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Just How Far Should the Freedom of Information Act Go? – WVTF

Public money is often handed over in the form of grants. But, theres a debate about how much of that process should be public information.

To get grant money from the government for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, companies have to fill out grant applications. Sometimes those applications are challenged. Thats a paper trail thats led to questions about how much of all those documents should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says the law needs to balance the need for transparency with the risk of exposing trade secrets.

The right of businesses, even though they are looking for a public grant, to protect their critical business information," Kelsey explains. "And if you dont have that, then youre not going to have businesses applying for these grants, and what is the purpose at that point.

A bill creating new exemptions sailed through the General Assembly earlier this year with zero opposition in the Senate, and only four no votes in the House.

One was Northern Virginia Democratic Delegate Danica Roem, a former journalist turned lawmaker who says shes sick of seeing

Exemption after exemption after exemption after exemption to our Freedom of Information Act. That is not how the Freedom of Information Act was designed," Roem says. "That is not its intended purpose, and we need to make sure that the public has the most access to the most amount of information.

Over the summer, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council issued an advisory opinion that materials submitted as part of a challenge to an application are not shielded from the public with an exemption.

This report, provided byVirginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from theVirginia Education Association.

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Just How Far Should the Freedom of Information Act Go? - WVTF

How we ditched debt: Little splurges on the path to freedom – USA TODAY

The Baldwins (via NerdWallet).

In this series, NerdWallet interviews people who have triumphed over debt. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Brian and Lindsey Baldwin

How much: $130,000 in three years, ninemonths

When Brian and Lindsey Baldwin moved from Hawaii to Milwaukee in 2012, they paradoxically found themselves facing a much higher cost of living.

In Hawaii, the couples expenses were minimal. They lived in a tiny studio apartment. Their car was supplied by Lindseys employer, which also covered her cellphone and internet.

Lindsey was a wilderness therapy clinician. Clients in the residential program came for three months and learned about organic gardening, yoga, mind-body-emotion connection it was a very cool job, Lindsey says. It was also extremely demanding, and she didnt want to do it when she became a parent.

Brian freelanced in web design and geographic interface systems. Career opportunities matching his expertise in geography and crime analysis were limited in Hawaii, so they moved to Milwaukee.

There, Brian worked three jobs as a crime analyst, teaching at a college and conducting disaster-preparedness workshops across the country. Lindsey worked part-time in a therapy practice. They thought the $50,000 they had saved wouldbe a house down payment but quickly reconsidered. Yes, they had savings but they owed $130,000 in student loans. Their mainland salaries were a lot lower, dropping their annual income from $130,000 to $80,000.

They hopscotched across the country, both acquiring and shedding debt graduate school in New Orleans, then jobs in Hawaii, Wisconsin and California.

In less than four years, they were debt-free. The Baldwins live with their son, 5, and daughter, 3, north of Boston, within driving distance of one set of grandparents.

Lindsey and Brian connected with NerdWallet to share their story, which may inspire your own journey to paying off debt.

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Brian and Lindsey Baldwin(Photo: NerdWallet.com)

Question? What was your debt when you started?

Brian: We owed $130,000, for both graduate and undergraduate loans.

Q: What triggered your decision to ditch debt?

Brian: [After looking at houses], when we sat down and looked on paper, we had this realization of, OK, we need to tackle this. Its just going to keep snowballing in the wrong direction. Lets use the bulk of [their $50,000 savings] to pay off one or two of these loans, and then well start throwing as much money as we can at the rest of them. That was the start.[They held about $5,000 back as an emergency fund.]

Q: What steps did you take?

Lindsey: We went on a budget. When we were in Hawaii, we never budgeted. The biggest lesson was learning to say no. We stuck to our budget pretty strictly for those four years.

Brian: We stopped buying clothes and eating out. We built spreadsheets that broke down loans and listed what the payments were. We began to pay off the smallest loans. One of the larger principals was a 9% interest rate graduate PLUS loan, where the minimum payment was $350, and that was literally just basically interest. We refinanced rather than make payments that felt fruitless.

Lindsey:And saved a ton of money!

Brian biked to work, and he had his bike stolen, and then he took the bus to work. For his birthday, his parents, my parents and work colleagues pitched in to help buy him a new bike. We just had one car. We didnt have a TV, and we didnt have cable. We had the Tracfone, where you paid for minutes ahead of time. We went extremely frugal.

While in Milwaukee, we realized that we werent going to get [significant] raises, so we began to apply for other jobs. When Brians dream job came open it was in California. We knew it was a lateral move for salary but knew long term it would be worth it.

Brian: Lindsey would put together a budget every month, and there was no excess.The one story Lindsey always tells is when we got to California, finally, the one extravagance we had was $5 every week wed use to go buy one doughnut and two cups of coffee on a Sunday. Another small splurge to celebrate a milestone might be getting takeout from a high-end Thai restaurant.

Lindsey: We always had one car. We sold all we could, anything we didnt use. If we wanted things, we looked for either free on Marketplace on Facebook or Craigslist, or I would wait until there was a huge sale.

Q: How did you stay motivated?

Brian: Sometimes we would feel the frustration that it was just a never-ending treadmill. One of Lindseys mantras was Debt free by 33! which we missed but that had been a target. Sothe slogan was altered slightly to 34, aint got debt no more!

Lindsey: We talked to each other about long term. Like, We will be able to do those things. The final year, it was motivating to think of having enough money to go visit Hawaii again. It would be like, Well, when we pay this off. We also wanted to live closer to family, where there were seasons.

We did little splurges, like when we paid off a loan. We did go to Disney. We opened a [Disney] credit card to get the rewards and make it affordable. When we wanted to do something, especially for the kids, we would ask, How can we be creative and do this?

Brian: We had three different big Tupperware bins that had all of the toys and changed them every week. So each week, our son would be super excited and waiting for me to go to the garage to get the next bin.One of my favorite memories was also the ice activity freezing a bunch of toys, animals, cars in a bucket of ice and then letting our son chip away at it with a wooden hammer. It provided a lot of entertainment for him and certainly didnt cost too much. We also heavily used local parks, libraries and searched for other events and activities in the community that could provide some entertainment at no cost.

Q: What would you do differently?

Brian: We would not have borrowed as much. I think we had literally just signed up for our next loans, and I learned I was getting paid, kind of out of nowhere, this windfall of $4,000 from a nonprofit. Rather than paying it back to take out less money, we bought tickets and went backpacking in Nicaragua for three weeks. And both of us were in graduate school in New Orleans at the same time. We ate out all the time and paid for everything with student loans. I was uncomfortable borrowing so much and knew at some level it was not good.

Lindsey: I was in more denial because it was student loans. I told Brian, But its good debt!

Brian: And Lindsey won the day.

Q: How is being debt-free different?

Brian: Now I have a car [a 2005 Sentra with low miles]. Its nice to be able to reflect on what is truly needed.My son got in the back seat and said, Oh, Papa, look! He thought it was an enhancement feature that it had manual windows [operated with a crank] hed never seen those before.

Lindsey: We travel, and we see family more. We still dont really eat out. We did buy a house. I still keep us on a budget. Now we pay for preschool and kindergarten.

Brian: Two small kids keep us fairly grounded.

If the Baldwins story has inspired you to take a look at your own debt, they have some tips:

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MORE:See how others defeated their debt

Photos courtesy of the Baldwins

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Bev O'Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email:boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

The article How I Ditched Debt: Little Splurges on the Path to Freedom originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/10/16/how-i-ditched-debt-splurges-on-path-to-freedom/40282479/

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How we ditched debt: Little splurges on the path to freedom - USA TODAY

USMNT loss, D.C. United, and Beckhams forest stadium: Freedom Kicks! – Black And Red United

I hope you all are enjoying some fall weather! I am here on a Wednesday because Donald Wine was up in Canada last night, so be kind to him when he takes over for me tomorrow. Lets get straight into it:

Nations League recap - USA 0-2 Canada: An abysmal loss up north - Stars and Stripes FC: The first time that the USMNT has lost to Canada in my lifetime, and the Yanks looked as bad or worse than the result shows. I pine for the days of 2009 and 2010, or even parts of 2014, when being a USMNT fan was fun; now it is all fatalistic apathy, and that is more damning than anger.

With Bill Hamids loan set to expire, the player and his hometown D.C. United sound optimistic hell stay around The Athletic: Speaking of a player that should be in the USMNT, it looks like everyone involved wants to find a way to make Hamids current stay in DC permanent.

Theres also a similar seam on the other half of the field. You know, the field upon which D.C. United will be playing on Saturday.

MLS expected to announce expansion to Sacramento Monday - Indomitable City Soccer: Sacramento has a billionaire investor, a stadium deal done, an already popular USL team, and now it looks like they have finally locked up their MLS team.

And two commissioners is all that is needed to prevent this stadium deal from happening. Inter Miami was already committed to playing its first two season at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, and now could be there for an even longer stay.

Lockhart, the stadium that as of March looked like:

Or this:

Carli Lloyd Calls USWNT Role at World Cup Absolutely the Worst Time of My Life | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights: That is an absolutely buckwild take that is completely in line with how Carli Lloyd publicly presents herself.

Thats all Ive got, whats up?

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USMNT loss, D.C. United, and Beckhams forest stadium: Freedom Kicks! - Black And Red United

The OSCE Produces Guidance On Freedom Of Religion Or Belief And Security – Forbes

In September 2019, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (the OSCE/ODIHR) published a new report Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security: Policy Guidance as a response to the calls for a balance between these values or [suggestions] that at least some aspects of this freedom must be sacrificed to achieve security.The OSCE is the world's largest regional security-oriented intergovernmental organization constituting of 57 member countries. Its mandate includes the promotion of human rights and working to promote stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people.

The OSCE flag is seen in Hofburg Palace in Vienna. (Photo credit: Omar Marques/ SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The report discusses the issues identified within the 57 participating states, including registration and de-registration of religious or belief communities and security, extremist speech and literature and security, screening, monitoring and searches in places of worship and meeting places and security, restrictions on conversion and limitations on religious or belief community activities that have a foreign connection.

The report takes a strong stance against the reliance on the vague concept of extremism. The report emphasizes that extremism is an imprecise term without a generally accepted definition, which leaves it open to overly broad and vague interpretations and opens the door to arbitrary application of the law. It further adds that:

Extremism is often conflated with violence, even though there is no empirical evidence to suggest a causal link or progression from extremist thinking to violent acts or that extremist thinking implies an intent to engage in violent behavior that would warrant state intervention. The phenomenon of violent extremism must, therefore, be clearly distinguished from notions of extremism. Holding extreme views does not, in itself, constitute a security threat.

Nonetheless, as it stands, the concept of extremism is being used in more and more countries. For example, in Russia, thelaw criminalizes very vaguely defined extremist activities and this has resulted in over 200 Jehovah's Witnesses being arrested and prosecuted. In other countries like the U.K., the Government has introduced a policy of countering extremism that is vague and unhelpful. Only a few years after introducing the strategy, it established a special Commission to Counter Extremism to strengthen its approach to counter-extremism (or consider in the first place whether this approach was ever justified).

The report further makes important comments on the issue of religious literature and any interpretations of such literature that justices the use of violence. The report stresses that harm and violence are always the result of human agency. Indeed, the U.N. Special RapporteurHeiner Bielefeldtmade this point in his 2014 report stating that:

perpetrators of violent crimes are always human beings, not religions as such. It is human beings individuals, groups, community leaders, State representatives, non-state actors and others who invoke religion or specific religious tenets for the purposes of legitimizing, stoking, spreading or escalating violence. In other words, the relationship between religion and violence can never be an immediate one; it always presupposes human agency, that is, individuals or groups who actively bring about that connection or who challenge that connection.

We need to ensure that the perpetrators take responsibility for their actions and do not hide behind religious writings.Rather than banning such literature, the report explains that:

Developing and sharing interpretations that place these violent narratives and imagery in their historical contexts, promoting critical thinking and providing a reading that upholds human dignity and humanrights are much more effective and much more respectful of freedom ofexpression and freedom of religion or belief than banning or censoring religious texts or limiting their circulation.

In the report, the OSCE sets out its comprehensive approach to security which does not portray freedom of religion or belief and security as competing values, but considers them to be complementary, interdependent and mutually reinforcing objectives that can and must be advanced together. The new report provides guiding principles, practical guidance and recommendations on how to address thechallengesflowing from the intersection of freedom of religion or belief and security.

The report identifies seven guiding principles that are aimed at formulation and implementation of a range of measures, policies and laws to ensure both freedom of religion or belief and security.Among others, the report proposes specific educational measures that foster respect for religious or belief diversity, programs that raise awareness, that inform wider society about religious or belief communities, their human rights and the significance of diversity, interfaith and inter-religious dialogue and partnerships, policies that promote respect for and build upon existing and emerging religious or belief diversity, and legal and policy changes that correctly identity the international standards on freedom of religion or belief.

The report is a significant and important contribution to the field of freedom of religion or belief and security and should be taken seriously by states to guide their response to security threats while protecting the rights to freedom of religion or belief for all.

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The OSCE Produces Guidance On Freedom Of Religion Or Belief And Security - Forbes

Finding the freedom to ‘f*ck like an animal’ – PGH City Paper

When I was first starting to have sex as a teenager in the mid-90s, Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" was like a generational anthem. I have vivid memories of having sex in a car in a park-and-ride, the bass of that song reverberating throughout the vehicle.

I have since learned that Trent Reznor wrote the song largely about his own mental health struggles, and not as a prescription for animalistic sexuality. Nevertheless, for many of us who were first learning about our own sexuality when that song was at the height of its popularity, the chorus was aspirational, what we thought sex should be, if only we were any good at it.

I want to fuck you like an animal

I want to feel you from the inside

I want to fuck you like an animal

My whole existence is flawed

You get me closer to God

My early experiences of sex, while sweet, were largely awkward and fumbling; they were an expression of two people who didnt yet know their own bodies or understand their own desires. This, I believe, raises a couple of important questions. What is it that makes good sex? Is this something that is innate or animalistic, as this song and others like it suggest, or is it something that we need to learn?

"Fucking like animals," as a trope, suggests that sex is better when you somehow free yourself of all the of the cultural programming and overthinking that often accompanies sex. Or it is what happens when you get out of your head and experience your body and the body of another person in some sort of unmediated way, the way that animals do (or rather, the way we assume animals do, I honestly dont know anything about animal sexuality).

And in some ways, this seems right to me. Im a fairly analytical person who is prone to spending more time analyzing sex than actually experiencing it, and so the standout sexual experiences in my life were the ones that pulled me out of my head, the ones that felt the way "Closer" sounds.

However, I think it is a mistake to assume that these experiences are somehow natural, or, in other words, that we dont need to put a tremendous amount of work in learning about our bodies, our desires, and our sexuality in order to have them. And importantly, into building relationships that have enough trust that we can truly let go and give into these experiences.

As a young person, I did aspire to have the sort of sex that I thought Reznor was singing about, sex that was so raw that it neared transcendence, bringing me closer to God. And I have certainly had really incredible sexual experiences that I would describe this way. But I was only able to do so once I knew enough about how pleasure worked in my own body, how to be confident enough to assert my desires, and how to meaningfully relate to my partners. Good sex came with time, patience, and communication. It wasnt necessarily natural, but it was worth it.

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Finding the freedom to 'f*ck like an animal' - PGH City Paper

The first Steering Committee meeting of the Action Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media in North Macedonia (JUFREX 2) held in Skopje -…

The first Steering Committee meeting of the Action Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media in North Macedonia (JUFREX2) has been successfully organized in Skopje, on October 8, 2019.

The meeting brought together representatives of Academy of Judges and Public Prosecutors, Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Ministry of Interior, Bar Association, Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, Faculty of Law Lustinianus Primus Skopje, Centre for SEELS, Secretariat for European Affairs, Delegation of the European Union to North Macedonia and the Action team. Steering Committee outlined the key activities, timelines and intended results of the Action, implemented with aim to promote freedom of expression and freedom of the media in line with Council of Europe standards. Participants emphasized the importance of promotion of freedom of expression standards and measurement of the project impacts, especially in regard to the capacity development of beneficiary institutions. Due to the success in the first phase of the project and the good cooperation between the Action team and the beneficiary institutions, all participants expressed their willingness to cooperate in the second phase as well and work together toward promotion of freedom of expression standards in the following three years.

This Action is part of the Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II, a co-operation initiative co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe and implemented by the Council of Europe, which aims at assisting Beneficiaries in the Western Balkans region and Turkey to comply with the Council of Europe standards and European Union acquis in the framework of the enlargement process.

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The first Steering Committee meeting of the Action Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media in North Macedonia (JUFREX 2) held in Skopje -...

Cyrus Wilson ready for another chance to be granted his freedom – NewsChannel5.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) Nearly 100 people attended a parole hearing at Riverbend Maximum Security Wednesday morning to support Cyrus Wilson, 45.

In 1994, a jury found Wilson guilty in the shooting death of another Edgehill teenager Christopher Luckett. Decades later, two alleged witnesses have recanted statements they made in which they said they saw the shooting. Wilson's attorney said there is now no evidence connecting Wilson to the shooting.

He has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

Tennessee Parole Board member Gary Faulcon heard Wilson's case Wednesday morning and recommended he be granted parole under the following five conditions:

His case will be reviewed by six over parole board members. Wilson needs four votes to be granted parole.

Wilson's wife Casey, his family and community supporters attended the meeting, which was a continuation from an April hearing.

"It's just been a waiting game. For Cyrus it's been a different process. He's taken a class, he did a risk assessment that was requested by the Board of Parole. He scored a low risk on the assessment," Casey Wilson said.

Casey recalled the initial hearing as extremely emotional.

"It was traumatizing just because we didn't know what would happen. We've talked about Wednesday, what he's done to prepare. He said 'I've done everything humanely possible that I can do to show the Board of Parole that I'm prepared to be productive. Prepared to be released.' I don't think he can do anything else to prepare himself to be at home," she said.

When asked about the judicial system doing enough for alleged innocent prisoners Casey said issues affecting the Nashville community now were issues that were happening 27 years ago.

"They just weren't publicized and they didn't have the means to deal with them. Had a Community Oversight Board been in place at that time that could've been dealt with that, a complaint could have been filed and (Wilson's family) might have been comfortable enough to go to that board and register a complaint and say this is how we were treated, this is how our children were treated," she said.

Casey said Wilson has been offered a scholarship to attend American Baptist College among other offers.

"He got accepted to the Technology Center at Nashville. He wants to study automotive service, cars are his hobby," she said.

Casey met Cyrus when they were teenagers. They have been married for nearly six years.

She created an online petition to Governor Bill Lee and District Attorney Glen Funk to have her husband released.

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Cyrus Wilson ready for another chance to be granted his freedom - NewsChannel5.com

Russia Turns the Screws on Internet Freedom – VOA News

MOSCOW - New legislation likely to be introduced next month in Russia's Duma, or lower chamber of parliament, would see tighter restrictions on the internet and on computers, tablets and other devices used to access the internet.

The proposals include a provision for the identification of all email users and a requirement for new internet-able devices to be sold with pre-installed Russian software a legal obligation that could stop Apple, which won't install non-Apple software on its products, from selling computers and laptops in Russia.

When the details of the legislation were first revealed last week, most media attention was focused on the proposal to limit to 20 percent the share foreign investors can own in Russian tech companies, a provision analysts calculated was aimed at Russia's largest internet company, Yandex. On Friday, Yandex saw the value of its shares plunge more than 18 percent on the Wall Street stock exchange, the steepest decline in a year. Yandex owns the most popular Russian search engine and provides other online-based services, including food delivery and taxis.

While the proposed ownership limiting foreign stakes in IT companies immediately alarmed foreign stock markets, the other provisions are adding to a slow burn of doubt with investors fearing further tech and internet restrictions will make it increasingly difficult to do business in Russia or to do so ethically.

For rights campaigners and anti-Kremlin opposition groups, the entire package which was drafted by pro-Kremlin lawmakers, but which local media say has the backing of the Russian government amounts to a tightening of control by the authorities of the internet and a further enhancement of their ability to monitor online activity.

The government has been ramping up its internet regulations, seeking to exercise greater control over its physical infrastructure as well and regulate the content that can be accessed by Russians. In the past few years, it has required search engines to delete some search results and oblige messaging services to share encryption keys with security services.

In March, President Vladimir Putin signed two measures into law, one banning the publication of "unreliable, socially significant information" on the internet and another introducing fines and jail time for internet users who "disrespect" the authorities.

'Online Iron Curtain'

Ahead of his signing, thousands staged a rally in Moscow opposing the measures, saying the provisions would isolate Russians behind an "online Iron Curtain" and pave the way for nationwide censorship. "If they take that, we will have nothing," said Mikhail Svetov from the Libertarian Party. "We don't have free elections, we don't have press freedom, the television is completely controlled the internet is the only place where we talk about corruption."

The fresh legislation rewriting the rules again would allow authorities to block individual email or users from messaging apps that circulate banned content. Internet companies would be required within 24 hours of notification to block individual users when asked to do so by Roskomnadzor, the state communications watchdog.

One of the lawmakers who drafted the legislation, Anton Gorelkin, says the new rules are needed on national security grounds. The lawmakers say fresh legislation is needed to combat a wave of hoax bomb threats. "It is more efficient to completely block a user, not the individual messages sent by them," said Andrey Klishas, another one of the lawmakers behind the measure.

Pavel Durov, the Russian creator of encrypted messaging service Telegram, has been under intense pressure to hand over the company's encryption keys. He has declined and been engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities who have sought to little avail to block Telegram from operating in Russia.

Last week, Russia's state communications watchdog announced it and its Chinese counterpart will sign a cooperation treaty aimed at combating illegal content on the internet, adding to the alarm of internet freedom advocates. Roskomnadzor says the agreement is scheduled to be signed on October 20 at an international internet conference.

China has been even more effective than the Russian authorities in controlling content on the internet behind a so-called Great Firewall. Legions of censors constantly trawl (sift through) what's posted and delete anything thought inappropriate an effort that assists in technical blocks and pressures foreign online companies to restrict content as well as apps that can be used in the country.

Russia doesn't can't match, as yet, China's technical capabilities, say industry experts, as its failure to shut down Telegram demonstrates. It has also banned the use of VPNs, unless approved by the authorities. A VPN is a virtual private network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks anonymously. So far, though, VPNs function in Russia.

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Russia Turns the Screws on Internet Freedom - VOA News

Tom Steyers Tie: Theyll Never Take His Freedom! – The New York Times

Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic presidential candidate who made his first debate appearance in Ohio on Tuesday evening, failed, by most accounts, to break through with his discussion of climate change and a wealth tax. But he did definitely stand out from the crowd in one way at least: his tie.

A red, yellow and navy tartan that looked like it was from clan Wallace (that is meaningful; more on it later), it was unmistakable in a sea of traditional blue (Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; former Representative Beto ORourke of Texas; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont) and red (former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey; Julin Castro, the former housing secretary).

It was not long before the viewing public took notice.

Meghan McCain, the columnist and TV personality, was particularly rapt:

The tie now even has two Twitter accounts of its own: @TieToms and @TomSteyersTie. As tie choices go, it was notably more controversial than the fact that Andrew Yang, the candidate and entrepreneur, never wears one at all and that is saying something. Mr. Yangs tielessness, after all, is a widely understood signifier of his tech success status; Mr. Steyers penchant for tartan is well, what in the world is it?

Ties in general are increasingly seen as relics of the former establishment, but in the theater of politics, they are a nod to the formality of the office and indicator of respect for the past.

When male candidates want to prove their hard working bona fides and everyday-guy-ness, they tend to lose their ties and roll up their sleeves (except for Mr. Buttigieg, who loses his jacket). When they want to appear presidential, which in a debate context is what all their costume designers sorry, strategic consultants are aiming for, the default is almost always red or blue. Those colors have all the implicit references to flag-waving patriotism, especially when placed against a white shirt, and party loyalty. When they want to push some boundaries, sometimes stripes come into play, or very occasionally, purple (a red and blue combination that suggests compromise). Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, in his brief candidacy, favored green because, you know: climate.

Tartan, with all its connotations of Christmas, school uniforms and marching across the moor to bagpipes, may speak to a certain tradition, but its not a stereotypical American one, which makes it uncomfortably close to the novelty tie for many viewers.

However, Mr. Steyer has been wearing red plaid ties for years. It is kind of his signature thing. (He also favors a beaded belt that he bought on a trip to Kenya, he once wrote, and wears as a reminder not to be so formal, and also as a symbol that the world is a better place when we educate women and girls. But, sadly, we didnt get to see it Tuesday night.)

Mr. Steyer explained this to the Washington Post way back in 2013, when he told the newspaper that his penchant for tartan reflected the fact You gotta dress up for a fight.

Which brings us back to the particular tartan Mr. Steyer chose for his debate tie, which also seems to be his preferred tartan: not that of his own clan, Murray, which he told The Post was too ugly (its green, orange and blue, and doesnt seem that bad), but rather that of clan Wallace, as in William Wallace, as in Braveheart.

Aha!

This is telling: Not just because of the questionable choice of dissing your own history for one you think is better looking, but because, for those who are not familiar with the 1995 Mel Gibson classic (which may be a large chunk of the voting public these days), it is about William Wallace, a 13th century clansman who led the Scots in their first war of independence, against King Edward I of England.

It had many battle sequences and inspirational speeches, and won a lot of Oscars. You can see the appeal. But it also ended with Wallace being drawn and quartered and the King still on his throne.

Which maybe is not the best symbolism, really, for this particular moment in time.

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Tom Steyers Tie: Theyll Never Take His Freedom! - The New York Times

Charting Americas path to freedom on a road trip through the Deep South – Irish Examiner

Im sitting at the lunch counter of an American diner in the Deep South, eyes closed, lost in my thoughts of a time harking back to the Sixties.

Suddenly, I hear voices behind me, taunting, menacing, spitting racist abuse and threatening words, and soon I feel surrounded the vibration of a growing hostile mob rippling through the steel shaft of my seat.

Taking off my headphones, Ive just felt what it must have been like to be a black person at one of the many sit-ins staged by civil rights campaigners fighting for desegregation and the right to vote, little more than 50 years ago.The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta offers an interactive experience (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Its one of many interactive experiences in the Center For Civil And Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia, at the start of a road trip that will take me nearly 800 miles over four states from Martin Luther King Jrs birthplace in Atlanta, across Alabama and Mississippi, to the now infamous Lorraine Motel where he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.

Its a lest we forget journey with my 19-year-old daughter, Grace, an educational swansong before she flies the nest, and because the civil rights veterans many of whom are in their 70s and work in the museums on our route all have stories to tell, but arent going to be around forever.

The US Civil Rights Trail (civilrightstrail.com), which opened officially last year, stretches more than 100 locations across 15 states, from Kansas across to Washington in the east and down to Florida.Brents Drugs provides a movie setting (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Movies provide a nod to the places were visiting; well enjoy ice cream sodas in Brents Drugs, the Jackson, Mississippi diner where Emma Stone sat in The Help, and walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge, featured in the film Selma.

Of course, theres heavy emphasis on civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, the Christian minister inspired by Gandhi, whose non-violent campaign for voting rights and desegregation led to major law changes.Hannah and Grace outside Martin Luther Kings birthplace in Atlanta (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Tourists flock to his birthplace at 501 Auburn Avenue and his final resting place in a tomb alongside his widow Coretta Scott King in Atlanta.

MLK statues and plaques, old TV footage and Ive reached the mountaintop words of wisdom are prevalent in many landmarks along the trail.

But markers also pay tribute to lesser-known individuals who sacrificed so much for the cause.

Byron Powell, a genial 75-year-old African American guide at the museum, was training to be a combat pilot with the US Air Force when he ventured outside the base in Atlanta to a laundromat to do his washing, failing to see the Whites Only sign.Victim of segregation Byron Powell (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Two police officers came in and pointed a gun at my head and told me that if I didnt get back to base now, I wouldnt get back at all. Its strange to think that I did three tours of Vietnam, but I was closer to death in that laundromat in Georgia.

Our next two stops take us to the most important cities for civil rights in Alabama: Birmingham and Montgomery, both Jim Crow segregation hotspots.

Birmingham, once deemed by King to be the most segregated city in the US, was nicknamed Bombingham in the Fifties due to the high amount of racially-motivated bombings.Martin Luther King statue in Kelly Ingram Park (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Today, in the sunshine, its hard to envisage the leafy, tranquil Kelly Ingram Park as a bloody battlefield in the spring of 1963, when peaceful student civil rights protesters were set upon by police dogs and blasted with blistering fire hoses whose water pressure could shear the hair from your head.

Months later, in a devastating attack on September 15, 1963 which shocked the country, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the basement of the adjacent 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls changing into their choir robes for a youth day service.

Standing like a beacon in the park is a bronze memorial, entitled Four Spirits, depicting the four girls, the youngest releasing doves into the air as a symbol of hope for peace.Memorial to the four little girls who died at the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Some 80 miles south in Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama, we see the plaque and eponymous museum whereseamstress Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat to whites on a city bus in 1955.

This led to a 13-month boycott of city buses by black people, led by King, then pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church nearby.Rosa Parks marker and museum (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

The bus company lost up to 40,000 fares each day, while shoe repairers businesses soared. The movement won the battle, its first major victory, as the US Supreme Courtruled Alabamas bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

Of course, Montgomery is synonymous with Selma, 54 miles away, the scene of a major civil rights march in 1965, when 600 peaceful protesters were attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by hostile state troopers with tear gas and billy clubs (truncheons), some of whom were on horseback.Hannah on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Our guide Dianne Harris was a 15-year-old student standing at the back of the line with her brother as the violence erupted, and fled to the nearby Brown Chapel AME Church, now an historic landmark.

She leads us into the church, a safe haven when smoke and violence were all around, and after a quiet reflection breaks into one of the many freedom songs which kept those marchers strong: Aint gonna let nobody turn me round, Turn me round, turn me round Walkin into Freedom Land.Dianne Harris was a student on the Selma to Montgomery march (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Crossing into Mississippi, the poorest state in the US with one of the most notoriously violent records of racism, we drive through the delta, the empty road slicing through powder puffs of white cotton fields where cotton pickers once slaved.

Despite federal laws which banned segregation and gave African Americans voting rights, Mississippians frequently ignored them. Lynchings still took place long after desegregation laws were passed.Mississippi cotton fields (iStock/PA)

But the state is acknowledging its past, opening two fantastic museums in 2017 in Jackson side by side: the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (the only state-funded civil rights museum in the country) and the Museum of Mississippi History.

Our last stop is Memphis, Tennessee, a lively hub of blues and barbecue, with its bedazzling neon vibe and juke joints of Beale Street, Elviss Graceland in all its tacky glory south of the city, and the once unremarkable Lorraine Motel, now a sombre reminder of where King was shot on the balcony of Room 306 by James Earl Ray.

The Sixties cars paint a picture of the time at the Lorraine Motel (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

The motel is now the National Civil Rights Museum, with a reconstruction of his hotel bedroom the mustard carpet and beige bedspreads, full ashtrays, and the leftovers of a room service meal. It feels like an inauspicious end to a laudable life.

So, how far has the civil rights movement come?

Some feel that America has taken a huge step backwards with its current administration, that racism is now more subtle but still ever present, that we need to be vigilant if we are to move forward.Hezekiah Watkins points to his picture in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Hezekiah Watkins, a Mississippi guide and civil rights campaigner who was arrested 109 times and once went to jail with King himself, concludes: The key to moving forward together has to include learning from our past, no matter how difficult the task may be.

How to plan your trip

America As You Like It(americaasyoulikeit.com;020 8742 8299) offers a 14-night Civil Rights fly-drive from 1,672 per person, including flights from Heathrow to Atlanta and Memphis to Heathrow, car hire, two nights in Atlanta, two nights in Birmingham, two nights in Montgomery, two nights in Jackson, two nights in Cleveland, two nights in Clarksdale and two nights in Memphis. Price based on two people sharing, some breakfasts included.

For details of civil rights trails, visit Deep South USA(deep-south-usa.com/civilrights) and civilrightstrail.com. For information on individual states, visit exploregeorgia.org; alabama.travel; tnvacation.com and visitmississippi.org.

Car hire in the USA with Hertz (hertz.co.uk) starts from 23 a day. Explore the Road To Civil Rights with Hertz Road Trip Planner route on hertz.com/usaroadtripplanner.

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Charting Americas path to freedom on a road trip through the Deep South - Irish Examiner

As the World Marches for Freedom, Where is Trump? – The American Interest

Democracy Watch

Activists at home and abroad are being galvanized to stand up for fundamental freedoms. Why cant the President?

Published on: October 11, 2019

David J. Krameris senior fellow in the Vaclav Havel Center for Human Rights and Diplomacy and director of European and Eurasian Studies at Florida International Universitys Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. He is also a Contributing Editor at The American Interest.

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As the World Marches for Freedom, Where is Trump? - The American Interest

Rembrandt Painted The Best Portrait Of Freedom Ever, And Here It Is – The Federalist

This year the Cato Institute held an event artistic exhibition called Freedom: Art as The Messenger. Visitors could enjoy pieces specially commissioned by contemporary artists to represent what freedom means to them.

But if such an exhibition had included historical works,which piece of art would most accurately express the very idea of freedom? The answer is in one of the best art museums of the world, in a country known as a home of religious toleration, commerce, and limited central government. The remarkableRijksmuseumin Amsterdam houses Rembrandt van RijnsTheNight Watch(1642).

Notably,The Night Watchis a group portrait.Although freedom is often perceived as an individual (personal) quality, its maintenance and protection require group efforts. Regardless of how free, talented, creative, independent, or strong an individual is, alone he or she is unable to protect his or her property and loved ones in a clash with a band of gangsters, regardless of whether those gangsters are a private enterprise or agents of a state. Collective efforts are necessary to protect personal freedom.

Secondly, it is a group portrait of people with equal legal status, which is a fundamental element of the rule of law. Until the second quarter of the 16th century, virtually all group portraits had a hierarchical structure emphasizing the top or central position on canvas of one or a few central figuresgods, apostles, saints, heroes, monarchs, or representatives of the nobility, with their companions, subordinates, assistants, or servants placed somewhere aside and below.

The new genre of group portrait was the result of a revolutionary new phenomenon at the time Rembrandt was painting. Specifically, he depicts the appearance and the strengthening of the legal equality of burghers, who were the residents of the city-states in the epoch of High Renaissance and Early modern period.

The Night Watchreminds us that freedom, rule of law, and democracyare mutually intertwined. The musketeers have commanders, but the commanders are not appointed by higher authoritiesthey are elected by the militia members themselves. And if necessary, the commanders could be removed, leaving the musketeers to choose new ones.

It shows us that freedom is something one must defend. After all, it is a portrait of armed men. It visually represents the U.S. Second Amendment and the similar enshrinement of the right to bear arms in Switzerland, Israel, and other free countries, where it is held that a free man is an armed man.

Rembrandts masterpiece also illustrates the beauty of independence and self-sufficiency. Its subjects are personally and financially independent from the state. As members of the Amsterdams militia, they did not receive any salary from the government or the municipal authorities.

Before becomingKloveniers(musketeers) each had built a successful business: among the guards in the picture are a fabrics trader, a deacon of the reformist church, and the head of the city almshouse, while the captain would later become the burgomaster of Amsterdam. Their wealth allowed them not only to join the militia, but also to finance the acquisition of weapons, horses, equipment, and other premises needed to sustain the necessary level of their professional training, and if demanded, to directly conduct military actions.

The business of creating the painting itself was a triumph of economic freedom. The painting was not produced on the order of a king, a stadtholder, or a government. Its creation was funded privately by all 18 members of theKlovenierscompany themselves, with 100 gold guilders from each paid to Rembrandt.

Finally, even the popular title (The Night Watchis officially known asMilitia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq)of the painting carries a lesson. Some libertarians would argue that the role of a night watchman which deals only in defending its citizens and protecting law and order is exactly the way the state should function.

No other well-known work of art claiming to reflect the idea of freedom seems to withstand a real competition withThe Night Watch. For example, take a look atEugne DelacroixsLiberty Leading the People.

The democratic layout of the Dutch group portrait contrasts with the hierarchical composition of French painting. In Delacroixs work, Marianne dominates the scene and others are subordinate to her. Even the paintings title is revealing:LibertyLeadingthe People, suggesting that people need to be led.

If Delacroix urges people to sacrifice their well-being and even themselves for the sake of attractive but uncertain symbol, then Rembrandt demonstrates with solid conviction an organized armed force capable and freely prepared to protect the livelihood of their fellow citizens and themselves, with no sacrifice required.

On the 350thanniversary of Rembrandts death, the Dutch master still remains unsurpassed in his ability to visually represent freedom. He showed us that freedom is not an abstract concept, but something that men and women have been seeking to protect for centuries.

Andrei Illarionov is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

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Rembrandt Painted The Best Portrait Of Freedom Ever, And Here It Is - The Federalist

Crawling to freedom? Boris Johnson compares Brexit to tunnel escape from The Shawshank Redemption – RT

With hours remaining to finally secure a deal with Brussels, Boris Johnson has apparently compared British efforts to negotiate Brexit to the infamous prison escape scene in The Shawshank Redemption.

The dramatic comparison was reported by the Telegraphs deputy political editor Anna Mikhailova, who tweeted that she had heard it from a source in the Conservative Partys 1922 Committee.

Mikhailovas tweet was soon followed by a tweet from BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley, who wrote that he had also been told the PM compared the tunnel in Brussels to the tunnel from the Shawshank Redemption.

The analogy comes after Britain entered days of what were dubbed intensive tunnel negotiations with the EU to secure a deal before October 19, which would allow Johnson to avoid requesting a new Brexit extension.

Fans of the movie will recall that protagonist Andy Dufresne (Britain?) is sentenced to life in prison (the EU?) for murdering his wife and her lover a crime he did not commit. One stormy night, Dufresne eventually breaks free from the confines of the prison through a sewage pipe which he manages to burst open with a rock.

Andy crawled to freedom through 500 yards of sh*t-smelling foulness I can't even imagine, narrates Morgan Freemans character perhaps providing some insight into Johnsons mindset as the tunnel negotiations continue.

It appears Johnson may also be a fan of the British political comedy The Thick of It, in which Malcolm Tucker, the fictional director of communications for 10 Downing Street, compares a political crisis to the classic movie.

This is like the Shawshank Redemption, right. Only there's more tunneling through sh*t, and no f*cking redemption, he says.

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Crawling to freedom? Boris Johnson compares Brexit to tunnel escape from The Shawshank Redemption - RT

What Ed Meeses Presidential Medal of Freedom Says About the G.O.P. and Impeachment – The New Yorker

On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump took some time away from his efforts to portray the Democrats impeachment proceedings as a deep-state conspiracy to present a Presidential Medal of Freedomthe highest honor that the U.S. government can bestow on a civilianto Ed Meese.

Yes, that Ed Meese: the longtime Reagan aide and conservative legal activist who, when serving as Attorney General, from 1985 to 1988, was directly implicated in not one but three major scandalsthe secret sale of arms to Iran to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, a corruption scam involving efforts by the construction firm Bechtel to build an Iraqi oil pipeline, and an even bigger scam involving the allocation of U.S. military contracts to a New York company called Wedtech. Meese was never charged with any crimes, but the evidence suggested that he misled Congress about Reagans knowledge of the Iran-Contra scheme, which Oliver North ran out of the White House; turned a blind eye to the bribery of foreign governments in the Bechtel case; and did favors from the White House for his close friend E. Robert Wallach, a lobbyist for Wedtech, who, in 1989, was sentenced to six years in prison for racketeering and fraud. In 1988, half a dozen senior Justice Department officials, including the Deputy Attorney General and the head of the criminal division, resigned to protest Meeses leadership of the department.

Arguably, Meeses involvement in these three scandals wasnt even the worst of his sins. As Attorney General in 1985, he infamously spoke out against the Supreme Courts Miranda ruling, from 1966, which confirmed a suspects right to remain silent when being questioned by police and to have an attorney. Miranda only helps guilty defendants, because most innocent people are glad to talk to the police, Meese declared. And, he added, We managed very well in this country for one hundred and seventy-five years without it. Not for nothing did Meese Is a Pig T-shirts and posters become cult items during the Reagan era.

Without any hint of irony, Trump lauded Meese as an absolute titan of American law and a heroic defender of the American Constitution. The award ceremony took place in the Oval Office. In addition to Trump, the eighty-seven-year-old Meese, and several generations of his family, those present included the Vice-President, Mike Pence; the Attorney General, William Barr; the acting director of the Office of Budget and Management, Russ Vought; Kay Coles James, the president of the Heritage Foundation, which Meese joined after leaving the Reagan Administration; and a number of other prominent conservatives.

Apart from Trump, this was a conclave of the conservative establishment celebrating the battle scars of one of its oldest members. But coming on the same day that the White House announced its refusal to coperate in any way with the Trump impeachment inquiry, the ceremony also highlighted an important dynamic that is now playing out on the right. After listening to the President shower praise on him, Meese, who started out during the 2016 campaign as a critic of Trump but eventually endorsed him, returned the compliment. In doing so, he helped explain why so many prominent Republicans have continued to defend Trump despite all his outrages, and why, almost certainly, they wont desert him now, when he needs them the most.

In praising Trump, Meese singled out three policy areas. He cited the Presidents support of the armed forces and his emphasis on religious liberty. But the first item on Meeses list was your commitment to the Constitution and your commitment to making sure that its interpreted it as it actually reads. Referring to the fact that Trump has already appointed a hundred and fifty-two conservative judges to the federal bench, and two to the Supreme Court, Meese declared this to be a monument to justice and the rule of law that will last literallyliterally, for decades.

There it was. To movement conservatives like Meese, the remaking of the American courts, particularly on rulings about constitutional and economic matters, is the great crusade that they have been on for forty years or more. And in this key area, Trump has done everything that the conservatives demanded when they threw their support behind him. By effectively outsourcing the appointment of judges to institutions like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, he has more than kept up his end of the bargain. In return, conservatives have gone all in with him, and none more so than the current Attorney General.

Barr, who didnt speak at Tuesdays ceremony, isnt usually portrayed as a movement conservative, but dont be fooled. As a young lawyer, he worked on the domestic-policy staff of the Reagan White House. Hes long been an active figure in conservative legal circles, and hes a proponent of the unitary executive theory, which claims that the Constitution grants the President enormous leeway in virtually anything he does. During his remarks, Meese singled out Barr and said that he wanted to wish you well in the fine work youre doing. Given the makeup of the crowd, Meese didnt need to explain what this fine work consisted of. (Since taking office earlier this year, Barr has misrepresented the Mueller report, accused the F.B.I. of spying on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, and ordered and personally overseen a Justice Department investigation into the origins of the F.B.I.s Russia probe.)

The bonhomie between Meese and Barr highlighted the fact that Trumplike Reagan when the Iran-Contra scandal blew upnow has a pugilistic loyalist as his Attorney General, which is what he hoped he was getting with Jeff Sessions. In Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, an ex-speechwriter for Barr, Trump has another low-profile but very conservative lawyer, who, as he demonstrated in a letter that he sent to House Democratic leaders on Tuesday explaining why the White House would not be coperating with the impeachment inquiry, is willing to make the most contentious legal arguments on his bosss behalf. And on Wednesday evening it was confirmed that Trey Gowdy, the former G.O.P. congressman who led the Partys Benghazi investigations, is joining Trumps legal team.

As the Presidents apologists and attorneys go about their unedifying task of defending the indefensible, Meese may serve as their role model. The key evidence showing that he misled everyone to protect Reagan in the Iran-Contra case emerged years after he left officetoo late for Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel, to bring charges. In Walshs final report to Congress, which was published in 1993, he wrote of his efforts to investigate Meeses role, Six years after the pivotal events had occurred, the trail was cold. With the principals professing no memory of often critical events, the OIC did not uncover sufficient evidence of an obstruction to justify a prosecution. Meese got off. So did Reagan.

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What Ed Meeses Presidential Medal of Freedom Says About the G.O.P. and Impeachment - The New Yorker

Sneaking to freedom from East Berlin to West in a modified BMW Isetta – CNET

In the years following World War II and up until 1989, Germany was a divided country, and its capital city of Berlin lay right on the border, in fact, the border bisected it.

There was a wall -- the Berlin Wall, which came down 30 years ago, effectively ending the Cold War -- separating the more liberal, Westernized West side of the city -- controlled by the Western Allies after World War 2. East Berlin was given to the Soviets after WW2 and was transformed into the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a repressive police state controlled by the Soviet Union.

Many people who lived under the GDR sought to escape to Western Germany but weren't allowed to do so. As a result, many attempted to cross the border illegally, which could mean that they'd be shot (it's at least 327 people were) or at the very least, imprisoned if they were caught.

The border, while heavily guarded and regulated, wasn't completely closed. West German citizens were regularly allowed to cross for business purposes or to visit family. This gave some enterprising Germans a means to help others escape the GDR.

Klaus-Gnter Jacobi helped his best friend escape East Berlin in a modified BMW Isetta.

In 1963, a man named Klaus-Gnter Jacobi decided to help his best friend escape East Berlin and before being forced to report for duty in the East German army. To do so, he decided to modify his BMW Isetta to be able to hide a body.

Now, if you're not especially familiar with the Isetta, it's a tiny bubble car with a motorcycle engine at the back and barely enough room for two people to sit in the bench seat behind the front opening door. Space is at a premium, but Jacobi -- who had trained as a mechanic -- found that there was a dead space behind his seat and next to the Isetta's tiny engine that could be used to smuggle a person.

He modified his car and crossed into East Berlin one night, picked up his friendand set about making the crossing back into West Germany. He made it through the border, and his idea -- the modified Isetta -- was used to eventually smuggle nine other East Berliners to the West.

BMW decided to celebrate Klaus-Gunter's ingenuity and produced a short film of the ordeal. It's a pretty fantastic story, and if you want to read more about it, BMW has it documented extensively on its website.

Now playing: Watch this: 5 things you need to know about the 2019 BMW X3 M40i

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Sneaking to freedom from East Berlin to West in a modified BMW Isetta - CNET

The Temporary Freedom of Leaving Prison to Attend a Funeral – The Marshall Project

Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system.

At Sing Sing, once classes are over in the school building at night, we are allowed to use the phones in the yard. Chaos usually erupts as inmates race to the phones like stampeding bulls. Its enough to make me avoid the trouble on most nights. But there are times when I fiend for the voice of a loved one and am forced to join the herd.

One late summer night in 2014, I get in line and hand my I.D. to the officer. When I hear my name called, I squeeze past the other inmates and dial my mothers number. I listen to the automated message and anticipate the melody that is her voice. As soon as she speaks, I know something is wrong. I could always sense her pain, even when I was a child. It runs down my flesh like the chills. My heart pauses, like that first big drop on a rollercoaster.

Whats wrong, Ma? I ask.

Her words are calm and precise. I want you to listen, she begins. Daddy is gone, he passed away this morning.

There is a long silence. She continues, probably about the funeral arrangements, but I am lost in my own thoughts. I still feel dazed when I hang up. I walk around the yard until it is time to return to my cell. I dont bother to undress. I just lay on my bunk, stare up at the paint-chipped ceiling and have a conversation with my grandfather.

You couldnt wait just a little while longer? I ask. I know I let you down. But if you had given me more time, I believe I wouldve made you proud. Every virtue I have, I inherited from you. You taught me how to forgive, how to love. You taught me that a real man puts family first.

Thank you for waking me up every four hours to give me cough medicine when I was sick. Thank you for allowing me to make mistakes and never turning your back on me.

Oh, I never apologized for the time I made your nose bleed when we were playing W.W.F.! Remember, I was the Ultimate Warrior, and you were Hulk Hogan?

Im sorry for not being by your side when you took your last breath. Please forgive me.

He never says a word.

The funeral is a few days later. I won't know until the last minute if I am allowed to go. On that day I stay in my cell, not wanting to be hard to locate if I am called to take the trip. By noon I am getting nervous. At quarter to one, I hear my name being called over the loudspeaker to report up front to the O.I.C., the officer-in-charge for the housing unit.

The two officers who will escort me to the funeral home lead me to the processing area. I am strip-searched and shackled from waist to ankles. One officer reads off a bunch of rules to follow, or else. I nod, half listening.

The two officers are wearing suits. I am dressed in my state greens, a matching button-up shirt and pants that resemble the pajama sets my grandfather used to wear around the house. I am not allowed to wear anything appropriate to his funeral. I am made to put my incarceration on full display.

When we get off the highway, its the first time in 13 years that I see the South Bronx. It has the same look and feel as it always did. Street vendors, bodegas and Chinese restaurants sprinkle every block. Merengue and reggaetn blast from speakers, occasionally drowned out by rap from a moving car. People of all shades hurry to their destinations. Its like I straightened up my room before I left and no one set foot in it since.

A detailed, up-to-date schedule of upcoming executions in the United States

When the prison van pulls up in front of Ortizs Funeral Home, my heart is racing. I see my father standing near the entrance. Once he notices the van, he tries to approach, but the officers deter him. Move back, away from the van! one officer says.

I walk through the funeral home door with an officer draped on each arm. The shackles attached to my ankles only allow me to take small steps or else the metal cuts into my skin. And I made the mistake of wearing ankle socks. Im greeted with smiles and nods from inviting faces, and my heart settles as if it knows it is home.

We continue into the chapel area, and suddenly its harder to breathe. The room is full of mourners here out of love and respect for my grandfather. A woman across the room looks at me, smiling intensely. I return her smile and mouth her name. Evette. Her smile gets bigger, and she blows me a kiss. Its my older sisters best friend. She looks nothing like the chubby teen I had a crush on as an adolescent. She is more beautiful than ever.

My cousin approachesa tall, powerfully built woman with long dreadlocks and a voice like Maya Angelous. She gives me a strong embrace that lasts for minutes, then grabs my face with both hands and kisses my cheeks. This woman changed my diapers, fed me, and rocked me to sleep on her bosom alongside her own children. I want to embrace her in return, but my wrists are chained to my waist.Then I see my oldest sister staring at me with what looks like a mixture of fear and sadness. As she walks toward me, she looks to the officers for a sign that its okay to approach. It must be hard to watch someone you love shackled like some animal. Its alright, I tell her, you can hug me. She stands on her toes and wraps her arms around my neck.

Over her shoulder, I see an elderly Latina woman looking at me as if she knows what my heart has been through. As I get closer, I see that she is Gladys, my babysitter from the time I could walk until I entered kindergarten. She would keep a shrine of candles and religious ornaments such as crucifixes and pictures of saints near her door and scold me if I went near it. I learned later that she practiced the religion of Santera. As she gets closer, I see the tears in her eyes. She leans in and whispers, Que dios te bendigaGod bless you.

When the service begins, I sit next to my mother in the front row near the casket. The two officers are posted in the back, keeping me in their sights. I look around at all the people who loved my grandfather, all the lives he touched. He was a minister and mentor to everyone here.

Preachers say kind words and hold prayers. Friends and family get up to speak. At some point, I am asked if I wish to say something, too. I stand up and face the room. But when I open my mouth, nothing comes out. Tears stream from my eyes. I stand there for five minutes trying to pull myself together. My heart is having a tantrum inside my chest. Finally, I manage to mumble something incoherent. I didnt know I was in so much pain. I wore it for so long I forgot I had it on.

After the speeches, people line the walls of the chapel to get their last look at my grandfather. As they do, they take a look at me, too. Most of them havent seen me in over 13 years. As they walk by, they say hello or grace me with a loving smile.

When its my turn to view the body, I refuse at first. I cant see him like that. My sister insists it will give me some closure. I inch a little closer, as if I could fall over the edge if I get too close. As I look inside the coffin, I do not recognize him.

Memories of my grandfather flood my mind like the moving snapshots in a silent film. I see him chasing me down the street in a foot race. There he is shouting from our window to come upstairs and eat. Over there hes cutting my hair as I keep fidgeting in his barbers chair. I walk away knowing I will have to proceed through life without one of my biggest supporters.

I take one more look around the room before the guards grab my arm and say it is time to leave. This is the freest Ive felt in my adult life. It is easy to lose ones self inside a cage. But here, saying goodbye to my grandfather with the people who loved himand meI remember that I am not the tomb that imprisons me. Somehow, I have kept my essence.

As Im escorted through the crowd of mourners, I receive hugs and condolences. But I dont really acknowledge them. Im already preparing myself for a return to captivity. Im ushered into the back of the van, lay my forehead on the window and let out a long deep breath.

Robert K. Wright is a research assistant for the Center for Justice at Columbia University, where he is pursuing a masters degree in education. He speaks at social justice events, helps develop programs for justice-impacted people, mentors undergraduates, and contributes to articles examining the effects of trauma and punitive practices on urban communities. Robert holds a bachelors degree in behavioral science from Mercy College. In March 2018, he was released from Sing Sing Correctional Facility after being incarcerated for close to 15 years on one count of assault in the first degree.

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The Temporary Freedom of Leaving Prison to Attend a Funeral - The Marshall Project

Land development body should be covered by Freedom of Information ombudsman – The Irish Times

The ombudsman Peter Tyndall has said the States new 1.25 billion Land Development Agency (LDA) should not be shielded from Freedom of Information (FoI) laws, as is currently intended by the Government.

In a letter to the housing committee, seen by The Irish Times, Mr Tyndall wrote that he can see no reason why it cannot be included within the scope of the [Freedom of Information] Act in part at least, as are other such similar bodies.

Under the Land Development Agency bill, which is currently being scrutinised by the Oireachtas, large parts of the functions of the agency would be exempted from the transparency laws, including records relating to its acquisition of land, raising capital, development of public lands and the creation of investment vehicles to facilitate the development of land.

It seems entirely appropriate, in my view, that the Agency would, at a minimum, be subject to the provisions of the Act in respect of records relating to its general administration, as are many other offices, including mine.

Mr Tyndall said that the relevant part of the legislation should be removed, and provision made for the limited inclusion of the agency under FoI laws.

The housing committee today heard concerns in relation to the proposed exemption from the laws to be carved out for the agency. University College Dublin academic Orla Hegarty told the committee that the transparency laws apply to the LDA, and contact with its officials be included on the lobbying register given that lobbying legislation has specific provisions for housing (because of the risks of corruption) and the significant sums of money in land transactions and development contracts.

In her opening statement, Ms Hegarty said FoI is essential for ensuring the public confidence, transparency and accountability, and there are already adequate legislative exemptions in place for commercially sensitive information, without a blanket exemption.

Professor Rob Kitchin of the department of geography at NUI Maynooth agreed that the LDA should be open to FoI, with specific queries that have commercial sensitivity being assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Eoin Broin, the Sinn Fin housing spokesman, said: It is clear from the correspondence from the information commissioner that the work of the LDA should be covered by FOI and I will be urging both the Minister and the Committee to remove head 39 from the Bill and allow the Freedom of information Acts to apply to the LDA as it does with other public bodies. If the Minister is not willing to do this it will limit both the transparency and accountability of the LDA and given that it is to be in the receipt of 1.2n billion of taxpayers money this is simply not justifiable.

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Land development body should be covered by Freedom of Information ombudsman - The Irish Times

The Jolt: More than the freedom to do as youre told – Atlanta Journal Constitution

Back in August 2014,the top of the Georgia GOP ticket gathered at Burts Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County for a rally. Advertisements were run in the local newspaper. The public was invited, and that included journalists of all stripes.

But party organizers suddenly got nervous when a gaffe-prone Ralph Hudgens, the state insurance commissioner, took the stage. A sheriffs deputy on the scene ordered citizen/journalist Nydia Tisdale, positioned right in front of Gov. Nathan Deal, to stop recording with her video camera.

She didnt, and the officer hauled her away as she loudly protested. We know this becauseanother journalist recording the event was not asked to stop. Among the few who denounced the action at the scene was Sam Olens, then the state attorney general.

Tisdale had obtained permission to do what she was doing from Kathy Burt, co-owner of the farm. In a subsequent trial, she was acquitted of felony obstruction, but convicted on a misdemeanor count.

The case reached the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday, and the video is now available.You can watch some 25 minutes of argument here.

Before a three-judge panel, Tisdales attorney, Andrew Fleischman, argued that the deputy never established himself to Tisdale as a representative of the private property owner. Said Fleischman, in part:

The one person who never did approach her was the person from whom she got the authority from in the first place, Kathy Burt. So if a police officer approaches me, right now, and says, You have to leave, can I rely on a piece of paper I have from yall saying I need to come argue? Or do I have to simply take him at his word that Im no longer authorized to be here? Without that element that I have to know that the officer is acting lawfully, truly, I cant be allowed to stay in any one place without an officers permission.

And think about the effect this would have as a policy matter on journalists. Journalists often make their bread by filming things as they happen, live. If all a police officer has to say is, Youre not authorized to film, regardless of whether that person is authorized, they must turn off their camera in that moment. The film isnt taken, and theres no recovery.

Across the sea, there are thousands of people in Hong Kong carrying American flags, because they believe our country represents something. What they believe our country represents is more than the freedom to do as youre told.

Dawson County Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer argued that rally organizers had approached Tisdale, and that a police officer isnt obliged to establish his bona fides. Said Greer, in part:

The property owner wanted her off his property. It didnt matter if it was a good reason, no reason, a stupid reason, or he just didnt like what she was wearing. This wasnt a public rally. It was open to the public, but it was on private property

The obstruction statute is broad on purpose, because our police officers have an impossible job to do. And you can obstruct them in a number of ways from being stubborn, from arguing with them, from simply not doing a lawful command

That place was a dirt plot 100 years ago. When you work for something, you have rights, too, as a landowner. You ought not have to confront someone to get them off your property. Thats why we have laws and why we have police officers.

This has become an important issue in political circles. One year after Pumpkingate, the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump took off. One feature of Trumps rallies which remain to this day was an announcement at the outset that the affair is a private one, implying that they have the right to remove anyone they chose, for any reason.

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Speaking of the state Court of Appeals: Lyndsey Rudder, deputy district attorney for Fulton County, has become the fifth candidate all women, were told for the Court of Appeals seat being vacated by Sara Doyle.

Doyle is running for a state Supreme Court seat.

Rudder boasts bipartisan support. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is backing her candidacy. Republican backers include former state House member Wendell Willard, who chaired the chambers judiciary committee, and state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville.

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Democrat Dana Barrett,who describes herself as a passionate moderate, has left her 640am/WGST talk show andwill challenge U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville,for his 11th District congressional seat.

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In the aftermath of the Atlanta Braves collapse on Wednesday, we told you that many Republicans had said a 10-run first inning by the St. Louis Cardinals was the universes punishment for the Braves decision to downplay its tomahawk activity a courtesy to a Cherokee member of the Cards:

This. Is. Painful, tweeted state Rep. Trey Kelley, one of the top Republicans in the Georgia House, midway through the teams first-inning implosion. Have to feel this is karma for the unjustified and rash decision to do away with foam tomahawks.

Over at New York magazine, former Georgia political operative Ed Kilgores response included this paragraph:

[M]ore fundamental even than Georgias megaracist history, the practice of mocking and offending Native Americans, even in the relatively innocent context of baseball, struck me as violating the chief behavioral principle with which I was raised by a very southern family: being polite and not acting ugly. Being rude to strangers was something those rude Yankees bless their hearts were prone to do because they didnt know better.

It turns out that the AJCs Bill Torpyhas much the same opinion:

Its not so much that its terribly politically incorrect. It just makes us look like rubes. And we inhabitants of this International Olympic City dont want to look like rubes, do we?

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Bloombergs Sahil Kapur has takena deep dive into Georgias political appeal on the national stage. Jolt readers will recognize a lot of the ground he covers, but this tidbit from Guy Cecil, the head of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA caught our eye:

[Cecil] placed Georgia in the second tier of important states alongside Arizona and North Carolina, two traditionally Republican states where Democrats have won statewide in recent years.

He said his organization hasnt decided where to commit resources yet but that the lure of two Senate seats make it likelier to compete heavily in Georgia.

I can assure you there will be lots of robust conversations around Georgia, which Im eager to have, Cecil said. Its on our expansion list. And its something that well look at.

Its worth noting that America First Action, President Trumps super PAC, has put Georgia among its six top-tier states for 2020.

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Shortly after our colleagueMatt Kempner published this important story detailing the relatively small amount of federal aid money thats made its way down to Georgia a year after Hurricane Michael, FEMA released its own accounting. According to the federal agency:

In that year, Georgias recovery has moved forward with more than $65.2 million distributed through federal programs to aid individuals and businesses. An additional $50 million has been provided to reimburse local governments for response actions in advance of Hurricane Michael, for debris removal and to repair or replace critical infrastructure. As of October 4, 2019:

-- More than $12.5 million has been approved through FEMAs Individuals and Households Program, providing grants to 5,000 survivors in Georgia for home repairs, and repair or replacing essential personal property.

-- More than $50 million has been approved through FEMAs Public Assistance Program to reimburse local and state governments and certain private nonprofit organizations in Georgia.

-- The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved $52.7 million in low interest disaster loans.

-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed more than 4.2 million cubic yards of debris from local communities in South Georgia.

Thats separate from the$3 billion in farm aid Sonny Perdues Department of Agriculture is expected to start releasing to natural disaster victims in the weeks ahead.

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State Sen. Zahra Karinshak of Duluth,a Democratic candidate in Georgias Seventh District congressional contest, said she will report raising more than $200,000 in the six weeks since entering the race. Her haul includes contributions from two of her early supporters: Former Gov. Roy Barnes and former congressman Buddy Darden of Marietta. She also collected a donation from former attorney general Thurbert Baker. The former prosecutor is one of a half-dozen Democrats aiming for the seat held by retiring Republican Rep. Rob Woodall.

The contribution from Barnes is worth noting, because the former governor is pictured on Carolyn Bourdeauxs website as a supporter of her candidacy in the same contest.

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Atlanta will be hostinga diverse array of political junkies this weekend.

Conservative activists will be taking over the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel for a Georgia offshoot of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Several of the states GOP congressmen are slated to keynote the event. That will kick off the National Federation of Republican Assemblies biennial convention.

Meanwhile, the Carter Center will begin its 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum on Saturday, our colleague Ernie Suggs reports. The event runs through Tuesday and "will gather dozens of activists, peacemakers and community leaders from 28 countries to talk about Building Solidarity toward Equality for All.'

Carter is scheduled to attend on Tuesday, despite taking a nasty spill recently that gave him a black eye and 14 stitches.

Then theres the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, which is hosting an advocacy and campaign training program here tomorrow and Saturday as it targets future leaders who are passionate about civic engagement and advocacy, including those interested in education policy and improving access to high quality educational opportunities for all Americans.

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Continued here:

The Jolt: More than the freedom to do as youre told - Atlanta Journal Constitution

Deck by deck changes coming to Freedom of the Seas – Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean released the new deck plans for Freedom of the Seas in preparation for her 2020 Royal Amplified drydock, and that means there are a lot of changes coming to this ship.

After receiving lots of questions regarding where the changes are onboard the ship, we have compiled a list of the changes coming visually.

Note that some existing stateroom categories may have changed, but those are not denoted in this post. This post looks at more significantchanges to the ship.

No significant changes

Read the rest here:

Deck by deck changes coming to Freedom of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Blog


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