Public backlash in Spain after ministers attend awards dinner – POLITICO



The Spanish government will undergo an “act of self-reflection” after four of its ministers attended an award ceremony in Madrid together with nearly 100 other people just as the country re-entered a state of alarm.

The glitzy event prompted anger on social media even though its organizers, the news website El Español, said it complied with all coronavirus rules. It was attended by Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa, Defense Minister Margarita Robles, Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo, and Culture Minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes.

Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, was also at the event together with four other high-ranking PP politicians, as was Inés Arrimadas, leader of the center-right party Ciudadanos. It was also attended by the presidents of three regions, business representatives and sport players.

The award ceremony took place just hours after the start of a nationwide state of alarm, which the government says should remain in place until May 9 in order to tackle a surge in coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, the health ministry reported 18,418 new infections and 267 deaths in the previous 24 hours.

Pictures from the event, showing guests waiting to be served dinner in an indoor venue — many not wearing face masks — went viral on social media with some users criticizing the politicians for seemingly enjoying a social event while the country was being placed under more stringent measures.

Speaking at a press conference after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said that although the event complied with “all the protocols” in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government should be careful to ensure such situations “are not misinterpreted.”

“The event met with all the guarantees … but after seeing how the information has been reported today, it is time for an act of self-reflection by all of us who must take part in public events to limit our participation in physical events as much as possible,” she said. “We are aware that we should be an example for the wider public and we don’t want news like these to emerge.”

El Español’s director Pedro J. Ramírez stressed that the event was attended by 80 people, or 33 percent of the venue’s capacity, in compliance with the cap imposed by the Madrid regional government, plus another 15 people, mainly bodyguards and assistants of the attendees, who were served in an adjacent room. Other restrictions, including social distancing and the 11 p.m. curfew, were also respected, according to the organizers.





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Wary of angering public, Iran has few ways to contain virus


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — As coronavirus infections reached new heights in Iran this month, overwhelming its hospitals and driving up its death toll, the country’s health minister gave a rare speech criticizing his own government’s refusal to enforce basic health measures.

“We asked for fines to be collected from anyone who doesn’t wear a mask,” Saeed Namaki said last week, referring to the government’s new mandate for Tehran, the capital. “But go and find out how many people were fined. We said close roads, and yet how many did they close?”

Namaki’s speech, lamenting the country’s “great suffering” and “hospitals full of patients,” clearly laid the blame for the virus’ resurgence at the government’s door — a stark contrast to the usual speeches from officials who point the finger at the public’s defiance of restrictions.

But one day later, the minister had a vastly different message.

“We should not cause panic for people in vain,” Namaki said in a speech carried by the semi-official ISNA news agency. “We should never announce that we don’t have empty (hospital) beds. We do have empty beds.”

The rhetorical about-face is typical of Iranian leaders’ inconsistent response to the pandemic that many see as helping to fuel the virus’ spread. Experts say the mixed messages reflect the fact that the leadership has little room to impose severe restrictions that would damage an already fragile economy — and thus stoke public anger.

“The country is already under such pressure, and Iranians are already policed,” said Sanam Vakil, a researcher on Iran at Chatham House, a London-based policy institute. “If they can’t provide economic resources to help people, to then be overly authoritarian and enforce health measures would undermine their legitimacy even further.”

More than 32,000 people reportedly have died in what is the Middle East’s worst outbreak — and a top health official stressed recently that the true number is likely 2½ times higher.

And it shows no signs of abating. In the last week, Iran shattered its single-day death toll record twice and reported daily infection highs three times.

In a sign that tensions over the government’s haphazard response are coming to a head, even the country’s supreme leader took aim at authorities on Saturday. He demanded for the first time they prioritize public health over “the security and economic aspects” of the pandemic, without elaborating.

“When the Health Ministry determines restrictions, all agencies must observe and enforce them without taking into account other considerations,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared.

For months, even as officials have issued increasingly grim warnings, the government has resisted a nationwide lockdown that would undermine an economy reeling from severe U.S. sanctions, re-imposed in 2018 after the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Despite appeals from the United Nations and rights groups that sanctions be eased during the pandemic, America slapped new ones on Iranian banks this month.

The rial plunged to new lows against the dollar, erasing people’s life savings. Millions of workers in informal sectors face the choice between staying home to avoid the virus or feeding their families.

And Iranian authorities have given them no clear guidance. When the virus first struck in February, international experts accused Iran of covering up the crisis. The government, desperately seeking to defuse public anger and boost its legitimacy after its crackdown on nationwide economic protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran, urged people to turn out for a parliamentary vote and to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Only in late March — with infections skyrocketing — did Iran impose a two-week shutdown of offices and nonessential businesses. Yet even then, during Nowruz, the Persian New Year and the country’s biggest holiday, Iranians defied travel bans to visit family or head to the coast. A widely watched video on Instagram at the time showed angry drivers attacking and yelling insults at police officers who tried to close the roads in northern Iran. In response, the police retreated and let them go.

When the country reopened in April, infections surged again. As the nation’s death toll soared this month, authorities scrambled to impose a raft of public health measures: shutdowns of recently reopened universities and schools in Tehran, travel bans to and from five major cities, a compulsory mask rule in the capital, home to 10 million people. The deputy health minister last week promised that police would finally “start dealing more seriously with fines” for those who disobey the rules.

But the risk is that if impoverished citizens are fined for failing to wear masks, or middle-class Tehranis are barred from escaping to vacation spots on the northern Caspian coast, public outrage over Iran’s other grievances, including economic distress and international isolation, could boil over.

Angry street demonstrations already have challenged the government this year. Hard-line lawmakers have demanded that President Hassan Rouhani resign, with one of them, Mojtaba Zolnouri, who heads parliament’s influential committee for national security and foreign policy, even publicly calling for his “hanging a thousand times until people’s hearts are satisfied.”

Rouhani is facing pressure from all sides. While medical officials on state TV clamor for a prolonged and centralized shutdown, powerful clerics have called for mass gatherings to mark Shiite holidays, such as Ashoura, saying those who get sick pay the price to keep the holiday “alive.”

“Rouhani’s hands are tied domestically,” said Vakil, adding that Iran’s leadership, aware that escaping U.S. sanctions is the only way to rescue its economy, is closely watching the U.S. presidential election next month.

In the meantime, authorities are at a loss for how to respond to the pandemic, according to the country’s own health minister.

“I saw on the street three or four days ago that 40% of passengers on a bus didn’t wear masks,” said Namaki in his first speech last week. “People gather and make lines for free food and no one comes to disperse them. … How can infections be controlled in this way?”

Twenty-four hours later, he was on state TV insisting that things were, in fact, under control.

___

Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.



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COVID-19 fears could get public out of jury duty, as Victoria encounters huge case backlog


Fear of contracting COVID-19 could be used as a valid excuse to get out of jury duty call-ups, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd has said.

Pressure on the state’s justice system is set to ease from November 16, when juries will be brought back to courtrooms, with a backlog of about 750 County Court trials in Melbourne and up to 400 in regional areas.

New jury trials have been suspended since March. Plans for a July resumption were scrapped when the state’s second wave took hold.

Chief Judge Kidd said the Supreme and County Courts would take significant steps to reduce health risks, including staggered times for jury panel selections to avoid large crowds gathering in courtrooms.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd said the traditional jury system was well supported by judges.(ABC News: Tom Hancock)

Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne, Chief Judge Kidd was asked whether prospective jurors could refuse to sit on the jury if they had concerns about spending days, or potentially weeks, locked in a deliberation room with others.

“I think the broad answer is yes,” he said.

“The juries commissioner will be asking prospective jurors, before they even come to court, about any concerns they have.

“We’re conscious that within the community, there are people who have certain health issues and other concerns relating to COVID and we want to manage that.”

Who is eligible for jury duty?

The outside of the County Court of Victoria building.
Other measures will include larger jury deliberation rooms, regular cleaning and potentially shifting family and media to overflow courtrooms.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

The Chief Judge said it was unlikely a medical certificate would need to be produced to be excused from jury service, and he was confident they would still find enough suitable members to run trials.

Other measures taken by the County and Supreme Courts include spacing jurors at least 1.5 metres apart, compulsory mask-wearing, larger jury deliberation rooms, regular cleaning and potentially shifting family and media to overflow courtrooms.

In Victoria, jurors can be randomly selected if they are over 18 and enrolled to vote.

Valid reasons to be excused from jury duty include old age, disability or illness, living more than 60 kilometres from court, caring for children, working for a small business or being a full-time student.

Previously, empanelled jurors would be required to attend court between 10:00am and 4:15pm each trial day.

The courts pay jurors $40 per day, increasing to $80 if a trial runs longer than six days. Employers are legally required to pay the difference between the juror payments and what a person would have normally earned in their job.

What about judge-only trials and plea-bargaining?

The Victorian Government has allowed courts to take the uncommon step of holding judge-only criminal trials during the pandemic.

They can only occur with the accused person’s consent, and according to a Nine Newspapers report last week, only six had taken place since July.

“I think we’ve had about 25 applications since it came in … we’ll see what happens at the end of the emergency as to whether the judge-alone trial regime remains,” Chief Judge Kidd said.

“The jury system is a good system and has the support of the judges.”

Chief Judge Kidd said nobody could be forced to plead guilty. He said the courts had done more case management during the pandemic with the aim of resolving cases early or receiving guilty pleas before a trial.

He pointed to 60 cases that were scheduled for trials that would no longer proceed, saving up to 450 court sitting dates.

“Ultimately, it’s not going to resolve all the trials and the backlog will remain. We need to look at other options,” the Chief Judge said.



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KFL&A Public Health warning of ‘toxic’ drugs after increase in overdoses – Kingston


Kingston’s public health unit is warning residents that a “toxic batch of drugs” may be circulating in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington area.

This comes after a recent increase in overdoses locally. The public health unit says in some cases, these overdoses have been accompanied by “unusual reactions” to the drugs, like a rapid loss of consciousness, chest pain or stroke, seizures, involuntary movement, and high blood pressure.

Read more:
KFL&A Chief Medical Officer warns four deaths could be linked to cocaine lace with Fentanyl

“Substances being consumed may appear lime green in colour initially and become darker in colour during preparation,” KFL&A Public Health said in a news release.

The health unit is urging people who use drugs not to mix their substances, to test before using, and to never use alone.

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They are also asking users to be mindful of the risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to keep social distance or to connect virtually with someone who could call for help if needed.


Click to play video 'Study explores why COVID-19 pandemic led to increase in overdose deaths'







Study explores why COVID-19 pandemic led to increase in overdose deaths


Study explores why COVID-19 pandemic led to increase in overdose deaths

The area’s safe consumption site is now located at the Integrated Care Hub at Artillery Park, which is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Rapid Access Addictions Medicine Clinic at Street Health Centre is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. by appointment to provide individuals with support related to substance use.




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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AFL Grand Final 2020: When is the Grand Final, start time, dates, fixture, tips, Grand Final public holiday, Richmond vs Geelong, weather


Richmond will face Geelong in the 2020 AFL Grand Final.

The Tigers are fighting for their third premiership in four years and unofficial dynasty status, while the Cats finally broke their preliminary final hoodoo and are aiming at their first flag since 2011.

See everything you need to know about the Grand Final below.

Stream the full or condensed replay of the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

Grand Final

AFL 2020 GRAND FINAL FIXTURE



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Aged care royal commission public split in the final days shows how controversial change will be


An extraordinary scene played out in the final hearings of the historic Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety yesterday.

It may have looked like a minor difference of opinion, but the public split between the two key people deciding the future for our elderly shows just how controversial real reform is going to be.

At 9:30am, counsel assisting, QCs Peter Gray and Peter Rozen, began detailing 124 recommendations they had made after spending two years examining more than 10,000 submissions, a comparable amount of government data and hearing some of the most heartbreaking stories of abuse, neglect and failures of regulation and governance.

It was their big day to put their far-reaching recommendations for reform before the royal commissioners, detailing how to transform a system which has been delivering substandard care for decades, but which successive governments have packaged as a privatised system of choice.

Ninety minutes in, counsel assisting Mr Gray had finished with his proposal for a new aged care act and the establishment of an independent aged care authority.

The current regulator — the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission — and the Department of Health have been roundly criticised at the royal commission for inadequacy and contributing to substandard care.

A new authority removed from the Government and Canberra would put the elderly first rather than worrying about the cost, according to the recommendation.

And that’s when things became interesting.

Independent regulator an ‘extraordinary proposal’, says commissioner

Lynelle Briggs, the first commissioner appointed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2018, spoke up, reading from a prepared statement.

“The independent commission that you describe in your submissions is quite an extraordinary proposal and, indeed, some might even call it courageous,” she said.

“I am yet to hear you present arguments, counsel, as to how the commission model will improve the quality and safety of care for older Australians, or how any such benefits would outweigh the very substantial costs and disruption involved in such a radical transformation of the Government’s administrative machinery.”

Next, it was the turn of the other commissioner, Tony Pagone, who assured those watching that “obviously those remarks are not intended to be a final decision by us” and that conversely he was inclined to support an independent aged care authority, adding that he didn’t agree with Ms Brigg’s description of “courageous” as “quite the right description” for the regulator.

For the two commissioners to disagree so vehemently with each other during the final hearing and for one of them to question counsel assisting is the equivalent of a bar brawl in royal commission terms.

Give Government another chance: Briggs

One of the concerns of Ms Briggs is the cost of setting up an independent authority and its accountability when it has no link to the Minister and the Department of Health.

Royal commissioner Lynelle Briggs at the first public hearing of the Royal Commission for Aged Care Quality and Safety in 2018.(AAP: Kelly Barnes)

She says she wants to give the Department of Health and the Government another chance to fix things up.

“I’ve detected over the last year, a growing determination among officials and in the Government to fix the problems of the aged care system and to pursue a genuine reform agenda,” Ms Briggs said.

The commissioner favours what has been done before, reforming the system while keeping the same people.

She described making the regulator more robust so it was really the “tough cop on the beat” and a “one-stop shop” for complaints — the same phrases used by Health Minister Greg Hunt back in 2018 when he established the very regulator that has been found to be so woefully inadequate at this royal commission.

Mr Pagone disagreed.

He referred to evidence earlier in the day to make his point about the Government’s overwhelming concern with the bottom line — a cabinet-in-confidence document from 1997 when the Howard government effectively privatised aged care, noting how the Government lauded its reform because it “has saved billions since its introduction and continues to do so”.

Mr Pagone said that document “did show what some might regard a rather cynical approach — when you have the combination of the people spending money with those guiding the money.”

He supports counsel assisting, who say putting the elderly first has to be done by an authority that is not worried about the cost and that means being independent of the Government.

Staff ratios and register proposed among tough reforms

There’s no doubt the ambitious reforms are a lot to take in.

Almost 25 years after the Howard government handed the aged care system over to market forces, counsel assisting have presented an ambitious blueprint for change which will please neither the Government nor the industry.

The recommendations include:

  • A new aged care act
  • Three-and-a-half hours of direct care per resident per day
  • Stopping GPs prescribing antipsychotics
  • More Indigenous staff
  • A public star rating system allowing families to compare nursing homes for quality and safety
  • More nurses
  • An aged care pricing authority to tell the Government how much needs to be spent on aged care rather than the Government deciding what the Budget can afford
  • Registering all carers
  • Clearing the home care waiting list by the end of next year.

Normally, the public worries whether the Government will adopt the recommendations of a final report of a royal commission.

In this instance, we’re left wondering what happens next when the Commissioners are clearly in dispute with each other about a major reform. And we won’t find out until February next year.

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Jamaican-born public school boy was British Army’s first black officer


The discovery of a war plaque has rewritten history books to reveal Walter Tull was not the first black British Army officer. 

Experts believed that Tull, an ex-Tottenham Hotspur footballer, was the first black man to be commissioned and also killed fighting in the Great War in 1918.

But a plaque honouring Lieutenant Euan Lucie-Smith, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, suggests he joined up and died nearly three years before.

He was killed in action on April 25, 1915, at the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium – just six weeks after being deployed.

A newly-discovered plaque honouring Lieutenant Euan Lucie-Smith, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, suggests he was the first black man to join the British Army. He was killed in action nearly three years before ex-Tottenham footballer Walter Tull was in 1918

The incredible piece, which is set to re-write black history in the conflict, will go under the hammer in a military memoribilia auction. 

The antique was discovered by James Carver, a former Member of the European Parliament, who is a keen collector of medals relating to West African soldiers of the Victorian and Edwardian era.

The 51-year-old spotted it for sale and bought it on a hunch prompting a dive into the fascinating history of Lt Lucie-Smith. 

Walter Tull, also famous for his professional football career, has long been believed to be the earliest black officer of the war, but a re-examination of records has revealed Lucie-Smith predates him.

The incredible plaque, which is set to re-write black history in the conflict, will go under the hammer in a military memoribilia auction

The incredible plaque, which is set to re-write black history in the conflict, will go under the hammer in a military memoribilia auction

Mr Carver said: ‘I found it through a dealers site, a medal dealers site, I was just scrolling through and clearly they hadn’t realised the significance of the item.

‘I looked at Lucie-Smith and he was killed so early in the war and before Walter Tull and I researched the London Gazette and checked it against records of other candidates and he beat them all.

‘I researched his family tree and he’s quite the distinguished character.

‘His father was from a long line of distinguished white colonial civil servants but his mother was the granddaughter of quite a distinguished black lawyer, Samuel Constantine Burke who was advocating for the black communities of Jamaica in the 19th century.’

He added: ‘Until now, the best-known black soldier of World War One has been Walter Tull, however I now believe Lucie-Smith to be the first black officer.

Experts had believed that Walter Tull, an ex-Tottenham Hotspur footballer, was the first black man to be commissioned and also killed fighting in the Great War in 1918

Hero: Walter Tull

Experts had believed that Walter Tull, an ex-Tottenham Hotspur footballer, was the first black man to be commissioned and also killed fighting in the Great War in 1918 

‘His background was quite different to Tull’s – coming from a privileged Jamaican family, he was undoubtedly from the so-called ‘Officer Class’, having attended two English Private Schools.

‘To my mind he’s the first black officer.

‘Historically what’s interesting about this is he’s from a distinguished family, he went to two public schools in the UK. It’s astonishing but this is history.

‘Walter Tull is very special in that he was the first black officer commissioned from the ranks but my argument until I’m proved wrong is that Lucie-Smith was the first commissioned black officer.

‘With this month being Black History Month, the timing of this discovery seems all the more poignant.’

Lt Lucie-Smith landed in France on March 17, 1915 and was reported as missing just over a month later.

Lt. Lucie-Smith died at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. He has no known grave but is commemorated on Panel 2 to 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium (pictured)

Lt. Lucie-Smith died at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. He has no known grave but is commemorated on Panel 2 to 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium (pictured)

Records show that he was later confirmed as being killed in action after being shot in the head on April 25 1915, aged 25, during the Second Battle of Ypres – making him a casualty two years and eleven months before Walter Tull.

Private F. Jukes, at Suffolk Hall Hospital, Cheltenham, stated: ‘Lieut. Lucie-Smith – was told by his servant that he was killed, and had seen him dead… Shot through the head’.

He has no known grave but is commemorated on Panel 2 to 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.

He is also commemorated on the Berkhamsted School Memorial, the Eastbourne College Memorial and has an entry in ‘Jamaica in the Great War’.

An Army spokesperson said: ‘This new research does appear to suggest that Euan Lucie-Smith served as an officer before Walter Tull.

‘Our historians will be looking closely at the evidence to better understand the lives of these great men.

‘Black soldiers and officers made a huge contribution during the First World War and have continued to do so in every conflict since.’

After finishing his education in the UK Lucie-Smith returned to Jamaica where he was commissioned into the Jamaica Artillery Militia on November 10, 1911.

Christopher Mellor-Hill, associate Director of Dix Noonan Webb said: 'We are delighted to be offering this Memorial Plaque and celebrating the career of Euan Lucie-Smith'

Christopher Mellor-Hill, associate Director of Dix Noonan Webb said: ‘We are delighted to be offering this Memorial Plaque and celebrating the career of Euan Lucie-Smith’

He was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the regular force of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment just six weeks after the outbreak of the war.

His name appeared on a list of soldiers in London Gazette of November 30, 1914, with his name above the others showing his seniority.

His was the only name on this list from the Caribbean, or East and West Africa and the date of its publication list suggests he was commissioned a full two years and eight months before Walter Tull.

Christopher Mellor-Hill, associate Director of Dix Noonan Webb said: ‘We are delighted to be offering this Memorial Plaque and celebrating the career of Euan Lucie-Smith.

‘Much has been written about Walter Tull, who was till now erroneously assumed to have been, and regularly referred to, as the first black officer commissioned into a British army regiment during the Great War, on May 30, 1917 and the first black officer casualty of the Great War, when he was killed in action during the First Battle of Bapaume on March 8, 1918.’

‘But now we have Euan Lucie-Smith, who was not only the first black officer commissioned into the British army, but was also the first black officer killed in action some three years before Walter Tull was.’

The plaque is being sold at Piccadilly-based auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb on November 12 with a guide price of £600 – £800.

Hero who won his Spurs in No Man’s Land: The amazing life of football star Walter Tull

Walter Tull’s father, Daniel, was from Barbados but emigrated to Britain as a 20-year-old in 1876.

He found work as a carpenter and married a local girl, Alice Palmer, four years later, before having Walter and his brother Edward.

His mother tragically died of cancer when Walter was just seven years old and his father died of heart disease in 1897.

Aged nine, Walter was placed in Bonner Road Children’s Home in the East End of London with his brother Edward.

Walter Tull overcame adversity early on in life - he was orphaned as a child and grew up in a children's home - to make his name as a professional footballer and then dying a hero leading out troops in the Great War. Pictured left with fellow officers

Walter Tull overcame adversity early on in life – he was orphaned as a child and grew up in a children’s home – to make his name as a professional footballer and then dying a hero leading out troops in the Great War. Pictured left with fellow officers

Two years after entering the home, Walter and Edward were split up when Edward was adopted and went to live in Glasgow.

Despite the adversity he faced early on, Walter impressed scouts while playing football for his children’s home and signed for top local amateur side, Clapton, in 1908.

The following year, he signed as a professional for Tottenham, making his first team debut against Manchester United. During his short career he endured racist abuse from crowds during matches. 

He was transferred to Northampton Town in October 1911 and played over 100 first team games before the war started.

He joined the newly-formed 17th (Football) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment,  part of the army’s ‘Pals Battalion’ that was made up of more than 120 professional footballers.

Walter signed as a professional for Tottenham (pictured, in white), making his first team debut playing against Manchester United during the 1909/10 season

Walter signed as a professional for Tottenham (pictured, in white), making his first team debut playing against Manchester United during the 1909/10 season

At the time there was a military rule excluding ‘negroes’ from exercising command as it was believed white soldiers would not wish to fight alongside black soldiers.

But Walter bucked this trend and became a black combat officer in the British Army. He was promoted through the ranks and became a second lieutenant on May 29, 1917.

He fought at the Somme, Passchendaele and during the Italian campaign of the winter of 1917 where was cited for ‘gallantry and coolness’ for leading his company of 26 men to safety during two night missions. 

In November 1917, Walter’s battalion was sent to northern Italy to help in the fight against both Austrian and German forces along the River Piave, north-west of Treviso.

On the centenary of the end of the Great War, Walter was remembered on a First World War stamp for his contribution to the war effort

On the centenary of the end of the Great War, Walter was remembered on a First World War stamp for his contribution to the war effort

While there, Walter volunteered on more than one occasion to cross over the River Piave, under cover of darkness, where elements of the German Army were based.

These dangerous night-time sorties involved both evidence gathering and carrying out an attack.

On both occasions, not only did Walter return unscathed, but he did so without incurring a single casualty among his men, feats which greatly impressed his commanding officer, Major General (later Sir) Sydney Lawford.

Mjr Gen Lawford mentioned him in despatches and recommended him for the award of the Military Cross, which he never received.

His incredible story was also memorialised on a specially-designed post box to mark Black History Month in September

His incredible story was also memorialised on a specially-designed post box to mark Black History Month in September

Walter died a hero aged 30 while leading his men in a counter attack against German defensive positions near the village of Favreuil in the Pas-de-Calais region on March 25, 1918. 

His men tried to recover his body from the battlefield but were unable to reach him due to the sheer volume of enemy fire.

His body was never found. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Years on from the conflict, historians have revealed his significant contribution to the war effort, which has been recognised in several ways.

On the centenary of the end of the war, Walter was remembered on a First World War stamp, and last month was memorialised on a specially-designed post box to mark Black History Month.



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Victoria Police to investigate DHHS public servant after leak of coronavirus restrictions roadmap


An investigation into a Victorian health department employee who allegedly leaked a top secret document has been labelled a “witch-hunt” by the State Opposition.

The ABC understands the department referred to the matter to Victoria Police after it discovered the breach, which is against the Victorian Public Service (VPS) code of conduct.

“Victoria Police can confirm it has received a referral from a government department in relation to unauthorised access of information,” a police spokesperson said.

“This matter is being investigated by the E-Crime Squad and as this investigation is ongoing.”

In September, a document featuring a draft of the Victorian Government’s roadmap out of restrictions was leaked to the Herald Sun newspaper. But neither police nor the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would confirm whether the investigation related to that leak.

Although the Government initially said it was a “working document” and Premier Daniel Andrews described it as having “no status”, many key proposals in the document — such as case thresholds and reopening dates — were put into effect.

Government ‘dysfunctional and secretive’, Opposition says

DHHS confirmed it was aware of an alleged code of conduct breach by a staff member who provided administrative support.

But it said it would be inappropriate to comment because the issue was now a police matter.

Shadow Attorney-General Ed O’Donohue said the reports of the investigation were concerning.

“The increasingly desperate, dysfunctional and secretive Andrews Labor Government will do anything it can to stop Victorians from knowing the truth,” he said.

At his daily press briefing, Mr Andrews said he was unaware of the investigation or the referral of the matter to police.

“I don’t have thoughts on those matters, they don’t involve me,” he said.

“It’s not a matter that I’m particularly concerned about.

“Cabinet in confidence documents, are under law, very important documents that need to be appropriately protected, not just now but every day of every year, that’s been the case for decades.”



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How COVID hit SEQ’s public transport usage


Griffith University transport expert Matthew Burke said this decision stood in positive contrast to other countries that immediately cut public transport services to save costs, causing “terrible” impacts to low-income workers in particular.

“We have a couple of factors that is different to the rest of the world. The first is that one in six passengers on the TransLink network in SEQ are tertiary students,” Dr Burke said.

“So with the universities basically still running off-campus and online teaching, there is one in six trips that has pretty much vanished from the network.”

And with universities predicting a return to in-person teaching only in the second half of 2021, those trips are not likely to return in the immediate future.

“The public transport networks are exceptionally radial in south-east Queensland, that is they all tend to head in to the Brisbane CBD,” Dr Burke said.

“No more so than our rail network, which everything runs to Roma Street and Central, and with office workers very much continuing to work from home in large numbers, that has meant that those services have really seen a decline.”

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With companies now considering whether to keep workers at home and reduce their inner-city office spaces, or bring workers in just for a few days a week, Dr Burke said the “big debate” remained about if this was the new normal.

“Beyond that, there is also an avoidance function which is happening here, where people are – if they have a choice – choosing to avoid public transport and choosing other modes,” he said.

Brisbane City Council, who operates buses and ferries in agreement with TransLink, released figures on Tuesday showing monthly bus and ferry patronage is still well below 2019 figures.

The sharpest difference, naturally, was during April and May when the entire state ground to a halt.

In April 2019, 7.6 million trips were taken on Brisbane’s bus network: in April 2020, just 1.3 million – a decline of 81 per cent.

By September this year, however, patronage was still down by 45 per cent on buses and 48 per cent on ferries, which were hard-hit by the loss of international and domestic tourists.

Earlier this week, Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Ben Marcus said police were seeing more people on the roads, and congestion almost worse than pre-COVID levels, triggering a worrying rise in the road toll.

The council’s public and active transport committee chairman Ryan Murphy said it was “hard to predict” if or when patronage would return to pre-COVID numbers.

“While there is no community transmission in Queensland, commuters can have a total confidence that our public transport is safe to use,” Cr Murphy said.

“There has been a noticeable shift in more people travelling actively, for both commuting and recreation and we’ve seen significantly more people using the riverwalks and bikeways.

“I think this is a positive change that residents are exploring different travel options and getting outside and enjoying our wonderful climate and active travel options.”

Dr Burke said the decision to keep public transport services at pre-COVID schedules meant people could travel quite safely while staying socially distanced.

“Two things we can be really proud of,” Dr Burke said.

“A: that we’ve kept up services to people – at great cost, TransLink’s wearing that cost – and B: we’ve managed to keep those operations as COVID-safe as possible.

“I think we can do more and further encourage mask-wearing on public transport, and … if the numbers pick up in Queensland we will need to move to making masks mandatory as they did in Victoria.”

A TransLink spokesperson said the agency had added more services to help people socially distance while travelling, and while there were no plans to cap numbers on public transport, it would continue to monitor capacity and take advice from Queensland Health.

But while services have stayed operating as normal, and people can ideally find space on public transport to travel safely, the cost is not sustainable in the long term, Dr Burke said.

“It’s unsustainable – we couldn’t do it for three years,” he said.

The TransLink spokesperson did not provide details on the agency’s timeline for any discussions about reducing services if patronage figures remained low, saying it was an “essential service”.

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Accused flasher who allegedly swam naked, defecated in public pool apologises in Canberra court


An alleged serial naked swimmer accused of exposing himself at several Canberra pools has apologised as he faced the ACT Magistrates Court today.

Deane Richard Roach, 43, is facing a total of 13 charges, including acts of indecency, property damage and stalking.

Among the pools targeted was at Club Lime at the Australian National University, where he is alleged to have entered the pool naked, standing at the end of a lane where a woman was training.

Court documents reveal the woman saw Mr Roach was naked standing with his legs apart in what she described as a “proud stance”.

She was the only other person in the pool, and saw he was naked as she went to turn at the end of the lane.

She told police it made her feel as though she could vomit.

Deane Roach was sent for a mental health assessment after fronting court.(Supplied: ACT Policing)

Mr Roach is also accused of making several visits to the new Stromlo Leisure Centre where he was allegedly seen in a children’s pool, naked below the water, holding his bathers.

Court documents say a father approached staff saying words to the effect of: “What’s with the paedo in the pool? He was looking at my kids.”

The material tendered in court this morning shows that after several complaints, Mr Roach was banned from the club for 12 months.

The staff member who warned him said Mr Roach asked if it was because of his skimpy underwear, and then remarked “I guess the kiddies wouldn’t like that”.

Mr Roach was also a regular user of a pool used by Arthritis ACT, where he took part in classes.

The court documents show there were complaints about him exposing himself to staff, and at one point allegedly defecating in the pool, meaning it had to be closed for two days.

It is alleged that when the manager terminated his membership he made an abusive phone call, and later hassled staff and hung around the office, and carpark in a bid to speak to her.

He has been charged with stalking over the incidents.

Police finally caught up with Mr Roach after a later incident when he was allegedly seen urinating in public outside a supermarket.

When police posted an image on Facebook, captured from CCTV, they received calls from the complainants identifying Mr Roach as the man responsible for exposing himself at the pools.

When he appeared by video link in court today he said he was deeply sorry for swimming naked.

Mr Roach claimed he was told he could not use the change rooms at the facilities because of COVID-19.

Magistrate James Stewart said he was concerned Mr Roach’s behaviour may have been driven by his mental health and referred him to hospital for an assessment.



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