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In East Texas, Death Of George Floyd Brings Activism To A Region Of Rare Protest

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Local residents take part in a candle light vigil to honor George Floyd in Houston, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Houston. Eric Gay/AP hide caption

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Local residents take part in a candle light vigil to honor George Floyd in Houston, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Houston.

Eric Gay/AP

The civil rights movement largely passed East Texas by in the 1950s and ’60s. Today, more than a half century later, there remains little tradition of protest in the region — part of plantation country during slavery — and scant experience with organizing.

Houston is the gateway to East Texas, and with the funeral service for George Floyd this past Tuesday, the city, for a few short hours at least, became the focus of a national movement against police violence and systemic racism.

Now, organizers across the vast region are intent on making sure their voices continue to be heard. Whatever Black Lives Matter and other organizers build here, will be new construction.

Signs of this new energy have been steadily growing in East Texas since video emerged showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, leading to his death at the age of 46.

On the Saturday before Floyd’s burial, protesters were rallying in Bergfeld Park in the city of Tyler, Texas, roughly 200 miles north of Houston. Burgers were cooking on a large grill with rotating cooks, while a bouncy house was bouncing away with children inside mimicking their parents, chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

In the middle of the park sits a large amphitheater. Onstage was the rally organizer, who goes by the name Blue. Concerned for her safety, she did not want to give her full name. She wore a hospital mask, a bullet proof vest that came to her knees. She held a microphone in one hand and a megaphone in the other.

“I’m very excited to be here today, I’m also a little worried,” she says. “But that’s what this fight is about, fighting through the pain, fighting through the fear. Because I’m done being scared, I’m doing seeing my brothers and sisters being scared.”

Rumors of threats against Blue’s life – specifically, that she’ll be shot on stage — had gotten back to her. She tried to explain to the crowd how she’s been affected.

“I have gone through hella emotions this week. I went from standing up proud, standing in the street, because I know what I believe in. Then I went from everybody get off the street, get on the sidewalk, we need to be safe. I’ve had family members tell me I’m fighting a fight I don’t understand. But we understand this,” she says. “I understand this.”

The crowd cheered, but it’s all been too much for Blue. Her emotions overwhelmed her and she left the stage unable to get another word out.

A history of discrimination

There’s a long history in East Texas of whites murdering black people who dare to raise their hand against discrimination. And while it’s true Jim Crow is now dead, racial discrimination is alive and well.

Among those in attendance at the park was Amori Mitchell, 31, a nurse with her master’s degree.

“We are out here basically because it is time for a change,” says Mitchell. “And George Floyd was the last breath felt around the world because enough is truly enough. We have been dealing with various deaths from police brutality to just being targeted just for being black.”

As she speaks, Mitchell’s voice is calm, but shakes with a quiet rage.

“I go to school. I get all this education. And my white coworker makes $10 more an hour than me. I have to do half of her things throughout the shift. You can’t start IV’s, can’t draw blood, but you’re able to get $10 more an hour and you’re able to be in charge of me.”

Karen Thomason marches against police violence at the Henderson County Courthouse Square in the East Texas city of Athens. Lee Hancock/NPR hide caption

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Lee Hancock/NPR

Karen Thomason marches against police violence at the Henderson County Courthouse Square in the East Texas city of Athens.

Lee Hancock/NPR

Walter Lundy fist-bumps a protester at the Henderson County courthouse in Athens, Texas. Lee Hancock/NPR hide caption

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Lee Hancock/NPR

Walter Lundy fist-bumps a protester at the Henderson County courthouse in Athens, Texas.

Lee Hancock/NPR

Multiply Mitchell’s story a thousand times, then again by 143 years to the end of Reconstruction and a culture of white supremacy is revealed.

Organizing protests, rallies and marches anywhere is an uphill climb, but in few places is it as hard as it is in East Texas.

In the summer of 1998, in Jasper, Texas, 49 year old James Byrd Jr. was walking home one night when three white men in a pickup, whom he knew, offered to give him a ride home. Instead, they drove Byrd to a clearing in the woods, beat him, then chained him to the truck hitch and dragged him three miles down a dark country road. When they were done, they picked up Byrd’s body and left it in front of a nearby African-American church.

The murder was an echo from East Texas history, when lynching black men was the domestic terrorism of its day.

And so the image from Minnesota of a white police officer with his knee upon George Floyd’s neck has stirred people to action here in an unprecedented way. From Tyler to Jasper, Athens to Sulphur Springs, thousands of blacks, whites and Hispanics are protesting.

A changing approach

At Twin City Church of Christ in Texarkana, cars were parked recently in rows facing the church like a drive-in movie. On the sidewalk, the choir was under one tent and the pulpit under another. Pastor David Watkins, 33, seamlessly blended the word of God and social justice.

Watkins says in Texarkana, black churches have so far, not gotten involved much with the protests.

“There’s a dichotomy in approach,” he explains. “The difference between the older generation and, you know, their perspective of how we should proceed and the younger generation and our perspective of how we should proceed. There is a staunch disconnect between the two, I think.”

Aylin Sozen is a protest organizer in the city of Texarkana. David Watkins, a pastor in the city, says there is a divide in how older and younger generations in the city approach activism. Wade Goodwyn/NPR hide caption

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Wade Goodwyn/NPR

Aylin Sozen is a protest organizer in the city of Texarkana. David Watkins, a pastor in the city, says there is a divide in how older and younger generations in the city approach activism.

Wade Goodwyn/NPR

Watkins says black pastors and other black leaders here have focused on leveraging their relationships with white politicians and trying to hold them accountable. Watkins also says, in the black church, COVID-19 is a major threat to older congregations, making them wary of protest crowds.

“One of the things that I think many older people feel like,” says Watkins, “is that this is a movement now for younger people to take a hold of. And we’ve already done our job. We’ve already been through this. And nothing has changed.”

Still black churches in Texarkana have money, while the protesters and their organizer are scraping by. It’s a point that’s not lost on Watkins, who says he’s decided to pull together a meeting with the major African-American pastors in Texarkana, and get protestors and their organizers some funding.

Source: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/13/876302978/in-east-texas-death-of-george-floyd-brings-activism-to-a-region-of-rare-protest?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=news

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Google Assistant’s driving mode for Android is nearly ready, one year later

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Google Assistant driving mode on Android
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Google promised an Assistant driving mode for phones would arrive in mid-2019, but that clearly didn’t happen — over a year passed without any sign of it. It appears to be ready, though. XDA-Developers has discovered (via Android Police) that Google Assistant’s driving mode is at least partially enabled for Android users. The interface has changed considerably from the I/O 2019 demo you see above, but the concept remains the same with large buttons and text that let you chat, message and play music while keeping your driving distractions to a minimum.

The rollout appears to be server-side, and might be part of a test. It’s not attached to any particular versions of Google’s Maps or search apps, and also works on a variety of devices. Your access might depend on your account.

We’ve asked Google for comment.

It’s rare for Google to have Android feature delays this long, and it’s not certain what prompted the extended wait. However, the redesign suggests that Google wasn’t completely satisfied with the Assistant driving mode it showed at I/O. Whatever the reasoning, this gives you one more way to handle common tasks during your trips.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/google-assistant-driving-mode-215249421.html

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Cloud leak exposed sensitive data from over 200,000 voicemails

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Some data leaks contain more sensitive info than most. Security researcher Bob Diachenko and Comparitech discovered (via Threatpost) that Broadvoice, a cloud VoIP provider for businesses, left over 350 million records exposed online in an unprotected cluster, including 2 million voicemail records with 200,000 transcripts. Many of those transcripts included sensitive data, and not just common elements like names and phone numbers — medical conditions, mortgages and insurance policies were all left open.

The largest general data collection, 275 million records, typically included full names, phone numbers, and cities.

The company told Comparitech that the data had been stored on September 28th and was locked down October 2nd, a day after Diachenko notified Broadvoice. There hasn’t been evidence of “misuse” so far, the company said. Marketing VP Rebecca Rosen told Threatpost that it believed “less than 10,000” businesses were impacted, although that doesn’t say how many of those companies’ customers were at risk.

The practical damage appears to have been limited as a result. Even so, this illustrates the dangers of insecure data. The wrong decision can expose vast amounts of info, and it can only take a subset of that data to create serious problems.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/broadvoice-voicemail-data-leak-211913573.html

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VCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead

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This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

It was an active week in the technology world broadly, with big news from Facebook and Twitter and Apple. But past the headline-grabbing noise, there was a steady drumbeat of bullish news for unicorns, or private companies worth $1 billion or more.

A bullish week for unicorns

The Exchange spent a good chunk of the week looking into different stories from unicorns, or companies that will soon fit the bill, and it’s surprising to see how much positive financial news there was on tap even past what we got to write about.

Databricks, for example, disclosed a grip of financial data to TechCrunch ahead of regular publication, including the fact that it grew its annual run rate (not ARR) to $350 million by the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in Q2 2019. It’s essentially IPO ready, but is not hurrying to the public markets.

Sticking to our theme, Calm wants more money for a huge new valuation, perhaps as high as $2.2 billion which is not a surprise. That’s more good unicorn news. As was the report that “India’s Razorpay [became a] unicorn after its new $100 million funding round” that came out this week.

Razorpay is only one of a number of Indian startups that have become unicorns during COVID-19. (And here’s another digest out this week concerning a half-dozen startups that became unicorns “amidst the pandemic.”)

There was enough good unicorn news lately that we’ve lost track of it all. Things like Seismic raising $92 million, pushing its valuation up to $1.6 billion from a few weeks ago. How did that get lost in the mix?

All this matters because while the IPO market has captured much attention in the last quarter or so, the unicorn world has not sat still. Indeed, it feels that unicorn VC activity is the highest we’ve seen since 2019.

And, as we’ll see in just a moment, the grist for the unicorn mill is getting refilled as we speak. So, expect more of the same until something material breaks our current investing and exit pattern.

Market Notes

What do unicorns eat? Cash. And many, many VCs raised cash in the last seven days.

A partial list follows. It could be that investors are looking to lock in new funds before the election and whatever chaos may ensue. So, in no particular order, here’s who is newly flush:

All that capital needs to go to work, which means lots more rounds for many, many startups. The Exchange also caught up with a somewhat new firm this week: Race Capital. Helmed by Alfred Chuang, formerly or BEA who is an angel investor now in charge of his own fund, the firm has $50 million to invest.

Sticking to private investments into startups for the moment, quite a lot happened this week that we need to know more about. Like API-powered Argyle raising $20 million from Bain Capital Ventures for what FinLedger calls “unlocking and democratizing access to employment records.” TechCrunch is currently tracking the progress of API-led startups.

On the fintech side of things, M1 Finance raised $45 million for its consumer fintech platform in a Series C, while another roboadvisor, Wealthsimple, raised $87 million, becoming a unicorn at the same time. And while we’re in the fintech bucket, Stripe dropped $200 million this week for Nigerian startup Paystack. We need to pay more attention to the African startup scene. On the smaller end of fintech, Alpaca raised $10 million more to help other companies become Robinhood.

A few other notes before we change tack. Kahoot raised $215 million due to a boom in remote education, another trend that is inescapable in 2020 as part of the larger edtech boom (our own Natasha Mascarenhas has more).

Turning from the private market to the public, we have to touch on SPACs for just a moment. The Exchange got on the phone this week with Toby Russell from Shift, which is now a public company, trading after it merged with a SPAC, namely Insurance Acquisition Corp. Early trading is only going so well, but the CEO outlined for us precisely why he pursued a SPAC, which was actually interesting:

  • Shift could have gone public via an IPO, Russell said, but prioritized a SPAC-led debut because his firm wanted to optimize for a capital raise to keep the company growing.
  • How so? The private investment in public equity (PIPE) that the SPAC option came with ensured that Shift would have hundreds of millions in cash.
  • Shift also wanted to minimize what the CEO described as market risk. A SPAC deal could happen regardless of what the broader markets were up to. And as the company made the choice to debut via a SPAC in April, some caution, we reckon, may have made some sense.

So now Shift is public and newly capitalized. Let’s see what happens to its shares as it gets into the groove of reporting quarterly. (Obviously, if it flounders, it’s a bad mark for SPACs, but, conversely, successful trading could lead to a bit more momentum to SPAC-mageddon.)

A few more things and we’re done. Unicorn exits had a good week. First, Datto’s IPO continues to move forward. It set an initial price this week, which could value it above $4 billion. Also this week, Roblox announced that it has filed to go public, albeit privately. It’s worth billions as well. And finally, DoubleVerify is looking to go public for as much as $5 billion early next year.

Not all liquidity comes via the public markets, as we saw this week’s Twilio purchase of Segment, a deal that The Exchange dug into to find out if it was well-priced or not.

Various and Sundry

We’re running long naturally, so here are just a few quick things to add to your weekend mental tea-and-coffee reading!

Next week we are digging more deeply into Q3 venture capital data, a foretaste of which you can find here, regarding female founders, a topic that we returned to Friday in more depth.

Alex

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/17/vcs-reload-ahead-of-the-election-as-unicorns-power-ahead/

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