Connect with us

Business

‘Overwhelmed in joy’: Texas court overturns woman’s voter fraud conviction

Published

on

‘overwhelmed-in-joy’:-texas-court-overturns-woman’s-voter-fraud-conviction

A woman in the United States is rejoicing after a Texas appeals court on Thursday overturned her voter fraud conviction in a case that advocates say highlights efforts to disenfranchise Black people and other voters of colour in the country.

An African American mother of three from Fort Worth, Texas, Crystal Mason had been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to vote in the 2016 election in violation of state law.

But the Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that Mason was unaware that a previous felony conviction – and ensuing probationary status – had left her ineligible to cast a ballot.

Appearing near tears at times, Mason said during a Friday news conference that it has been a long seven years since the voting charge.

“I’ve been out for six years on an appeal bond, one foot in one foot out, not knowing if I was going back to prison,” she told reporters.

“When I got the news … I was just overwhelmed in joy, it’s been a long journey,” Mason said. “I cried and hollered when I got the news.”

VICTORY: A Texas appeals court has reversed Crystal Mason’s conviction!

She no longer faces prison time for submitting a provisional ballot that was never counted as a vote.

This is a major win for Ms. Mason and for our democracy.

— ACLU of Texas (@ACLUTx) March 29, 2024

Prosecutors maintained that Mason read and signed an affidavit accompanying the provisional ballot that affirmed that she had “fully completed” her sentence for her felony conviction.

But Justice Wade Birdwell of the Second District Court of Appeals wrote in Thursday’s decision that having read these words on the affidavit did not prove Mason knowingly broke the law when she cast the provisional ballot.

“Even if she had read them, they are not sufficient … to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she actually knew that being on supervised release after having served her entire federal sentence of incarceration made her ineligible to vote by casting a provisional ballot,” the decision said.

Voting rights advocates hailed the reversal of Mason’s conviction as a major victory in one of the US states with the most restrictive voting laws.

Texas is among several Republican-controlled states that have enacted new limits on voting since the 2020 US elections, which saw President Joe Biden defeat Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Trump has claimed that the vote was marred by widespread fraud; no evidence has been found to support his allegation.

“This ruling gives us hope not just for Ms. Mason, but for the broader fight for voting rights in Texas,” Christina Beeler, voting rights lawyer at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a statement on Thursday.

“Crystal Mason was unfairly targeted because of bad faith actors in this state who are determined to use every tool at their disposal to attempt to intimidate voters, especially Black and Brown voters, but that approach will not work here in Texas.”

Advocates have criticised the Texas voting restrictions as disproportionately impeding Black voters, like Mason, as well as Latino and other non-white voters who tend to vote for Democrats.

The Sentencing Project, which advocates for reducing punishment and expanding voting rights of felons nationwide, says Texas leads the nation by disenfranchising 450,000 citizens.

That amounts to 2.5 percent of the state’s voting-age population, and about two-thirds are Black or Latino voters.

Crystal Mason’s acquittal is a victory for justice.

We must continue to push for reforms and ensure equitable access to the ballot box for all. #txlege

Read our full statement below: https://t.co/dnJ9GvByQl pic.twitter.com/SIXKefmlju

— Texas Black Caucus (@txblackcaucus) March 29, 2024

In 2021, the state’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a law imposing a range of voting restrictions, including new identification requirements to vote by mail.

The legislation also banned drive-through and 24-hour voting sites, curbed early voting, empowered partisan poll-watchers and limited who can assist voters requiring help because of disabilities or language barriers.

A federal district court judge in Texas granted a motion from the US Department of Justice and civil rights groups in November to block parts of the law requiring officials to reject mail-in ballots and ballot applications based on minor errors or omissions.

The judge found that those measures violated the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning, the chairman of Texas’s Legislative Black Caucus, Representative Ron Reynolds, said Mason’s case highlights “the systemic challenges facing marginalized communities in exercising their fundamental right to vote”.

“While her vindication is a step in the right direction, it highlights the urgent need for comprehensive electoral reform to ensure equitable access to the ballot box for all citizens,” Reynolds said in a statement shared on X.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

US chef’s bid to own ‘chili crunch’ name raises ire in Indonesia, Malaysia

Published

on

By

us-chef’s-bid-to-own-‘chili-crunch’-name-raises-ire-in-indonesia,-malaysia

Medan, Indonesia – When Michelle Tew, the owner of Malaysia-based food company Homiah, received a cease and desist letter from American-Korean celebrity chef David Chang last month, she felt “sadness and betrayal”.

The letter informed Tew that she had 90 days to stop using the term “chili crunch” on the labels of her sambal – a chilli-based condiment popular across Southeast Asia – as Chang had trademarked the phrase.

“David Chang is such a large name in the Asian-American food community and it felt very personal, even though I don’t know him personally,” Tew told Al Jazeera.

“The Asian food community is really like a family and, to go after a woman-owned business, to even think of that at all and not to have a friendly conversation first, I really wondered where his compassion was.”

Chang, who owns the Momofuku restaurant chain in the US and has since abandoned his trademark claim, began selling jars of “Chili Crunch” in 2020, but he is far from the first person to put such a product on the market.

david chang
David Chang has come under fire for attempting to enforce a trademark for the term ‘chili crunch’ [Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo]

Chilli-based condiments have been used across Asia since time immemorial.

In English, they have gone by various names, including chilli crunch, chilli crisp and chilli oil, depending on their consistency and the proportions of ingredients.

Tew, who learned to cook from her Malaysian grandmother, chose to call her product “Sambal Chili Crunch”, as sambal, which typically includes ingredients such as chillies, shrimp paste, garlic and palm sugar, is not widely known outside of Southeast Asia and she needed to find a way to explain it to a foreign audience.

The practice of trying to trademark generic food terms is not unique to Chang or the US food and beverage industry.

Arie Parikesit, a culinary guide who runs the Kelana Rasa food and tour business, said that while Chang had been trying to “monopolise” the term “chili crunch”, there had been similar cases in his native Indonesia.

“A similar thing happened in the Indonesian food and beverage world when the term ‘kopitiam’ [coffee shop] was accepted as a brand right submitted by a company that had recently been established and forced classic kopitiam entities that were decades old not to use this brand,” Parikesit told Al Jazeera.

“Trade name monopolies like this are clearly unhealthy and, instead of promoting Asian cuisine more widely, as David Chang and Momofuku have done, it creates a bad atmosphere among Asian food and condiment players.”

“Small heritage companies will also be affected. At a time where collaboration is key, this kind of old-style rivalry deserves to be left behind,” he added.

The need for a collaborative approach is underscored by the difficulty Southeast Asian food and beverage players face trying to get a foot in the door outside of the region.

Tew of Homiah said that Southeast Asian food is not widely known in many parts of the world, particularly compared with other cuisines.

“If you go to a supermarket in the US, there will be two whole aisles dedicated to olive oil, which is just one product. Then you might find half an aisle or a stand which has food from ‘other’ places in it, like Southeast Asian cuisine mixed together with other cuisines like Mexican.”

Jun Yi Loh, a Malaysian food writer and recipe developer, agreed that Malaysian food terms are not necessarily easy to grasp, which is why descriptors such as “chili crunch” need to be used.

“I’ve long held the opinion that one of the key reasons Malaysian food hasn’t blown up in the way that Singaporean or Thai food has in recent years is that our food isn’t as easy to describe or package in a sort of elevator pitch way,” Loh told Al Jazeera.

tew
Michelle Tew, the owner of Malaysia-based food company Homiah, says she felt ‘betrayed’ after receiving a cease and desist letter [Courtesy of Michelle Tew]

After weeks of outcry over Momofuku’s cease and desist letters, which were sent to dozens of small businesses in the US, Chang last week backed down, saying on The Dave Chang Show podcast: “I understand why people are upset, and I’m truly sorry.”

In a statement sent to Al Jazeera, Momofuku said: “When we created Chili Crunch, we wanted a name to differentiate our product from the broader chilli crisp category. We believed the name ‘Chili Crunch’ reflected the uniqueness of our product, which blends flavours from multiple culinary traditions, and bought a pre-existing trademark for the name.”

Momofuku said it had taken feedback from the community on board and now understood that the term “chili crunch” carried a broader meaning.

“We have no interest in ‘owning’ a culture’s terminology and we will not be enforcing the trademark going forward,” the company said.

While Chang may have done a u-turn, the episode has nonetheless left a nasty taste in the mouths of some of those promoting Southeast Asian cuisine abroad. Loh said the debacle had brought to light the legal tribulations that can come with running a business in a foreign market.

“It will factor into the minds of small business owners for sure,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I believe this event will be remembered as a frivolous case, initiated by Momofuku and David Chang with tonnes of hubris and very little thought,” Auria Abraham, the owner of Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen, a food company selling sambal, spice blends and kaya, told Al Jazeera.

Abraham, who moved to the US in the 1990s before launching her first product, Hot Chilli Sambal in 2013, said that the Momofuku furore has sparked a wider debate around who “owns” food.

“We have to accept and understand that no single country, entity or person can lay claim to things like condiments, ingredients or recipes,” she said.

Abraham said that Malaysian food has been shaped for centuries by immigrants who brought recipes that were shared, adopted and then modified to reflect the ingredients available in different regions.

“With that in mind, despite the distinct origins of a food item, it is now the culture of everyone that it has touched,” she said. “And that is the beauty of sharing food.”

Continue Reading

Business

Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, explosions heard in Isfahan: Report

Published

on

By

israeli-missiles-hit-site-in-iran,-explosions-heard-in-isfahan:-report

BREAKING,

ABC News reports missiles striking a target in Iran, with Iran’s state TV reporting explosions in Isfahan.

Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, according to the US broadcaster ABC News, which cited an unnamed senior US official.

The Iranian state television reported explosions in Isfahan, as air defences were activated and flights across several areas including Tehran and Isfahan were suspended.

There were no reports of casualties. Nor was there an official response from Iran.

Israel promised to respond after Iran last Saturday launched a barrage of drones and missiles on the country, after a suspected Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate compound in Damascus killed a high-ranking commander.

There have also been reports of explosions in Syria and Iraq.

The United States and a number of European countries had been calling on Israel not to respond to the Iranian attack.

Isfahan is considered a strategically important city and one that is host to several important sites, including military research and development sites, as well as bases. The nearby city of Natanz is the location of one of Iran’s nuclear enrichment sites.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early on Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as the semi-official Fars news agency in Iran said there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

Continue Reading

Business

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters arrested as Columbia clears encampment

Published

on

By

dozens-of-pro-palestinian-protesters-arrested-as-columbia-clears-encampment

New York-based university moves to suspend students involved as police arrest them for trespassing.

More than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters have been arrested on the campus of New York’s Columbia University as police cleared an encampment set up by students demonstrating against Israel’s war in Gaza.

Several students involved in the protest said they also were suspended from Columbia and its associate institution, Barnard College, including Isra Hirsi, who is the daughter of Ilhan Omar, a Democrat in the United States House of Representatives.

Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, said she had authorised police to clear the dozens of tents set up by protesters because they had breached the university’s rules and policies against holding unauthorised demonstrations and were unwilling to engage with administrators.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said police made more than 108 arrests for trespassing. Two people were also charged with obstructing government administration.

“Students have a right to free speech, but do not have a right to violate university policies and disrupt learning on campus,” he said.

BREAKING: NYPD have begun arresting members of the Columbia University Palestine solidarity encampment pic.twitter.com/h3NhYsERXa

— BreakThrough News (@BTnewsroom) April 18, 2024

Thursday’s move to clear the camp came after a congressional hearing at which Shafik was questioned on alleged anti-Semitism on campus. She was also challenged by Omar on alleged targeting of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Columbia, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, has emerged as a centre for student activism since the Israel-Gaza war began more than six months ago, with protests both in support of the war and against it.

But the university has drawn particular scrutiny, given its prominence and its attempts to crack down on unauthorised gatherings.

Columbia said it had started to suspend the students who had taken part in the latest camp.

“We are continuing to identify them and will be sending out formal notifications,” a university spokesperson said by email.

Writing on social media, Hirsi said she will not be intimidated and will continue to push for transparency on Columbia’s investments, divestment from “companies complicit in genocide” and amnesty for students facing “repression”.

“We will stand resolute until our demands are met,” she wrote on X after being suspended.

Demonstrations and disruptions

The clash, reminiscent of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War at Columbia more than 50 years ago, is the latest in a series of demonstrations that have disrupted university campuses, bridges and airports since Israel began its assault on Gaza on October 7.

i’m an organizer with CU Apartheid Divest @ColumbiaSJP, in my 3 years at @BarnardCollege i have never been reprimanded or received any disciplinary warnings

i just received notice that i am 1 of 3 students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide.

— isra hirsi (@israhirsi) April 18, 2024

Separately on Thursday, about 500 demonstrators marched at the University of Southern California in support of Asna Tabassum, a Muslim student whose valedictorian speech was cancelled by the university, which cited safety concerns.

Tabassum and her supporters say the university sought to silence her because of her opposition to the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Protesters marched with signs of “Let Her Speak” and chants of “Shame!” directed at the USC administration.

“It feels really important especially right now for the Jewish voice at USC, the anti-Zionist Jewish voice at USC, to be very loud and very present,” said demonstrator Katya Urban, 23, part of the Jewish Voice for Peace contingent at USC.

Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed at least 33,970 people, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, began after Hamas launched a surprise October 7 attack on Israel in which the group killed 1,139 people and abducted more than 200.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

Continue Reading

Trending