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Mount Rushmore: Trump denounces ‘cancel culture’ at 4 July event

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US President Donald Trump has railed against the “cancel culture” of those who toppled monuments during recent anti-racism protests, in a speech to mark 4 July at Mount Rushmore.

He condemned those who targeted statues of Confederate leaders as “angry mobs”.

Mr Trump called the racial equality demonstrations “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children”.

“We will not be silenced,” he said.

The president, who has been heavily criticised for his handling of the US coronavirus pandemic, made little reference to the disease that has now claimed almost 130,000 American lives.

The US recorded its largest single-day rise in coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total to more than 2.5 million – the most of any country.

Masks and social distancing were not mandatory at the Mount Rushmore event, despite warnings by health officials.

The location, too, was controversial. Mount Rushmore features the carved faces of four US presidents, two of whom – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – were slave-owners. It also stands on land that was taken from the indigenous Lakota Sioux by the US government in the 1800s.

What else did Trump say?

Addressing Mount Rushmore itself, the president said the South Dakota landmark would “stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom”.

“This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced,” he told a cheering crowd.

The president added that people who target “symbols of national heritage” will face “the fullest extent of the law”. He said those who defaced statues could be sentenced to 10 years in jail, referring to a recent executive order he signed on protecting monuments.

A fireworks display set to music was then held at the pre-Independence Day event, watched by about 7,500 ticket-holders.

The fireworks were the first at the site in over a decade, after a ban was imposed over fears they could set off wildfires in the dry brush around the monument.

Welcoming people to the event, South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem echoed the president’s tone, accusing demonstrators of “trying to wipe away the lessons of history”.

“This is being done deliberately to discredit America’s founding principles,” she said.

Friday’s gathering was the latest to be held by President Trump during the coronavirus pandemic, as he attempts to fire up his supporters ahead of November’s presidential election.

What have Native Americans said about the event?

Native American groups have criticised Mr Trump’s visit for posing a health risk, and for celebrating US independence in an area that is sacred to them.

Many Native Americans do not celebrate Independence Day because they associate it with the colonisation of their tribal homelands and the loss of their cultural freedoms.

The Mount Rushmore landmark was carved between 1927 and 1941, but the land it lies on – in the Black Hills of South Dakota – was taken from the Lakota Sioux during the previous century.

“The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,” said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Ahead of the event, a group of mostly Native American protesters blocked a main road to the monument with white vans, leading to a tense stand-off with police.

They were eventually cleared from the road by police officers and National Guard soldiers, who used smoke bombs and pepper spray, local reports say.

The vans were towed away and several protesters were arrested after the police declared the road block an “unlawful assembly”, local newspaper the Argus Leader reported.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53284607

BBC

News outlets will digitally watermark content to limit misinformation

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BRAZIL - 2020/06/15: In this photo illustration the Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone and a red alerting word "FAKE NEWS" on the blurred background. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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In the run-up to the 2020 US election, a group of major media organizations will once again work together to try and clamp down on fake news. The Trusted News Initiative (TNI) is a coalition of blue-chip publishers and Microsoft which have pledged to work together to tackle disinformation. And, this year, the team will try using a new verification technology, dubbed Project Origin, to try and watermark legitimate content. That way, it’s hoped, scammers can’t mock up a headline and pass it off as real news as easily as they once did.

“Brand marks, styles and other traditional indicators of trust,” says the BBC in a statement, “they are no longer enough to ensure content legitimacy.” That’s why Project Origin will attach a “digital watermark” to stories from TNI partners that shows them that the news has come from an official source. The idea is both to help people find trusted news, but also to filter out faked content. Unfortunately, there’s no word on how this will work yet — the standards for Project Origin have yet to be published.

TNI Members include the BBC, NYT, CBC and the WSJ as well as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, with the AP and Washington Post joining this year. It’s likely that Google and Facebook will have to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility after being willing incubators of fake news for so long. Sadly, Project Origin isn’t going to be standard from now on, and instead will run in the month just before the 2020 election. That means that malign actors have got from now until early October to get their material in front of people. 

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/bbc-fake-news-111000601.html

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Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania Trump’s former aide to publish book

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A former aide to Melania Trump has written a memoir about her 15-year friendship with the US first lady.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book, Melania and Me, is due out on 1 September.

In 2018, Ms Winston Wolkoff was reportedly forced out of the White House, amid allegations that she had been profiteering from President Trump’s inauguration.

But the former aide has said she was “thrown under the bus”.

She denied claims her company received $26 million (£20 million) in payments to help plan the 2017 ceremony and surrounding events, saying her firm “retained a total of $1.62 million”.

“In her memoir, Wolkoff chronicles her journey from their friendship that started in New York to her role as the First Lady’s trusted advisor to her abrupt and very public departure, to life after Washington,” according to a description of the book published by Vanity Fair.

The book, which will be on sale ahead of the November presidential election – when Mr Trump will take on Democrat nominee Joe Biden, is the latest controversial memoir involving the Trumps.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book, The Room Where It Happened, portrays a president ignorant of basic geopolitical facts and whose decisions were frequently driven by a desire for re-election.

He accuses Mr Trump of wanting help from China to win re-election, while offering approval for China’s plan to build forced-labour camps for its Muslim Uighur minority. He also backs up Democrat allegations that sparked impeachment efforts against the president.

Meanwhile, the president’s niece, Mary Trump, is due to publish Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man later this month.

An Amazon blurb for the book says the author will set out how her uncle “became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security and social fabric”.

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Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53315986

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US to withdraw visas for foreign students if classes moved fully online

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Foreign students will not be allowed to stay in the US this autumn if their universities have moved classes fully online, unless they switch to a course with in-person tuition.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said people could face deportation if they do not comply with the rules.

Many universities are moving classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is not clear how many students will be affected.

Large numbers of foreign students travel to the US to study every year and are a significant source of revenue for universities as many pay full tuition.

Harvard has announced all course instruction will be delivered online when students return for the new academic year, including those living at the university.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is run by ICE, had permitted foreign students to continue with their spring and summer 2020 courses online while remaining in the country.

But Monday’s announcement said foreign students who remain in the US while enrolled in online courses and fail to switch to in-person courses could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings”.

The rule applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in the fiscal year 2019, according to the agency’s data.

According to the US Commerce Department, international students contributed $45 billion (£36 billion) to the country’s economy in 2018.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53315651

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