Mississippi school district pulls ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because it ‘makes people uncomfortable’


Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was removed from a Mississippi school district lesson plan because the book’s language made some people feel uneasy.

Administrators at the Biloxi School District announced early this week they were pulling the novel from the 8th-grade curriculum, saying they received complaints that some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.”

The Sun Herald reported that the book was pulled from the lesson plan because the novel contained “the N word.”


A message on the school’s website says “To Kill A Mockingbird” teaches students that compassion and empathy don’t depend upon race or education.

School board vice president Kenny Holloway says other books can teach the same lessons.

However, the book will still be available in Biloxi school libraries.

The novel, published in 1960, chronicled the adventures of Jean Louise Finch aka Scout and her brother Jeremy aka Jem and the racial inequality that existed in their small Alabama town. The book followed a court case their father, Atticus, was involved in.


In the story, Atticus defended Tom Robinson, a black man who was accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. Despite strong evidence of Robinson’s innocence, he was found guilty of raping Ewell.

The book was adapted into a movie in 1962, starring Gregory Peck, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch. 

The Sun Herald reported the novel was listed at No. 21 on the American Library Association’s most “banned or challenged books list in the last decade.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Delingpole: Not Enough ‘Women’, ‘People of Color’ in ‘Dunkirk,’ USA Today Complains



Hundreds Of People Still Missing


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The Northern California fires, which have been burning a football field of land every three seconds, show absolutely no sign of defeat since their Sunday night inception. In fact, they’re only growing in size and intensity due to a number of factors that truly encapsulate a perfect storm of conditions. At this point, the Diablo winds fueling the fires are intensifying as projected, so these blazes are almost completely uncontained. Meanwhile, the death toll is continuing to rise along with a growing number of missing persons.

Currently, the New York Times reports that 23 people are dead as a result of these fires. That number will inevitably grow, for the LA Times adds that 285 people are still missing. That’s down from a total of 600 missing persons reports, and most of those calls have been made in Sonoma County, where an estimated 25,000 people evacuated from their homes. In all affected counties, a total of 50,000 people have done the same.

And sadly, there’s not much that firefighters can do right now other than engage in preemptive containment strategies ahead of blazes. Once the fires advance, there’s nothing to stop the flames until rain arrives at some point in the indeterminate future. The Diablo winds died down a little on Tuesday but are back in full force now, and there’s another destructive pattern that further fuels the fires at night:

[There is a] day-night pattern to the winds. They tend to subside during daytime warmth, but as the land and atmosphere cool at night, the pressure gradient between the Great Basin air and California’s air increases. “The winds just pick up phenomenally,” said Norman Miller, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Meanwhile, the infernos continue to add more counties to their roster, and whole towns are still being evacuated. At least 3,500 structures (both residential and commercial) are now gone with more to come.

In short, there’s little relief from Mother Nature for California residents, and for more perspective, here’s an auto-updating Google map that illustrates the current locations of the infernos.

(Via LA Times, New York Times & ABC 7 in Santa Rosa)


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China says it has right to bar people from Hong Kong after British activist expelled


HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Thursday it had the right to bar people from Hong Kong, a day after a British activist was denied entry to the former British colony, and that it had complained to Britain after it demanded an explanation.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that promises it a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

But critics have accused the government of bending to the will of Communist Party leaders in Beijing and of a gradual watering down of the territory’s freedoms, including freedom of speech and right to protest.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was “very concerned” that Benedict Rogers, a co-founder of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, was denied entry to Hong Kong on Wednesday and demanded an “urgent explanation” from Hong Kong and China.

It came a week before a sensitive Communist Party leadership meeting starts in Beijing.

Johnson also said Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms were “central to its way of life”.

Rogers has been a vocal critic of China-ruled Hong Kong’s treatment of political activists, including that of jailed student leader Joshua Wong. He believes the decision to bar him was made by Chinese officials after the Chinese Embassy in London had warned him earlier, through a British member of parliament, that he wouldn’t be allowed in.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the central government had a responsibility for foreign matters related to Hong Kong.

“The central Chinese government and the special administrative region government handle the relevant issue in accordance with the law,” Hua said. “Allowing or not allowing people in is China’s sovereignty … Hong Kong affairs are a purely internal matter for China.”

She said China had lodged a solemn representation with Britain, meaning an official complaint.

When asked about the incident on a radio talk show, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam agreed.

“Ultimately, under the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution), the central government is responsible for foreign affairs,” Lam said.

Asked if immigration controls fell under Hong Kong jurisdiction, Lam said: ”It has to be considered whether foreign affairs are involved during the process of immigration.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s Foreign Ministry, speaks at a regular news conference in Beijing, China, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

“If you say everything falls under Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, this is not what the Basic Law says.”

Rogers, speaking to Reuters shortly after arriving in London, said Beijing’s statement confirmed his assumption that the decision to boot him out was made not by Hong Kong but by Chinese authorities.

He described the interference in Hong Kong’s immigration controls as “very alarming” and “a very serious threat to ‘one country, two systems’.”

“China has now revealed its hand. The world ought to have woken up a long time ago, but I think now they really ought to wake up to what this means for ‘one country, two systems’,” he said.

“I‘m very sad for what this means for Hong Kong.”

The former head of Hong Kong’s civil service turned pro-democracy activist, Anson Chan, said the case was a “serious breach” of the Basic Law.

Article 154 of the Basic Law says Hong Kong “may apply immigration controls on entry” of foreigners into Hong Kong.

“The Immigration Department must have sought instructions from on high,” she told Reuters. “They (Beijing) are sending a message that if you dare speak out on Hong Kong … you will not be allowed in.”

Amnesty International’s East Asia director, Nicholas Bequelin, suggested China’s definition of what constitutes national security is creeping into Hong Kong.

“In China if you’re critical of the political system, you’re committing a national security crime and this is exactly the type of thing ‘one country, two systems’ should protect against.”

In response to a Reuters’ request for comment on whether China was involved in Rogers’ denial of entry, Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it did not comment on individual cases.

China has admitted asking a group of British MPs to cancel a visit to Hong Kong in 2014 during the massive pro-democracy protests, of which Joshua Wong was a leader, that paralysed highways for 79 days.

Hong Kong has, on occasion, barred entry to individuals including dissidents, such as former leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing and a Danish sculptor, Jens Galschiot, who made a Tiananmen sculpture.

Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing and James Pomfret in Hong Kong; Editing by James Pomfret and Nick Macfie


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Can You Convince People These Are Real?



Being a rascal can be fun when the results are mostly harmless. I really recommend it. I once spent the better part of a month trying to convince people that drywall was invented by former president Grover Cleveland. That was a blast. And surprisingly easy. I think people believed me because, like, who would go to the trouble of making that up? Well, I’ll tell you who: Me. I love it. Someday I hope to convince someone that I’ve never heard of The Beatles. They’ll get all red-faced and angry and say “The Beatles! You know, Paul McCartney,” and then I will summon all the strength in my body to keep a straight face while I reply, “Wait… the guy from Wings?” It’s good to have dreams.

Point being: If you are like me, here’s a fun game you can play. Below, I’ve listed five made-up television shows. See if you can convince people they’re real. Some of them are pretty easy sells (as I have indicated by their assigned degrees of difficulty), especially in a world where there are currently 20,000 shows on 900 channels. Others, less so. You’ll see what I mean.

Good luck, my fellow rascals, with the Peak TV Fake Show Challenge.


Degree of difficulty: 2.8

What it is, allegedly: A Hulu series starring David Schwimmer as the freshly divorced owner of a struggling family-operated business that rents out beach equipment in mob-infested Daytona Beach.

Bonus points if: You can convince people it is in its fourth season and that David Schwimmer’s character is named “Dale Sunbather.”

Sample conversation:

YOU: Hey, do you watch Sunbathers?

THE MARK: What’s Sunbathers?

YOU: Oh man, it’s this show on Hulu about David Schwimmer renting beach chairs to tourists in a mob-run town in Florida. It’s wild.

THE MARK: Oh wow, I’ve never heard of that.

YOU: Yeah, Hulu’s done a weird job of promoting it.

THE MARK: Huh. I remember the same thing happened with that James Franco show about the JFK assassination.

YOU: Exactly.


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The Harvey Weinstein mess: What did people know and when did they know it?


The more we learn about the magnitude of Harvey Weinstein’s gross mistreatment of women, the more unanswered questions surface about who knew about this, in journalism and in Hollywood, and why they didn’t do anything.

High on the list: NBC passing on what turned out to be the biggest entertainment scandal in at least a couple of years. And that information comes from none other than Ronan Farrow, a special NBC correspondent who wound up taking his well-documented exclusive to the New Yorker.

Rachel Maddow told Farrow on her MSNBC show that “the story wasn’t publishable” at the time he presented it to the network—which is reported to have been as recently as August.

“I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier,” Farrow said, “and immediately, obviously, the New Yorker recognized that, and it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.”

Good for Farrow, who is Mia Farrow’s son, for being so blunt. What that means is that someone in a high position at NBC overruled subordinates who thought the story should air.

Farrow has numerous women on the record, and three of them say that Weinstein raped them (he strongly denies all the allegations in a statement).

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim told his staff yesterday:

“Ronan, who was not working for us exclusively, began reporting on that story for NBC. We are proud of that. We launched him on that story, we encouraged him to report that story … The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us.”

He added: “We reached a point over the summer, where as an organization, we didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it … Suffice to say, the stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday, was not the story that we were looking at when we made our judgment several months ago.”

But it’s hard to imagine that all the women suddenly agreed to allow their names to be used in the few weeks before the New Yorker went to press.

And we do know that Farrow had a chilling audiotape months ago, when he was still working the story for NBC. In a New York police sting, we hear Weinstein trying to badger an Italian model into coming into his hotel room, and admitting it when she says he groped her breast the day before. That in itself should have been a story for NBC.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Weinstein’s company had business relationships with NBC Universal and NBC’s Bravo channel. Or that he was a big-time Hollywood liberal and Democratic donor.

The Daily Beast says that “at least eight women claiming to have been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted by Weinstein had agreed to go on camera—most of them anonymously in shadow, but two alleged victims with their names and faces. A third alleged victim was willing to allow her name to be used, but not her on-camera image.”

Now that Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Heather Graham and Rosanna Arquette—these are just the more famous names—are telling stories of how Weinstein tried to take advantage of them, more evidence is emerging of how many staffers at his companies knew of this behavior and helped Harvey set up the meetings. Farrow’s piece even described a “honeypot” scenario in which women would be lured to “meetings” with the boss, only to be left alone with him.

And with a number of journalists now saying that Weinstein’s conduct was an open secret in movie and media circles, the question remains why almost none of this made it to publication.

One possible factor is Weinstein’s widely reported technique of using leaks to retaliate against his critics and those who cross him.

As Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan reports:

“Just last week, as a blockbuster New York Times story on Weinstein moved toward publication, negative information about one of Weinstein’s accusers was offered to a Washington Post reporter. The timing could, of course, be coincidental, but seems suspicious and tracks with Weinstein’s well-known practices. (The Post had begun checking into it when The Times story, naming the accuser, was published.)”

Now that Weinstein is radioactive and out of power, everyone who didn’t speak out is feeling free to pile on. But there’s no way his conduct should have remained such a secret for so long.


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