made the victim of a ‘smear campaign’ after she accused the director of raping her when she was a teenager

A French court on Tuesday acquitted French-Polish film-maker Roman Polanski of defaming British actor Charlotte Lewis after she accused him of raping her when she was a teenager.

Polanski, 90, was not in court for the verdict at the Paris criminal court.

Lewis told the court in March that she became the victim of a “smear campaign” that “nearly destroyed” her life after she spoke up about abuse that took place in the 1980s.

“He raped me,” the 56-year-old actor told the court, explaining it had taken her time to put a name on the incident that occurred in Paris when she was 16.

The verdict by this court, which specialises in media cases, relates strictly to the charge of defamation and not over the actor’s rape accusation against Polanski.

The film-maker, whose titles include the Oscar-winning Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist, did not attend any hearings of the trial.

Polanski is wanted in the United States over the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in 1977 and faces several other accusations of sexual assault dating back decades and past the statute of limitations – all claims he has rejected. He fled to Europe in 1978.

Lewis in 2010 accused Polanski of abusing her “in the worst possible way” as a 16-year-old in 1983 in Paris after she travelled there for a casting session. She appeared in his 1986 film Pirates.

The film-maker said that it was a “heinous lie” in a 2019 interview with Paris Match magazine.

According to Paris Match, he pulled out a copy of a 1999 article in now-defunct British tabloid newspaper News of the World, and quoted Lewis as saying in it: “I wanted to be his lover.”

Lewis has said the quotes attributed to her in that interview were not accurate.

She filed a complaint for defamation, and the film director was automatically charged under French law.

Stuart White, who wrote the 1999 News of the World article to which Polanski referred, was also present in court.

“The interview I gave to Stuart White was not the interview that was in the newspaper,” Lewis said, adding she discovered the article only years later.

White said he interviewed Lewis twice after the paper paid £30,000 for exclusive rights.

He said she had agreed to a “vice girl” angle to the 1999 story, but said he could not remember if she had asked to approve the text before it was published.

In 2010, Lewis said she decided to speak out to counter suggestions from Polanski’s legal team that the 1977 rape case was an isolated incident.

Switzerland, France and Poland have refused to extradite Polanski to the United States.

Between 2017 and 2019, four other women came forward with claims that Polanski also abused them in the 1970s, three of them as minors. He has denied all the allegations.

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