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

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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.”

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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.

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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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If Trump pulls trigger on NAFTA withdrawal, Mexico will walk away

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(Reuters) – Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said on Wednesday that Mexico will leave the negotiating table if U.S. President Donald Trump goes ahead with a threat to start the process of withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

On Monday, Trump said he would probably need to terminate NAFTA to get what he considers a fair trade deal with economic partners Mexico and Canada, and revisited his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for a border wall.

Asked in Washington if Mexico would continue negotiating if Trump pulled the trigger on the six-month process of withdrawing from the trade deal, Videgaray responded with an emphatic “No.”

Videgaray said he, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross agreed on Wednesday to continue with a “serious” renegotiation process. At around the same time, during a speech at a Missouri factory, Trump repeated his threat to shred the deal.

Videgaray and Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo traveled to Washington following Trump’s near daily threats in the build up to the second round of NAFTA talks, due to be held in Mexico Sept. 1-5

A clause in NAFTA allows any of the three countries to withdraw from the deal after giving 180 days notice, and Trump has previously flirted with the idea of starting that process to ramp up pressure on the other trade partners.

Some experts in the United States argue that Trump would not be legally allowed to leave NAFTA without the approval of Congress.

The first five-day round of talks between the three countries concluded in Washington on Aug. 20, with all sides committing to follow an accelerated process in revamping the agreement.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Andy Murray pulls out of US Open due to hip injury

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His voice choking, Andy Murray unexpectedly announced Saturday that he was withdrawing from the U.S. Open because of a hip injury, adding to the lengthy list of top players who will miss the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Murray was seeded No. 2 at Flushing Meadows, where play begins Monday.

“Did pretty much everything that I could to get myself ready here and took a number of weeks off after Wimbledon. I obviously spoke to a lot of hip specialists. Tried obviously resting, rehabbing, to try and get myself ready here,” said Murray, who won the 2012 U.S. Open for the first of his three major championships.

“Was actually practicing OK the last few days,” he added, “but it’s too sore for me to win the tournament. And ultimately, that’s what I was here to try and do.”

Murray, who yielded the No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal this week, has not played a match since July 12 at Wimbledon, where he was the defending champion and clearly was hampered by his hip during a five-set quarterfinal loss to Sam Querrey.

The 30-year-old from Britain revealed during a news conference at the U.S. Open site Saturday that the hip first bothered him during his semifinal loss to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open in June.

Murray said he will decide in the “next couple of days” whether to end his season because of the injury.

He has dealt with hip problems off and on for years, but not to the point where it forced him off the tour for an extended absence.

“I certainly wouldn’t have been hurting myself more by trying to play. It was more a question of whether it would settle down in time,” Murray said. “Obviously I kind of ran out of time.”

Murray’s exit from the U.S. Open further depletes an event that already was missing three of last year’s four men’s semifinalists, including 2016 champion Wawrinka, runner-up Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori.

Three-time major champion Wawrinka recently had surgery on his left knee, 12-time major champion Djokovic has a bad right elbow and 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori has an injured right wrist. All three have said they are done for the year.

Add in 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic, who has a problem with his left wrist, and Murray, and now five of the top 11 men in this week’s ATP rankings will be absent.

That leaves No. 1 seed Nadal and No. 3 Roger Federer — who has been dealing with a bad back himself — as the two clear favorites for the men’s trophy. They were drawn Friday into the same half of the bracket, meaning they could only meet in the semifinals in New York.

“Obviously there has been a lot of players with injuries this year,” Murray said. “Look, I want to be back on court as soon as I can. If it means that I can play before the end of the year, then that’s what I would love to do. I miss competing, and I’ll try to get myself back on court as soon as I can.”

If Murray had pulled out of the field anytime before the draw was conducted Thursday, then Federer would have moved up to the No. 2 seeding and automatically would be in the bottom half of the bracket, setting up the possibility of a final between him and Nadal.

Instead, Federer stays where he is at No. 3.

No. 5 Marin Cilic, the 2014 champion, shifts to Murray’s slot in the bracket and takes on the man who was supposed to face Murray in the first round, Tennys Sandgren of the United States. Under Grand Slam rules, the man seeded 17th — in this case Querrey — moves to Cilic’s vacated spot and will play Gilles Simon of France. Querrey’s old line in the draw gets filled by the highest-ranked man who was not seeded originally, Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany; he becomes seed No. 33 and plays qualifier Tim Smyczek of the U.S.

Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, who lost in qualifying, gets into the 128-man field as a “lucky loser,” replacing Murray. Lacko will play Benoit Paire of France.

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ESPN pulls Asian-American announcer from Virginia football game because he has a Confederate general’s name

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In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Va., ESPN decided to pull one of its announcers from calling a University of Virginia football game — because his name is Robert Lee.

Lee, an Asian-American sportscaster who started with the network in 2016, was moved to a different game “simply because of the coincidence of his name,” ESPN said, referencing the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

On Aug. 12, violence broke out at a protest from a white-nationalist group opposing the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. A driver ultimately rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen other people, police said.

ESPN, which has faced accusations of liberal bias that some observers believe has led to a downtick in viewership, said it moved its announcer to the Youngstown State game at Pittsburgh.

The network’s full statement: “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”

ESPN notes that assignments are switched all the time.

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ESPN pulls Asian-American announcer from Virginia football game because he has a Confederate general’s name

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In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Va., ESPN decided to pull one of its announcers from calling a University of Virginia football game — because his name is Robert Lee.

Lee, an Asian-American sportscaster who started with the network in 2016, was moved to a different game “simply because of the coincidence of his name,” ESPN said, referencing the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

On Aug. 12, violence broke out at a protest from a white-nationalist group opposing the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. A driver ultimately rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen other people, police said.

ESPN, which has faced accusations of liberal bias that some observers believe has led to a downtick in viewership, said it moved its announcer to the Youngstown State game at Pittsburgh.

The network’s full statement: “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”

ESPN notes that assignments are switched all the time.

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Florida man pulls out fake AR-15 rifle over McDonald’s ice cream dispute

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Summer is almost to a close, but things still got hot in Delray Beach, Florida where a man pulled out a replica AR-15 rifle while he was in a McDonald’s drive-thru line because the store didn’t have any ice cream.

Jerry Henry was riding in a car with Michael Delhomme who was in the driver’s seat ordering at the McDonald’s window. Delhomme became upset when he tried to order ice cream and was told that the machine wasn’t working.

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According to Delray Beach police report, Jerry Henry, the passenger, was directed by Delhomme to retrieve the “stick” from the trunk following the conversation with the McDonald’s employee. Henry said he put the gun between his legs in the front seat.

The McDonald’s employee told police that he watched from the surveillance video in the store as Henry got out of the passenger seat and went into the trunk to get the rifle. The employee alerted his co-workers and they went into the bathroom to hide and call 911.

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The ABC Local 10 news said police confirmed the surveillance video as supporting the employees’ account of the events.

Henry was arrested on a charge of improper exhibition of a firearm. 

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Cloudflare Pulls Support For The Daily Stormer, a White Supremacist Site

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The white supremacist site The Daily Stormer has taken a nomadic journey around the web this week, searching for a permanent home after being booted by the hosting and domain registry company GoDaddy. Throughout its bizarre odyssey, though, the infrastructure and web services company Cloudflare has defended the site against cyber attacks, particularly DDoS attacks. Wednesday, Cloudflare finally pulled the plug. Without its protection, The Daily Stormer promptly crashed.

Known for racist and neo-Nazi content, The Daily Stormer rose to national prominence this week amidst tension over President Donald Trump’s statements about tragic violence at protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. After GoDaddy cut ties with the site, it temporarily restored hosting though Google before that company dropped the site as well for violating its terms of service. Next, The Daily Stormer went underground, setting up shop through Tor on the dark web. The site eventually found a more public-facing home at a Russian domain, until Cloudflare pulled its support. Twitter blocked the site’s account Wednesday as well.

The situation intensifies a longstanding debate over the role web services play in moderating online discourse. Historically, companies that provide infrastructure defense, hosting, and domain maintenance around the web dissociate themselves from the content on any given site. But these services underpin each site and therefore have significant power over their stability and viability—if they choose to exercise it.

Cloudflare has long asserted its neutrality, and willingness to protect any site, even offering defense services to clients who are in direct conflict, like sites on both sides of Hong Kong’s contentious 2014 suffrage referendum. Company CEO Matthew Prince has consistently argued that openness keeps Cloudflare from becoming a moral arbiter of content.

“These aren’t simple questions,” Prince said at the Black Hat Security conference in 2013. “We have 1.5 million customers, among them the Turkish government, the Muslim Brotherhood, organizations that do suppress freedom of speech and cause me great consternation use us like crazy. … [But] I think it’s really tricky when private organizations act as law enforcement.”

Years later, the ethical conflict came to an apparent head. As GoDaddy exiled The Daily Stormer, Cloudflare faced increasing pressure to do so as well. On Tuesday, the company gave a tepid statement, saying that it was “aware of the concerns that have been raised over some sites that have use our network” and that “Cloudflare terminating any user would not remove their content from the internet, it would simply make a site slower and more vulnerable to attack.”

Which did, in fact, happen. On Wednesday, the white supremacist hacker Andrew Auernheimer (also known as ‘weev’) wrote, “Cloudflare just folded on us. Into new territory. Going to have to buy IPs.” Daily Stormer architect Andrew Anglin added, “I have effectively been banned by ICANN, as well as the monopolistic anti-ddosing service Cloudflare. … We will be back on dailystormer.something soon. The Cloudflare betrayal adds another layer of super complexity. But we got this.” DNS records also indicated that Cloudflare dropped its Daily Stormer protections, and the site was intermittently offline throughout Wednesday afternoon, seemingly due to DDoS attacks, which Auernheimer reported had plagued the site throughout the week.

Ultimately, The Daily Stormer itself appears to have pushed Cloudflare over the edge. “The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology,” said Prince in a blog post Wednesday night. “We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.” Prince went on to describe in detail, though, why this decision creates a “dangerous” precedent, making it impossible for Cloudflare to say that it has never axed a customer for political reasons, and opening the door for groups like repressive governments to pressure the company to forsake other clients as well.

Tools to fight hate speech and trolling online do exist, and the tragedy in Charlottesville seems to have prompted companies to find new resolve to use them against white supremacy. But Cloudflare, once reliable in its non-response, makes a surprising addition to the group. Its action Wednesday may be a sort of bellwether that the internet community can no longer ignore questions around who moderates content, mediates disputes, and offers an ethical framework for the web. But the tough question remains: Whose job is that?

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