Darren Weir trial, Melbourne Cup, animal cruelty, conspiracy to defraud


Melbourne Cup-winning Australian trainer Darren Weir was committed to stand trial Monday on animal cruelty and conspiracy to defraud charges stemming from the 2018 spring racing carnival.

A magistrate ruled there was enough evidence for a jury to decide whether Weir, his former assistant Jarrod McLean and stable hand Tyson Kermond conspired to cheat and deceive racing stewards in Victoria state.

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They are accused of horse torture, including the alleged use of electronic shock devices known as “jiggers” on three thoroughbreds to enhance their performance in the lead up to the 2018 season.

All three pleaded not guilty via video link at the Ballarat Magistrates Court with another hearing scheduled for November 19.



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Horse racing trainer Darren Weir committed to stand trial on charges of animal abuse, conspiracy



Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir has been committed to stand trial on multiple charges of animal abuse and conspiracy to defraud racing stewards.

Weir is charged with “engaging in the torturing, abusing, overworking and terrifying” three racehorses during the 2018 spring carnival, and conspiring to cheat and defraud Racing Victoria stewards.

His former assistant trainer, Jarrod McLean, and stable hand Tyson Kermond also face multiple animal abuse and conspiracy charges.

The trio allegedly stuck three racehorses with an electrical device known as a jigger while they were galloping on a treadmill, in an attempt to train the horses to run faster in the lead-up to the 2018 spring carnival.

Mr Weir, Mr McLean and Mr Kermond each pleaded not guilty to their indictable charges which include conspiracy, firearm possession and betting offences.

They will return to court for a directions hearing next month.



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Baseball’s First Commissioner Led a Conspiracy of Silence to Keep the Sport Segregated


The Baseball Writers’ Association of America recently announced that it would remove former Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ name from the plaques awarded to the American and National League MVPs.

The decision came after a number of former MVPs, including Black award winners Barry Larkin and Terry Pendleton, voiced their displeasure with their plaques being named for Landis, who kept the game segregated during the 24 years he served as commissioner from 1920 until his death in 1944. The Brooklyn Dodgers ended the color line when they signed Jackie Robinson to a contract in October 1945, less than a year after Landis’ death.

Landis has had his defenders over the years. In the past, essayist David Kaiser, baseball historian Norman Macht, Landis biographer David Pietrusza and the commissioner’s nephew, Lincoln Landis, have claimed that there is no evidence that Landis said or did anything racist.

But in my view, it’s what he didn’t say and didn’t do that made him a racist.

In my book “Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball,” I argue that baseball’s color line existed as long as it did because the nation’s white mainstream sportswriters remained silent about it, even as Black and progressive activists campaigned for integration.

However those who ran the league possessed far more power than sportswriters. Landis, along with the owners, knew that there were Black players good enough to play in the big leagues. If he wanted to integrate Major League Baseball, he could have.

Instead, he did all he could to prevent the rest of America from knowing just how talented Black baseball players were.

Petitions go ignored

By the time Landis became commissioner in 1920, baseball had been segregated ever since a so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” took place among team owners in the 1880s.

However, it was common practice in the 1920s for Major League teams to earn extra money in the off-season by playing Black teams in exhibition games. Landis put a halt to these games because he wanted to end the embarrassment of the Black teams’ winning so often.

It is worth noting that Black athletes competed with white ones in other sports in the 1920s and 1930s, including boxing, college tennis, college football and, for several years, the National Football League. Black athletes also represented the United States in the Olympics.

During the 1930s, Black sportswriters like Wendell Smith and Sam Lacy, along with white sportswriters for the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker, intensely campaigned for the integration of baseball.

In their editorials and articles, Worker sportswriters chronicled the accomplishments of Negro League stars and told readers that struggling Major League teams could improve their chances by signing Black players. Meanwhile, Communist activists organized protests and circulated petition drives outside the ballparks of New York’s three Major League teams – the Yankees, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers – demanding that teams sign Black players.

The petitions, which had, according to one estimate, a million signatures, were then sent off to the commissioner’s office. They were ignored. The Daily Worker regularly focused on Landis as the person responsible for the color line, while the Black press derisively called him “the Great White Father.”

Don’t ask, don’t tell

Landis’ defenders say that he could not possibly have been a bigot because he suspended Yankees outfielder Jake Powell for making a racist comment during a 1938 radio interview.

Landis suspended Powell not because the ballplayer used a slur, but because it was heard by fans, and Black activists pressured the commissioner to do something. While Landis ended up punishing a racist player, he did nothing to end racial discrimination against Black players.

Furthermore, Landis refused to allow players and managers to speak on the issue. When Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher was quoted in a 1942 Daily Worker article saying he would sign Black players if he were allowed to, Landis ordered Durocher to deny that he made the statement.

The following year, Landis again subverted the campaign to end segregation in the sport.

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Sam Lacy, who was then working for the Chicago Defender, repeatedly asked Landis for a meeting to talk about the color line. When Landis finally agreed, Lacy asked the commissioner if he could make the case for integration at baseball’s annual meeting.

Landis, without telling Lacy, invited the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association. Also invited to speak was Paul Robeson, the onetime college football star who had become an actor, singer, writer – and avowed Communist. Lacy was incensed that Robeson would be asked to address the conservative white owners about the sensitive issue of integration.

To Lacy, the presence of Robeson meant that Landis could plant seeds of suspicion with white owners and sportswriters that the campaign to integrate baseball was a Communist front.

Lacy wrote in a column that Landis reminded him of a cartoon he had seen of a man extending his right hand in a gesture of friendship while clenching a long knife that was hidden in his left hand.

Landis died in December 1944, and Lacy finally got a chance to address team executives in March of the following year. Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey ended up signing Jackie Robinson to a contract several months later, thus ending segregation in baseball.

Lee Lowenfish, Rickey’s biographer, was convinced that Landis would have tried to stop the Brooklyn executive from signing Robinson.

I believe it is no coincidence that baseball remained segregated during Landis’ reign as commissioner – or that it became integrated only after he died.

Chris Lamb, Professor of Journalism, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Wikimedia



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Quebec conspiracy theorist kicked off YouTube for spreading COVID-19 misinformation


Quebec’s best-known conspiracy theorist, Alexis Cossette-Trudel, lost another media platform on Thursday when YouTube shut down his account, which had more than 120,000 subscribers.

YouTube said it was removing Cossette-Trudel’s channel, Radio-Québec, for “repeatedly violating our community guidelines regarding COVID-19 misinformation.” The news was first reported by Radio-Canada.

Last week, Facebook shut down both Cossette-Trudel’s personal account and his Radio-Québec account, where he had also gained a large following.

Facebook said it took action against Radio-Québec because of its affiliation with the QAnon conspiracy movement, which believes, among other things, that world events are controlled by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles. 

YouTube said 60 channels and 1,800 videos were removed Thursday under its new policy aimed at limiting the influence of conspiracy theories. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

YouTube said Thursday it too is taking measures to keep QAnon content off its platform. It announced that it will remove videos that target “an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.”

A spokesperson for YouTube told CBC News that 60 channels and 1,800 videos were removed Thursday under the new policy, and more terminations were expected in the coming weeks.

The spokesperson, Zaitoon Murji, said Radio-Québec was removed not for its ties to QAnon but for spreading incorrect information about COVID-19.

WATCH | Quebec conspiracy theorist removed from Facebook:

Facebook has removed the account of popular Quebec conspiracy theorist Alexis Cossette-Trudel as part of its campaign to take down any group or page openly identifying with the QAnon right-wing conspiracy movement, a group U.S. law enforcement officials call a security risk. 2:04

Influence grew as pandemic worsened

The number of subscribers to Radio-Québec’s YouTube channel have more than tripled since the start of the pandemic. 

In his videos, some of which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, Cossette-Trudel repeats groundless claims that the dangers of COVID-19 are being exaggerated as part of a plot to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump.

He also routinely maintains — without evidence — that Quebec government officials are manipulating statistics about deaths and hospitalizations. He argues that public health restrictions, such as wearing masks indoors, are unjustified. 

Thanks to his social media following, Cossette-Trudel has become a leading figure within the movement opposing Quebec’s public-health rules. He spoke at several anti-mask demonstrations in the summer and fall.

The Quebec government has expressed growing concern about the influence of conspiracy theories in the province. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)

Growing concern

The Quebec government has expressed growing concern about the influence of conspiracy theories in the province. 

Premier François Legault said last week they posed a “real problem” to the government’s efforts at curbing the second wave of coronavirus infections. (The province reported 969 new cases on Thursday).

“It doesn’t help to convince the population to follow our guidelines,” Legault said.

Cossette-Trudel continues to broadcast on smaller, lesser-known social media channels, but his following there is a fraction of what it was on YouTube and Facebook.



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IBAC charges four with offences including conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in public office


Victoria’s independent anti-corruption body has charged four people with offences including conspiracy to cheat and defraud and misconduct in public office.

The charges follow an IBAC investigation, Operation Merrica, into allegations of serious corruption involving a provider of quantity surveying services and contracts issued by the Department of Education and Training and the Victorian School Building Authority.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commision has laid charges against four individuals: one former DET employee, one former VSBA employee and two individuals associated with the provider.

More to come



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Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay $875,000 for online posts about Nationals MP Anne Webster



Federal MP Anne Webster, her husband, and the not-for-profit organisation they founded to support young mothers, have been awarded a total of $875,000 in defamation payouts over a series of “vile” and “unjustifiable” online posts made to Facebook earlier this year.

Dr Webster, the Nationals member for the regional Victorian seat of Mallee, sued online conspiracy theorist Karen Brewer in the Federal Court over a series of posts and videos published on the social media site across a two-week period in April and May.

In her judgement today, Justice Jacqueline Gleeson found the posts claiming that the Websters and Zoe Support were “participants in a secretive criminal network involved in child sexual abuse” were false and untrue.

She said the defamatory publications “spread along the grapevine into the Mildura community” — where Dr Webster’s husband, Phillip, is a GP — via her Facebook page and its several thousand followers.

While the judge found reasonable people would dismiss Ms Brewer’s rants as “deranged and lacking in credibility”, she accepted that “suggestible members of the Mildura community may have considered them credible”.

Justice Gleeson, who said the Websters had “suffered intensely”, awarded Dr Webster aggravated damages of $350,000, her husband damages of $225,000 and Zoe Support damages of $300,000.

Taking a stand

Speaking after today’s judgment was handed down, Dr Webster said she was interested in exploring legislative changes that could lead to publishers, such as Facebook, being made more accountable for material published online.

“I wasn’t so aware of the whole conspiracy theory at the time — for me, it was an issue of justice and it was to make a stand.”

Dr Webster, a former social worker with a PhD in sociology, said she hoped that people who used social media to falsely attack others would realise that their actions were not only harmful but could have costly ramifications.

Claims ‘wholly indefensible’

Ms Brewer, who the court previously heard was based in New Zealand, did not file any defence to the defamation claim, made no attempt to justify her posts in court, and had not retracted her statements.

“It should have been obvious to Ms Brewer, at all relevant times and if she were capable of rational consideration on the subject, that her defamatory statements were wholly indefensible,” Justice Gleeson said.

She said Ms Brewer’s conduct — including posting another video targeting the Websters in late August — justified awarding aggravated damages against her.

Deterrent to young mothers ‘most harmful’

The court heard some of the posts were shared hundreds of times, including by one Mildura business, and that monthly referrals to Zoe Support had dropped since one of the posts in late April.

Zoe Support helps more than 150 mothers aged from 13 to 25 and their children to access education and medical appointments each week, and Justice Gleeson said any effect the untrue posts had in deterring young women from seeking support was “perhaps the most harmful aspect” of Ms Brewer’s offences.

Several witnesses, including Mildura state MP Ali Cupper, former federal Liberal MP Chris Crewther and Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence, gave evidence attesting to the Websters’ integrity.



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Gary Ablett Sr’s coronavirus conspiracy theory rant


AFL legend Gary Ablett Sr. has uploaded a lengthy face-to-camera video in which he claims the coronavirus was “deliberately made and designed, and deliberately released” by the Illuminati and other secret societies.

The 27-minute video titled “What’s really going on and who’s behind it all” was uploaded to YouTube on Thursday. In it, the 58-year-old shares a number of conspiracy theories related to COVID-19.

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“I feel a little bit motivated and compelled to come out and say some things that really need to be said concerning our current circumstances,” Ablett Sr. said.

“We’re talking about the Illuminati, Freemasonry fraternities, secret society people who are behind all this. It’s been going on now since the plans all started with the Illuminati way back in 1776.

“They’ve been working on this for a long time to bring in the new world order. They’re all globalists wanting a new world order so they can put Lucifer on the throne of the world.

“This virus was deliberately made and designed, and deliberately released by these people because they’re using it as camouflage for their many globalist agendas, including the main one to crash the global economy.

“They’re desperate to crash the global economy because they want to bring in a new global digital currency, cashless society that will lead to the mark of the beast which is revealed in Revelations.

“The Illuminati’s goal is also to reduce to the population of the world to 500 million … because 7.7 billion people are too hard to control.

“If you do your studying, the vaccines they’re planning to give us are very harmful to us and will kill us. And that’s what they’re trying to do, they want to wipe out a huge portion of the population.”

READ MORE: Miracle man axed in brutal AFL cull

Ablett Sr. also suggests the global epidemic shows the second coming of Jesus Christ is “imminent”.

“I’ve studied a lot of end-time Bible prophecy, and it’s all happening right now, I can definitely tell you we’re in the last days leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ,” Ablett Sr. said.

“He came the first time as the lamb, and died on the cross for our sins, and he’s coming back now but this time as a king.

“He is going to come back and take over, and he’s going to crush the evil one and all evil, and he will set up his throne literally in Jerusalem … it’s all about to happen.

“The rapture of the church is close; it’s imminent.”

The Geelong great also labels Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews a “puppet”.

“I’m not normally one to come out and do videos like this but I feel that angry at what’s going on, the corruption, the high level corruption,” Ablett Sr. said.

“We need to wake up Australians. We need to wake up and rise up and stand against this stuff.”

Ablett Sr. is a four-time All-Australian and three-time Coleman Medallist. He was inducted into the Australian football Hall of Fame and was named in the AFL Team of the Century.



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conspiracy theory about DNA from Covid tests makes no sense  – Channel 4 News


There’s a new conspiracy theory about the coronavirus which is being spread widely online.

Tweets like this are typical:

Collectively, posts alleging the government is secretly using the Covid-19 testing programme to collect DNA samples from its citizens have now been shared thousands of times on social media.

Like most of the other coronavirus conspiracies, it doesn’t have any basis in fact.

The analysis

The Home Office has just passed a statutory instrument called The Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interests of National Security) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 – but it has nothing to do with coronavirus testing.

A Home Office spokesman told us: “Owing to the ongoing impact of coronavirus, the Government has further extended the retention deadlines for biometrics data being retained by Counter Terrorism Policing for national security. The extension is supported by the Biometrics Commissioner.”

The new legislation gives police more time to hold on to certain suspects’ fingerprints and DNA profiles, which they would otherwise have had to process and potentially destroy under existing law.

This is because the Conservative-led coalition passed the Protection of Freedoms Act in 2012 – tightening the rules and introducing time limits on how long police can store biometric data.

This statement by the Office of the Biometrics Commissioner – the independent watchdog which reviews how the police use DNA and fingerprints – makes two things absolutely clear about last week’s change in the law.

First, it wasn’t driven by government ministers. Counter-terrorist police asked for the extension, because the Covid-19 epidemic has left them overstretched.

“These specialist police teams and those providing information to them have had significant disruption because of Covid-19, both directly because of infections and as a result of government measures taken to control the spread of the virus. Those involved in this work require specialist training and security clearance and therefore could not be replaced easily or quickly increased in number.”

Second, the DNA and fingerprints we are talking about were taken by police investigating serious crimes: terrorism and offences relating to national security.

That is actually spelled out in the new legislation, if you read down far enough: it only applies to fingerprints and DNA collected under various pieces of counter-terrorism law or the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
At no point in the new regulations is there any mention of coronavirus testing.

There is simply no connection between this change in the law – which is all about relieving pressure on police investigating terrorism – and the NHS Test and Trace programme.

What happens when you get tested?

Of course staff at testing stations don’t take people’s fingerprints, and any one of the millions of who have had tests carried out will confirm this. What about DNA?

Well, most people who are tested for Covid get a PCR or “swab” test. This usually means that a long cotton bud is used to take a sample from the nose and the back of the throat.

The sample is then tested in a lab to see if genetic material, called RNA, from the virus is present. There is no evidence that this test is ever used to identify an individual person’s DNA.

While the assays used in the test can also detect human genetic material, this is only to be sure the test has worked and “won’t give DNA fingerprint information in the way required for forensic examinations”, according to Dr Tania Nolan, an internationally recognized molecular biologist and expert on PCR testing.

FactCheck verdict

No one’s fingerprints or DNA are recorded when they get a Covid test, and the statutory instrument passed last week has nothing to do with testing.

People promoting this theory online are actually linking to this new law, as though it proves them right. But this is based on a misunderstanding of what the law says.

Imagine how many staff working across testing sites and laboratories across the country, in government the police and the NHS, would have to be in on this secret plan to misuse the testing system – without giving it away.

We would suggest that this theory doesn’t pass the common sense test, and we would encourage people to stop spreading inaccurate information that could undermine trust in the Covid testing system.



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New Zealand jockey Brandon Morgenrood gets life ban after conspiracy to harm Tina Comignaghi


A jockey in New Zealand has been banned for life following charges relating to a conspiracy to harm another jockey during a race.

Brandon Morgenrood pleaded guilty to three charges for his plan to cause a fall to Tina Comignaghi during a race.

Comignaghi and Morgenrood were in a relationship until December 2019, at which point Morgenrood started sending inappropriate messages to his former partner.

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He was charged for threatening to cause Comignaghi to fall, causing undue suffering to the horse Comignaghi would be riding and counselling another jockey to ride in a manner which would cause Comignaghi to fall.



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