Memphis Police Dismiss Sixth Officer Following Deadly Beating

Police in the southern U.S. city of Memphis, Tennessee, have disciplined a sixth officer for his role in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, following a traffic stop. Officer Preston Hemphill was fired from his job on the police force but has not been charged with any crimes. Memphis police did not disclose Hemphill’s role in the arrest and beating of Nichols. Five other officers have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. The five officers, all Black, were also fired. Police released video footage Friday showing the five officers brutally beating Nichols earlier this month after stopping him for alleged reckless driving. Nichols died from his injuries three days later. The graphic video showed several policemen holding Nichols down while other officers kicked, punched and struck him with a baton. In one clip of the video footage, Nichols can be heard crying out for his mother. The video footage, which was taken from police bodycam and surveillance video, also showed other officers at the scene of the beating. Family members of Nichols, as well as protesters who have carried out demonstrations since the video’s release, have called for more police officers to be fired or charged. The Associated Press reported two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have been relieved of duty without pay while their conduct is investigated. It said two Memphis Fire Department workers have also been removed from duty. On Saturday, the Memphis Police Department disbanded the police unit that the five charged officers were part of. The so-called Scorpion unit targeted violent criminals in certain areas. Lawyers for the Nichols’ family argued they were “suppression” units that acted with impunity and were more likely to use force than other members of the police force. Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. …

TikTok CEO to Testify Before U.S. Congress Over Security Concerns

TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew will appear before the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee in March, as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app. Chew will testify before the committee on March 23, which will be his first appearance before a congressional committee, said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican chair of the panel, in a statement on Monday. The news comes as the House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold a vote next month on a bill aimed at blocking the use of TikTok in the United States over national security concerns. “ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data,” McMorris Rodgers said, adding that Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security. TikTok confirmed on Monday Chew will testify. TikTok said on Friday “calls for total bans of TikTok take a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues like data security, privacy, and online harms”. McMorris Rodgers and other Republican lawmakers have demanded more information from TikTok. They want to know its impact on young people amid concerns about harmful content, and they want additional details on potential sexual exploitation of minors on the platform, the statement said. For three years, TikTok – which has more than 100 million U.S. users – has been seeking to assure Washington that the personal data of U.S. citizens cannot be accessed and its content cannot be manipulated by China’s Communist Party or anyone else under Beijing’s influence. The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, in 2020 ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that U.S. user data could be passed onto China’s government. CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks for more than two years aiming to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of U.S. TikTok users. U.S. House panel to vote next month on possible TikTok ban …

NYC Set to Break Weather Records 

New York City is known for many things and now is breaking some weather records. Dubbed the city that never sleeps or the big apple, New York has broken a 50-year record — set on January 29, 1973 — for its latest-ever measurable winter snowfall. Snow is highly unlikely Monday with temperatures expected to reach 10.5 degrees Celsius with mostly sunny conditions expected. A few days later, the city could also break another record — 332 days without measurable snow, a record set on December 15, 2020. The fallout from climate change? Probably. But the snow may come yet. February is a notoriously unpredictable weather month and like the American musician Prince’s well known song goes… sometimes it snows in April. …

US Defense Officials Not Losing Sight of China, North Korea

Less than a week after helping secure billions of dollars in additional military assistance for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, including U.S.- and German-made battle tanks, top U.S. defense officials are shifting their focus to the Indo-Pacific and growing threats from China and North Korea.  Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making his sixth official visit to the region, starting late Monday with high-level meetings in Seoul, followed by a visit to the Philippines to meet with recently elected President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and his new national security leadership team.  “The security environment in the Indo-Pacific is growing more complex, which we see day to day,” said a senior U.S. defense official, citing ever more aggressive behavior by both China and North Korea.    Specifically, the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, cited a “a sharp uptick in destabilizing PRC [People’s Republic of China] operational behavior,” including what was described as “dangerous air-to-air intercepts” and Beijing’s use of “swarms of maritime militia vessels” in the South China Sea.  U.S. defense officials also emphasized their concern about North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and its ongoing ballistic missile tests, calling the number of test launches unprecedented.  Pyongyang’s bellicose behavior has stoked growing fears in South Korea, where President Yoon Suk Yeol earlier this month suggested that Washington might need to redeploy nuclear weapons to the peninsula or that Seoul could begin developing its own nuclear arsenal.  Austin will use meetings Tuesday with Yoon and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup to highlight Washington’s “ironclad extended deterrence commitment,” a second senior U.S. defense official said.  But the official cautioned the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea will not be on the table.  “We are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the official said. “Our focus is emphasizing the importance of extended deterrence … that includes the full range of U.S. capabilities, including certainly our nuclear abilities, our conventional capabilities, as well as our missile defense.”     It also includes increased cooperation and additional training, including a resumption later this year of U.S.-South Korean joint live-fire exercises on the peninsula following a hiatus of several years.  “We are committed to doing more,” the official added.    U.S. defense officials also expect to discuss Seoul’s support for Ukraine and ways the U.S. can deepen its cooperation with South Korea’s defense industry, which the … Continue reading “US Defense Officials Not Losing Sight of China, North Korea”

Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs to Meet in Super Bowl 57

The Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs will meet in the upcoming U.S. National Football League’s Super Bowl championship game. The Eagles trounced the visiting San Francisco 49ers 31-7 Sunday in the National Football Conference title game. San Francisco’s offense suffered a key injury early in the game when rookie quarterback Brock Purdy suffered a serious elbow injury. Backup Josh Johnson filled in for Purdy until he was forced out in the third quarter when he suffered a concussion. With the 49ers out of quarterbacks, Purdy, who spent most of the season as the team’s third-string quarterback, returned to the game but was unable to throw deep passes. Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts, the favorite for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, ended the game with 121 passing yards and one of the Eagles’ four running touchdowns. The Eagles are heading back to the Super Bowl five years after beating the New England Patriots and their then-star quarterback Tom Brady. Hours later, the Chiefs edged the visiting Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 to win the American Football Conference championship. Kansas City placekicker Harrison Butker made a 3-point field goal with just seconds left in regulation to send the franchise to its third Super Bowl appearance in four years. The Chiefs won the 2020 game 31-20 over the 49ers, but sustained a 31-9 rout one year later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by none other than Tom Brady. The Bengals were trying to beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive season. The 57th edition of the Super Bowl will be held on February 12 in Glendale, Arizona, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals franchise. The game started as a matchup between the old National Football League and its rival American Football League. The two leagues merged in 1970 under the NFL banner, and the Super Bowl has since become one of the sports world’s biggest championship events. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. …

Barrett Strong, Motown Artist Known for ‘Money,’ Dies at 81

Barrett Strong, one of Motown’s founding artists and most gifted songwriters who sang lead on the company’s breakthrough single “Money (That’s What I Want)” and later collaborated with Norman Whitfield on such classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “War” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” has died. He was 81.      His death was announced Sunday on social media by the Motown Museum, which did not immediately provide further details.      “Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work,” Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement.      Strong had yet to turn 20 when he agreed to let his friend Gordy, in the early days of building a recording empire in Detroit, manage him and release his music. Within a year, he was a part of history as the piano player and vocalist for “Money,” a million-seller released early in 1960 and Motown’s first major hit. Strong never again approached the success of “Money” on his own, and decades later fought for acknowledgement that he helped write it. But, with Whitfield, he formed a productive and eclectic songwriting team.      While Gordy’s “Sound of Young America” was criticized for being too slick and repetitive, the Whitfield-Strong team turned out hard-hitting and topical works, along with such timeless ballads as “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).” With “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” they provided an up-tempo, call-and-response hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips and a dark, hypnotic ballad for Marvin Gaye, his 1968 version one of Motown’s all-time sellers.       As Motown became more politically conscious late in the decade, Barrett-Whitfield turned out “Cloud Nine” and “Psychedelic Shack” for the Temptations and for Edwin Starr the protest anthem “War” and its widely quoted refrain, “War! What is it good for? Absolutely … nothing!”      “With `War,’ I had a cousin who was a paratrooper that got hurt pretty bad in Vietnam,” Strong told LA Weekly in 1999. “I also knew a guy who used to sing with (Motown songwriter) Lamont Dozier that got hit by shrapnel and was crippled for life. You talk about these things with your families when you’re sitting at home, and it inspires you to say something about it.”      Whitfield-Strong’s other hits, mostly for the Temptations, included “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “That’s … Continue reading “Barrett Strong, Motown Artist Known for ‘Money,’ Dies at 81”

Pastor Prays for Peace After Brutal Beating of Tyre Nichols

The pastor at the Memphis church where Tyre Nichols’ family spoke from the pulpit urging peace after his brutal killing reiterated the call for calm Sunday following the release of video showing the fatal beating by police.  Cities nationwide have braced for protests after body camera footage was released Friday showing Memphis officers beating 29-year-old Nichols, who died of his injuries three days after the January 7 attack. However, protests in Memphis, New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, have been scattered and nonviolent.  “We’ve had calm so far, which is what we have been praying for,” Pastor Kenneth Thomas said before the service began at Mt. Olive Cathedral Church. “And, of course, we hope that continues.”  Thomas also offered a prayer for Nichols’ family, asking God to “shower them with your blessings.”  Later, more than a dozen sign-carrying protesters marched to a Memphis police station not far from the beating, pounding on the door and demanding to be let in. Getting no response, they made their way to a nearby gate, guarded by three officers.  Some protesters taunted the officers with vulgarity, and all chanted: “Quit your job!” But the protest remained peaceful.  The protesters then observed a three-minute silence, designed to match how long Nichols was beaten.  When it concluded, protester Jennifer Cain yelled: “Say his name!” And the group responded: “Tyre Nichols!”  “Now, just imagine being beat by people that’s over 1,000 pounds on you and you’re only less than 150 pounds,” Cain said. “That’s three minutes of beating, screaming and yelling for his mom.”  “When does it stop?” she asked. “When does it end? Are we going to continue to let it happen?”  The loss is “still very emotional” for the family, a lawyer representing them said Sunday, but they are using all their energy to advocate for reforms both in Memphis and on the federal level.  “His mother is having problems sleeping but she continues to pray with the understanding, as she believes in her heart, that Tyre was sent here for an assignment, and that there will be a greater good that comes from this tragedy,” Attorney Ben Crump said on ABC’s “This Week.”  Crump welcomed disbanding the city’s so-called Scorpion unit, which Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis announced Saturday, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from the newly released video.  Davis acted a day after the harrowing video was released, saying she listened … Continue reading “Pastor Prays for Peace After Brutal Beating of Tyre Nichols”

House Speaker McCarthy Optimistic on US Debt Deal

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised Sunday the United States would not default on its national debts as the country approaches its $31.4 trillion spending limit in June but said the government cannot continue to annually spend more than it collects in taxes. McCarthy, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” show that he will meet with Democratic President Joe Biden on Wednesday, the first discussions in what could be protracted debt ceiling talks over several months. The U.S. must raise its debt ceiling before it runs out of money to pay bills it has already incurred. Biden and Democrats want a “clean” approval to raise the debt ceiling not tied to future spending, while Republicans have called for limits on new spending to curb yearly deficits, chronic overspending that often totals more than $1 trillion annually. “We’re not going to default,” McCarthy said. The U.S. has never defaulted on its debts, such as on Treasury notes sold to China, Japan and individual Americans, but its credit rating was downgraded in 2011 when Democratic President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans sparred at length over the country’s spending before eventually reaching a 10-year agreement. Now, McCarthy said, the country’s debt totals 120% of its national economic output, with the debt significantly added to in recent years for two main reasons, the national tax cuts Republicans approved under former President Donald Trump and unfunded coronavirus aid relief approved under both Trump and Biden. “We haven’t been in this place to debt since World War II,” McCarthy said. “So, we can’t continue down this path. And I don’t think there’s anyone in America who doesn’t agree that there’s some wasteful Washington spending that we can eliminate.” “So, I want to sit down together, work out an agreement that we can move forward, to put us on a path to balance — at the same time, not put any — any of our debt in jeopardy at the same time,” he said. “We shouldn’t just print more money; we should balance our budget. So, I want to look at every single department. Where can we become more efficient, more effective, and more accountable?” McCarthy, like Biden, ruled out cuts to two of the most popular government programs, pensions and health care for older Americans, respectively known as Social Security and Medicare. But he added, “I want to look at … Continue reading “House Speaker McCarthy Optimistic on US Debt Deal”

Key US Lawmaker Calls for Reassessment of Police Hiring

A key U.S. congressional leader called Sunday for a national conversation on policing in America in the aftermath of the brutal beating of a Memphis, Tennessee, man at the hands of five police officers who stand accused of murdering him after a traffic stop. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told ABC’s “This Week” show, “We’ve got to do better.” Durbin called for better screening and training, so that police officers who are hired “really are stable.” Durbin said he did not know how a situation could exist, as shown on videos of the pummeling of Tyre Nichols, where police are “literally congratulating each other in beating a man to death.” Nichols, a Black, 29-year-old FedEx worker, died earlier this month, three days after crying to see his mother as police beat and kicked him while he was on the ground after the officers captured him when he attempted to flee on foot after the traffic stop. While many contentious street confrontations with U.S. police have involved white officers shown abusing Black suspects, in this instance the officers are also Black. They were fired as details of the Nichols case first became known and then last week they were charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, representing the Nichols family, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show, that “a culture” exists in U.S. policing, no matter the ethnicity of the police officers involved, in which “somehow it’s allowed to trample on the rights” of suspects. “How many of these cases do we have to see on video to say, ‘We have a problem America,’” Crump said. “This video is a watershed moment. What are our leaders going to do?” He called again, as other civil rights activists have, for congressional passage of a police reform measure named after George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody. In that incident, in 2020, officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd down with a knee to Floyd’s neck on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota for several minutes. Floyd was pronounced dead at a hospital. Chauvin was later convicted on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.  Three other officers involved in the incident also were fired and later convicted and are now imprisoned for three years or more. The legislation addresses a wide range of policing practices and … Continue reading “Key US Lawmaker Calls for Reassessment of Police Hiring”

Congress Takes Over National Prayer Breakfast 

The National Prayer Breakfast, one of the most visible and long-standing events that brings religion and politics together in Washington, is splitting from the private religious group that had overseen it for decades, due to concerns the gathering had become too divisive. The organizer and host for this year’s breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, will be the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, headed by former Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas. Sen. Chris Coons, a regular participant and chairman of the Senate ethics committee, said the move was prompted in part by concerns in recent years that members of Congress did not know important details about the larger multiday gathering. Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said that in the past, he and Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the committee’s vice chairman, had questions about who was invited and how money was being raised. The annual event “went on several days, had thousands of people attending, and a very large and somewhat complex organization,” Coons said in an interview. “Some questions had been raised about our ability as members of Congress to say that we knew exactly how it was being organized, who was being invited, how it was being funded. Many of us who’d been in leadership roles really couldn’t answer those questions.” That led to lawmakers deciding to take over organizing the prayer breakfast itself. Pryor, president of the new foundation, said the COVID-19 shutdown gave members a chance to “reset” the breakfast and return it to its origins — a change he said had been discussed for years. “The whole reason the House and Senate wanted to do this was to return it to its roots, when House members and Senate members can come together and pray for the president, pray for his family and administration, pray for our government, the world,” Pryor said. Pryor said members of Congress, the president, vice president and other administration officials and their guests are invited to Thursday’s prayer breakfast, which will be held at the visitors’ center at the Capitol. He anticipated between 200 and 300 people would attend. Pryor said he hoped the smaller event will regain the intimacy that is similar to the weekly nondenominational prayer gatherings on Capitol Hill. Groups of senators and representatives have long held unofficial meetings for fellowship and to temporarily set aside political differences. The prayer breakfast addressed by the president has been the highlight … Continue reading “Congress Takes Over National Prayer Breakfast “

Boeing’s 747, Original Jumbo Jet, Prepares for Final Send-Off

Boeing’s BA.N 747, the original and arguably most aesthetic “Jumbo Jet”, revolutionized air travel only to see its more than five-decade reign as “Queen of the Skies” ended by more efficient twinjet planes. The last commercial Boeing jumbo will be delivered to Atlas Air AAWW.O in the surviving freighter version on Tuesday, 53 years after the 747’s instantly recognizable humped silhouette grabbed global attention as a Pan Am passenger jet. “On the ground it’s stately, it’s imposing,” said Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden who piloted a specially liveried 747 nicknamed “Ed Force One” during the British heavy metal band’s tour in 2016. “And in the air it’s surprisingly agile. For this massive airplane, you can really chuck it around if you have to.” Designed in the late 1960s to meet demand for mass travel, the world’s first twin-aisle wide body jetliner’s nose and upper deck became the world’s most luxurious club above the clouds. But it was in the seemingly endless rows at the back of the new jumbo that the 747 transformed travel. “This was THE airplane that introduced flying for the middle class in the U.S.,” said Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith. “Prior to the 747 your average family couldn’t fly from the U.S. to Europe affordably,” Smith told Reuters. The jumbo also made its mark on global affairs, symbolizing war and peace, from America’s “Doomsday Plane” nuclear command post to papal visits on chartered 747s nicknamed Shepherd One. Now, two previously delivered 747s are being fitted to replace U.S. presidential jets known globally as Air Force One. As a Pan Am flight attendant, Linda Freier served passengers ranging from Michael Jackson to Mother Teresa. “It was an incredible diversity of passengers. People who were well dressed and people who had very little and spent everything they had on that ticket,” Freier said. Transformational  When the first 747 took off from New York on Jan 22, 1970, after a delay due to an engine glitch, it more than doubled plane capacity to 350-400 seats, in turn reshaping airport design. “It was the aircraft for the people, the one that really delivered the capability to be a mass market,” aviation historian Max Kingsley-Jones said. “It was transformational across all aspects of the industry,” the senior consultant at Ascend by Cirium added. Its birth become the stuff of aviation myth. Pan Am founder Juan Trippe sought to … Continue reading “Boeing’s 747, Original Jumbo Jet, Prepares for Final Send-Off”

Blinken Begins Middle East Trip Amid Spate of Violence 

CAIRO, Jan 29 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Middle East on Sunday, beginning a three-day visit as violence flares between Israelis and Palestinians, and with Iran and the war in Ukraine high on the agenda. After a stop in Cairo Blinken will head on Monday to Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing government has stirred concern at home and abroad over the future of Israel’s secular values, frayed ethnic relations and stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. There has also been a spate of deadly violence in recent days, heightening fears that already spiralling violence will further escalate. A Palestinian gunman killed seven people in an attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday. It was worst such attack on Israelis in the Jerusalem area since 2008 and followed a fatal Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday, the deadliest there in years. In talks with the new Israeli administration, which includes ultra-nationalist parties that want to expand West Bank settlements, Blinken will repeat U.S. calls for calm and emphasize Washington’s support for a two-state solution, although U.S. officials admit longer-term peace talks are not likely in the near future. Blinken will also travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, other Palestinian officials, and members of civil society. Netanyahu’s government has proposed a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary that would strengthen political control over the appointment of judges while weakening the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn legislation or rule against government action. The proposals have triggered big street demonstrations against what protesters see as the potential undermining of judicial independence. “It’s clearly a measure of the vibrancy of the democracy that this has been contested so clearly up and down across segments of Israeli society,” said Barbara Leaf, the top State Department official for the Middle East, who briefed reporters ahead of the trip. Blinken will hear from people inside and outside of government on the reforms, she added. Leaf said the visit would also build on earlier efforts to restore relations between Israel and Arab nations. The process known as the Negev Forum does not include Palestinians and involves officials from regional nations, including Egypt, discussing areas like economic cooperation and tourism. Ukraine, Iran on agenda  Russia’s 11-month-old war in Ukraine will also be on the agenda. Ukraine, which has received great quantities … Continue reading “Blinken Begins Middle East Trip Amid Spate of Violence “

Is Tipping Getting Out of Control? Many US Consumers Say Yes

Across the U.S., there’s a silent frustration brewing about an age-old practice that many say is getting out of hand: tipping. Some fed-up consumers are posting rants on social media complaining about tip requests at drive-thrus, while others say they’re tired of being asked to leave a gratuity for a muffin or a simple cup of coffee at their neighborhood bakery. What’s next, they wonder — are we going to be tipping our doctors and dentists, too? As more businesses adopt digital payment methods, customers are automatically being prompted to leave a gratuity — many times as high as 30% — at places they normally wouldn’t. And some say it has become more frustrating as the price of items has skyrocketed due to inflation, which eased to 6.5% in December but still remains painfully high. “Suddenly, these screens are at every establishment we encounter. They’re popping up online as well for online orders. And I fear that there is no end,” said etiquette expert Thomas Farley, who considers the whole thing somewhat of “an invasion.” Unlike tip jars that shoppers can easily ignore if they don’t have spare change, experts say the digital requests can produce social pressure and are more difficult to bypass. And your generosity, or lack thereof, can be laid bare for anyone close enough to glance at the screen — including the workers themselves. Dylan Schenker is one of them. The 38-year-old earns about $400 a month in tips, which provides a helpful supplement to his $15 hourly wage as a barista at Philadelphia café located inside a restaurant. Most of those tips come from consumers who order coffee drinks or interact with the café for other things, such as carryout orders. The gratuity helps cover his monthly rent and eases some of his burdens while he attends graduate school and juggles his job. Schenker says it’s hard to sympathize with consumers who are able to afford pricey coffee drinks but complain about tipping. And he often feels demoralized when people don’t leave behind anything extra — especially if they’re regulars. “Tipping is about making sure the people who are performing that service for you are getting paid what they’re owed,” said Schenker, who’s been working in the service industry for roughly 18 years. Traditionally, consumers have taken pride in being good tippers at places like restaurants, which typically pay their workers lower than the minimum … Continue reading “Is Tipping Getting Out of Control? Many US Consumers Say Yes”

As Children in US Study Online, Apps Watch Their Every Move 

For New York teacher Michael Flanagan, the pandemic was a crash course in new technology — rushing out laptops to stay-at-home students and shifting hectic school life online. Students are long back at school, but the technology has lived on, and with it has come a new generation of apps that monitor the pupils online, sometimes round the clock and even on down days shared with family and friends at home. The programs scan students’ online activity, social media posts and more — aiming to keep them focused, detect mental health problems and flag up any potential for violence. “You can’t unring the bell,” said Flanagan, who teaches social studies and economics. “Everybody has a device.” The new trend for tracking, however, has raised fears that some of the apps may target minority pupils, while others have outed LGBT+ students without their consent, and many are used to instill discipline as much as deliver care. So Flanagan has parted ways with many of his colleagues and won’t use such apps to monitor his students online. He recalled seeing a demo of one such program, GoGuardian, in which a teacher showed — in real time — what one student was doing on his computer. The child was at home, on a day off. Such scrutiny raised a big red flag for Flanagan. “I have a school-issued device, and I know that there’s no expectation of privacy. But I’m a grown man — these kids don’t know that,” he said. A New York City Department of Education spokesperson said that the use of GoGuardian Teacher “is only for teachers to see what’s on the student’s screen in the moment, provide refocusing prompts, and limit access to inappropriate content.” Valued at more than $1 billion, GoGuardian — one of a handful of high-profile apps in the market — is now monitoring more than 22 million students, including in the New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles public systems. Globally, the education technology sector is expected to grow by $133 billion from 2021 to 2026, market researcher Technavio said last year. Parents expect schools to keep children safe in classrooms or on field trips, and schools also “have a responsibility to keep students safe in digital spaces and on school-issued devices,” GoGuardian said in a statement. The company says it “provides educators with the ability to protect students from harmful or explicit content”. Nowadays, … Continue reading “As Children in US Study Online, Apps Watch Their Every Move “

Afghan Soldier Seeks US Asylum and ‘American Dream’

In the months he was held in detention in Texas during his legal fight to remain in the United States, Afghan soldier Abdul Wasi Safi thought he would eventually be returned to his home country and likely meet death at the hands of the Taliban because of his work with the U.S. military. But Friday, he stood a free man, filled with hope that the help he provided the U.S. military will ultimately help him secure asylum in the U.S. Amid hugs from his brother and lawyers, Wasi Safi proudly smiled as he received an award from one of his supporters — Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Houston, Texas — that honored his military service to the U.S. He said he hoped that would be a harbinger of things to come for him in his new life in the U.S. “I am hopeful about the next step in this process and one day being able to live the American dream,” Wasi Safi said at a news conference in Houston. A long trek For the past few months, Wasi Safi, 27, had been jailed by federal authorities after being arrested while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in September near Eagle Pass, Texas. An intelligence officer for the Afghan National Security Forces, he had fled Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021, fearing reprisals from the Taliban. After making his way last year to Brazil, he started a monthslong journey to the U.S. in summer 2022, crossing 10 countries on his treacherous trek. Wasi Safi had been facing a federal immigrant charge. But a judge on Monday dropped the count at the request of prosecutors. He was freed from a detention center in Eden, Texas, Wednesday and reunited with his brother, Sami-ullah Safi, 29, who goes by Sami and lives in Houston. “Today a wrong has been made right, and I would like to thank those who have worked tirelessly to secure justice for my brother,” said Sami Safi, who had been employed in Afghanistan by the U.S. military as a translator before he moved to the U.S. A promise kept The lawyers, bipartisan lawmakers and military organizations that have been working to free Wasi Safi say his case highlights how America’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to harm Afghan citizens who helped the U.S. but were left behind. Jackson Lee said being able to free Wasi … Continue reading “Afghan Soldier Seeks US Asylum and ‘American Dream’”

$100 Repair Bill Sparked N. California Shooting, Prosecutor Says

A farmworker charged with killing seven people at two Half Moon Bay mushroom farms reportedly told investigators he was spurred to carry out the shootings after his supervisor demanded he pay $100 to repair a forklift damaged at work. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe confirmed to the Bay Area News Group on Friday that Chunli Zhao was enraged by the equipment bill, saying that a coworker was to blame for the collision between his forklift and the coworker’s bulldozer. KNTV-TV, the NBC affiliate in the San Francisco Bay Area, was first to report the development. Authorities say Zhao, 66, shot and killed four workers and wounded a fifth employee Monday at California Terra Garden. He then went to nearby Concord Farms, where he had worked previously, and fatally shot three former coworkers. Zhao told KNTV-TV in a courthouse interview Thursday that he was bullied and worked long hours on the farms and his complaints were ignored, the station reported. On Monday, Zhao vented to his supervisor about the bill, but the supervisor insisted he needed to pay. Zhao then allegedly shot the supervisor and the coworker, the news outlets reported. Speaking in Mandarin, Zhao told the television station from a county jail in Redwood City that he has been in the U.S. for 11 years and has a green card. He said he has a 40-year-old daughter in China and lived with his wife in Half Moon Bay. …