New York City bans hair discrimination

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has released guidelines against targeting people on the basis of their hairstyle, classing this as racist discrimination.

The guidelines aim to protect the rights of New Yorkers in schools, work places and public places, where black people are disproportionately affected by policies banning hairstyles such as afros, cornrows and locs.

A report from the commission said black hairstyles are often deemed “unprofessional” and by limiting how workers and students wear their hair, organisations “perpetuate racist stereotypes”.

NYC Human Rights Commissioner Chair Carmelyn P Malalis said hairstyle policies were not about professionalism but rather a way of “limiting the way black people move through workplaces, public spaces and other settings”.

She said the guidelines will help organisations “understand that black New Yorkers have the right to wear their hair however they choose without fear of stigma or retaliation”.

‘You police yourself’

Brittny Saunders and Demoya Gordon were both part of the team at the commission writing the guidelines and could offer personal experiences of hair discrimination.

“When I started work, I chemically straightened my hair because I understood that the expectation would be that I would present myself with straight hair,” said Ms Saunders. “It would be against expectations to have natural hair.”

“You police yourself accordingly,” agreed Ms Gordon.

“When I started going to interviews at law firms I knew that there would already be a lot of scepticism about my place as a black woman in that space and that wearing my locs down would not be considered ‘professional’.

“It was almost 6 years into my career that I stopped pinning my locs up and started wearing them down most of the time.

“It was only when I moved from working in a law firm to a non-profit organisation that I felt able to do this and even then I would still wear it up when I had to go to court or take a deposition.”

Businesses found to have flouted the guidelines could face fines of up to $250,000 (£191,000).

‘This is not our look’

But this is not a problem specific to New York.

One woman from London, who preferred not to be named, said she was once sent home from working in a clothes shop because she wore her hair in braids. She was 18 at the time.

“They said: ‘Go home, take those braids out of your hair- this is not our look.’ But the hairstyle they did want was a straight hair weave, which is not natural. They wanted me to adhere to European standards of beauty,” she said.

Now aged 26, she said that at the time she did not question her managers because she did not feel she could. “I wish someone would,” she added.

Now working in a more relaxed workplace, she wears her hair in an afro, but has black female friends who wear a “work wig” in an attempt to “fit in, to cause less tension for themselves”.

‘Gang affiliated’

A 23-year-old from the UK said her school which was majority white, banned “extreme” hairstyles.

“I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it meant cornrows. They said they were gang affiliated,” she said. Afros were also banned, described as “distracting”.

“I relaxed my hair when I was 13 because when it was straight they didn’t mind,” she added.

Commissioner Malalis emphasised the importance of the guidelines in schools. “It’s so important for young people to themselves and to be valued for who they are,” she said.

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Seven children die in Canada house fire

Seven young children, all believed to be from the same family, have died in an early morning house fire in the Canadian city of Halifax, police say.

A man and a woman were also injured in the fire that broke out around 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

Fire crews encountered a blaze that had quickly engulfed the first and second floors of the building.

Police did not identify the victims but CBC News has reported that a Syrian family lived in the destroyed home.

A neighbour told the broadcaster the family’s children ranged in age from three months to 17.

It took about an hour to get the flames under control when fire and emergency services arrived on the scene.

They had receiving multiple calls of a fire in the residence in Spryfield, Halifax, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

The two-storey home appeared completely gutted by the fire.

Halifax authorities confirmed that an investigation into the house fire is under way and said it is too early to speculate on its cause.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among those who offered his condolences.

“Words fail when children are taken from us too soon, especially in circumstances like this,” he said on Twitter.

“My heart goes out to the survivors of the horrible fire in Halifax this morning, and the loved ones who are mourning this tremendous loss.”

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage also offered words of condolence, saying the community “is heartbroken and our thoughts are with the loved ones of the family”.

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A list of deadly Canadian fires

Seven children, all members of a Syrian family who arrived in Canada about two years ago, died in an early morning house fire Tuesday in Halifax, the worst fire toll in recent memory in Nova Scotia.

Some other deadly Canadian fires:

– January 2018: Four children died in a house fire in Pubnico Head, N.S. The fast-moving fire was ignited by heat coming from a wood stove.

– April 2017: An 80-year-old woman and her three adult sons died in a house fire in St. George, N.B.

– February 2017: A house fire killed a 19-year-old woman and her parents in Brampton, Ont.

– December 2016: A Christmas Eve cottage fire killed a Toronto family of four on Stoney Lake in Douro-Dummer Township near Peterborough, Ont.

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– December 2016: Four boys between the ages of three months and seven years old died alongside their father in a house fire on the Oneida Nation of the Thames First Nation near London, Ont.

– March 2016: Three generations of a single family died in March 2016 when a fire decimated a home on the Pikangikum First Nation. The nine victims included a months-old infant.

– February 2015: Four brothers died in a house fire southeast of Kane, Man. Their mother escaped with three of their siblings, but the boys were sleeping on the second floor of a two-storey farmhouse and could not get out.

– March 2014: Three teenagers died in a fire in an empty building in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

– January 2014: A fire at the Residence du Havre nursing home in L’Isle-Verte, Que., killed 32 people.

– March 2011: A grandfather and his two grandchildren died in a fire in God’s Lake Narrows, Man.

– June 2009: A retirement home blaze in Orillia, Ont., killed four people.

– August 1980: Twenty-one people died in a nursing home fire in Mississauga, Ont.

– December 1976: Twenty-two people died in a nursing home fire in Goulds, N.L.

– 1969: A nursing home fire in Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Que., claimed 54 lives.

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Florida Student, 11, Arrested After Dispute Over His Refusal to Say Pledge of Allegiance

A sixth-grade student in Lakeland, Fla., who had refused to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance throughout the school year was arrested this month after he had a dispute with a substitute teacher who confronted him about why he was not reciting it, the police said.

The case against the boy, 11, who was arrested on Feb. 4, has drawn outrage from the American Civil Liberties Union and his mother, who have criticized the misdemeanor charges against him as an overreaction by Polk County Public Schools and the middle school resource officer who arrested him. The boy told the teacher that he did not stand because he believes the pledge represents racism.

On Tuesday, Brian Haas, the state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Florida, which handles cases in Lakeland, said that his office would not prosecute the boy despite statements by the police that he had made threats after disrupting class. “The case is closed,” Mr. Haas said.

However, earlier on Tuesday, a lawyer for the boy’s family suggested that the case had not been resolved because the boy’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, declined an offer from prosecutors on Monday to drop the case if the boy completed a so-called diversion program, which could include a fine and community service.

“We didn’t want to run the risk of laying the predicate that he agrees to their version of the facts,” the lawyer, Roderick O. Ford, said on Tuesday before Mr. Haas had said the case was closed.

The boy’s family believes he was punished for expressing his First Amendment rights, Mr. Ford said. He said he planned to file a civil-rights complaint with the federal Department of Education this week.

“The young man engaged in protected activity when he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance but then he engaged in protected speech when he stated his reasons,” he said. “We believe that the latter part is the major concern because he says the national anthem stood for discriminatory treatment of blacks. That was the real reason for the discrimination.”

The controversy at the school in Lakeland, about 30 miles east of Tampa, has raised questions about students’ freedom of expression and the willingness of schools to call the police on students, particularly those of color, for routine classroom disciplinary issues. The American Civil Liberties Union called the encounter “outrageous.”

The episode unfolded on the morning of Feb. 4 at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County. The boy, who had refused to stand for the pledge the entire school year, had a substitute teacher that day who confronted him when he did not join his classmates.

“Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live,” the teacher asked the boy, according to a statement issued by the teacher and obtained by Bay News 9, a news station in St. Petersburg, Fla.

According to the teacher, the boy, who is black, responded, “They brought me here.”

The teacher wrote that she replied, “Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.”

She then called the school’s administrative offices “because I did not want to continue dealing with him,” according to her statement.

A school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department eventually responded to the classroom and arrested the boy, who has not been identified publicly because of his age. A police spokesman declined to comment or release the affidavit, citing the boy’s juvenile status.

On Monday, Polk County Public Schools also said in a statement that the student was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by members of the school staff and law enforcement. But the school district added that it did not “condone the substitute’s behavior” and had not asked for the boy to be arrested.

Polk County Public Schools said its student body code of conduct allows students not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance if they have written authorization from a parent. The substitute teacher was not aware of that policy, the district said.

“I’m upset, I’m angry, I’m hurt — more so for my son,” Ms. Talbot told Bay News 9. “My son has never been through anything like this. I feel like this should’ve been handled differently.”

“If any disciplinary action should’ve been taken, it should’ve been with the school. He shouldn’t have been arrested,” she said. Ms. Talbot, who did not return multiple messages seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday, was no longer participating in interviews with the news media, Mr. Ford said.

The case has drawn the attention of the A.C.L.U., which has repeatedly criticized the “school-to-prison pipeline” in Florida, where thousands of students are arrested every year. Florida, unlike most other states, allows the police to arrest students of any age.

“Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates,” the A.C.L.U. said about the Lakeland case. “This is a prime example of the over-policing of Black students in school.”

Across the country, black students are disciplined more often and face harsher consequences than their white peers. At Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, black students made up 17 percent of the student body last school year but represented 39 percent of disciplinary actions, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

The Lakeland Police Department said in a statement on Sunday that the boy was not arrested for refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance but on charges of disrupting the classroom. The school resource officer and the dean of students “attempted to calm the student down” in the classroom, asking him to leave the room over 20 times, the police said.

“The student left the classroom and created another disturbance and made threats while he was escorted to the office,” the police said. “This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom.”

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More ‘illegal’ dump sites located in Brantford: police

Police say they are investigating another incident of “illegal dumping” in Brantford.

The OPP was called to Powerline Road near the CN Rail crossing a couple of weeks ago in regards to suspicious containers that are believed to have been dumped sometime since early January.

Police say the dump site is similar to other ones located in the city during the same time frame and may possibly be waste from illegal drug labs.

If anyone comes upon a similar scene, police tell residents not to attempt to move or open any containers and contact police immediately at 1-888-310-1122.

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Alabama Editor Urges K.K.K. to ‘Ride Again’ Against Democrats, Igniting a Backlash

The editor and publisher of a small Alabama newspaper called for the Ku Klux Klan “to night ride again” against tax-raising politicians, prompting a fierce backlash and calls for his resignation.

The editor, Goodloe Sutton, published the editorial in the Thursday edition of The Democrat-Reporter, a weekly newspaper in Linden, Ala., that had about 3,000 subscribers in 2015. The editorial went largely unnoticed until Monday, when two student journalists shared photographs of it online and local news outlets reported on it.

“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” the editorial began, according to the clips posted online. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”

Check the date. A paper published this in 2019. Wow. pic.twitter.com/jmVSTO61lX

In the editorial, Mr. Sutton blamed Democrats for the United States’ involvement in both world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the nation’s long-running involvement in the Middle East. He confirmed his authorship of the piece in an interview with The Montgomery Advertiser in which he suggested that the Klan “go up there and clean out D.C.”

“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” he told a reporter from that publication. Mr. Sutton could not immediately be reached on Tuesday.

Representative Terri A. Sewell, a Democrat whose district includes Linden, which is about 90 miles west of Montgomery and home to about 2,000 people, called on Mr. Sutton to apologize and step down.

“For the millions of people of color who have been terrorized by white supremacy, this kind of ‘editorializing’ about lynching is not a joke — it is a threat,” she wrote on Twitter. “These comments are deeply offensive and inappropriate, especially in 2019.”

Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, echoed that sentiment, also calling on Mr. Sutton to resign over the editorial, which he described as “absolutely disgusting.”

In the interview with The Montgomery Advertiser, Mr. Sutton played down the Klan’s long and well-documented history of violence.

“A violent organization? Well, they didn’t kill but a few people,” he said. “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”

The Ku Klux Klan is the most infamous white supremacist group in the history of the United States, long serving as a potent symbol of violent hatred against black Americans and members of other racial and religious minority groups.

The Klan carried out lynchings and other brutal forms of racist violence, though its association to such acts was not always well documented. A 2015 report from the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., documented 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in a dozen Southern states from 1877 to 1950.

In 1925, the Klan had about four million members with significant political power in some states, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group now has 5,000 to 8,000 members, according to the center.

Mr. Sutton began working at The Democrat-Reporter in 1964 and later inherited it from his father, according to The Montgomery Advertiser.

Like many other local newspapers, The Democrat-Reporter has experienced a steep decline in circulation. Its readership of about 3,000 subscribers in 2015 was less than half of what it once was, according to a USA Today profile at the time.

In the late 1990s, Mr. Sutton and his wife, Jean, were widely celebrated for their persistent reporting on a corrupt local sheriff, who was eventually sent to prison. At the time, their reporting stoked speculation about a potential Pulitzer Prize.

Thursday’s editorial was not the first time The Democrat-Reporter has published racist material. An editorial in May 2015 stated that a local mayor had “displayed her African heritage by not enforcing civilized law” and referred repeatedly to black people as “thugs.”

And during the national debate over football players kneeling in protest of police brutality, the paper published an editorial titled “Let football boys kneel.”

“That’s what black folks were taught to do two hundred years ago, kneel before a white man,” it read. “Is that it? Let them kneel!”

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Huawei founder defiant on Meng charges, spying allegations: ‘No way the U.S. can crush us’

The head of Chinese telecom giant Huawei called the arrest of his daughter, Meng Wanzhou, “politically motivated,” in an interview with the BBC.

Ren Zhengfei made the comments in his first international interview since the charges against Meng were announced.

In his first interview since Meng’s arrest, Ren Zhengdei denied any wrongdoing by his company or Meng, who is the CFO of Huawei.

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Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 and faces extradition to the U.S. on charges including fraud and stealing trade secrets. The charges are in relation to business dealings with Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions.

“Firstly, I object to what the U.S. has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable,” Ren told the BBC.

“The U.S. likes to sanction others, whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods.

“We object to this. But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.”

The term “politically motivated” has been floated a lot in relation to Meng’s arrest.

John McCallum, Canada’s former ambassador to China, told Chinese-language media in a closed-door meeting in January that Meng has “strong arguments” that her arrest was politicized. He was later fired.

Experts also questioned the politics behind the arrest after U.S. President Donald Trump suggested he could step in on Meng’s case if it helped trade negotiations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the arrest was made without political bias.

“I can assure everyone that we are a country of an independent judiciary and the appropriate authorities took the decisions without any political involvement and interference,” he said.

The U.S. Justice Department also denied political involvement in the charges.

“The Justice Department’s criminal case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is based solely on the evidence and the law. The Department pursues cases free of any political interference and follows the evidence and rule of law in pursuing criminal charges,” spokeswoman Nicole Navas said in an email to Reuters.

Along with the criminal charges, Huawei is facing allegations of spying — with western intelligence officials alleging the company could spy for the Chinese government.

U.S., Australia and New Zealand have banned the company from the upcoming 5G mobile network while Canadian officials are reviewing Huawei’s products.

But Ren said he wasn’t worried about being left behind in the Global market, saying: “There’s no way the U.S. can crush us.”

“The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit,” Ren said.

“If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world.”

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Former Trump adviser Roger Stone ordered to appear in court over Instagram posts

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Roger Stone, a former political adviser to US President Donald Trump, was ordered on Tuesday (Feb 19) to appear in court this week over Instagram posts that chastised and appeared to threaten the judge presiding over his criminal trial.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone would need to show cause at a hearing on Thursday as to why the posts did not violate a gag order in the case or the conditions of his release.

Stone, who is free on a US$250,000 (S$330,000) bond and is free to travel to certain US cities without the court’s permission, has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Stone’s attorneys filed a formal apology with the court on Monday, after he posted a photograph on Instagram of Jackson alongside what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun.

He later deleted the image and reposted it without the crosshairs before removing it again, according to other media outlets.

Next to the close-up image of Jackson’s face, Stone said Jackson was an “Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges” against Hillary Clinton.

He also accused Mueller of being a “Deep State hitman.”

Stone later posted a statement on his account saying the photo was not intended to threaten the judge or disrespect the court. He also said the image was not of cross hairs, but rather, the “logo of an organisation” often featured in many photos.

A representative from the US Marshals Service, the law enforcement arm of the federal justice system, did not immediately have a comment when reached on Tuesday.

Stone’s posts about the judge came just days after Jackson issued a partial media gag order on Stone and his lawyers.

Friday’s order prohibits them from speaking with the news media or making statements near the federal courthouse about the case.

It does not stop Stone from discussing the case when he is away from the courthouse, though it cautions that doing so may not be in his best interest.

Jackson also said in her order she may amend it in the future if necessary, an issue that she is likely to bring up in court later this week.

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‘Measles is a highly contagious disease’: Health officials remind Canadians to get shot updated

The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a statement Tuesday aimed at reminding Canadians that measles is a serious and highly contagious disease and that getting vaccinated is the best protection.

The statement comes in response to an outbreak of nine cases of measles in Vancouver that began after an unvaccinated Canadian child contracted the disease on a family trip to Vietnam.

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“Due to the recent reports of measles, the Public Health Agency of Canada would like to remind Canadians that measles is a serious and highly contagious disease,” the statement read.

“Two-doses of a measles containing vaccine is the best protection against the disease. Two doses are almost 100% effective in preventing the disease. ”

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing and a widespread painful rash. The infection can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis and can be fatal.

The agency is urging Canadians to ensure their immunizations are up to date, especially if they are travelling outside the country.

People who cannot be vaccinated, including infants, people with certain underlying health conditions and those undergoing chemotherapy, rely on high levels of immunity within communities to protect them from the disease.

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Peterborough Public Health needs your child’s immunization records

Did you receive an immunization notice from Peterborough Public Health regarding your child’s immunization records? If you did, you’re not the only one.

Public health mailed 1,900 letters to parents regarding incomplete student vaccination records.

Everytime your child receives a vaccination, PPH said you must inform your local health agency.

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“Many parents don’t realize it’s their responsibility to keep their local public health agency informed every time their child receives a vaccination so our records are kept up to date,” said Edwina Dusome, manager of infectious disease programs. “We do not get this information from health care providers.”

Under provincial legislation, PPH said students will be suspended from school until their immunization is up to date. PPH said they will rescind the suspension notice immediately upon receipt of the missing information.

For children who are not up to date and require immunizations, parents can take them to their health care provider’s office for immunization. However, parents will still need to provide that information to PPH to update their records.

Families without a health care provider can make an appointment at PPH’s Routine Immunization Clinic by calling 705-743-1000, ext. 128.

Parents are asked to call the Peterborough Public Health at 705-743-1000, ext. 139 to update their child’s records, or visit peterboroughpublichealth.ca and click on “Update Your Child’s Record.”

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