April 21, 2019

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Austria NGO fights hate online, one conversation at a time

Austria NGO fights hate online, one conversation at a timeWhen it comes to the problem of online hate speech, the culprits behind the keyboards and smartphones can take some surprising forms -- just take 74-year-old Viennese retiree Ms H. Angered by an article she read on the internet a year ago, the outwardly unassuming former midwife reacted with a Facebook outburst in which she said all immigrants should be poisoned on arrival in Austria. Since the end of 2017, several Austrian jurisdictions -- including Vienna -- have been trying to fight online abuse through a pilot programme called "Dialogue instead of hate" ("Dialog statt Hass").


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Polanski sues US motion picture academy for reinstatement

Polanski sues US motion picture academy for reinstatementOscar-winning film director Roman Polanski is suing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, demanding his reinstatement nearly a year after the organization expelled him amid the #MeToo movement. Polanski, who in 1977 pleaded guilty in California to statutory rape, argued in a court filing in Los Angeles that the academy wrongly denied him a hearing when it voted in May to oust him amid the nationwide furor sparked by sexual-abuse revelations against famed producer Harvey Weinstein. The complaint, filed to the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles on Thursday, says the academy's board of governors convened on January 26 to re-examine its decision, and confirmed it.


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Columbine honors 13 lost with community service, ceremony

Columbine honors 13 lost with community service, ceremonyLITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — Community members in suburban Denver marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting Saturday with a remembrance ceremony that celebrated the school's survival and by volunteering at shelters, doing neighborhood cleanup projects and laying flowers and cards at a memorial to the 13 people killed.


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UPDATE 1-Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacre

UPDATE 1-Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacreAddressing hundreds of people gathered at Saturday's service in a park next to the school, Dawn Anna, mother of slain student Lauren Townsend, spoke on behalf of all the families of the victims about their sense of loss. Patrick Ireland, whose fall out of a school library window into the arms of firefighters, which became one of the iconic images of the massacre, spoke of his long physical and emotional recovery. Betty Shoels, the aunt of murdered student Isaiah Shoels, said her 18-year-old nephew was a fun-loving athlete who was always smiling, despite feeling out of place as one of the school's few African-American students.


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Northern Irish Police: Journalist’s Murder Sign Of A ‘New Brand Of Terrorism’

Northern Irish Police: Journalist’s Murder Sign Of A ‘New Brand Of Terrorism’Northern Irish police said a “new brand of terrorism” was responsible for the death of a well-respected journalist who was killed last week as they announced the arrest of two teenagers in connection with the killing.Twenty-nine year-old journalist and LGBT activist Lyra McKee was fatally shot on Thursday while covering a clash between police and nationalist rioters in Londonerry. She was standing near police officers when rioters fired gunshots and threw petrol bombs at police. During a press conference on Saturday, police in Northern Ireland announced that arrested two men, 18 and 19 years old, under the country’s terrorism act in connection with McKee’s murder. They have been taken thw two to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning.On Friday, police blamed McKee’s murder on gunshot wounds fired indiscriminately, and released footage of a masked gunman firing during the riots. “What we are seeing is a new breed of terrorist coming through the ranks and that for me is a very worrying situation,” Police Service of Northern Ireland Superintendent Jason Murphy said.Violence has flared in Northern Ireland over the past several months as the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has once again raised questions about the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s borders. Law enforcement on Friday blamed the killing on members of the New Irish Republican Army. The small group rejects the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, which put an end to the unrest of the period dubbed the Troubles and years of sectarian civil war between Irish nationalists and UK loyalists. According to the Associated Press, the group has also been blamed for a car bombing in Londonderry earlier this year, as well as several killings over the past several years. The group also claimed it sent mail bombs across the UK.McKee, an independent journalist whose work covering the conflict in Northern Ireland once earned her a spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, was just weeks away from publishing her first book about young people who disappeared during the Troubles.Her death sparked an outpouring of grief from journalists and many local and international political figures. “This cannot stand,” her partner Sara Canning said during a vigil on Friday. “Lyra’s death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else’s life, and her legacy will live on in the light that she’s left behind.”Read more at The Daily Beast.


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Mexico warns of 'deep concern' over armed groups on U.S. border

Mexico warns of 'deep concern' over armed groups on U.S. borderMexico said on Saturday it had "deep concern" about armed groups that intimidate and extort migrants on the border, shortly after the ACLU and Democratic senators called for a probe into such citizen efforts to block migrants from crossing. "These types of practices can drive human rights abuses of people who migrate or request asylum or refuge in the United States," Mexico's Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement, referring to "militia groups" in New Mexico. On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico condemned the United Constitutional Patriots, which patrols the southern U.S. border in New Mexico, as a "fascist militia organization" operating outside the law.


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FBI Arrests New Mexico Border Militia Leader Larry Mitchell Hopkins

FBI Arrests New Mexico Border Militia Leader Larry Mitchell HopkinsPAUL RATJE/GettyThe FBI arrested a 69-year-old New Mexico man who allegedly illegally detained immigrants crossing the border under the guise of working for the United States Border Patrol.Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who runs The United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), an armed border militia group that spreads far-right conspiracies and rounds up asylum seekers on the border, was arrested by FBI in New Mexico Saturday on charges of possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon. Recent video footage released by UCP shows two members holding what appear to be semi-automatic rifles near immigrants, many of them children. The group also peddles conspiracy theories and produces a radio show where members spread information about QAnon, and accuse migrants of associating with ISIS. Hopkins has also claimed that president Trump has personally asked him about ‘Muslim immigration.’UCP and Hopkins claim to work with Border Patrol, which has publicly denied doing so. Border Patrol agents sometimes appear in the periphery of the groups videos, which show camo-clad UCP members interacting with migrants at the southern border.“There’s no question about whether or not we work with Border Patrol,” said Jim, a UCP spokesperson who declined to give his last name. “That’s all documented, and not just once. It’s documented hundreds and hundreds of times over in the videos that I post.”“U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands,” a Border Patrol official told The Daily Beast.Border Patrol is not supposed to interact with border vigilantes, but has been documented doing so. A Mother Jones reporter who embedded with a border militia in 2016 witnessed the group getting information from Border Patrol agents.UCP is only one of several vigilante groups patrolling the southern border with guns.New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a statement on Saturday, praising the FBI over Hopkins' arrest. “This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas wrote in a statement. “Today's arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”Hopkins, of Flora Vista, N.M., is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Monday. Federal authorities said they would not released additional details about Hopkins’ arrest until after the appearance.The arrest was the latest fallout for the group. On Friday, the UCP Facebook group announced to its members that they no longer accept donations through PayPal, as the service has suspended their account. “TO ALL PATRIOTS, I wish to thank all of you that has donated to the Border Ops mission up till now. We can no longer accept payments thru PAYPAL, they have permanently suspended our account,” the post read. “... And is hold $1300.00 in donations for 180 days. I am looking for another outfit that we can go thru.”PayPal and GoFundMe announced Friday that they would no longer allow UCP to raise funds on their platforms.A PayPal spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in a statement that UCP had been banned from their platform following a video that shows the group rounding up nearly 200 migrants.“The account associated with United Constitutional Patriots has been closed due to a violation of our Acceptable Use Policy,” the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We do not allow PayPal services to be used to promote hate, violence, or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory.”Read more at The Daily Beast.


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FBI arrests member of rightwing militia accused of detaining migrants

FBI arrests member of rightwing militia accused of detaining migrantsLarry Mitchell Hopkins accused of illegal weapons possession after videos apparently showed men stopping migrants in New MexicoMen including Jim Benvie, a spokesman for the militia calling itself the United Constitutional Patriots, share cigarettes while patrolling the US-Mexico border in Sunland Park, New Mexico last month. Photograph: Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty ImagesA member of an armed rightwing militia group accused of illegally detaining migrants at the US-Mexico border has been arrested, officials said on Saturday.The FBI arrested Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, for alleged unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition , days after his group posted videos that appeared to show armed men stopping migrants at the border in New Mexico, ordering them to sit on the ground and coordinating with US border patrol agents to have them taken into custody.“Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes,” the New Mexico attorney general, Hector Balderas, said in a statement.On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called for an investigation into the pro-Trump, anti-immigrant men who have been patrolling the border and calling themselves the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP).The ACLU in New Mexico described the group as “an armed fascist militia organization” made up of “vigilantes”, saying they were working to “kidnap and detain people seeking asylum” and had directly made illegal arrests and held migrants at gunpoint.Hopkins’ role in the group was unclear, and it was also not clear if he was facing any charges directly related to the videos of the men stopping migrants. The New Mexico attorney general’s office described Hopkins as a “dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families” and labeled him an “armed individual detaining migrants at the border”.An FBI statement on the arrest did not mention the militia group or the detention of migrants, but noted that Hopkins has also gone by the name Johnny Horton Jr and that he was due to appear in court on Monday.In one video posted last Monday night by Jim Benvie, a member of the armed group, it appeared the men were ordering around dozens of migrants, including many children, and telling them to sit. Benvie narrated: “There’s no border patrol here. This is us.”The men appeared to call border patrol agents, who later were seen. The ACLU, in a letter to state officials, said the group had targeted nearly 300 migrants in Sunland Park, New Mexico, which is along the Mexico border and adjacent to El Paso, Texas.The militia members advocated for Trump’s proposed border wall on the video streams and echoed the president’s anti-migrant rhetoric, warning of an “invasion”.There have also been concerns that the men, who wear military-style clothes, could be misrepresenting themselves as border patrol agents. In another video, Benvie filmed himself stopping a group of four adults and three children and said “border patrol” as he approached, before calling for another member of his group to join him. In an apparent call to border patrol, one man said: “Hello, I’ve got seven over here.”The UCP has previously presented itself as a group of “volunteers” aiding border patrol and supporting Trump. In recent years, there have been numerous reports of an increase in paramilitary groups and xenophobic activists surveilling the border, working with US agents and targeting undocumented people.The UCP has not responded to the Guardian’s requests for comment.On Thursday, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said border patrol “welcomes assistance from the community” but “does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands”.The Daily Beast reported that Hopkins has a history of pushing far-right conspiracies and has a conviction for impersonating an officer and felony firearm possession. He could not be reached on Saturday and it was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.Stephanie Corte, an immigrant rights campaign strategist with the ACLU in New Mexico, said her group was still trying to make contact with the detained migrants and was uncertain if any had been released.“Our next focus is to try to get their story and making sure they feel safe to tell their story of being held at gunpoint,” she told the Guardian, adding that the ACLU would explore legal options.She said she hoped authorities would work to make sure this does not happen again.“We absolutely believe that this was completely unlawful,” she said. “We’re hoping those involved will be brought to justice.”


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