[guest post by Dana]
Friday, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Here are a few news items to talk about. Please feel free to share anything that you think might interest readers, and make sure to give a link.
First news item
On the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Microsoft blocked users of its search engine from seeing the photograph of “tank man,” the infamous protester pictured standing alone before a line of government tanks during the 1989 military crackdown. Searching for images of “tank man” on Bing temporarily returned only the message: “There are no results for tank man.” By contrast, Google brings up dozens of sites with the well-known image. After researchers and journalists in the U.S. and United Kingdom noted the difference, Microsoft said in a statement, “This is due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this.”
Here is “tank man” in 1989:
— Kristoffer Pasion (@indiohistorian) June 4, 2021
More on the 30th anniversay of Tiananmen:
Powerful combo picture has just hit the @AFP wire.
Shows Tiananmen anniversary vigils in Hong Kong's Victoria Park in 1990, 1999, 2004, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020 and… tonight pic.twitter.com/Gf3Fpwtmdt
— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) June 4, 2021
threat response pic.twitter.com/7SUf5n2UZP
— Ryan Ho Kilpatrick 何松濤 (@rhokilpatrick) June 4, 2021
Hong Kong police are literally deploying water cannon to prevent a candlelight vigil.https://t.co/KktPk9iNZJ
— Ryan Ho Kilpatrick 何松濤 (@rhokilpatrick) June 4, 2021
Pro-democracy activist Chow Hang Tung has been arrested by Hong Kong police on the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Ms Chow is vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance which organises annual vigils for victims of Beijing’s deadly crackdown on democracy protesters.
She has been arrested for promoting unauthorised assembly.
It comes as Hong Kong has banned the vigil for the second year running, citing coronavirus restrictions.
Police have closed off Victoria Park, where citizens usually gather each year to mark the anniversary. Thousands of officers have been placed on standby to stop any attempt to hold the event.
Hong Kong and Macau are the only places in Chinese territory where people can commemorate the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Ms Chow was arrested early in the morning outside her office by officers in plain clothes, according to reports.
She was placed in a black saloon car and driven away, the AFP news agency said.
Speaking to the BBC ahead of her arrest, Ms Chow, who is also a lawyer and a human rights activist, said she was prepared for the inevitable.
“I am prepared to be arrested. This is how Hong Kong is now. If you fight for democracy under an authoritarian regime, being arrested is unavoidable. Let it come. I am willing to pay the price for fighting for democracy,” she said.
Second news item
Facebook on Friday announced that it may allow former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts to be reinstated in January 2023.
At that time, the social media company will reevaluate whether the risk to public safety of allowing Trump back onto its services has receded.
“We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest,” the company said in a blog post. “If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”
Trump, of course, didn’t take the news well:
“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win.”
Good thing he’s not the president. He might try to use the power of government to shut down Facebook…
Third news item
The sheriff’s department in Orange county, California, advised its officers earlier this year not to affiliate with far-right extremist groups and warned them against engaging with white supremacist websites, according to internal documents reviewed by the Guardian.
The Orange county sheriff’s department’s “extremism awareness” training document from February instructed officers not to share disinformation and to avoid associating with militias, QAnon, rightwing platforms like Gab and 4chan, as well as second-amendment groups or law enforcement “clubs” that could be “avenues for exploitation”.
The 66-page PowerPoint presentation for staff also included a lengthy section on “the extreme left”, warning officers about “Karl Marx’s influence”; the history of the Black Panther party; anti-fascist groups’ vandalism and “improvised weapons”; and animal rights and anti-war protesters.
The training is notable, experts said, because it suggests that sheriff’s officials were acknowledging that their own officers could be drawn to far-right groups and were concerned about the risks of them posting racist or extremist content.
Experts said it was unusual to see this kind of training from local police. But they also criticized the training for falsely presenting the far right and the “extreme left” as equivalent threats, when data shows that white supremacists perpetuated the large majority of recent domestic terror attacks.
Fourth news item
Putin on the storming of US Capitol & Belarus: ‘When the protesters went into the Capitol… whether it’s good or bad… probably nothing good but these are not looters or thieves, these people came with political requests. Isn’t that true? It is. But they detained 450 people’
“Look at Belarus – they have a lot of internal problems and we actually want to have a neutral position here… But what’s going on there is being viewed in one light, and what’s happening in the US – in a different light. We need to get rid of double standards.”
Fifth news item
Texas GOP Chair Allen West announced his resignation Friday morning and said he is considering running for another office, potentially one that is statewide.
During a news conference here, West said a statewide run is “one of the things that I have to go to the Lord in prayer.” He said it would be “very disingenuous with so many people that have asked me to consider something” to not explore a run.
“Many men from Georgia, many men from Tennessee, came here to serve the great state of Texas, and so we’re gonna consider it,” said West, who grew up in Georgia. He added that he was announcing his resignation, effective next month, so that there is no conflict of interest as he weighs his next political move.
West, who has been most frequently discussed as a potential challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott, declined to say whether he was eyeing any particular statewide office, though he told a radio host earlier Friday morning that the host was “safe” to assume West was mulling a gubernatorial run. At the news conference, West also did not say when he would announce a decision on his next step, telling a reporter with characteristic combativeness that his “timeline is in my head and not in yours yet.”
Sixth news item
Our pupils respond to more than just the light. They indicate arousal, interest or mental exhaustion. Pupil dilation is even used by the FBI to detect deception. Now work conducted in our laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that baseline pupil size is closely related to individual differences in intelligence. The larger the pupils, the higher the intelligence, as measured by tests of reasoning, attention and memory. In fact, across three studies, we found that the difference in baseline pupil size between people who scored the highest on the cognitive tests and those who scored the lowest was large enough to be detected by the unaided eye.
We found that a larger baseline pupil size was correlated with greater fluid intelligence, attention control and, to a lesser degree, working memory capacity—indicating a fascinating relationship between the brain and eye. Interestingly, pupil size was negatively correlated with age: older participants tended to have smaller, more constricted, pupils. Once standardized for age, however, the relationship between pupil size and cognitive ability remained.
Seventh news item
The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt the use of “race-norming” — which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive function — in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and review past scores for any potential race bias.
The practice made it harder for Black retirees to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were created in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics faulted the way they were used to determine payouts in the NFL concussion case.
Eighth news item
Workers in California will have to keep their masks on unless every employee in the room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
That’s the mandate under revised rules approved Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The guidelines are expected to go into effect by June 15 — the same day that the state more broadly loosens masking and other requirements in social settings in keeping with recent federal health recommendations.
In the run-up to the board’s vote, business groups had harshly criticized the new rules. Board members made it clear the regulations are temporary while they consider further easing pandemic rules in coming weeks or months.
Opponents of the mask requirement for workplaces had already suggested that Gov. Gavin Newsom could use his executive powers to override its decision amid criticism that the revised regulations contrast with his promise to lift most pandemic restrictions on June 15.
Newsom spokeswoman Erin Mellon didn’t mention that option in a brief statement after the vote. She said the panel is independent but that the governor is “hopeful the board will further revise its guidance to reflect the latest science while continuing to protect workers and balancing realistic and enforceable requirements for employers.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom stood on a set designed to look like a game show on Friday and drew winners of the first cash prizes in California’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery, part of an effort to boost immunizations that also gives the governor a chance to give away $116.5 million to potential voters before the recall election.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, as we saw that decline in those first doses, we realized we need to do a little bit more than just our traditional outreach efforts,” Newsom said, acknowledging that some may question the use of cash giveaways to incentivize what he described as doing the right thing. “But we are where we are, and incentives have long worked, and incentives are indeed what we are advancing here today.”
Positioned before crimson and gold curtains on a carefully crafted stage, Newsom plucked numbers from a lottery ball machine in the latest in a series of feel-good announcements from a governor in the middle of a battle to save his political career as he faces a recall election.
His political opponents called Friday’s production another example of the governor using taxpayer dollars in attempt to win over voters. Others viewed the display as smart political strategy from an incumbent looking to distance himself from the recall and deliver an upbeat message to Californians.
A US Capitol Police officer knocked unconscious on January 6 has condemned Capitol rioters for injuring police and robbing her of the ability to do her job.
“When will I be free … of my brain injury? When will I be free and full again?” the officer said in a written statement read by prosecutors at a federal court hearing Friday.
The unnamed police officer’s statement adds to a growing chorus of law enforcement victims and their families calling for recognition of the severity of the attack by Trump supporters.
“On January 6, you and a group of others purposefully set out to break our police line,” the officer said in the statement. “When you do that, when you set out with purpose in mind to hurt someone, it’s not only an assault but a theft.”
She added: “You stole months of me working alongside this country’s most dedicated police officers. … You’ve stolen my ability to be present.”
Jake Tapper’s The Devil May Dance is a fun, Rat Pack-meets-the-mob-meets-the-Kennedys caper involving the underbelly of Hollywood, politicians, and everyone in between. The delightful Charlie and Margaret Marder find themselves once again in the middle of unexpected intrigue and danger as they fervently work to solve, well, the mystery. Good fun. Hope to see another in the series. This is summer reading.
News of the World is a fine film with a fine performance by the ever-reliable Tom Hanks. In the post-Civil War, a world-weary itinerant “reader of the news” finds himself putting in the miles to return a young white girl raised by the Indians back to her family. Things don’t go as planned, they face harsh conditions, violent threats, and attacks, but love still wins the day if not in an unexpected way.
Have a good weekend.