Woman who gave Donald Trump the middle finger fired from her job

Juli Briskman, a 50-year-old mother of two, said marketing company bosses called her in and fired her for obscene gesture

A woman whose picture went viral after she raised her middle finger at Donald Trump as his motorcade passed her on her bicycle has been fired from her job.

Juli Briskman was cycling in Virginia last month when she offered the gesture in a gut reaction to Trumps policies, she said.

He was passing by and my blood just started to boil, she told the Huffington Post. Im thinking, Daca recipients are getting kicked out. He pulled ads for open enrollment in Obamacare. Only one third of Puerto Rico has power. Im thinking, hes at the damn golf course again.

I flipped off the motorcade a number of times.

A photographer traveling with the presidential motorcade snapped Briskmans picture and the image quickly spread across news outlets and social media. Many hailed Briskman as a hero, with some saying she should run in the 2020 election. Late-night comedy hosts also picked up the story.

Briskman had been working as a marketing and communications specialist for a Virginia-based federal contractor, Akima, for six months. She thought it best to alert the HR department to the online fuss. Bosses then called her into a meeting, she said.

They said, Were separating from you, Briskman told the Huffington Post. Basically, you cannot have lewd or obscene things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off obscene.

She said the company was displeased she had used the image as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook, and told her it violated social media policy and could hurt the companys reputation as a government contractor.

Briskman said she pointed out that her social media pages do not mention her employer, and that the incident happened on her own time. She also said another employee had written a profane insult about someone on Facebook, but had been allowed to keep his job after deleting the post and being reprimanded.

Virginia, however, has at will employment laws, meaning private-sector employers can fire people for any reason.

Suddenly, the 50-year-old mother of two found herself looking for a new job.

Briskman, who votes Democratic, said she planned to look for a new job with an advocacy group she believes in, such as Planned Parenthood or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

After leaving his Virginia golf club and before passing Briskman, Trumps motorcade passed a pedestrian who gave a vigorous thumbs-down gesture. Another woman had been standing outside the entrance to the golf club, holding a sign saying Impeach.

As news of Briskmans firing spread, many social media users asked why she was being penalized for expressing free speech on her own time, under the first amendment to the US constitution.

Akima did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, its website went down. Someone began a crowdfunding page online to raise money for Briskman.

Briskman said she had no regrets about the attention her public show of displeasure received. In fact, she said, she was happy to be an image of protest.

In some ways, Im doing better than ever, she said. Im angry about where our country is right now. I am appalled. This was an opportunity for me to say something.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/06/woman-trump-middle-finger-fired-juli-briskman

Romania shrugs off label of Europes poor man as economy booms

Since it joined the EU in 2007, government economic measures and communist-era educational excellence have spurred rapid growth

At a sleek new office in the heart of Bucharest, Fitbit co-founder and chief executive James Park explains why the smartwear giant is rapidly expanding its operations in Romania and following the lead of a host of multinationals. The tech talent here is amazing. Romania and other countries in central and eastern Europe have great existing talent, and also great universities, he says.

The US company, which bought Romanian smartwatch brand Vector Watches for a reported $15m (11.4m) late last year, and has tripled its staff in Romania since, has just opened its largest research and development centre outside the US, in the Romanian capital. Its not alone: in recent years, major global companies such as Siemens, Ford and Bosch have set up or expanded operations in Romania, boosting an economy thats already growing at speed.

While many see Romania as a country of migrants flocking abroad to find work, back home the economy is booming. The services sector is expanding at pace, along with exports and manufacturing. Meanwhile, private consumption from clothes to furniture and cars hit a nine-year high in 2016, and increased a further 8% in the first half of this year.

The economy grew 5.7% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2017, the fastest rate in the EU, where the average growth rate was 2.4%. This was on the back of a GDP rise of 4.8% in 2016 and 3.9% in 2015; during the same period the UK economy grew by a more placid 1.8% and 2.2%. According to the International Monetary Fund, Romanias economy is expected to grow by 5.5% for the whole of 2017.

The tech sector, in particular, is expanding fast, built on a communist-era legacy of excellence in science, mathematics and technical education, as well as Romanias strong language skills, which have long made it a hub for IT outsourcing. While the Romanian languages Latin roots have helped explained the countrys linguistic skills, some suggest it was a decision to subtitle rather than dub foreign programming on television that boosted foreign language exposure and proficiency.

According to industry insiders, the tech sector which employs about 150,000 people is expected to double its share of GDP to 12% by 2025, aided by one of the fastest broadband internet speeds in the world (behind only Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Iceland).

Elsewhere, Ford has announced plans to hire almost 1,000 workers for its plant in Craiova, 180km west of the capital, adding to its current workforce of 2,715. The automotive giant has invested more than 1.2bn (1.1bn) in its Romanian manufacturing operations since 2008. Renault-owned Dacia, a former communist state-owned giant, remains the countrys largest company based on revenue, with a turnover of 4.1bn in 2016. Joining the EU in 2007 clearly had an impact, while more recent government measures have also boosted the economy.

The government in 2015 decided to cut taxation for consumption, says Ionut Dumitru, chief economist at Raiffeisen Bank Romania and chairman of Romanias fiscal council. They cut VAT from 24% to 20%, and now 19%, and extended the reduced VAT rate for food and some other items. This was a very strong stimulus for consumption.

The government has also doubled the minimum wage in four years. And its not only the minimum wage that has increased a lot, but also public sector wages.

Wages in Romania remain far below the EU average, making it an enticing option for outsourcing; the minimum monthly wage is currently around 283 only Bulgarias is lower within the EU.

However, lower wages have stopped many Romanians returning home, leaving companies short of workers in 2016, the unemployment rate dropped to an historic low of 5.9% compared with an EU average of 8.6%, amid predictions it will drop to 5.4% this year.

Uncertainty over Brexit is having an impact, with companies looking at alternatives within the EU in case the UK pursues an exit that restricts trade.

Were getting inquiries from UK companies on a weekly basis since the referendum, says Shajjad Rizvi, the director of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce in the northern city of Cluj, one of the largest tech centres in central and eastern Europe.

We are seeing global companies hedging their bets, in case tariffs are not favourable or something else, and Romania is one of the choices they are looking at, he adds. Software companies, a lot are doubling or tripling their workforces in Romania, and a lot of those jobs are coming from the UK. Whole departments: marketing, PR, HR; they are being closed down in the UK and moved out here.

But there are also serious challenges. Romania has long been considered one of the most corrupt nations in the EU. Despite progress, there are still major concerns. In February, the country experienced the largest protests in decades after the government pushed through legislation that would have effectively decriminalised low-level corruption. The government backed down, but has yet to regain public trust.

Transportation infrastructure is also poor. Romania came 128 out of 138 countries for the quality of its road infrastructure in the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report; the railway system, which is old and slow, came in slightly better at 79. There are only 747km of motorway in the whole country.

There is also concern about the rising deficit. In 2016 the government deficit the gap between state income and spending rose to 3% of GDP, up from 0.8% in 2015, due to increased spending and tax cuts. The main concern for the economy is the fiscal situation, says Raiffeisens Dumitru. The deficit is under pressure.

Even so, Romanias economy looks set to continue to expand in the near future. Its hard to sustain more than 5% growth, says Dumitru. Most analysts are predicting closer to 4% for next year. But even 4% will probably be one of the highest growth rates in Europe, so its not bad at all.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/14/romania-economy-booming

Dove apologises for ad showing black woman turning into white one

Brand says it missed mark after being accused of racism in campaign promoting body lotion

Dove has apologised after publishing an advert on its Facebook page which showed a black woman turning into a white woman.

The brand was accused of racism over the online advertising campaign and it later admitted it had missed the mark with an image posted on Facebook.

The advert showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman underneath supposedly after using Dove body lotion.

Habeeb Akande (@Habeeb_Akande)

Dove apologised for ‘racist’ Facebook advert showing a black woman turning white after using @Dove lotion. pic.twitter.com/NGXyhnGuBZ

October 8, 2017

The campaign has since been removed from Facebook but was shared by Naomi Blake, an American makeup artist who goes by the name Naythemua.

So Im scrolling through Facebook and this is the #dove ad that comes up ok so what am I looking at, she wrote as the caption.

Under the post, she was asked if people would be offended if the white woman had turned into a black woman. She said: Nope, we wouldnt and thats the whole point. What does America tell black people? That we are judged by the color of our skin and that includes what is considered beautiful in this country.

She added that Doves marketing team should have known better and said the tone deafness in these companies makes no sense.

Following the removal of the advert, Dove, which is owned by Unilever, tweeted: An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.

In a further statement Dove said: As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a three-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page.

This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened.

We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused.

However the damage was done and the nearly 3,000 comments below the tweet were almost exclusively negative. Many social media users called for a boycott of Doves products.

A Soldier of the Art (@SelinaNBrown)

ENOUGH!
IS ENOUGH!@Dove Needs to be an example of black boycott worldwide!!!
They need to see the power of the black and brown money power

October 7, 2017

Ava DuVernay, the director of the film Selma, was one of many prominent people to criticise both the advert and the apology. She said on Twitter: You can do better than missed the mark. Flip + diminishing. Deepens your offence. You do good work. Have been for years. Do better here.

The trans model Munroe Bergdorf, who recently was at the centre of a racism row with LOreal, tweeted to say: Diversity is viewed as a buzzword or a trend. An opportunity to sell product to women of colour. Dove Do better.

Others pointed out this was not the first time the company has been accused of racism. In 2011 Doves before-and-after advert charted the transition of a black woman to a white woman after using its body wash.

Keith Boykin (@keithboykin)

Okay, Dove…
One racist ad makes you suspect.
Two racist ads makes you kinda guilty. pic.twitter.com/hAwNCN84h2

October 8, 2017

At the time, Dove said in a statement: All three women are intended to demonstrate the after product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/08/dove-apologises-for-ad-showing-black-woman-turning-into-white-one

South Asia floods: Mumbai building collapses as monsoon rains wreak havoc

Flooding across India, Nepal and Bangladesh leaves parts of cities underwater as storm moves on to Pakistan

At least 21 people are dead and more than a dozen others trapped after monsoon downpours caused a building to collapse in Mumbai.

The four-storey residential building gave way on Thursday morning in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar, after roads were turned into rivers in Indias financial capital. The city has been struggling to cope with some of the heaviest rainfall in more than 15 years.

Rescue workers, police and residents helped pull 13 people out of the rubble and were looking for those buried beneath. Authorities have advised people living in an adjacent building to evacuate after it developed cracks following the collapse.

The death toll could have been much worse, officials said, because the building, which houses a nursery school, collapsed half an hour before children were due to arrive at 9am.

Thousands more buildings that are more than 100 years old are at risk of collapse due in part to foundations being weakened by flood waters.

Across the region more than 1,200 people are feared to have died and 40 million are estimated to have been affected by flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Vast swaths of land are underwater in the eastern part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 people have reportedly died, 3,097 villages are submerged and almost 3 million villagers have been affected by flooding, according to officials. Army personnel have joined rescuers to evacuate people from the area.

The storm reached Pakistan on Thursday, lashing the port city of Karachi, where at least 14 people have died, and streets have been submerged by water. The countrys meteorological department forecast that the rains would continue for three days in various parts of Sindh province, where authorities closed schools as a precaution.

People
People make their way through flooded streets after a heavy downpour in Karachi on Thursday. Photograph: Rehan Khan/EPA

Up to 97mm (3.8in) of rain has been recorded in some areas of Karachi, filling the streets with muddy water, sewage and rubbish.

Among the dead was an eight-year-old boy who was crushed when a building belonging to the Federal Investigation Agency collapsed. Most of the dead were electrocuted, leading the citys energy provider, K-Electric, to cut power to certain areas.

Some feeders have been switched off in view of safety concerns in areas with waterlogging, and restoration work will be expedited in affected areas as soon as standing water is wiped out, Sadia Dada, the director of marketing and communication for K-Electric, told Dawn newspaper.

About 6,000 villagers are threatened with flooding after the rains breached the Thado dam on the Malir river. The army has been called in to help with evacuation, and has also provided Karachis city administration with water extraction pumps.

Windstorms and rain are also expected in the Balochistan and Punjab provinces. The meteorological department said rains were also expected in the capital, Islamabad, and in Pakistans portion of Kashmir.

One third of Bangladesh was believed to be underwater and the UN described the situation in Nepal, where 150 people have died, as the worst flooding in a decade.

The floods have also destroyed or damaged 18,000 schools in the south Asia region, meaning that about 1.8 million children cannot go to classes, Save the Children said on Thursday.

The charity said hundreds of thousands of children could fall permanently out of the school system if education was not prioritised in relief efforts.

South Asia flooding map

We havent seen flooding on this scale in years and its putting the long-term education of an enormous number of children at great risk. From our experience, the importance of education is often undervalued in humanitarian crises and we simply cannot let this happen again. We cannot go backwards, said Rafay Hussain, Save the Childrens general manager in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

We know that the longer children are out of school following a disaster like this the less likely it is that theyll ever return. Thats why its so important that education is properly funded in this response, to get children back to the classroom as soon as its safe to do so and to safeguard their futures.

Floods have caused devastation in many parts of India. Unprecedented rainfall in Assam in the north-east has killed more than 150 people. About 600 villages are still underwater even though the torrential rain began earlier this month.

Rhinos in Assams Kaziranga nature reserve had to flee to higher ground. We get flooding every year but I have never seen anything quite like this in my life, Ashok Baruah, a farmer, told journalists.

In Bihar, the death toll has reached 514, with people still living in makeshift huts days after the flooding started. However, the flood waters, which turned fields into lakes, appear to be receding.

In Mumbai, the rain forced nurses and doctors at the busiest hospital in the city to wade through wards knee-high in filthy water to move patients to the first floor. Outside the King Edward memorial hospital, a man going to visit his wife who was due to have a caesarean had to wade through flooded streets to reach her. Children swam or paddled down the streets lying on planks of wood.

Flood victims in the city included a doctor who fell down a manhole and another who died after being trapped in his car while waiting for the water to recede. Others living in the low-lying areas most affected by the flooding were swept away into the sea or died when walls collapsed.

Map of building collapse

As train services ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded, unable to go home.

TV commentators voiced the anger of those caught in the chaos. The TV personality Suhel Seth lashed out at the scoundrels, rogues, villains, rascals, incompetents and useless fools in the municipal authority for not being better prepared for the annual monsoon flooding.

The deluge brought back memories of the 2005 floods that killed more than 500 people in the city.

Why does nothing change? Why are we left to fend for ourselves when they had weather forecasts warning them of extremely heavy rainfall? asked the author and columnist Shobhaa De.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/31/south-asia-floods-fears-death-toll-rise-india-pakistan-mumbai-building-collapses

What is a black professor in America allowed to say?

The long read: Tommy J Curry thought forcing a public discussion about race and violence was part of his job. It turned out that people didnt want to hear it

One Thursday morning in May, Tommy J Curry walked through the offices of the philosophy department at Texas A&M University with a police officer at his side and violence on his mind. The threats had started a few days earlier. Since you said white people need to be killed Im in fear of my life, one person had written via email. The next time I see you on campus I might just have to pre-emptively defend myself you dumb fat nigger. You are done. Curry didnt know if that person was lurking on the university grounds. But Texas is a gun-friendly state, and Texas A&M is a gun-friendly campus, and he took the threat seriously.

Curry supports the right to bear arms. It was part of how he ended up in this situation. In 2012 he had appeared on a satellite radio show and delivered a five-minute talk on how uneasy white people are with the idea of black people talking about owning guns and using them to combat racist forces. When a recording of the talk resurfaced in May, people thought the tenured professor was telling black people to kill white people. This idea swept through conservative media and into the fever swamps of Reddit forums and racist message boards. The threats followed.

Anonymous bigots werent the only ones making Curry feel unwanted. Michael K Young, the president of Texas A&M, had called the professors comments disturbing and contrary to the values of the university. Curry was taken aback. His remarks on the radio were not a regrettable slip of the tongue. They were part of why the university had hired him.

A police officer met Curry inside his academic building and rode with him in the elevator to the philosophy department, on the third floor. In a hallway, the professor pointed to photos of his graduate students so the police officer would know who was supposed to be there. The officer told him to keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces. Curry picked up his mail. There were a few angry letters, and also an envelope marked with a Texas A&M logo. He put the hate mail into a folder and carried the whole bundle downstairs. Back in the car with his wife, he opened the university envelope. Inside was a copy of a letter from a campus official that he had received a few days earlier by email before his inbox was flooded with racist messages.

I am delighted to offer my congratulations on your promotion to Professor at Texas A&M University effective September 1, 2017, said the letter. This measure of your achievement is an indicator of the very high esteem in which you are held by your peers. We are honored to have you on our faculty.

As the car pulled away from the campus, Curry reread the letter and rolled his eyes. He has not been back since.


The drama that unfolded at Texas A&M is about a scholar who was welcomed by a public university because of his unusual perspective, and who became estranged from the university for the same reason. It is a story about what a university values, how it expresses those values under pressure, and how that pressure works. It is about freedom and control, reason and fear, good faith and bad. Mostly, it is a story about a black man in America who did exactly what he said he set out to do, and who became a cautionary tale.

It starts in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Curry grew up in the 1980s and 90s. His family lived in a mostly black neighbourhood on the east side of the city. The white folks lived on the other side of the highway. At the Woolworth store downtown, he saw the faded outline of letters that remained visible on the window glass: No Coloreds. Currys father sold insurance. He told his son stories about how white people used to break into black peoples homes and terrorise them. The family kept a shotgun behind the couch, and Tommy Sr owned a pistol as well. He constantly told us that there is a very real threat of white violence, said Curry. The idea of black people having a right to defend themselves is just something I grew up with.

The
The Texas A&M University campus. Photograph: Spencer Selvidge/Reuters

His mother, a social worker, told him to arm himself with an education. Curry was a serious child who hoarded information. He joined his high schools debate team, where he learned how to arrange information into arguments and recite them at breakneck speed. He became accustomed to being the only black voice in the room, although he occasionally met other black boys in the debating scene. One was Rob Redding, a preachers son from Atlanta who was going to college in Lake Charles. Redding, who was a few years older, was struck by the high-schoolers confidence. I remember him coming to the debate room, and a lot of people thinking he was very bright, but maybe a little too self-confident, too self-assured, said Redding. Even some black people, who should know better, would think he was too cocky.

Curry used debate scholarships to attend Southern Illinois University, where he won an award for his prowess as a cross-examiner. After getting his masters degree in Chicago, he went back to Southern Illinois to work on a doctorate in philosophy. He showed little deference to the canon, often challenging the universal claims that western philosophers made in their work. That annoyed a lot of people in the department, but Currys adviser, Kenneth Stikkers, considered Curry a model student who inhaled the texts he recommended, reading them closely even if he disagreed with them. It was always a delight when hed come to see me, said Stikkers, because I was always going to learn something.

Stikkers, who is white, understood that not everybody would find Currys iconoclasm as energising as he did. Philosophers consider themselves open-minded, he said, but the department was still a white neighbourhood with expectations of how a black guest should behave. Curry was not interested in playing that game. In comments on Currys papers, Stikkers found himself repeating a refrain: Dont unnecessarily antagonise your audience. Currys patience for that advice was limited. He would say at times that he liked nothing more than pissing white people off, said Stikkers. I think he did get a certain thrill from that.


In 2004, while Curry was studying at Southern Illinois, the people of that state elected a young, mixed-race law professor to the US Senate. Liberals at the university had high hopes for Barack Obama as a unifying political figure, and a symbol of how far US race relations had come. Curry did not share their optimism. In the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he heard that the police had opened fire on a group of unarmed black families on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans. It would take years for courts to determine the guilt of the officers, but Curry didnt need an official judgment to convince him it was true. The aftermath of the hurricane bolstered his belief that anti-black racism in the US was a storm that would never end.

The evidence of the last 50 years has convincingly demonstrated the failure of multicultural coalitions, civil rights legislation and integration, he wrote in a 2007 paper. The current task of radical Black thought now rests in the development of alternatives in light of this disappointment. Those alternatives might include violence: Historically, the use of violence has been a serious option in the liberation of African people from the cultural tyranny of whiteness, he wrote, and should again be investigated as a plausible and in some sense necessary political option.

It was a provocative thesis, and Curry knew it. He did not consider himself a violent person. Even when he was a teenage socialist, his revolutionary vision had been passive: white capitalism would collapse under its own weight, and black unionists would help build a more egalitarian society in its ruins. Anyway, philosophy was supposed to be about asking hard questions without fear or prejudice, and Curry was not interested in steering clear of topics just because they made his white colleagues uneasy.

Stikkers urged him to pre-emptively defend himself against charges that he wanted to incite violence. In the paper, Curry explained that he wanted to raise violent resistance in the context of US racism not as a call to arms, but as an open-ended political question. Still, the young philosopher knew he was treading on dangerous ground. To some, he wrote, for a black scholar to even ask if violence should be used to combat racism is a career faux pas.

The paper was published in Radical Philosophy Today, and Curry put it on his curriculum vitae. Two years later, he earned his doctorate from Southern Illinois, and Texas A&M brought him on as a diversity hire, he said. The universitys philosophy department, like philosophy departments everywhere, was all white. They sold it to me based on the idea that they were trying to change, he said.

Black philosophers are rare in academe. In 2013 a study counted 141 black professors, instructors and graduate students working at US colleges, accounting for about 1% of the field. At Texas A&M, Curry turned heads almost immediately. In 2010 he taught a course that used hip-hop as a lens for philosophical ideas. The rapper 50 Cent was on the syllabus alongside Thomas Hobbes.

Curry didnt want to confine his teaching to the classroom. In 2012 he reconnected with Redding, the acquaintance from his debating days in Lake Charles, who had gone on to become a radio host. His show, the Redding News Review, played online and was broadcast in several cities. Redding began featuring Curry in a segment called Talking Tough With Tommy. Every Thursday the professor would call in and lecture about race, fear and complacency during the Obama years. He warned listeners of what might happen as white America began to feel the levers of power slipping from its grasp. We despise black people who are pessimistic about the political situation, he said in one episode, as if history hasnt already borne out what happens when black people make progress, even if its illusory.

Earlier that year, grim news from a Florida suburb had reminded the nation of how precarious the political situation was, no matter who was in the White House. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, had been stalked and killed in a gated community where his fathers girlfriend lived. George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, had seen Martin and assumed he was up to no good. He grabbed his gun and followed Martin. There was a confrontation. Martin broke Zimmermans nose and injured the back of his head; Zimmerman then shot Martin in the chest. The case brought attention to stand-your-ground laws, which gave the residents of some states, including Florida, the right to use lethal force rather than retreat if they fear they might be in serious danger. (In court, Zimmerman was later acquitted.)

That December, Django Unchained was released in cinemas. The film starred Jamie Foxx as a black gunslinger in the antebellum south who frees his wife and murders her white slavers. In a Saturday Night Live monologue, Foxx joked about how great it was that he got to kill all the white people in the movie, prompting some white pundits to accuse him of racism.

Jamie
Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained. Photograph: Allstar/Weinstein Company/Sportsphoto

Curry made plans to talk about Django on Reddings show. He wanted to place the film in the context of Nat Turners slave revolt of 1831, the writings of the civil rights leader Robert F Williams, and the history of black people taking up arms. Once again, conjuring visions of black-on-white violence would be risky. The audience this time was not just the subscribers of Radical Philosophy Today. Currys words would go out on the public airwaves and the internet. He knew that saying that would be controversial, said Redding. They decided the professor should focus on self-defence.

When it came time to record the segment, Curry spoke without a script. When we have this conversation about violence or killing white people, it has to be looked at in these kinds of historical terms, he said. And the fact that weve had no one address, like, how relevant and how solidified this kind of tradition is, for black people saying, Look, in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people may have to die. Ive just been immensely disappointed, because what we look at, week after week, is national catastrophe after catastrophe where black people, black children, are still dying.

White conservatives speak reverently of gun rights, said Curry. But when we turn the conversation back and say, Does the black community ever need to own guns? Does the black community have a need to protect itself? Does the black individual have a need to protect himself from police officers?, we dont have that conversation at all.

The segment aired, and nothing happened. Redding posted Currys piece on YouTube in December 2012 with the title Dr. Tommy Curry on killing whites, then forgot about it.

Until Rod Dreher found it.


Dreher, too, is from Louisiana. Born 12 years before Curry, he grew up in St Francisville, a small town 160 miles north-east of Lake Charles. Only a few years before he was born, white vigilantes there had stalked and terrorised black men who had tried to register to vote in the town. In 1963, a tenant farmer named James Payne told a justice department official that a white mob had showed up at his house a day later. The intruders disarmed him, threatened to burn his family alive, and fired a bullet from his own pistol into the ground between his legs.

Dreher had a fling with progressive politics during his college years, at Louisiana State University, but his ideology took a right turn and he moved to the north-east, where he became a writer, cultivating an urbane Christian conservatism. Personal experience made him wary of vigilantism. In a 2001 column for the New York Post, Dreher bemoaned an elaborate funeral procession that black mourners had arranged for Aaliyah, the 22-year-old R&B artist who had died in a plane crash. A traffic-snarling, horse-drawn cortege in honor of a pop singer most people have never heard of? he wrote. Give us a break!

Dreher has vivid memories of what happened next. Callers flooded his voice mailbox with messages. They cursed him out, hurled antisemitic slurs (Dreher was raised Methodist and had converted to Catholicism), called him racist and said he should be fired. All of the callers had black accents, he later recalled. Dreher tried to brush it off. He recorded a cheeky voicemail greeting that instructed his critics to press 1 to leave a death threat, 2 to leave a bomb threat, 3 to get him fired, and so on. Still, the outrage scared him. Every time a black man got within 10 feet of me, I thought: Could this be one of the people who made the death threat? he wrote in a blogpost years later.

Dreher came to regret the Aaliyah column, admitting that it was insensitive, but he nevertheless saw himself as a victim of racial venom coursing through parochial networks. He blamed black radio hosts for using their influence to mark him as the enemy of a race. He eventually moved back to Louisiana and cultivated an online following as a blogger for The American Conservative magazine. His take on the Trayvon Martin case was that Martin had overreacted to Zimmerman confronting him with a gun, and that black people had overreacted to Zimmermans just acquittal. Dreher didnt see Django Unchained, he said, because revenge fantasies were corrupting. His audience eventually grew to about a million readers a month.

By the time Dreher learned about Curry earlier this year, he was writing regularly about campus politics, which he thought had grown more toxic since he was in college. The racial terrorism of the 1960s was in the past, as far as he was concerned, but the social-justice warriors remained on the warpath. Worse, college administrators indulged those students petty outrages.

In spring, a reader sent Dreher an email, telling him that a black professor at Texas A&M was saying racist things about white people, and the university was letting it happen. (The tipster used a pseudonym, according to Dreher, but he guessed it was a student.) He Googled Curry and soon found the killing white people YouTube clip that Redding had posted. He also found the professors 2007 paper on violence against whiteness. To his ears, Curry sounded like a bully. That rat-a-tat-tat way of talking reminded me of people Ive encountered in the past who are so busy talking at you that they dont actually listen, said Dreher. He reminded me of political and religious extremists Ive run across in my life in that way. That stuff sets me on edge.

So he decided to expose Curry on his blog. Dreher embedded the YouTube clip and quoted from other radio appearances in which the professor had talked about how white people would never voluntarily surrender their advantages. What does any of this racist bilge mean? wrote Dreher. To prove his own human worth to Tommy Curry, a white person has to despise himself? Good luck with that, Tommy Curry.

He published it on Monday 8 May at 8.30am.


Drehers post sent the professors words racing across a network primed for racial outrage. The internets rightwing news belt had expanded during the Obama presidency. Websites such as Infowars and Breitbart, once on the fringe, had found a champion in Donald Trump, who seemed passionate about defending white Americas borders and voting rolls from usurpers such as Muslim refugees, undocumented Latinos and poor blacks.

One of the first online hubs to notice Drehers article about Curry was a Reddit forum devoted to the lionisation of President Trump. When Is It OK To Kill Whites? somebody wrote there, posting a link to Drehers article on The American Conservative. THE HELL?!?! This guy teaches at Texas A&M!! Liberalism at Universities as [sic] gotten completely out of hand!! Cristina Laila, a writer for The Gateway Pundit, a blog devoted to exposing the wickedness of the left, also saw Drehers post about Curry. This is more proof that rasicsm [sic] is ok, she wrote, as long as the attacks are against whites.

Infowars was next. Then, on 10 May, somebody posted a link on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront. Some of the people who responded seemed to welcome the thought of a race war. They liked their chances. My West Point and 82nd Airborne cousins are more than happy to accommodate those of us who may need a little help in just such an emergency, wrote one person. So please, oh pretty please, do TRY to initiate hostilities sooner rather than later.

Curry had succeeded in getting people across the country to talk about racial violence in the name of self-defence. Now they were talking about how Texas A&M University needed to defend itself from Curry. To hundreds of people on the forums of TexAgs, an A&M community site, the answer was clear. Can we not fire him? wrote one person. What an embarrassment to Texas A&M, wrote another. Waiting on a response from President Young, knowing it will never come.

Michael Young, a lawyer, was hired to run Texas A&M in 2015 after a four-year stint as president of the University of Washington. At his new university, Young had swiftly earned a reputation as an able navigator of public-relations crises relating to racism. In 2016, white students had taunted a group of black and Latino high-school students who were visiting the campus from a Dallas preparatory school. One A&M student reportedly asked the prospective students what they thought of her Confederate flag earrings; other students told the high-school visitors to go back where they came from.

Michael
Michael K Young, president of Texas A&M University. Photograph: Youtube/Texas A&M

Young responded by announcing an investigation and then travelling to Dallas to personally apologise to the students who had been harassed. He was later praised widely for making a heartfelt response without rushing to judgment.

Kneejerk responses have to be avoided at all costs, Young said a few weeks after the incident. The key to beating the outrage machine, he said, is to know exactly what your university stands for. If you do that, even if it doesnt play out the way the Twitter world initially thinks it should, you never have to back away or apologise.

Texas A&M officials quickly realised that Drehers article might become a problem. Amy Smith, senior vice president for marketing and communications, advised the head of the philosophy department, Theodore George, on how to respond to inquiries about Curry. Barring direct threats by him to others, Dr Curry has a first-amendment right to offer his personal views on this subject, she advised him to say, no matter how incendiary and inappropriate others may consider them to be.

It soon became clear that would not be enough.


Even before Currys comments were covered in the mainstream press, Porter Garner III, head of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students, an influential fundraising body, began receiving angry calls from donors. They thought Curry was encouraging violence against white people. Many of the callers might not have been fully informed of the context of Currys words, said Garner, but some of them were longtime donors, volunteers, and friends of the university, and their concerns were pretty rational and very respectful.

Young said he disagreed with the idea that Curry was inciting violence. But as president of the university, he felt an obligation to take the concerns seriously. Public outrage can be perilous for a public university, especially when race is involved. After black students and their allies caused a national stir by protesting racism at the University of Missouri in 2015, the universitys fundraising efforts took a big hit, and it became a punching bag for the conservative state legislature. Two years later, freshman enrolment has dropped by 35%, and the university has temporarily shuttered seven dormitories.

Young said that finances were not on his mind as he weighed what to do about Curry, but also that he acknowledged the importance of staying in the good graces of constituencies beyond the campus. People send their children to A&M, and students come to A&M, because its a very special place, he said in an interview. I didnt want anybody to doubt what they believe it stands for is what it stands for.

On the morning of 10 May, Curry was asked to meet with university administrators. The professor agreed, but told them he wanted another person of colour in the meeting. He didnt want to feel surrounded by people who didnt get it. At the meeting, Curry said, he got the impression that university officials wanted to draw a distinction between his radio commentary and his work for Texas A&M. But Curry told the university officials there was no difference. Earlier in the year, a panel of judges from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy had honored Currys radio work by giving him an award for public philosophy. His radio commentary wasnt some offbeat rant, the professor told his bosses. This is part of what you hired me to do.

They backed down a little bit, Curry said. He said they told him to put his defence in writing, so they could use it to respond to people who were contacting the university to complain. Curry wrote in the third person, assuming that his bosses would adopt his voice as their own.

The inflammatory phrase When is it OK to kill white people, he wrote, referring to Drehers headline, deliberately misconstrues Dr Currys distinction between revolutionary violence and self-defense. He continued: Dr Curry, drawing from the Second Amendment tradition, suggests that the laws failure to protect the lives of Black, Latino, and Muslim Americans requires new conversations which may require self-defense and more radical options than protest. In no way does his work promote or incite violence toward whites or any other racial group. The professor sent the text to his department chair that evening. Two hours later, Curry was sitting in his apartment, at his computer, when a message arrived from President Young. It was addressed not to Curry, but to all faculty, staff and students.

As you may know, a podcast interview by one of our professors that took place approximately four-and-a-half years ago resurfaced this week on social media, seen for the first time by many of us, wrote Young. The interview features disturbing comments about race and violence that stand in stark contrast to Aggie [Texas A&M] core values most notably those of respect, excellence, leadership and integrity values that we hold true toward all of humanity.

Curry read the email, the text of which was later posted on the universitys website, with dawning anger. Hes throwing me under the bus, the professor thought. Young continued: As we know, the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects the rights of others to offer their personal views, no matter how reprehensible those views may be. It also protects our right to freedom of speech, which I am exercising now. We stand for equality. We stand against the advocacy of violence, hate and killing. We firmly commit to the success, not the destruction, of each other.

Have no fear, the president assured them: Texas A&Ms core values remained intact.


Smith, the communications vice president, immediately sent Youngs statement to the presidents of all the non-profit organisations that help fund Texas A&M. She felt good about the statement. Fair was fair: in December 2016, when the white nationalist Richard Spencer visited Texas A&M, Young made it clear that the university did not share his values, either. After trying and failing to bar Spencer from speaking on campus, university leaders organised a unity-themed rally in the football stadium. If youre a purveyor of hate and divisiveness, said John C Sharp, the chancellor, and you want to spew that kind of racism, this is the last campus on earth that you want to come to to do that.

In light of the situation with Curry, Smith found herself moved by the chancellors words. It is even more meaningful now, she wrote to the president the next morning, as we articulated our core values again yesterday in a new-but-related situation that shows we mean this equitably.

But the statement did little to slow the momentum of the story. The outrage machine was just warming up. Conservative writers struggled to square their love of free speech with their horror at Currys words. Certainly, no one should be stopped for sharing and debating ideas; the country has seen too many prohibitions of speech in past years, wrote Ron Meyer, editor of Red Alert Politics, a Washington-based blog. However, paying a professor to share radical ideas on behalf of a university has nothing to do with free speech.

Garner, of the Association of Former Students, was still getting calls from alumni who thought Young had not gone far enough. Some said the president should have condemned Curry more forcefully. Others were upset that the professor hadnt been fired. A petition was started encouraging alumni to withhold all donations to Texas A&M and its affiliated fundraisers until the board took action against Curry and Young. The alumni were not the only ones who were upset. Youngs attempt to get ahead of a national story created another outrage closer to home.


To some of Currys colleagues, the statement the president sent out to mollify the professors critics was not an affirmation of the universitys core values. It was a betrayal of the sacred privilege of academic freedom. Joe Feagin, a long-serving sociology professor, wrote to Young the next morning. Michael, he wrote, I wish you had contacted me about the Curry matter. In a separate email to a student newspaper reporter, Feagin argued that Currys 2012 radio piece was, in fact, based on good research.

Nandra Perry, an associate professor of English, also wrote to the president. Previously, she had assumed the university would have her back if anybody used a classroom recording to attack her. Now she wasnt so sure. To call this incident a blow to academic freedom, Perry told Young, doesnt begin to do justice to the chill it will have on my teaching, and indeed the teaching of almost everyone I know.

Perhaps the most scathing rebuke to the president came in a letter signed by every faculty member in the Africana Studies department, where Curry also holds a faculty appointment. The history of black thought, they said, includes more than Martin Luther King Jrs crossover hits. By dismissing Currys comments on violent resistance as personal views, they said, Young had delegitimised the professors expertise and dismissed centuries of history.

Blacks in the United States live with the daily fear that a traffic stop, or a trip to the store or the park, could be the end of their lives, wrote the professors. Yet we cannot talk about black resistance? Historically or contemporaneously? They demanded an apology.

When Dreher heard that Curry was getting death threats, he wrote a follow-up blogpost. Anyone threatening violence against Curry, he said, should be ashamed and, if possible, arrested. I hope Dr Curry is armed, he added, so that if anybody shows up at his house threatening him, he defends his home and family by any means necessary. Still, Dreher stuck by his interpretation of Currys 2012 radio commentary. I dont believe Tommy Curry is encouraging black people to go out today and cut throats, he wrote. I think he is entertaining dangerous thoughts here, same as far-right white radicals. (He later would write a third post, which was removed, comparing the professor to Emperor Palpatine, the Star Wars villain who encourages morally complex characters to give in to the dark side.)

An
An anti-racist rally at the University of Missouri in 2015. Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images

Curry read the second blogpost somewhat differently from how Dreher had meant it. That evening the professor wrote an email to Young with a headline that was provocative, if a bit misleading: Rod Dreher retracts.

The president decided to make another statement, and his advisers spent several days discussing how to thread the needle. On 17 May, a week after Young had put out his statement about Texas A&Ms values, he put out a new one. He said he was committed to academic freedom. He acknowledged that scholars often find their work oversimplified or misunderstood. He reiterated the universitys position that racial violence is always bad. He did not, however, offer a personal apology to Curry.

Despite the title of Currys email to Young, Dreher has not changed his views on Currys ideas. Dreher believes the only practical solution to racial resentment is the power of forgiveness. In 2015, Dreher marvelled at the Christ-like love of the teenage children of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, one of the nine black parishioners killed by the white supremacist Dylann Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof shot her five times. The next night, at a vigil for their mother, Chris and Camryn Coleman-Singleton told an interviewer that they had already forgiven Roof.

Dreher saw their gesture as both inspiring and necessary. There will always be haters, of all kinds, and sometimes those haters will murder in service of the hate that consumes them, he wrote at the time. But to deny that things have changed for the better, and can change for the better if we work at it, is to deny to ourselves the hope that inspired Martin Luther King and the civil rights heroes.

Curry is no hero, Dreher said. He thinks the professors talk of racial violence is reckless, and that he should cut it out before he inspires somebody to do real harm. Tommy Currys big fat radical mouth gets to me, he wrote in an email, because of the consequences of the things he believes and says. Its not a joke.


Back in America, Curry was more worried about the consequences of what Dreher believed and said about him. For two weeks, Curry rarely left his apartment, as messages arrived by email warning him of what might happen if he did. You and your entire family of low-IQ, affirmative-action herpes-infected african monkeys might need to be put to death. There were dozens like that. The professor forwarded them to the campus police department. Curry said a detective told him some of the messages appeared to have been sent from within the county. Police officers made a point of regularly driving past his apartment building for several weeks. But Curry worried about whether his six-year-old was safe at her elementary school. Driving her home at the end of the day, he would circle the block a few times to make sure they had not been followed.

Nobody came to his door, knocked him down, disarmed him, fired a bullet between his legs or made him beg for his life. The mob that came for Curry was digital and diffuse, everywhere and nowhere. The goal, however, was the same as ever: fear. And it worked. The Currys left town. They had already been planning to move, but Curry and his wife decided to leave early to stay with family. His daughters thought they were going on vacation. He does not plan to bring them when he returns to Texas A&M in the autumn.

In the course of his life, Curry has embodied both the promise of racial progress and its limitations. He was able to study at an integrated school, but his hometown remained divided by the legacy of segregation. He was hired by a university that wanted more black professors, then was mocked by conservative students who assumed his insight was worthless. He earned honours from his colleagues, then anger from strangers and a tepid defence from his bosses.

If thats the American dream, said Curry, then Id hate to see what the actual nightmare is. He plans to return to Texas A&M in the fall as a full professor. He knows there are people there who want him gone. He no longer trusts the university to defend him. He only hopes he can defend himself.

Main photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen. A longer version of this article first appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/03/what-is-a-black-professor-in-america-allowed-to-say-tommy-j-curry

‘Anonymous’ browsing data can be easily exposed, German researchers reveal

Pair secured database containing 3bn URLs from 3 million German users, spread over 9m different sites

A judges porn preferences and the medication used by a German MP were among the personal data uncovered by two German researchers who acquired the anonymous browsing habits of more than three million German citizens.

What would you think, asked Svea Eckert, if somebody showed up at your door saying: Hey, I have your complete browsing history every day, every hour, every minute, every click you did on the web for the last month? How would you think we got it: some shady hacker? No. It was much easier: you can just buy it.

Eckert, a journalist, paired up with data scientist Andreas Dewes to acquire personal user data and see what they could glean from it.

Presenting their findings at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the pair revealed how they secured a database containing 3bn URLs from 3 million German users, spread over 9m different sites. Some were sparse users, with just a couple of dozen of sites visited in the 30-day period they examined, while others had tens of thousands of data points: the full record of their online lives.

Getting hold of the information was actually even easier than buying it. The pair created a fake marketing company, replete with its own website, a LinkedIn page for its chief executive, and even a careers site which garnered a few applications from other marketers tricked by the company.

They piled the site full of many nice pictures and some marketing buzzwords, claiming to have developed a machine-learning algorithm which would be able to market more effectively to people, but only if it was trained with a large amount of data.

We wrote and called nearly a hundred companies, and asked if we could have the raw data, the clickstream from peoples lives. It took slightly longer than it should have, Eckert said, but only because they were specifically looking for German web surfers. We often heard: Browsing data? Thats no problem. But we dont have it for Germany, we only have it for the US and UK, she said.

The data they were eventually given came, for free, from a data broker, which was willing to let them test their hypothetical AI advertising platform. And while it was nominally an anonymous set, it was soon easy to de-anonymise many users.

Dewes described some methods by which a canny broker can find an individual in the noise, just from a long list of URLs and timestamps. Some make things very easy: for instance, anyone who visits their own analytics page on Twitter ends up with a URL in their browsing record which contains their Twitter username, and is only visible to them. Find that URL, and youve linked the anonymous data to an actual person. A similar trick works for German social networking site Xing.

For other users, a more probabilistic approach can deanonymise them. For instance, a mere 10 URLs can be enough to uniquely identify someone just think, for instance, of how few people there are at your company, with your bank, your hobby, your preferred newspaper and your mobile phone provider. By creating fingerprints from the data, its possible to compare it to other, more public, sources of what URLs people have visited, such as social media accounts, or public YouTube playlists.

A similar strategy was used in 2008, Dewes said, to deanonymise a set of ratings published by Netflix to help computer scientists improve its recommendation algorithm: by comparing anonymous ratings of films with public profiles on IMDB, researchers were able to unmask Netflix users including one woman, a closeted lesbian, who went on to sue Netflix for the privacy violation.

Another discovery through the data collection occurred via Google Translate, which stores the text of every query put through it in the URL. From this, the researchers were able to uncover operational details about a German cybercrime investigation, since the detective involved was translating requests for assistance to foreign police forces.

So where did the data come from? It was collated from a number of browser plugins, according to Dewes, with the prime offender being safe surfing tool Web of Trust. After Dewes and Eckert published their results, the browser plugin modified its privacy policy to say that it does indeed sell data, while making attempts to keep the information anonymous. We know this is nearly impossible, said Dewes.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/01/data-browsing-habits-brokers

Not so fast: Despacito singers tell Nicols Maduro to stop using remixed song

Venezuelan presidents attempt to co-opt the global hit for political purposes backfires with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee calling the use illegal

Venezuelan president Nicols Maduros attempt to use Latin hit Despacito – which means slowly to inject some cool into his controversial new congress has backfired quickly.

Maduros unpopular leftist government on Sunday promoted a remixed version of Despacito to encourage Venezuelans to vote for the Constituent Assembly, which will have powers to rewrite the national charter and supersede other institutions.

Our call to the Constituent Assembly only seeks to unite the country … Despacito! goes the Socialist Party-sanctioned remix of the catchy dance song, which was played during Maduros weekly televised show.

What do you think, eh? Is this video approved? a grinning and clapping Maduro called out to the crowd, which roared back in approval.

But Puerto Rican singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee on Monday said they do not approve at all.

At no point was I asked, nor did I authorize, the use or the change in lyrics of Despacito for political ambitions, and much less in the middle of a deplorable situation that Venezuela, a country I love so much, is living, Fonsi said in a message posted on Twitter.

Daddy Yankee, meanwhile, posted a picture of Maduro with a big red cross over it on Instagram.

That you illegally appropriate a song (Despacito) does not compare with the crimes you commit and have committed in Venezuela. Your dictatorial regime is a joke, not only for my Venezuelan brothers, but for the entire world, he said.

With this nefarious marketing plan, you only highlight your fascist ideal.

Millions of Venezuelans have been staging months of protests against Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader narrowly elected to replace the late Hugo Chavez in 2013.

Some 100 people have died in the unrest, which has further hammered an imploding economy that is running short of food and medicine.

Critics say Maduro is trying to cement a dictatorship by pushing forward with the Constituent Assembly this Sunday. He says it is the only way to bring peace back to the convulsed nation.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/25/not-so-fast-despacito-singers-venezuelan-president-nicolas-maduro-stop-using-song

Inside the murky world of Nairobi’s smoking zones

The Kenyan government has cracked down on cigarettes with a ban on advertising and smoking in public, driving the habit into the shadows

There is a wooden shed in the middle of Nairobi city centre, dark, full of fumes, crowded and deliberately built beside the public toilets. It feels like a place of shame.

Jairus Masumba, Nairobi countys deputy director of public health, calls it in jest the gazebo. Its the public smoking place, created by his department. It is claustrophobic and filled with smoke, some of which drifts out through slats, but most of which hangs heavily in the fugged air inside.

Those who enter have to be desperate and theyre usually men. A 27-year-old woman, who comes from the south of Kenya, is a rarity. She is heavily made-up and stands in the doorway. She smokes seven to 10 cigarettes a day. Its bad for you, no? she says several times, though she knows the answer.

The men inside, barely visible as you enter because of the darkness and the fug, are smoking hard, standing up like a football crowd, all facing the same way though there is nothing to look at except the wooden slats of the far side of the shed. Music blares but nobody is dancing. They are grim faced, doing what they have to do. A young man, high probably on khat and cigarette in hand, chases some of the butts and the ash out with a broom, seeking money from the other smokers for cleaning up. He says he has a diploma in business marketing and another diploma in substance abuse counselling.

A
A woman stands at a smoking zone in Nairobi, Kenya. Smoking openly on the street can incur a hefty fine. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

At the door are two cigarette sellers, doing a busy trade. Its rare for anyone to buy whole packets. Packs of cigarettes in Kenya are broken up and sold by vendors as single sticks. That makes them cheap for women, children and the poor, despite manufacturers being banned from producing packets of less than 10. One of the two sellers sitting passively inhaling smoke is a woman who taps a packet of 20 and shakes them deftly out, one at a time, exchanging them for small coins. Men buy one, sometimes a couple, sometimes three. They will not all be smoked here. The sellers sit at the large red wooden boxes, with open lids that become the display cabinet. Most popular and cheapest is Sportsman at 100 shillings a pack (75p, 97 cents) or 5 shillings (less than 4p, 5 cents) for a single. Smokers buy sweets too, to take away the smell of tobacco when the worker goes back to the office.

Tobacco: a deadly business

The shed is vile, but few dare smoke even on the pavement outside in the cleaner air in the knowledge that the plain clothed official public health enforcers will be circling, ready to impose fines on anyone they catch. Nairobi city has got tough on smoking. The Kenyan government has banned advertising and marketing and smoking in public places, but it is up to the individual counties to interpret and enforce that and they all do it differently. Nairobi county has cracked down hard. Lighting up on the open street in the city centre can result in a stiff fine of 50,000 shillings (374, $485) or even arrest. But its not so everywhere, or even outside of the city centre.

deaths

Yusef, 58 and from Kenyas second city Mombasa on the Indian Ocean coast, says people smoke openly in Mombasa. He has been smoking since the 1970s. His 28 year-old daughter died recently from colon cancer. That gives him a different perspective. Im more worried about GM foods, he says.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/nairobi-kenya-smoking-zones-cigarette-crackdown

How to live without plastic bottles…

Our dependence on plastic has to end as we contribute to an estimated 12m tonnes entering our oceans, polluting marine life, every year

Staying hydrated is good for our health. But contributing to the ever growing mound of waste plastic is not only bad for the planet, but for our wellbeing too.

The global demand for plastic bottles, spurred on by the drinks industry, is wreaking havoc on the environment. Every year, about half a trillion new bottles are produced, and many billions end up in landfill, the sea or the environment.

Plastic is now present in every corner of the earth and in the food we eat. As the Guardian considers the extent of this crisis, we look at six simple things you can do to stop contributing to the issue, starting today.

Find the one

The simplest thing you can do to reduce your contribution to the plastic mountain is to find a water bottle that you like enough to use more than once. There are multiple options to suit every taste. From stainless steel, bamboo or glass, to bottles with an option to add fruit to flavour the water, or flasks with filters that promise extra purity. Find the one that works for you.

Orb it

Earlier this year UK scientists unveiled the Ooho, a fully biodegradable water-filled orb made of two layers of seaweed-based packaging. The biodegradable outside layer can be recycled, while the inside is edible and can be eaten as you drink the water (or discarded, as you wish).

Watch the explanational video for Ooho

The orbs are made using a culinary process that shapes and holds liquids in to spheres and are able to hold up to a litre of water. Ooho orbs are not on the market yet but the makers claim they could be cheaper to produce than plastic bottles.

Be anti-fashion

Since the early noughties, staying hydrated has become a status symbol. A commodity that is free from the tap is now shipped from Fiji and sold for up to 5 a bottle. The marketing suggests that those clutching a bottle of water both look and feel healthier.

Public health guidelines recommend drinking eight glasses a day. Some scientists have suggested that drinking to thirst is enough to keep us ticking over, even when we are doing strenuous exercise.

Either way, nowhere does it say that you will be better hydrated if your water is sourced from a tropical rainforest or that constantly hydrating as you travel from A to B is necessary. Perhaps a glass at home and then one when you get to work will suffice?

Get over your embarrassment

Pluck up the courage to ask for the free refill to which you are legally entitled in the UK. In a recent study, 71% of consumers admitted to feeling uncomfortable when asking for free tap water from an establishment if they hadnt purchased anything. And 30% of people said they would still feel awkward asking for a free refill even if they had bought other food or drinks.

RefillBristol (@RefillBristol)

Fantastic to see the #refilldorset drinking taps on #Weymouth beach today.
Healthy hydration in the sunshine! pic.twitter.com/YxCgMQBAUq

May 14, 2017

This might be daunting, but there is a whole movement dedicated to helping you. The refill campaign has been handing out water drop stickers to businesses to show people they are happy to offer them water for free. There is even an app that tells you which nearby business are participating in the scheme before you leave the house.

Make your own shampoo

According to Beth Terry, who blogs about being a reformed plastic addict, one route to a plastic-free life is to make the toiletries you would usually buy in plastic containers. Baking soda combined with salt can be used to make toothpaste, she says, or added to apple cider vinegar to make shampoo. Other environmental blogs suggest forgoing shampoo altogether: the theory goes that while the first few weeks will be greasy and horrible your hair and scalp gradually adjust to self-cleaning. If that sounds too extreme a shampoo bar could be a good compromise. At the very least you can buy in bulk to reduce plastic packaging waste.

Indeed, inventive shopping can have an instant impact on your plastic bottle consumption. Paperboard packaging is a better way to buy soups and juices. Soda drinks come in cans as well as bottles.And fizzy water makers are a good alternative to buying bottles of mineral water.

Recycle, recycle, recycle

Even with the best intentions, there will probably be times when you have no choice but to drink from a plastic bottle. If this happens, the key is to make sure you recycle the bottle correctly so that it can be repurposed.

There are some ingenious examples of bottle reuse around the world. In Brazil plastic bottles have been bound together and transformed into solar heaters. In Algeria they have been filled with sand and used to clad walls in houses for refugees; and in India, a local enterprise recently made a bus shelter out of 1,000 old bottles.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/29/how-to-live-without-plastic-bottles

‘The Madoff of millennials? Fyre Festival investors eye a court fight with organizer

Investor believes that until detailed accounts emerge, suspicions will mount that festival was an elaborate Ponzi scheme and buried in debt before it even began

Investors in the ill-fated Fyre Festival in the Bahamas will begin to assert legal claims against organizer William Billy McFarland this week in what is likely to be a protracted effort to recover assets from the supermodel-fronted luxury private-island music festival that collapsed in spectacular discord last month, stranding hundreds.

The first petition to freeze festival assets to get a court hearing comes from Oleg Itkin, a Manhattan investor who says he handed over a $700,000 loan from January to April to fund a Fyre-branded app designed to streamline the process of booking entertainers for private and corporate events.

Itkin claims McFarland showed him a projected income statement showing $932m in proceeds from the festival and the app. Lawyers for Itkin provided documents showing organizers claimed $31m in assets in January, including land in Grand Exuma valued at $8.4m.

Itkin claims organizers told him the festival had secured $4.2m in bookings from acts including Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Azalea, and Ja Rule, one of the founders of Fyre Media. The app is no longer available, as the festivals legal woes mount.

While many investors tied their stakes to Fyre Festival, Itkin tied his investment to the Fyre Media app. They made Fyre appear to be a good investment, says Itkins lawyer, Michael Quinn. But McFarland defaulted on the loan, and other investors, ticket holders, employees and vendors have been unable to recoup their money. No one is seeing what theyre owed.

Quinn believes that until organizers produce detailed accounts for the festival, suspicions will mount that it was an elaborate Ponzi scheme doomed to leave investors disappointed. McFarland will potentially be seen as the Madoff of the millennials, Quinn says, referring to convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff.

Recent reports suggest the festival, which appeared to promise ticket holders a luxury experience weekend, potentially cavorting with models and social media stars including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, was buried in debt before it even began.

As it unfolded, hundreds of ticket holders found themselves stranded on Grand Exuma with little accommodation, poor food and no live music. The celebrity models were apparently warned off before the event got under way. Some who attended likened conditions to a refugee camp.

The organizers used Instagram and Snapchat to garner interest, and Billy McFarland was going to follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Quinn says. It was going to be models and yachts. But the luxury experience turned into a disaster. Everything hed promised to investors, ticket holders, and everyone else, he couldnt come up with.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/may/17/fyre-festival-lawsuit-billy-mcfarland-bahamas