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Peter Dutton took $23k private jet to News Corp event where he spoke on cost-of-living crisis | Peter Dutton | The Guardian

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The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, used a taxpayer-funded private jet to travel to a News Corp event in Tamworth, claiming $23,000 in travel expenses to speak at the summit where he criticised the government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis.

Despite multiple flight connections daily between Canberra and Tamworth, it is understood Dutton had a pre-existing commitment, meaning no commercial flight could get him to the Daily Telegraph’s annual “bush summit” in August 2023 in time.

The latest round of political expenses, published by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (Ipea), reveal politicians’ spending for the June-September 2023 quarter.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was again the top spender, with $911,708 in expenses reported during that quarter, led by $646,970 in employee travel and $161,259 in international travel. Dutton was not far behind, with a total $809,587 in spending during that quarter, including $381,374 in employee travel, $96,597 in office expenses and $78,330 in office administration.

Albanese’s spending for that period included claims for trips to India, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Germany, New Zealand and Indonesia, for meetings including the Asean, east Asia, G7, G20, and Nato summits.

Dutton also claimed $199,694 on “unscheduled commercial transport” – a category which often includes charter jet travel and long taxi fares, as opposed to “scheduled commercial travel” which includes standard commercial air fares.

The opposition leader’s spending on unscheduled commercial transport was by far the highest reported by Ipea in that quarter. The next highest was the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, who claimed $44,339.

Dutton’s claims reported in the June-September 2023 quarter included travel to remote regions Laverton, Leonora and Nhulunbuy in February and May 2023, visits related to Indigenous affairs and the voice referendum.

He reported three flights – from Perth to Laverton, then on to Leonora, and finishing in Adelaide – over 20 and 21 February, reported at $32,606 for each leg. A Nhulunbuy to Archerfield flight on 18 May – where Dutton attended the memorial service for Indigenous leader Yunupingu – was reported at $45,970.

A Canberra to Tamworth flight, on 11 August, was claimed at $23,300.

Dutton appeared at the Daily Telegraph’s bush summit, an annual event focusing on regional and rural issues, on 11 August.

“Mr Dutton did travel on a chartered aircraft from Canberra to Tamworth only, under his entitlement as leader of the opposition,” a spokesperson for Dutton’s office said in a statement.

Dutton also claimed a commercial flight from Tamworth to Sydney later that day, and then on to his home city of Brisbane, indicating the charter flight was taken only one-way.

Qantas operates several commercial flights a day from Canberra to Tamworth, connecting through Sydney. Virgin also operates flights to Tamworth from Canberra, via Brisbane.

It is understood Dutton had a pre-existing commitment in Canberra which meant no commercial flight could take him to Tamworth in time for his appearance at the bush summit.

Albanese also appeared at the summit but the prime minister’s flights – on a government-funded VIP jet – do not appear in the Ipea reports. The details of more than $25m in those flights for Australian ministers and dignitaries are kept secret, with the government citing national security advice for no longer publishing those flight logs.

A Guardian Australia analysis of data between 2021 and 2023 for what are known as special purpose flights data shows the total cost for using the defence aircrafts has risen to $26.6m over the period, including $10.3m in 2023 alone. In 2023, Albanese spent more than 750 hours in the air at a cost of nearly $4.1m.

Albanese’s appearance at the bush summit was met by protest groups critical of the government’s renewable energy policies and an alleged lack of community consultation.

Speaking on stage at the bush summit, in front of a large screen noting the event was sponsored by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, Dutton said cost of living was among his main priorities.

Asked about what he saw his role as opposition leader, Dutton listed “holding the government to account” on issues like cost of living. He also criticised the government’s energy policies as “incredibly expensive” and claimed regional and rural Australians were being treated as “second-class citizens”.

In a 2GB interview, conducted on his way to the airport to travel to Tamworth, Dutton claimed the government was “not concentrating on trying to help families and pensioners and self-funded retirees on the issue of cost of living”.

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Hundreds of police have sexually abused kids. How do they avoid prison time? - Washington Post

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Powerful institution, pervasive culture of covering up crimes committed by members, this is basically inevitable
Washington, DC

Florida school board bans book about book bans

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Another orphan well bursts in West Texas | The Texas Tribune

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Southern Baptists oppose IVF, narrowly reject ban on women pastors - The Washington Post

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The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday approved a measure opposing in vitro fertilization as “dehumanizing” and asking “the government to restrain” the practice, a sign of the broadening effort by conservative evangelicals and the antiabortion movement since the fall of Roe vs Wade.

Earlier, convention representatives narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment barring women from all pastoral positions, a move that would have affected hundreds of churches, especially minority congregations where having women in official leadership positions is more common.

Constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval to pass, and the motion saying the SBC cooperates only with “churches that do not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind” garnered 61 percent of votes, to 38 percent who rejected it.

The voice vote on “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo” was one of a raft of resolutions, which are understood as statements of Southern Baptist belief; they are not rules that come with enforcement mandates.

“This isn’t a bottom-up change,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor and historian of the antiabortion movement. “It aligns with the Southern Baptist Convention trying to figure out how ultraconservative it’s going to be on personhood,” she said of the Christian movement that sees embryos and fertilized eggs as human beings with legal rights.

Ziegler said many leaders in the SBC and in the broader antiabortion movement have long opposed IVF, seeing it as a process that separates conception from the act of heterosexual sex and is disrespectful of human life. Church leaders have downplayed that view in public, however, since IVF is popular in the United States. Seventy percent of Americans in April told Pew Research they think IVF is a “good thing,” including 63 percent of White evangelicals, who line up ideologically in general with Southern Baptists.

The issue shot to prominence in February when the Alabama Supreme Court overruled a lower court and said stored embryos are afforded the same legal protection as children under the state’s wrongful death act. That threw the state’s IVF industry into chaos. Within a few weeks, the state’s governor signed a bill into law aimed at protecting IVF patients and providers from the legal liability.

The SBC resolution cited the “searing pain” of infertility for some, and emphasized its long-standing policies about “the sanctity of human life.” It also noted IVF “routinely creates more embryos than can be implanted” — which has led opponents to argue that discarding those embryos is akin to murder.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., co-author of the IVF resolution and president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, said the measure is “a starting point for future discussion.” The Alabama ruling and the end of Roe vs Wade opened the door to deeper discussions about IVF, he said.

“This is an awakening,” he said. “I find IVF morally problematic in any form, but it’s also clear there are more and less destructive and dangerous forms of IVF.”

Opponents of the amendment on women’s roles noted that there are only a few hundred SBC churches with women in any type of pastoral position — typically assistant pastors or pastors to women or children — out of 47,000 SBC churches, and that the issue should be handled on a case-by-case basis. They pointed to an overwhelming Tuesday vote that ruled an Alexandria, Va., church out of “cooperation” after the staff said they would be comfortable hiring a woman as lead pastor.

The 14 million-member convention, the country’s second-largest faith group, has been shifting to the right since a conservative insurgency in the 1980s. Until the 1960s, there were as many women in Southern Baptist seminaries as there were in liberal seminaries.

The Rev. Greg Perkins, a California pastor and president of the National African American Fellowship, a network of about 4,000 SBC churches, told The Washington Post earlier Wednesday that passage of the amendment would be a blow.

“This will be a time of prayer and then contemplation and then decision-making. … There are a lot who now will think very carefully about their continued engagement, and that breaks my heart,” Perkins said.

Perkins, whose church includes a female pastor of discipleship and family life, said he believes in the “biblical mandate” for men to be lead pastor of churches.

“I don’t want us to drift into this unbiblical space, but I don’t know if we’re best served by hanging our hat on this matter,” he said.

The Rev. Mike Law, the Arlington, Va., pastor who proposed the amendment, told representatives in the massive convention center Wednesday that the issue is about following scripture.

“Our culture may see this prohibition as harsh, but our God is all wise, and he wrote his word for the flourishing of men and woman,” he said. “Let’s be exceptionally clear — we gladly celebrate the myriad of women who serve the church in many ways, and we are so grateful. This is not about women in ministry. It’s about women in the pastoral office.”

The results felt like a sharp rebuke to the outspoken hard-right in the SBC.

“Devastating,” tweeted the William Wolfe, a former Trump official who leads a group aimed at reforming the SBC. “This issue is not over. Not by a long shot.”

Last year the representatives voted overwhelmingly to expel churches that had women in top leadership pastoral roles — including the Rev. Rick Warren’s massive Saddleback Church, one of the biggest in the SBC. Supporters say this year’s amendment is needed so it’s clear women can’t serve in lesser roles such as women’s ministry pastor or children’s pastor.

The Tuesday vote said the First Baptist Church of Alexandria was “not in friendly cooperation” with the SBC because it has a “pastor for women and children.”

First Baptist Pastor for Children and Women Kim Eskridge told The Post on Wednesday that her church was reported to the SBC by nearby pastor Law, of Arlington Baptist Church.

“My contention has always been that this is something we can agree to disagree on and keep the main thing the main thing, which is sharing the message with the Lord,” said Eskridge, whose church predates the existence of the SBC and has typical Sunday attendance of around 800.

J.D. Greear, a North Carolina pastor and former SBC president, told The Post on Tuesday that the debate is semantic and that efforts to add mandates and rules hampers cooperation among SBC churches and distracts from evangelizing.

“This is a ham-fisted sledgehammer of a solution for a problem that isn’t what people say it is,” said Greear. “This is what’s tragic — in a time when I feel we ought to be celebrating women as leaders and seeing better pathways for them, we just keep tightening this thing and spending all this energy on it.”

The vote on female pastors served as the coda of a period that began in the 1980s, when conservatives took charge of the convention and began to limit the formal roles of women.

In 1984, the SBC passed a resolution saying scripture teaches that “women are not in public worship to assume a role of authority over men.” In 1998, they amended its Faith and Message statement — the SBC’s statement of faith — to say a woman should “submit herself graciously” to her husband’s leadership, as “the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

In 2000, it amended the Faith and Message statement to say “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Baptist Women in Ministry, an advocacy group, in a statement Wednesday said they were grateful for the vote’s outcome, but still “grieved” that so many voted for it.

“In the conflict surrounding this action for a stricter enforcement of oppressive theology, women have been further harmed. Millions of women have heard as the incorrect message that they do not have equal value to God and the church,” said a statement by Meredith Stone, executive director. Stone said women in ministry were being “used as props for the display of extreme conservatism in order to advance the power of a faction within the SBC.”

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Musk’s X demands money from laid-off employees, claims they were overpaid | Ars Technica

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Elon Musk's X Corp. is reportedly demanding money from at least six Australians who were laid off, saying the company accidentally overpaid them. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that "X is threatening to take some former Australian employees to court, demanding they return entitlements it claims were overpaid to them after it bungled the currency conversion from US to Australian dollars on the payments."

Emails sent this year by X's Asia Pacific human resources department to the laid-off employees said there was "a significant overpayment in error in January 2023." The alleged overpayments ranged from $1,500 to $70,000 for each employee.

So far, none of the former employees have repaid the money, The Sydney Morning Herald was told. One Australian dollar is currently worth $0.67 in US currency.

"The company said the overpayment was related to 'deferred cash compensation,' in the form of employee shares issued to the staff when they joined Twitter," the article said. "These shares were valued at $US54.20 ($82) each, the price at which Musk bought Twitter in 2022, and the total number of shares acquired by an employee was based on the length of their tenure at the company."

X reportedly made the currency conversion errors "when employees were paid their entitlements once they were made redundant... According to one account, X paid out the share entitlements at a conversion rate 2.5 times the value of the shares."

X asked the laid-off employees for repayment "at your earliest convenience" and said the company reserved the right to seek the return of the money plus interest in court, the report said.

In US, ex-workers still fighting for severance

Employment law specialist Hayden Stephens was paraphrased in the report as saying that the ex-X workers may be forced to return the money, but they should first "ask X to clearly explain how the error occurred and ask for supporting documentary evidence." He said that if there was a genuine mistake, "there is usually an obligation to repay that money" under Australian employment law.

X has not responded to a request for comment from Ars today.

X overpaying laid-off employees is the opposite of what allegedly happened to many former US-based workers. X was served with lawsuits and arbitration claims from about 2,000 ex-employees who were fighting to receive severance. Settlement talks in multiple severance cases ended without deals, court filings state.

X is also facing a lawsuit from four former Twitter executives who say they were cheated out of more than $128 million in severance when Musk fired them immediately after buying the firm. The lawsuit was filed by former Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, former CFO Ned Segal, former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde, and former General Counsel Sean Edgett. The plaintiffs proposed a trial date in November 2025.

Musk also refused to pay a variety of Twitter vendors after taking over, leading to a deluge of lawsuits seeking compensation.

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