Charlottesville Rally Aimed To Defend A Confederate Statue. It May Have Doomed Others

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands in the center of Emancipation Park the day after violence broke out in Charlottesville, Va. The “Unite the Right” rally aimed to save the statue, which the city council has voted to remove. But several cities have now reacted to the rally by hastening the removal of their own Confederate monuments.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Saturday, white supremacists converged on Charlottesville, Va. to protest the pending removal of a a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Their stated goal: to “take America back” — and to begin doing so by saving Lee’s monument, which has become a lightning rod since the local city council voted to remove it earlier this year.

Within hours, three people had died in the chaos surrounding the gathering — one of whom was rammed by a car allegedly driven by a rally attendee.

And within three days, politicians in a number of cities, far from protecting their own Confederate monuments, had instead moved to hasten their removal. In Baltimore and Jacksonville, Fla., in Memphis and Lexington, Ky., local leaders acted to begin getting rid of these long-standing landmarks.

“Mayors are on the razor’s edge. When you see the tension. When you see the violence that we saw in Charlottesville,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray told a local CBS affiliate, “then you know that we must act.”

He said Sunday he has recommended to the city council that the statues depicting Confederate officers John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan be relocated to a new site where they would stand side by side with with “two monuments to the Union effort.” In their current location, the Confederate monuments stand on land that formerly played host to one of the South’s largest slave auction blocks.

“It’s just not right that we would continue to honor these Confederate men who fought to preserve slavery on the same ground as men, women and even children were once sold into a life of slavery,” Gray said in a video statement. “Relocating these statues and explaining them is the right thing to do.”

YouTube

Meanwhile, in Memphis, city leaders re-asserted their longstanding resistance to Confederate monuments on public land, promising again to fight for those statues’ removal. State lawmakers have required that these memorials could only be moved with a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission, which has previously rejected the city’s attempts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“What Nathan Bedford Forrest stood for doesn’t express the views of this community at this time,” City Attorney Bruce McMullen told the local Commercial Appeal, “and it’s counterproductive to what we want this community to be, and that is an inclusive community working together.”

Along with the still-pending waiver application to have Forrest’s statue removed, McMullen told the paper the city plans to apply for a waiver to pull a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from a park.

We continue to work toward the day this is possible. 4/4

— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) August 13, 2017

In Baltimore, too, Mayor Catherine Pugh said Monday that she had reached out to contractors to discuss relocating the city’s four monuments to the Confederacy, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The city council president in Jacksonville, Fla., said Monday she is preparing a plan to relocate its Confederate monuments “from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized.” Elsewhere in Florida, in Gainesville, construction workers took down a 113-year-old Confederate statue Monday morning.

“There was no riot. No protesters showed up,” The Gainesville Sun reported.

#BREAKING Protesters in #Durham topple confederate monument downtown pic.twitter.com/a3BNIavyxC

— Derrick Lewis (@DerrickQLewis) August 14, 2017

Some protesters did not even wait for city leaders. In Durham, N.C., shouting demonstrators pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers, kicking it after it fell to the ground.

A statue of a Confederate soldier in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park stands vandalized with spray paint on Monday. It was not the only Confederate monument to be vandalized in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville; a statue in Louisville, Ky., was splattered with paint too.

David Goldman/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

David Goldman/AP

In all, “at least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country, mostly in the Deep South,” the Southern Poverty Law Center noted in a report last year. “Most were put in place during the early decades of Jim Crow or in reaction to the civil rights movement.”

And many of them remain flashpoints of controversy between those who wish to see them removed and those who see them as crucial markers of their community’s past.

As for Lexington, Gray said the relocation of his city’s monuments would enable residents to “tell the story accurately and share a truthful history.”

“It’s true that hiding our history won’t allow our future generations to learn and avoid the same mistakes,” Gray said. “But keeping monuments to those who fought to preserve slavery on this hallowed ground is simply not right.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump Turns To 43-Year-Old 'America First' Trade Law To Pressure China

President Trump holds up a signed memorandum calling for a trade investigation of China at the White House on Monday.

Alex Brandon/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump on Monday authorized his top trade official to look into whether China is guilty of intellectual property theft, a move that could eventually lead to trade sanctions.

Trump called his action “a very big move” against practices that cost our nation “millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year.”

He cited not just the theft of intellectual property such as computer software, but also Beijing’s requirement that U.S. companies turn over proprietary technology as a condition of entering China’s markets.

“We will safeguard the copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and to our prosperity,” Trump said at the White House. He was flanked by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and members of his economic team.

Monday’s steps were very preliminary, and analysts say that it could be a long time, if ever, before significant trade sanctions are imposed on China.

Eventually, it could lead the administration to initiate what’s called a Section 301 investigation, a sanctions mechanism that’s part of the Trade Act of 1974.

Section 301 was widely used in the 1980s under the Reagan administration, but subsequent presidents have chosen to hear trade disputes at the World Trade Organization.

Matt Gold, a former deputy assistant U.S. trade representative, told NPR that Section 301 can be imposed unilaterally and is generally seen as quicker than the alternatives, such as the WTO.

“It saves time,” he said. A WTO case “would take a few years for us to bring it to a WTO panel, get a decision, then it will get appealed to the WTO appellate body. Then we get another decision. Then we have to go through another WTO process to get authorization for specific types of trade barriers. … So it can take a few years to get the WTO authorization.”

The White House move was applauded by technology groups, which have long complained about intellectual property theft. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation issued a statement saying “for too long China has flouted the spirit, if not always the letter of its commitments under the WTO and other agreements.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said launching the investigation sends a strong signal to China that it will be held accountable if it doesn’t work with the United States to level the playing field. But he said the Trump administration needs to go further to address dumping of products such as steel.

“We need to follow through with meaningful action and that means the president needs to get serious about trade enforcement, especially on steel,” Brown said.

But there are risks to the White House approach. Carolyn Freund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says U.S. companies that try to do business with China could get hurt in several ways.

“China is likely to retaliate with tariffs on their own of U.S. goods, and then U.S. companies will be further hurt in China,” she said. “It won’t lead to anything positive.”

In an editorial on Monday, the state-run newspaper China Daily said the investigation will “poison” relations.

But Freund also points out that for all of Trump’s rhetoric about China while on the campaign trail, the White House has not so far been slow to take action against unfair trade practices. Trump backed off of labeling China a currency manipulator for instance, and a long promised report on steel dumping has been delayed.

She says that’s because it’s one thing to talk about steel tariffs, but imposing them hurts other U.S. manufacturers, such as automakers and appliance companies.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Taylor Swift Wins Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against Former Radio Host

Taylor Swift on November 21, 2013, just a few months after the Denver meet-and-greet that resulted in a trial between her and former radio host David Mueller.

John Sciulli/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

John Sciulli/Getty Images

A Denver jury found fully in pop singer Taylor Swift’s favor Monday, delivering a unanimous verdict in a trial over whether she was groped by a former radio host during a Denver meet-and-greet. Wanting the trial to serve as an “example to other women,” the star had sought a single dollar in damages, which she was granted.

In his closing statements, Swift’s lawyer Douglas Baldridge referenced the example that Swift hoped her suit could be for others in similar situations “by returning a verdict on Ms. Swift’s counterclaim for a single dollar — a single symbolic dollar, the value of which is immeasurable to all women in this situation.”

In his own closing arguments, David Mueller attorney Gabriel McFarland wondered why his client would introduce himself by name and then almost immediately after reach under the skirt of “one of the planet’s, one of the country’s, biggest superstars?”

The case was largely fought on the credibility of Swift and Mueller.

Late this past Friday, a federal judge threw out part of the case brought against Swift by Mueller, saying he had not proven Swift had set out to get him fired.

Swift countersued Mueller for sexual assault after his own suit was filed in 2015, leading to Denver trial which began jury selection last Monday. Swift initially had sought to keep the incident quiet.

By Friday, most of the principals in the case had been heard from — most notably Ms. Swift herself, who had several sharp rejoinders to questions from Mueller’s attorney. Asked about Mueller’s firing, Swift responded: “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is anyway my fault, because it isn’t.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

British Cybersecurity Expert Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Malware Charges

British IT expert Marcus Hutchins, branded a hero for slowing down the WannaCry global cyberattack, has pleaded not guilty to U.S. federal charges.

Frank Augstein/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Frank Augstein/AP

At a federal court in Wisconsin, a British cybersecurity expert pleaded not guilty to charges over an alleged malware scheme to steal personal banking information.

Before these accusations, Marcus Hutchins was known for his role in finding the “kill switch” to the WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack last May that “threatened over 150 countries,” NPR’s Leila Fadel reported.

After today’s hearing, Hutchins’ lawyer Marcia Hofmann described him as a “brilliant young man and a hero,” and said that “when the evidence comes to light, we are confident he will be fully vindicated.”

The FBI took Hutchins into custody earlier this month in Las Vegas, where he had been attending a cybersecurity conference.

In July, a federal grand jury indicted him and an unnamed co-defendant on six counts dating from July 2014 to July 2015.

The indictment accuses Hutchins of creating the malware, which is called Kronos. The two co-defendents then allegedly advertised it on internet forums and sold it.

Hutchins is charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, three counts of distributing and advertising an electronic communication interception device, one count of endeavoring to intercept electronic communications, and one count of attempting to access a computer without authorization,” as Leila reported.

She added that other members of his community were shocked at the accusations, because they are counter to his reputation as a person devoted to preventing this kind of attack.

Hutchins was “granted bail on 5 August after $30,000 …was raised by friends and family,” according to the BBC.

But his release comes with strict conditions, as detailed by The Associated Press:

“His bond has been modified so that he can stay in Los Angeles near his attorney and travel anywhere in the U.S., but he cannot leave the country. He was also granted access to use a computer for work, a change from an earlier judge’s order barring him from using any device with access to the internet. Hutchins has been working for a network security company, according to prosecutors, who did not oppose allowing him access to a computer for work.”

“Hutchins is required to wear a GPS monitor, but [Magistrate Judge William] Duffin said the court will consider removing that requirement once Hutchins has found a home in Los Angeles and is complying with the terms of his bond.”

The wire service adds that the next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Hundreds Feared Dead After Mudslide In Sierra Leone

Bystanders look on as floodwaters rage past a damaged building on the outskirts of Freetown on Monday, after mudslides struck near the capital of the west African state of Sierra Leone.

AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

AFP/Getty Images

More than two hundred people have been killed and hundreds more are still missing after torrential rains on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown caused a mountainside to collapse onto a residential community.

A government morgue has received 205 bodies from the mudslide, and at least 71 injured people have been transferred to hospitals, Abu Bakarr Tarawallie, the head of communications for Sierra Leone’s Red Cross Society, tells The Two-Way.

Some 600 people remain unaccounted for as rescuers continue digging through the mountain of mud to find survivors and recover bodies, Tarawallie said.

“It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble,” Sierra Leone’s Vice President Victor Foh told Reuters while visiting the scene of the mudslide. “This disaster is so serious that I feel myself broken. … We’re trying to cordon the area. Evacuate the people.”

Tarawallie says recovery efforts face serious challenges. “We are not sure if we will be able to recover all of them considering the herculean task of reaching them out of the depths of the huge mud brought down by the slide,” Tarawallie says. “We’re not sure of the capacity that exists for them to be reached before they decompose.”

Video posted by the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation show strong, churning rivers of mud flowing down streets and through houses. “It appears many people were still sleeping when heavy rains triggered the mudslide which engulfed the area,” NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reported.

The damage is extreme, says International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Programme Coordinator Abdul Nasir: “In places, entire communities seem to have been washed away and whatever is left is covered in mud,” he said.

Up to 3,000 people are believed to have lost their homes, Tarawallie says. “It is estimated that over 100 houses are affected, and about 25 houses were submerged in the mud.”

Efforts to aid the people who have lost their homes have been “a little bit chaotic,” he says. “No organized structure or shelter has been put in place for them.” He says that the Red Cross is currently working on a response to help the people who have survived the mudslide.

Scores feared dead after a mudslide near Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetownhttps://t.co/zFQ32OhJHwpic.twitter.com/n2O1yNdxlZ

— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 14, 2017

Reuters spoke with Salimatu Bangura, who lives in the flooded area and lost her brother this morning. “We were asleep when we heard the noise of one of the walls falling down. By the time we got up water was flowing in and the whole house was flooded,” she said.

Tarawallie stresses that Sierra Leone regularly experiences floods and mudslides due to heavy downpours. He adds: “The only particularity of this is that it is unprecedented that for the first time we are having this magnitude of impact and huge loss of property and lives.”

According to the wire service, deforestation and poor urban planning have exacerbated the dangers in Sierra Leone during the rainy season.

“There is little to no urban planning going on in the city at all levels of society,” Jamie Hitchen of the Africa Research Institute told The Guardian. “The government is failing to provide housing for the poorest in society. There is a chronic housing deficit in the city and the issues only get discussed on an annual basis when flooding happens and [it] comes into the spotlight.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Big Ben's Big Bong Is About To Go Silent

Tourists walk past the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben in London. Big Ben is scheduled to fall silent next week.

Alastair Grant/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Alastair Grant/AP

A fixture of the London landscape and soundscape, Big Ben, is falling silent for four years. The bell will cease its regular tolling while extensive repairs are made to the famous clock tower that looms over the Palace of Westminster, the home of the British Parliament.

The massive bell will mark the hour for the last time at noon on Aug. 21, and then pause for four years while the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Great Clock and the Great Bell, aka Big Ben, is restored. A larger restoration of the Parliament buildings is likely to begin in the early 2020s, according to a Parliament website.

Quieting Big Ben’s mighty bongs will help preserve the hearing of workers involved in the project.

The keeper of the Great Clock, Steve Jaggs, said in a statement that the pause “is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project.” If you’re in London next Monday you may want to accept Jaggs invitation to gather in Parliament Square “to hear Big Ben’s final bongs until they return they return in 2021.” However, Big Ben will still bong for important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

YouTube

The Great Bell has chimed nearly every hour for the past 157 years. It has had previous breaks in service for maintenance and conservation in 2007, in 1983-1985 and in 1976. The 13.7-ton bell, which was forged in the 1850s, is accompanied by smaller chimes that ring out each quarter hour.

The Great Clock has a Victorian-era clockwork mechanism that triggers the bell and chimes. That mechanism and the clock’s four faces will also get refurbished. That will require the faces to be covered.

To make sure Londoners don’t get completely disoriented and lose track of the correct time, Jaggs says at least one clock face will remain visible. It will keep time with the aid of a modern electric motor, while the Victorian mechanism is being repaired.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

For Syrian Refugees In Turkey, A Long Road To Regular Employment

Arabic signs have replaced Turkish ones in Istanbul’s Fatih neighborhood, where many Syrian refugees have settled. Turkey has absorbed some 3 million Syrian refugees since the Syrian war began.

Lauren Frayer/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Frayer/NPR

In a neighborhood of Istanbul that’s plastered with Arabic signs, a Syrian refugee whips up his specialty — avocado cream smoothies — at the small, colorful cafe where he works.

Majd al-Hassan has been in Turkey for two years, but has yet to learn much Turkish. He doesn’t need to. This area is filled with fellow Syrians. He’s paid in cash, under the table, and has yet to really integrate into Turkish society, he acknowledges.

“We’ve got Syrian supermarkets, Syrian restaurants — just like back home,” says Hassan, 26. “I haven’t even applied for a Turkish ID card. If peace comes to Syria, I’ll go home tomorrow.”

Majd al-Hassan, 26, a Syrian refugee who works in a fruit smoothie shop in Istanbul’s Fatih neighborhood, has lived in Turkey for two years. “We’ve got Syrian supermarkets, Syrian restaurants — just like back home,” he says. “I haven’t even applied for a Turkish ID card. If peace comes to Syria, I’ll go home tomorrow.”

Lauren Frayer/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Frayer/NPR

Nearby, a resident who describes herself as one of the last Turks living on this street near Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque says she no longer recognizes her neighborhood.

“Before, this area was only Turkish people, mostly. But now, here, there, everywhere, it’s all Syrian people,” says Tulay Suleyman, who was born here. “Some Turkish people, they don’t like these [new] people. Their culture is a little bit different than ours. [They’re] mostly ignorant people — homeless people, low-class.”

Xenophobia has flared with the arrival of migrants in parts of Europe. That has not been as big a problem in Turkey, even though there are some 3 million Syrians here — more than in all of Europe combined.

As in Europe, many of the Syrians in Turkey are educated professionals who are under-employed, working off the books for low pay — part of Turkey’s swelling black-market economy.

At first, when Syrian refugees began streaming over the Turkish border in 2011, the Turkish government granted them a special protected status — but no work permits.

Many thought the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad would fall quickly — another domino in the Arab Spring — and that Syrian refugees would be able to cross back over the border and return home swiftly.

With the Syrian war now in its seventh year, Turkey has opened a path to Syrians for official employment. But few have taken it.

One of the government’s motives in trying to regularize Syrians is that Turks have been worried about having their wages undercut.

Syrian refugees have settled around Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque in recent years.

Lauren Frayer/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Frayer/NPR

“There was a public concern that Turkish people would be unemployed because of the Syrians being employed with lower fees [wages],” says labor lawyer Mehmet Ata Sarikaripoglu. “We see what happened in Europe, and how the politics in Europe has changed after that.”

Fearing a political backlash, Turkey started a program in January 2016 to increase work permits for refugees. The government also now requires companies to give Syrians the same pay and benefits as Turks. But the roll-out has been slow.

Integrating Syrians is political too. They tend to be more religious and conservative than many Turks — and they tend to support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He’s floated the idea of offering them Turkish citizenship, but that has prompted a backlash from some opposition parties and more secular Turks.

At an Istanbul municipal office, long lines of Syrians snake across the lobby. People are registering for Turkish ID cards and health care, and signing up their children for public schools — all services they get for free as refugees.

One man yells and shakes with frustration. He says bureaucrats keep telling him to come back tomorrow. Turkey’s social services are overloaded with newcomers like himself, he says.

Yahiya Osman, 33, a Syrian refugee who’s worked for the Istanbul municipality for four years, obtained his work permit two weeks ago. Osman says it was worth asking his work supervisor to sponsor him for a work permit because it makes him eligible for private health insurance, a state pension and worker’s compensation.

Lauren Frayer/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Frayer/NPR

Behind the lobby’s front desk, Yahiya Osman helps Syrians register for ID cards and health care. He’s a Syrian refugee himself, and has worked here for four years — even though he only got a work permit two weeks ago.

“It makes me eligible for private health insurance, a pension and worker’s compensation,” says Osman, 33. “You’ve got to think ahead. We’re not sure what’s going to happen in Syria. We might have to stay here in Turkey forever.”

But Turkish government statistics show out of the 3 million Syrians here, fewer than 14,000 had work permits by January — a year into the program.

“It’s a very exhausting procedure,” says Sule Akarsu, who manages a charity that teaches Syrian refugees how to do bricklaying and other construction work.

Her work is dedicated to helping Syrian refugees. Yet even she has not applied for work permits for her Syrian staff.

“It takes nearly three months to get permission for the Syrians,” she says. “It’s also difficult for Turkish industry, doing all these procedures.”

Only companies can apply for these permits, not employees, and they must pay monthly social security for each worker — even if it’s a Syrian who doesn’t plan to stay in Turkey long-term. Some employers say it’s not worth the hassle and expense.

There are questions about how much Turkey’s government really wants to implement this policy. It has threatened to fine companies that hire Syrians without permits. But the fines are rarely enforced.

At an Istanbul cafe, Adnan Hadad, another Syrian, says it’s not just the bureaucracy that slows things down. He’s dragged his feet too. When he arrived four years ago, he thought he’d be in Turkey “a couple of years,” he says.

“But the Syrian war, and how it eventually evolved, made me realize I’ll be here a lot longer,” Hadad says.

He still dreams of growing old back home in Syria. But for now, he’s starting in on some Turkish paperwork.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Forget Tough Passwords: New Guidelines Make It Simple

The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently revised its guidelines on creating passwords.

eclipse_images/iStockPhoto

hide caption

toggle caption

eclipse_images/iStockPhoto

Here’s what we’ve been told about passwords:

  • Make them complicated.
  • Use numbers, question marks and hash marks.
  • Change them regularly.
  • Use different passwords for each app and website.

Of course, these guidelines often leave users frustrated and struggling to remember them all.

Now, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is about the make all of our lives much easier. The organization recently revised its guidelines on creating passwords, and the new advice sharply diverges from previous rules.

“The traditional guidance is actually producing passwords that are easy for bad guys and hard for legitimate users,” says Paul Grassi, senior standards and technology adviser at NIST, who led the new revision of guidelines.

The organization suggests keeping passwords simple, long and memorable. Phrases, lowercase letters and typical English words work well, Grassi tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. Experts no longer suggest special characters and a mixture of lower and uppercase letters. And passwords never need to expire.

“We focus on the cognitive side of this, which is what tools can users use to remember these things?” Grassi says. “So if you can picture it in your head, and no one else could, that’s a good password.”

While these rules may seem suspiciously easy, Grassi says these guidelines help users create longer passwords that are harder for hackers to break. And he says the computer security industry in both the public and private sectors has received these new rules positively.

“It works because we are creating longer passwords that cryptographically are harder to break than the shorter ones, even with all those special character requirements,” Grassi says. “We are really bad at random passwords, so the longer the better.”

Previously, security experts recommended the use of password manager apps to ensure users’ accounts were protected. Grassi says these apps are useful because they completely randomize the password, but he says they aren’t necessary to maintain security.

Grassi stands by these new guidelines because he says previous tips for passwords impacted users negatively and did not do much to boost security. When users change their passwords every 90 days, they often aren’t dramatically changing the password, Grassi says.

“I’m pretty sure you’re not changing your entire password; you’re shifting one character,” he says. “Everyone does that, and the bad guys know that.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)