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Florida University Braces for Speech by White Nationalist, Protests

The University of Florida campus in Gainesville was on edge Wednesday, a day before white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak there.

The school has called in hundreds of law enforcement officers from federal, state, county and city sources in an effort to avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that erupted in August at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The University of Florida initially denied Spencer’s request to speak there but later university president Kent Fuchs said the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required it to allow the event.

Fuchs estimates the school will spend $600,000 on security for Spencer’s speech Thursday.

The National Policy Institute, which is run by Spencer, is paying $10,564 to rent space for the speech.

“I fully understand freedom of speech cannot be burdened legally with the full cost of this, but on the other hand we’re being burdened,” Fuchs said Wednesday. “So taxpayers are subsidizing hate speech.”

In anticipation of trouble, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday, saying a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, where the school is located.

In his order, Scott cited several Spencer appearances that have resulted in violence and “civil unrest,” including in Charlottesville where a counterdemonstrator was killed.

Carrying torches, Spencer’s supporters were joined by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis at the “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They clashed with local law enforcement officials as well as counterprotesters that included the so-called antifa movement (short for anti-fascists).

After Scott’s emergency declaration, Fuchs said the school received many calls from parents concerned about safety.

“Parents want to know, ‘Why is the governor declaring a state of emergency and yet you, President Fuchs, are saying my son or daughter should be going to class?’ That (announcement) elevated that tension, locally with parents and brought a national visibility to this,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs said he hopes the event will end up bringing the community closer together, and that it can be used to create a dialogue about race.

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Top GOP Consultant Charged With Illegal Lobbying, Conspiracy

A top Republican political consultant and two former state representatives have been indicted in a corruption scheme in South Carolina’s Legislature.

Solicitor David Pascoe announced Wednesday the State Grand Jury had indicted Richard Quinn with criminal conspiracy and failure to register as a lobbyist. Former Reps. Tracy Edge and Jim Harrison face several charges, including criminal conspiracy and misconduct.

Grand jurors also issued new indictments for two lawmakers already charged. Rep. Rick Quinn, the elder Quinn’s son, was charged with criminal conspiracy. Sen. John Courson was charged with statutory misconduct in office. Both men already faced other misconduct charges.

Richard Quinn is a longtime political consultant who has advised some of South Carolina’s top Republicans. In March, state police agents raided a Columbia office that housed his consulting shop.

 

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Mike Pence’s Brother Plans to Run for Congress

Greg Pence, one of Mike Pence’s older brothers, has filed a tax document indicating he will seek the eastern Indiana congressional seat that the vice president and former governor represented for 12 years.

He formed the Greg Pence for Congress Committee on Monday, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service that was obtained by The Associated Press.

Greg Pence, who once ran the family’s now-bankrupt chain of Tobacco Road convenience stores, previously said he had been courted to run for the district, which covers a broad swath of central and southeastern Indiana, including Muncie and Columbus.

As the vice president’s brother, he is likely the hands-down favorite to win in the overwhelmingly Republican district. He has a famous name, owns an antique business in the area and even bears a striking resemblance to his brother, with a close-cropped head of white hair.

It’s likely he will also be able to tap into the same fundraising network his brother enjoyed in the state — if not nationally.

 

Bob Grand, a major Republican fundraiser and powerbroker in Indiana politics, previously told the AP that Greg Pence would be an ideal candidate.

 

“He’s a community leader, he’s been involved in this community, he’s obviously got good name ID. I think all those things are positive,” Grand said in June when Greg Pence’s name was first floated as a possibility.

 Greg Pence lives in Columbus, Indiana. That’s the same town the family grew up in after the Pence’s father, Edward, relocated from Chicago and later built a gas station empire.

 

Greg Pence eventually took over the company, Kiel Brothers Oil Co., from his father. But the business, which operated a chain of convenience stores under the name Tobacco Road, went bankrupt under Greg Pence’s watch in 2004.

 

That wiped out more than $673,000 of Mike Pence’s net worth, according to Pence’s 2006 tax filings, which he has publicly released.

 

 

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A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks More Support

Every month, Fatma Ahmed sends $200 of the earnings she makes in London to her family in Somalia.

“It’s for daily life. For rent, for buying grocery things, to live over there. Because actually in Somalia, that much we do not have,” she said.

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. However, analysts warn that the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks, putting the welfare of millions of people at risk.

The two million Somalis living overseas send an estimated $1.3 billion back home every year. With no formal banking system in Somalia, most of the diaspora use remittance services.

Technology makes that possible, says Abdirashid Duale, CEO of Dahabshiil, one of Africa’s biggest remittance services.

“Now, it is so instant, where we have the latest technology, with the internet, secure channels that we can use to send money back home,” Duale said. “Or we use mobiles … smartphones, technology where it will help us to deliver money quickly, but less costly. Technology is supporting us also with the compliance issue.”

Remittance companies rely on global banks to route the money, and those banks must comply with regulations on money laundering and the financing of crime and terrorism.

Citing those concerns, many banks have chosen to withdraw from the market. Such a move is unnecessary, says remittance industry expert Laura Hammond of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Very often, it is not based on any kind of empirical evidence that shows that money is going into the wrong hands,” Hammond said. “The fear is just there is a conflict in Somalia, there’s the al-Shabab movement. And so there is a problem in a sense, a real precarious nature of the Somali remittance industry.”

The industry received a high-profile boost last month as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $1 million using the remittance firm Dahabshiil, along with mobile phone companies Somtel and eDahab, with the money transferred “live” to 1,000 families suffering the drought in Somalia.

The technology is moving fast. However, the cooperation of the global banking system remains key, and the remittance industry wants regulators to do more to support this lifeline. 

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A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks Support

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. But analysts warn the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks — and its precarious nature puts the welfare of millions of people at risk. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Teens Overwhelmingly Prefer Snapchat to Facebook, Study Finds

Teenagers are turning away from traditional social media like Facebook and increasingly turning to Snapchat to communicate with their friends, according to a new study released Wednesday.

According to Piper Jaffray’s semi-annual “Taking Stock with Teens” research survey, 47 percent of teenagers said Snapchat is their favorite social media platform, compared with just nine percent who said Facebook was their favorite.

The results show a sharp spike in the number of teens who said Snapchat is their favorite platform, up from 24 percent when the survey was given in the spring of last year.

In addition to Snapchat and Facebook, 24 percent of teens said they preferred Instagram – virtually unchanged from 2016 – and seven percent said they prefer Twitter, down from 15 percent last year.

For the report, Piper Jaffray interviewed 6,100 teens in 44 states, with an average age of 16.

While Snapchat is the most popular social medium used by teens, it is also the most harmful for them, according to a study released earlier this year by the British Royal Society for Public Health.

The study, which ranked the psychological impact of various social media on teenagers, showed Snapchat, along with Instagram, to cause the largest number of “health and well-being” issues among those surveyed.

Those issues include anxiety, depression, quality of sleep, body image, loneliness and real-world friendships and connections.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the RSPH, said Snapchat and Instagram likely cause the most mental health issues among teens because “both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

To combat the negative influence of social media, the researchers recommend adding pop ups that warn users of heavy usage, which was supported by 71 percent of the people surveyed.

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Twitter Vows New Crackdown on Hateful, Abusive Tweets

Twitter vowed to crack down further on hate speech and sexual harassment, days after CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet-storm that the company was “still” not doing enough to protect its users.

The policy changes were specifically aimed at protecting women who unknowingly or unwillingly had nude pictures of themselves distributed online or were subject to unwanted sexual advances. They would also aim to shield groups subject to hateful imagery, symbols and threats of violence.

In an email Twitter shared with The Associated Press Tuesday, Twitter’s head of safety policy outlined the new guidelines to the company’s Trust and Safety Council, a group of outside organizations that advises the company on its policies against abuse.

The company said it would enact the changes in the weeks ahead. News of the policy changes was first reported by Wired.

Among the changes, Twitter said it would immediately and permanently suspend any account it identifies as being the original poster of “non-consensual nudity,” including so-called “creep shots” of a sexual nature taken surreptitiously. Previously, the company treated the original poster of the content the same as those who re-tweeted it, and it resulted only in a temporary suspension.

It said it would also develop a system allowing bystanders to report unwanted exchanges of sexually charged content, whereas in the past it relied on one of the parties involved in the conversation to come forward before taking action.

Twitter also said it would take new action on hate symbols and imagery and “take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause,” though it said more details were to come.

While it already takes action against direct threats of violence, the company said it would also act against tweets that glorify or condone violence.

On Friday, Dorsey foreshadowed the coming policy changes in a series of tweets, saying the company’s efforts over the last two years were inadequate.

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Significant Differences Remain After 4th Round of NAFTA talks End in Washington

Trade ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico wrapped up a contentious fourth round of talks this week, aimed at modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the Trump administration’s proposals to reshape NAFTA have some trade analysts wondering if the 23-year-old trade pact can survive. Mil Arcega has more.

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Telegram CEO’s Court Appeal Tests Russia Eavesdropping Laws, Technical Acumen

Telegram founder Pavel Durov has announced plans to appeal a Moscow court’s decision Monday to fine the encrypted messaging service some $14,000 (800 thousand rubles) for failing to provide law enforcement agencies with user information and access to private correspondences.

Providing security services with encryption keys to read users’ messaging data violates Russia’s constitution, he said in a post on Vkontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook, which he co-founded in 2007.

“Everyone has the right to privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, telegraphic and other communications,” Durov said, quoting constitutional excerpts.

Russian special services need decryption keys to “expand their influence at the expense of the constitutional right of citizens,” he said, building on similar comments Durov made in September, when he announced that FSB officials had requested backdoor access to Telegram.

Russian security officials have said encryption codes are vital to protecting citizens against terror attacks such as those earlier this year in St. Petersburg, in which perpetrators, Kremlin officials says, communicated via Telegram.

According to Pavel Chikov, a prominent Russian human rights lawyer, the FSB state security organization (formerly KGB) is trying to gain technical access by announcing ultimatums and making threats. While fines levied aren’t too burdensome for a company of Telegram’s size, they do indicate an FSB willingness to block Telegram from continuing to operate in the country.

Third-party hackers

The situation, Chikov said, is similar to legal proceedings that resulted from FBI requests for encryption access to Apple iPhones — a request that ultimately was dropped, leaving federal investigators to rely on third-party hackers.

Secrecy, anonymity and “the ability to communicate in such a way that representatives of the state do not hear these conversations,” should also be respected in Russia, Chikov told VOA Russian.

“Generally speaking, if we are talking on [a conventional] telephone, the conversation is protected by constitutional guarantees,” Chikov said. However, Russian police and various state security agencies can obtain court-ordered warrants to tap the phone of specific individuals suspected of a plotting criminal activities — and they have the technical acumen required to do it.

Although privacy laws are generally the same for peer-to-peer text-messaging devices, Russian security agencies lack the technical sophistication to hack Telegram’s encrypted conversations.

Durov ‘most likely right’

Professor Ilya Shablinsky, a constitutional law expert with Moscow’s National Research University, says Durov is “most likely right” that FSB demands represent a constitutional violation, as allowing FSB access to Telegram would allow for users’ correspondence to be read.

“When that constitutional norm was drafted, correspondence was typically drafted on paper,” he said.

“And the Russian Constitution’s authors never envisaged a technological variant [such as Telegram]. In this case, we do not know exactly what kind of information the FSB requested, and what it means for Telegram to provide that information.”

According to Shablinsky, although a Russian court can demand access to correspondences of a specific individual who is suspected of committing a crime, it is not known whether the provision covers access to the decryption devices for an entire network of users.

The free instant-messaging app, which lets people exchange messages, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000 people, has attracted about 100 million users since its launch in 2013.

Telegram threatened

In June, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state communications watchdog, threatened to ban Telegram for failing to provide user registration documents, which were requested as part of a push to increase surveillance of internet activities.

Although Telegram later registered, it stopped short of agreeing to Roskomnadzor’s data storage demands. Companies on the register must provide the FSB with information on user interactions; starting from 2018, they also must store all of the data of Russian users inside the country, according to controversial anti-terror legislation passed last year, which was decried by internet companies and the opposition.

Telegram has 10 days to appeal Monday’s decision.

‘No planned block’

Asked about a potential block of the service, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday said, “As far as I know … there is no discussion of a block at this time.”

But observers like Chikov say the risk is quite high.

“It is not necessarily going to happen right after the decision on the penalty comes into effect, as I believe that the authorities will still take a pause and try to negotiate with the company’s management,” he said. “However, with its refusal to provide access to correspondence, Telegram entered into direct conflict with the interests of the special services. Consequently, the political weight of people who decide to block is significantly higher than that of the same Roskomnadzor.”

Telegram, one-tenth the size of Facebook-owned rival WhatsApp, has caught on in many corners of the globe, including for a while with Islamic State as an ultra-secure way to quickly upload and share videos, texts and voice messages.

Durov, who has been described as “the Russian Mark Zuckerberg,” spent years fending off intrusions into his users’ communications, forging an uncompromising stance on privacy after founding VKontakte, only to lose control of that social media company for refusing Russian government demands to block dissidents.

Since leaving Russia in 2014 to set up Telegram in self-exile, Durov and his core team of 15 developers have become perpetual migrants, living only a few months at a time in any one location, starting in Berlin, then London, Silicon Valley, Finland, Spain and elsewhere. The company is incorporated in multiple jurisdictions, including Britain.

This story originated in VOA’s Russian Service. Some information for this report provided by AFP.

 

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