Former Attorney General Will Work With Airbnb To Address Discrimination

The logo of online lodging service Airbnb is shown on a screen in the Airbnb offices in Paris in 2015.

The logo of online lodging service Airbnb is shown on a screen in the Airbnb offices in Paris in 2015. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Airbnb, the popular site that lets people rent rooms and houses, is hoping to fight racism and discrimination on its platform — and it’s recruited former Attorney General Eric Holder to help.

The company has spent more than a month reviewing its policies, after widespread reports of a pattern of bias against people of color looking to rent rooms.

The review is still ongoing, the company said in a blog post Wednesday, but they’ve already started taking some steps to address the problem, including bringing in Holder and other experts to help write a new anti-discrimination policy.

The site also plans to offer training about “unconscious bias” to more hosts, and hire employees “whose full-time job will be to detect and address instances of discrimination.”

This spring, NPR’s Hidden Brain explored the issue of racial bias on Airbnb. Quirtina Crittenden, a user on the site, described getting declined for room after room — until she changed her profile image to a landscape photo, and shortened her name to “Tina.” After that, getting a room was no problem.

Researchers have found a widespread pattern of racial discrimination on Airbnb. Here’s Hidden Brain:

“Michael Luca and his colleagues Benjamin Edelman and Dan Svirsky at Harvard Business School … sent out 6,400 requests to real AirBnb hosts in five major American cities—Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington.

“All the requests were exactly the same except for the names they gave their make-believe travelers. Some had African American-sounding names like Jamal or Tanisha and others had stereotypically white-sounding names like Meredith or Todd.

Luca and his colleagues found requests with African American sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than their white-sounding counterparts. They found discrimination across the board: among cheap listings and expensive listings, in diverse neighborhoods and homogenous neighborhoods, and with novice hosts as well as experienced hosts. They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names …

“In a separate study, Luca and his colleagues have found that guests discriminate, too, and black hosts earn less money on their properties on Airbnb.”

Another study found that Asian-American hosts make less money than white ones.

When NPR’s Code Switch reached out to individual Asian-American hosts, they said they didn’t feel like race played a factor in their room prices. But researchers examining the issue — like researchers looking into bias against black Airbnb users — noted that subconscious bias can play a powerful role in decision-making.

In the company’s Wednesday blog post on the issue, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky opened by mourning the recent shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas, and expressing support for both the Black Lives Matter movement and for police officers. He continued:

“We aren’t so naïve to think that one company can solve these problems, but we understand that we have an obligation to be honest about our own shortcomings, and do more to get our house in order. That’s why we’ve been talking more openly about discrimination and bias on our platform, and are currently engaged in a process to prevent it. …

“We will not simply ‘address the issue’ by doing the least required for liability and PR purposes. I want us to be smart and innovative and to create new tools to prevent discrimination and bias that can be shared across the industry.”

Former Attorney General Holder will be assisting as outside counsel, working with civil rights attorney John Relman to help write a new anti-discrimination policy.

In a statement, Holder said he’s looking forward to helping Airbnb “craft policies that will be the model for companies who share Airbnb’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Airbnb says they will require all users to read and commit to the policy.

Chesky also admits that the company has failed on this issue in the past — with inadequate transparency, and with a “lack of urgency” on addressing discrimination.

“Joe [Gebbia], Nate [Blecharczyk], and I started Airbnb with the best of intentions, but we weren’t fully conscious of this issue when we designed the platform,” Chesky wrote. “I promise you that we have learned from the past and won’t repeat our prior mistakes and delays.”

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Erdogan Announces 3-Month State Of Emergency For Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, on Wednesday. Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a three-month state of emergency for Turkey following a failed coup attempt over the weekend.

The state of emergency will give broad powers to security forces and the government, NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports. Erdogan says it will make it more efficient to round up, question and try people accused of supporting the coup.

“Erdogan says its necessary to protect the rule of law and democracy, but he also made clear these would be used extensively against the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally now accused of fomenting this failed coup,” Peter says.

About 10,000 people are accused of supporting the coup, and 50,000 or more accused of backing Gulan, Peter says.

And under the state of emergency, laws could be passed to grant new powers to the government, Peter reports.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera English, Erdogan compared his government’s reaction to the coup to other countries’ responses to security threats.

“For example, in the face of terrorist acts, France took numerous steps and certain stands,” he says, according to Al Jazeera.

“Did they not detain people en masse? Did they not arrest people in very high numbers?”

Erdogan told the broadcaster more than 9,000 people have been detained, nearly 20,000 charged by a court and some 60,000 purged from state institutions, according to Peter and Al-Jazeera.

He also told Al-Jazeera that in the wake of the attempted coup he would support reinstating the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004 as part of a bid for European Union membership.

Peter reports from Istanbul that there are “a lot of very worried Turks” on the street.

“Anyone with views not aligned with Erdogan is keeping a very low profile. But there’s also a large segment of the population that’s kind of proud they faced down a coup,” Peter says.

“It’s a deeply divided population. They’re clinging at the moment to the one thing they hope they all share: a deep loathing of military governments.”

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Episode 713: Paying for the Crime

Darrell Cannon was tortured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit and was sentenced to life in prison. He was exonerated in 2004 and released from prison in 2007

Scott Olson/Getty Images

* Note: This episode has depictions of violence and explicit language.

On November 2nd, 1983, Darrell Cannon was awoken by a pounding on his door. It was the Chicago police. They told him he was a suspect in a murder case, and they wanted him to confess that he was involved. When he didn’t confess, the cops put him a car, drove him to a rural site, and tortured him. Darrell gave a confession that would land him in prison for more than 20 years.

And Darrell’s torture: It was not an isolated incident. A group of Chicago police officers tortured confessions out of some 118 suspects over a span of 20 years. Years later, Chicago has offered the victims a reparations package – in the form of an apology, acknowledgement, counseling, a memorial. And some money.

Today on the show: Darrell Cannon’s story: a tale of violence, payback, and how to make things right.

Music: “Don’t Ask Why.” Find us: Twitter / Facebook

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Russian Adventurer Seeks To Break Record In Round-The-World Balloon Flight

Fedor Konyukhov prepares for liftoff from the Northam Aero Club on July 12 in Northam, Australia. For the past eight days, he has had little sleep in an open gondola hurtling at high speeds through below-freezing air that is too thin to breathe.

Fedor Konyukhov prepares for liftoff from the Northam Aero Club on July 12 in Northam, Australia. For the past eight days, he has had little sleep in an open gondola hurtling at high speeds through below-freezing air that is too thin to breathe. Paul Kane/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Paul Kane/Getty Images

A 65-year-old Russian adventurer is on the eighth day of his solo attempt to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a balloon.

Fedor Konyukhov aims to set a world record by completing his journey around the Southern Hemisphere in less than 13 days, beating the previous record set by American adventurer Steve Fossett in 2002. Konyukhov took off from Northam in Western Australia last Tuesday, and his son Oscar told The Associated Press that he’s on pace to land back in Australia on Sunday.

Konyukhov has a long list of feats of endurance and bravery under his belt, according to the biography on his website. He has climbed Everest twice. He has sailed around the world solo multiple times. He has trekked to both poles. He has completed the Iditarod dog race. He has traveled the Great Silk Road by camel. And, he also enjoys painting, has written books and is reportedly a Russian Orthodox priest.

Fedor Konyukhov, a 65-year-old Russian adventurer, prepares for liftoff in a balloon named Morton.

Fedor Konyukhov, a 65-year-old Russian adventurer, prepares for liftoff in a balloon named Morton. Paul Kane/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Paul Kane/Getty Images

But he’s facing challenges. His team reported Wednesday that the temperatures in the balloon’s gondola fell to minus 45 degrees Celsius (that’s minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit), blanketing much of the vessel in frost. Because of the altitude, Konyukhov must breathe through an oxygen mask. But “It was so cold that the oxygen masks have been freezing solid as breath is exhaled so Fedor had taken to swapping between warming one in his jacket and breathing through the other,” the team said.

“Mentally, he’s very strong,” Oscar, who leads the Australia-based support team, told The Associated Press. “It’s a boost to morale to be more than halfway and he’s looking forward to seeing the Australian coast.”

The hot air balloon’s name is Morton, and Morton is the culmination of two years of design and preparation, according to the team. Prior to departure, they discussed the challenging conditions Konyukhov would face as a pilot:

“During the flight Fedor Konyukhov will only be able to sleep in short periods of 30-45 minutes, in total just 4 hours in a 24 hour period. Periodically, he will have to; send data to mission control, eat, keep warm complete navigation tasks, check fuel calculations, read instruments and change fuel tanks as they are used as well as clear ice from equipment. Fedor’s work will be performed often at altitudes of 5000 to 10,000 metres, at a speed of 100-200 km/hr and at temperatures of around negative 40 degrees Celsius.”

This type of balloon is very difficult to steer. As Konyukhov’s friend and fellow adventurer Dick Smith told Australia’s ABC, “I’ve flown across Australia and across the Tasman sea in a similar Roziere balloon, and you’re virtually completely out of control.”

In short: For the past eight days, Konyukhov has had a minuscule amount of sleep in an open gondola hurtling at high speeds through below-freezing air that is too thin to breathe. And he has four more days to go.

Fedor Konyukhov lifts off from the Northam Aero Club.

Fedor Konyukhov lifts off from the Northam Aero Club. Paul Kane/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Paul Kane/Getty Images

“[E]very minute something might happen,” his son told ABC. “He is just flying into the unknown with custom-made equipment … it’s all experimental.”

You can follow Konyukhov’s progress on this interactive map through his website. As you can see, he has traveled more than halfway around the world and is currently close to the coast of South Africa.

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Robert Elllis On World Cafe

Robert Ellis outside the World Cafe studio.

Robert Ellis outside the World Cafe studio. Sydney Schaefer/WXPN hide caption

toggle caption Sydney Schaefer/WXPN

  • “Perfect Strangers”
  • “Drivin'”
  • “California”

Singer-songwriter Robert Ellis released his self-titled fourth album earlier this year. A gorgeous, stylistically diverse roots-country record whose songs are made more real by the human characters in his lyrics, the album was chosen by the NPR Music staff as one of 2016’s best so far.

In this conversation with World Cafe, Ellis says he felt claustrophobic working in Nashville and has since left. He also reveals the lengthy process of revision his music goes through in the six months it often takes for him to complete a song.


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Africa Unveils All-Africa Passport — But So Far Only 2 People Have One

More than half of Africa's countries require a visa for outsiders to enter.

More than half of Africa’s countries require a visa for outsiders to enter. Hugo van Tilborg/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Hugo van Tilborg/Flickr

What’s red and gold and hailed by most economists?

The new African Union passport, unveiled this week at the African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, promises a solution to a major drag on African trade: the red tape that makes it harder for African businesspeople, tourists and workers to travel around their own continent.

More than half of the 54 African countries require entry visas for other Africans, according to the Africa Visa Openness Report.

Those visas can take days or weeks to apply for, and they make everything more difficult — from hiring foreign staff to traveling on a weekend safari to selling goods across borders.

Currently, intra-African trade is at 11 percent — the lowest level of intra-continental trading in the world. (Asia is way above 40 percent.) And the future of African economies depends more on increasing trade among Africans than making deals with China. (Indeed, the rise of the Asian tiger economies in the 1990s was largely spurred by intra-Asian trade.)

Across Twitter, people have been sharing their thoughts of the new passport with the hashtag #AUPassport.

The reactions ranged from joyous…

The beginning of new things in #africa #AUPASSPORT #EBAFOSA #AFRICA we can.@RichardMunang @AbbasRafiu @DolapoJohn

— James Oyesola (@1oye) July 18, 2016

Can’t wait to have mine !!! ??
Finies les tracasseries, qui n’auraient jamais dû exister au départ #AUPassport

— Gnagna Mariann K. (@gmkonate) July 18, 2016

Its about time we unite, creation of AU passport its a first step to bigger thing. #AfricaMustWakeUp #AUpassport #AU

— Lebohang khanye (@Supreme_Frank) July 18, 2016

To skeptical…

Looking foward to my AU passport in 2020 🙂 #Umojawaafrica #AUKigali2016 #AUSummit2016 #AUpassport

— Beth Mamicha (@Mamichons1) July 18, 2016

Sounds good in theory but a) implementation b) benefits restricted to a minority c) xenophobia #AUPassport

— Yemisi Adegoke (@briticoyemo) July 20, 2016

To snarky…

I proudly carry a South African passport and I don’t give a fiddler’s fart about that AU passport. #AuPassport

— George Makubalo (@GeorgeMakubalo) July 19, 2016

Others noted that in a time when nativist rhetoric is gathering steam around the world, from Brexit to Donald Trump’s Mexican Wall, it was refreshing to see the African Union take the opposite step — to make borders more porous.

But here’s the catch: Unless you are Rwandan President Paul Kagame or Chadian President Idriss Deby (the sole holders of the two existing passports), ordinary Africans can’t yet get the all-Africa passport. It’s unclear when the red-and-gold booklets will be distributed. For now, citizens will still be standing in those long embassy lines.

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The Grand Ambitions Of A Slain Journalist In Ukraine

A portrait of journalist Pavel Sheremet is surrounded with flowers and candles at the place where he was killed by a car bomb Wednesday in Kiev, Ukraine.

A portrait of journalist Pavel Sheremet is surrounded with flowers and candles at the place where he was killed by a car bomb Wednesday in Kiev, Ukraine. Sergei Chuzavkov/AP hide caption

toggle caption Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

Just last month, I sat across from journalist Pavel Sheremet in Ukrainska Pravda’s media center – a cavernous room and café tucked away on a small alley in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev.

Sheremet, a teddy bear of a man with an imposing presence and blues eyes that twinkled, was the driving force behind this center, which had a news website and was dedicated to investigative reporting. Sipping cappuccinos, he explained that he had chosen Kiev as home because it allowed him to practice his craft.

Sheremet, 44, was a fierce journalist who bumped up against authorities in the former Soviet states where he worked. A native of Belarus, he had been chased out by the country’s authoritarian leadership, facing threats, harassment and even prison. He went to Moscow until it, too, became too dangerous.

So he settled on Kiev, which he felt was far more open by comparison.

His news outlet invited me to the city in June to teach a class in investigative reporting.

So it was a complete shock when I heard Wednesday that Sheremet was killed by a car bomb in the city. The vehicle he was driving belonged to Olena Prytula, who was Sheremet’s girlfriend and the lead editor of the website.

It was not only his death that stunned me. Sheremet and other journalists agreed that this was a golden age for freedom of the press in Ukraine.

Ukrainska Pravda’s center, where I taught a seminar to a class of 45 journalists, was launched to spread the gospel of investigative journalism. Sheremet, who also hosted a radio news program, was a director of the outlet and he talked to me about some of the ambitions he had for this center.

The idea was to train as many journalists as possible to carry out a type of reporting that is all but banned in neighboring Russia and Belarus. Ukrainska Pravda would convene classes and then post them on the web so they could have the greatest possible reach.

Forensic experts examine the wreckage of a burned car in Kiev, Ukraine. Pavel Sheremet, a prominent investigative journalist, was killed when the car exploded on Wednesday.

Forensic experts examine the wreckage of a burned car in Kiev, Ukraine. Pavel Sheremet, a prominent investigative journalist, was killed when the car exploded on Wednesday. Efrem Lukatsky/AP hide caption

toggle caption Efrem Lukatsky/AP

The journalists I spoke to on my brief trip to Kiev told me the so-called Maidan Square protests in 2014, which ousted an unpopular government, sparked a renaissance for freedom of expression.

“There are so many things to worry about politically and economically that [authorities] leave us alone,” said Irina Slavinska, who leads a team of public radio reporters in Kiev.

We met in a café just down the block from the Maidan, where the protests erupted two years ago.

Ukraine’s capital oozes its European roots along with its Russian Orthodox heritage. Gold-domed cupolas from 16th century monasteries speckle the city’s skyline while internet cafes line the boulevards. It is a city that is developing and developed all at once.

I also met with Olena Prytula, Sheremet’s partner at work and in life. We spent a few hours over dinner at a Georgian restaurant. She was less sanguine about the future. Prytula said that she had lived through three revolutions: the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 and then the Maidan uprising in 2014.

She said corruption was still present, but that the war with Russia and economic hard times kept government officials too occupied, allowing the press freedom, at least for now.

She said there were so many bright and talented young journalists but they needed training.

She explained that their outlet would offer on-the-job training at Ukrainska Pravda, but people would take what they learned and go off and seek higher paying jobs at Western news organizations or television. It was exhausting, she added.

We talked about how to get grants to start a school that could train journalists. We spoke about how Ukrainska Pravda could ask for a commitment from journalists to work for at least a year and create a network and mentorship program.

Sheremet was supposed to join us for dinner that night. But right before my class started, he apologized profusely for not being able to stay. He said he had to visit his son and a pending flight was earlier than he had originally thought.

I told him not to worry. He said he hoped we would meet again.

Joanna Levine is an editor at NPR.

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WATCH: Trump's Plane Interrupts Ted Cruz Rally, Crowd Boos

WATCH: Donald Trump’s plane flies-by as Ted Cruz mentions Trump at RNC rally in Cleveland – @VaughnHillyard

— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) July 20, 2016

Ted Cruz couldn’t even make it through thanking his own supporters without being overshadowed by Donald Trump.

Before speaking at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, the Texas senator and 2016 GOP primary runner-up had gathered over 1,200 of his volunteers and backers at a restaurant on a dock along the Cleveland waterfront, firing them up as though he was back at a campaign rally.

He hadn’t mentioned Donald Trump at all, instead boasting of the victories they amassed in the primary and just how close they came.

“In an amazing campaign field of 17 talented, dynamic candidates, we beat 15 of those candidates,” Cruz said. We just didn’t beat 16.”

“Our party now has a nominee,” he started. And as if on cue, the billionaire businessman’s plane emblazoned with “TRUMP” across the side flew overhead to land nearby.

“That was pretty well orchestrated,” Cruz laughed, taking it in stride as many supporters began booing loudly.

“Jeff, did you email them to fly the plane right when I said that?” he asked his former campaign manager Jeff Roe.

Cruz still hasn’t endorsed Trump after their bitter primary battle that saw the eventual GOP nominee retweet a supporter’s unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and suggest that Cruz’s father, Rafael, was somehow involved in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Trump plane flew over Ted Cruz’s event literally at exact the moment Cruz mentioned Trump

— Emily Atkin (@emorwee) July 20, 2016

Speaking to reporters before Cruz took the stage, Roe wouldn’t say whether the Texas senator would endorse Trump tonight in his speech, saying people would have to tune in. After Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told reporters Wednesday morning he’d be looking over Cruz’s speech for tonight, Roe wouldn’t talk about the process. But again, as if on cue, Roe then got a phone call from Paul Manafort, turned it around to reporters to show the caller ID, and stepped away to talk to the Trump top aide. Roe did say that Trump and Cruz had spoken on Tuesday.

Cruz did tell his supporters he wanted to see unity in the Republican Party, and that the way to do that was “unite behind shared principles, us to unite in defense of liberty and for us to empower the grassroots.”

But he also seemed to give his own supporters a pass if they didn’t fully feel comfortable in voting for Trump.

“What I do know is that everyone of us has an obligation to follow our conscience, to speak the truth, and truth is unchanging,” he said.

He also alluded to his own future national prospects — something the crowd egged on as they chanted “2020! 2020!” at various points.

“I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Cruz said, “but what I do know, what remains unshaken is my faith in the men and women here.”

Cruz has already announced he will run for re-election to the Senate in 2018, but his advisers haven’t been coy either about another presidential run.

“He’s 45 years old, and he got second in the presidential race,” Roe told reporters. He estimated that about a third of their supporters are now “all-in for Trump, a third are like, ‘Gosh, I wish I didn’t have to, but I can’t stand Hillary,’ and a third are probably like, ‘I’m just going to wait and see how the campaign goes.'”

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