Connect with us


Why Mississippi voted to change its flag after decades of debate



CORINTH, Miss. — State Rep. Robert Johnson, 61, who grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, remembers seeing Ku Klux Klan members flying Confederate flags while riding horses in the town’s Christmas parades until his early teenage years.

“It is a symbol of terror in the Black community,” he told NBC News. “It is a symbol of oppression in the Black community and it is a symbol of slavery. Everything that has been devastating to African Americans and to especially African Americans in the South, everything that has been a complete and utter disaster for us, that flag represents.”

So after Johnson witnessed Sunday’s historic vote in the Mississippi House of Representatives to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, he had one response: “It’s about damn time.”

The bill passed 37 to 14 in the state Senate and 91-23 in the House in favor of changing the flag. Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill Tuesday evening, and now a commission will be assembled to design a new version.

The debate around Mississippi’s state flag is not new, but with the governor’s signature it finally reached a conclusion after many failed attempts to change it. The difference this year, according to Johnson, was the bipartisan leadership by first-term legislators.

“We’ve never had anything start in the Legislature that way, and then it just became a perfect storm,” Johnson said, referring to the protests across the country for police reform and against racism, spurred by George Floyd’s killing while in the custody of Minneapolis police. The demonstrations added to pressure from state business leaders and large religious groups, as well as national sports organizations including the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference to change the state flag.

“It’s surreal … but at the same time, it’s kind of like ‘why did it have to take this long?” said Taylor Turnage, 23, president of the Mississippi Youth and College NAACP and the co-organizer for Black Lives Matter Mississippi. “I’m very, very grateful that we’ve gotten to the point where we are now because this fight has been going on for a long time, but it shouldn’t have had to take that long.”

When the issue was put to Mississippians in a statewide referendum in 2001, voters by an almost 2-to-1 margin chose to keep the 1894 state flag. Even this year, some legislators pushed for sending the issue back to voters rather than take it up themselves.

Johnson said that when he started fighting to change the flag, he was full of hope, thinking that people would recognize the pain it has caused. But eventually that hope faded to numbness.

“It just makes it hard to get anything done in this state, it makes it hard to sit down and have a conversation,” he said. “And so that removal of that flag will be like somebody taking the bars off of our doors. It would be like taking the wall that’s between us, it would be torn down, and we’ll begin to be able to work together.”

Hope for change revived in 2015, after a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, claimed the lives of nine African Americans. At the time, both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, voiced support for changing the flag.

The Republican speaker of the Mississippi House, Philip Gunn, also supported its removal then and played a key part in the legislation passed this week.

Also in 2015, several universities across the state voted to stop flying the state flag. The following year, more than a dozen bills were brought to the state Legislature in support of changing it. Yet none made it out of committees to a vote.

In February 2016, Judge Carlos Moore, 43, an African American civil rights attorney and judge in Clarksdale, filed a lawsuit against the state, saying the flag violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. This lawsuit continued until November 2017, with Moore filing appeals with both the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Moore said the suit was dismissed because he lacked the standing to file it.

In a tearful reflection after the state Senate vote, Moore said that he was glad his 9-year-old daughter does not have to come of age in a Mississippi under the symbol that the state flag represents.

The legal battles relating to the flag have further damaged Mississippi’s national reputation. The state already ranks near the bottom nationally on issues such as the economy, health care and education.

State Rep. Trey Lamar, 39, chair of the ways and means committee, pointed to the economic benefits of removing the symbol.

“I believe that changing, retiring our current flag, changing to a more unifying flag and banner on this stage, will show the world that Mississippi is a great place to do business,” he said. “It’s certainly going to be my goal to use this to help recruit businesses and jobs to our state.”

A recent poll by the Mississippi Economic Council said that 55 percent of Mississippians were in favor of changing the flag.

Mississippi was the last state in the country to fly a flag with a Confederate symbol. Campaigns for a new flag have circulated for several years, including one for The Hospitality Flag (previously called the Stennis Flag), designed in 2014 by Mississippi artist Laurin Stennis. The 1861 Magnolia Flag and The Bonnie Blue Flag could also be options, according to The Clarion-Ledger. The legislation states that the new flag must include the phrase, “In God We Trust,” and that the new design, “shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.

After a new design is proposed, Mississippians will vote on options in the November election.

“I was elected and all the people here were elected to do a job,” Johnson said. “And it’s our job to do exactly what they did in 1894. It wasn’t the people who gave us this terrible flag, it was the Legislature. It’s our job to take it away.”

Source link


Japan trade deal BOOM – Tokyo wants £15bn agreement struck by END of month



JAPAN wants to sign a trade deal with the UK by the end of the month in a £15 billion boost to British businesses.

Source link

Continue Reading


Bush to publish book with his paintings of 43 immigrants



A new book by former President George W. Bush will highlight an issue which now sets him apart from many of his fellow Republicans — immigration.

Crown announced Thursday that Bush’s “Out Of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” will be published March 2. The book includes 43 portraits by the 43rd president, four-color paintings of immigrants he has come to know over the years, along with biographical essays he wrote about each of them.

“Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” by George W. Bush.Crown / via AP

Bush, who served as president from 2001-2009, has often praised the contributions of immigrants, a notable contrast to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies. As president, Bush supported a bipartisan immigration reform bill that narrowly failed to pass in 2007, with opposition coming from both liberals and conservatives.

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” Bush writes in the new book’s introduction, noting that he did not want it to come out during the election season. Bush has not endorsed Trump or his presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.”

The book will serve as a companion to an upcoming exhibition at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

“Both ’Out of Many, One” and the exhibition of the same name will include bold, principle-based solutions that comprehensively address the current debate on immigration,” according to Crown. “At the heart of the recommendations is the belief that every year that passes without reforming the nation’s broken system means missed opportunities to ensure the future prosperity, vitality, and security of our country.”

Bush has become a dedicated portrait painter and best-selling author since leaving the White House. His memoir “Decision Points” has sold more than 3 million copies, and his other books include “41,” about his father, former President George H.W. Bush; and a collection of paintings of military veterans, “Portraits of Courage.”

He will donate a portion of his “Out Of Many, One” proceeds to organizations that help immigrants resettle. Financial terms were otherwise not disclosed. Bush was represented by Robert Barnett, the Washington attorney whose other clients have included former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

The book will be released as a standard trade hardcover and in an autographed deluxe edition, listed for $250, that will be clothbound and contained within a slipcover.

Source link

Continue Reading


Trump adds to fractures in worldwide web



It may not be possible to have a worldwide internet, after all.

Tech policy experts said Friday that the idea of the internet as one global, unifying phenomenon was at stake after President Donald Trump took the sudden step of announcing bans on two popular Chinese apps, TikTok and WeChat, calling them security risks.

It was an extreme example of Trump using security powers to stifle the spread of technology, and people who study how the internet is governed said his orders will only worsen an international breakup along regional and political lines that’s already years in the making.

“This is definitely the splinternet,” said Dipayan Ghosh, a former Obama White House tech adviser who now directs the Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“We’re seeing increasing division between the U.S., Russia, China and the E.U., and clear factions are starting to develop. I don’t think it’s helpful, coming especially as it is from a politicized administration,” he said.

Trump’s action took the form of two executive orders. The one about TikTok in effect formalized a deadline for Microsoft’s ongoing talks to buy much of that company. The other order said the U.S. would ban “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person” starting in 45 days.

The orders were met by a mix of disgust and confusion from experts who described them as half-baked and tainted by Trump’s strategy of attacking China going into the presidential election.

The ban on WeChat came as a particular surprise. Although TikTok had been a target of White House criticisms for weeks, there had been little warning that a ban on WeChat was in consideration.

“It’s the policy equivalent of a jingoistic temper tantrum,” said Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

Although WeChat has been the subject of security concerns, including in studies by the Citizen Lab, Deibert said that going so far as to ban it in the U.S. “will produce chaos for internet users and businesses, invite retaliation from China and present a blueprint for authoritarians the world over to emulate.”

One of the only public hints about a WeChat ban came last month, when Trump adviser Peter Navarro said briefly in an interview to “expect strong action” on TikTok and WeChat.

Matt Perault, director of Duke University’s Center on Science & Technology Policy, said there’s little evidence to justify Trump’s allegation that TikTok and WeChat are serious national security risks, and that consumers will suffer from the bans.

“The greatest threat to the global free flow of information no longer comes from the Great Chinese Firewall, but from America’s Grand Cyber Canyon,” Perault said.

To be sure, while the internet was imagined in the 1960s as a “galactic network,” it has never been truly global.

For many years the internet was generally available only to wealthy, mostly white parts of the planet. Only a few companies such as Facebook and Google can claim to be ubiquitous platforms, and even they are not global because their services are mostly unavailable in the world’s most populous country. In that sense, Trump’s action could be a taste of China’s own strategy applied back to them.

But experts said that until now, the U.S. government had largely been a force that opposed the balkanization of the internet.

Trump has changed that, they said, by acting from intentions that aren’t about fighting for a better internet. Last month, Trump spoke about banning Chinese apps such as TikTok as retaliation for China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are ways to build a robust, long-term strategy for securing the digital supply chain, which is a very complicated issue, but that is not what is happening here,” said Justin Sherman, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.

WeChat has drawn longstanding security complaints from security researchers. In one study published last year and cited by Trump, more than 300 million WeChat private messages were found exposed online. WeChat users also said they believed China censored early discussions about the coronavirus this year.

Australia and India are among the countries that have already begun to scrutinize and restrict WeChat.

Within China, WeChat is ubiquitous, serving as an all-in-one app that’s important for making payments and even for displaying someone’s coronavirus test results.

In the short term, the WeChat order could upend people’s ability to communicate with friends and relatives who are in China or who are part of the global Chinese diaspora. Outside China, WeChat is used primarily for messaging but also has some social media functions similar to Facebook.

“The people who are really hurt are people who have older relatives in China,” said Rui Ma, the host of the “Tech Buzz China” podcast and a tech investor in the Bay Area.

Ma said many WeChat users in the U.S. will simply switch messaging apps, and that some have already begun to do so, but she added, “I think it’s going to be very hard for their parents to figure out how to use a new program.”

A ban within the U.S. would also likely have business implications for any American companies that try to market in China or otherwise contact people there, though it was too early to tell exactly, said Doug Barry, a spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council.

The ACLU warned that if the order results in a broad restriction on communication, it would violate free speech guarantees.

“This is another abuse of emergency powers under the broad guise of national security,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

“It would violate the First Amendment rights of users in the United States by subjecting them to civil and possibly criminal penalties for communicating with family members, friends, or business contacts,” she said.

Access Now, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom online, said the orders from Trump mirror censorship tactics in other nations that the U.S. government has decried for more than a decade.

“Arbitrary and disproportionate blocking, based on geopolitical escalation, spurs a race to the bottom, to a world of splintered internets with less cybersecurity and more exposure to overbearing nationalism,” the group said in a statement.

Source link

Continue Reading