My Top 10 Stories of 2016

It’s been a busy news year, to say the least, and I’ve reported on everything from primaries in New Hampshire to marijuana in Georgia to terrorism in cyberspace. Here are my top 10 stories of 2016, in no particular order:

Donald Trump’s Position on Gun Control

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has built his campaign on equal parts bombast and populism — calling undocumented Mexican immigrants “rapists” one minute and pushing tax hikes on top earners the next. So it may not be surprising to learn that Trump walks the same line when it comes to gun rights.

“I do carry [a concealed gun], on occasion. Sometimes a lot. But I like to be unpredictable, so people don’t know exactly when I’m carrying,” Trump quipped at a Republican debate in October. He went on to criticize so-called “gun-free zones” — like schools and some private businesses — where it’s illegal to carry a weapon.

Read the rest of this article, at Teen Vogue …

Why the Dramatic Sit-In Over Gun Control Laws Just Ended

The dramatic showdown between House Democrats and Republicans over a gun control vote has come to an end, 25 hours after it started. Led by John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, lawmakers staged an unconventional sit-in protest over the government’s inaction over gun violence in the country. Following the Orlando shooting, which killed 49 and injured another 53, politicians from both parties sought to enact stricter gun laws, but failed miserably due to political divides.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

Google, Privacy Groups Urge Congress Not to Expand Federal Hacking Power

Technology companies and privacy groups are asking lawmakers to reject a proposed rule change to federal criminal procedure that would make it possible for judges to issue warrants to search computers located outside their jurisdiction.

A coalition including Google, PayPal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a range of tech advocacy groups sent a letter to leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives asking them to stop changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In April the US Supreme Court approved changes to Rule 41 authorizing judges to allow “remote access” to criminal suspects computers. Opponents have cited the change as the “largest expansion” of search and seizure power in the nation’s history.

See the rest of this article at The Christian Science Monitor …

Read This if You Keep Hearing About a “Brexit” But Aren’t Sure What It Is

On Thursday, people across Britain will go to the polls to decide whether their country should stay in the European Union or break away.

Like a celebrity couple making a media splash, there’s already a cute name for Britain leaving the EU — “Brexit,” short for “British exit.” It was the focus of a recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and J.K. Rowling has even weighed in with her opinion on her blog. It’s even even started dueling Twitter hashtags with #CatsForBrexit and #CatsAgainstBrexit.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

The FBI Needs Better Hackers to Solve Encryption Standoff, Research Says

In the high-profile standoff over cracking the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, Apple and other major American tech companies made it clear that they wouldn’t build special access for the US government – or anyone else – into their products.

But one leading cybersecurity expert says there’s another way for law enforcement to get the content they need for their criminal and terrorist investigations, without compromising the security of the millions of other consumers who also use those products.

Read the rest of this article at The Christian Science Monitor …

Ten Politicians Who Are Praying for the Orlando Victims and Have Taken Money from the NRA

Yesterday, the nation awoke to the terrible news that 50 people were dead and 53 wounded at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Authorities have identified the gunman as 29-year-old Omar Mateen. The investigation is still ongoing, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation now says it previously investigated Mateen for ties to terrorism, and before he was killed by SWAT teams, he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to the New York Times.

It’s not yet clear whether Mateen was motivated by ISIS’s twisted ideology, by a toxic form of masculinity that could not bear the existence of gay men, or by a combination of the two. It is clear that he was able to legally purchase firearms, as the Times reports, and walk into a crowded nightclub with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

That’s re-ignited the national debate about gun reform. As the usual “our thoughts and prayers are with the families” tweets poured out from public figures on Sunday, many criticized the sentiments coming from politicians who’ve steadfastly opposed any new gun laws.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

The Creepy and Disgusting Way Neo-Nazi Groups Are Targeting Jewish People on Social Media

When New York Times deputy editor Jonathan Weisman tweeted a Washington Post article comparing the rise of Donald Trump to the rise of fascism, he probably expected some negative reactions.

What he might not have expected was a torrent of anti-Semitic bile — everything from Holocaust references to hateful Jewish stereotypes — set off by a mysterious tweet from one apparent Trump supporter:

Hello ((Weisman)).

What Weisman didn’t know at the time, but soon learned, is that surrounding a Jewish-sounding name with two or three parentheses has become a secret symbol among neo-Nazis online — a flag telling other racists to dog-pile the person in question.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

What the US Government Really Thinks About Encryption

The national debate over the growing use of encryption on consumer devices is often framed in stark terms: Silicon Valley versus Washington in a bicoastal battle over privacy.

It’s easy to see why. FBI Director James Comey grabs headlines every time he says that law enforcement efforts are hindered by strong security features commonly used in popular apps and smartphones. His concerns took center stage in the Justice Department’s recent legal campaign to force Apple to help unlock an iPhone used by the gunman in the Islamic State-inspired San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack.

But inside the Obama administration, behind closed doors, the discussion is much more nuanced. A vigorous debate over the merits of widespread encryption is playing out, with many key government figures quietly advocating against any government policy decision or legislation that would force tech companies to weaken privacy-enhancing products to allow greater government access to communications.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

At Least 4.2 Million Americans Are Getting a Raise Today

Today, the Labor Department finalized rules that it says will extend overtime pay to 4.2 million workers across the country.

Under current rules, executive, administrative, and professional workers who make over $23,600 a year are not eligible for overtime pay. The new rule will raise that level to $47,476 a year. This means that millions of workers will automatically be eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week.

The new salary threshold will automatically increase every three years. It could go up to $51,000 a year in 2020, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House.

Finally, the new rules raise the threshold for who’s considered a “highly compensated employee,” and is exempt from overtime pay without meeting some of the other requirements for exemption. That threshold will rise from $100,000 to $134,004.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

Federal, State Lawmakers Move to Curb Police Use of Cellphone Trackers

For years, police departments have had access to powerful technology that can mimic cellphone towers and allow officers to track suspects’ calls and text messages, often scooping up massive amounts of mobile data in the process.

Now, federal and state lawmakers are moving to put tighter restrictions on when and how police can use these powerful tools commonly referred to as Stingrays, which digital rights groups and privacy advocates have long complained can lead to indiscriminate surveillance.

Read the rest of this article at The Christian Science Monitor …

President Obama Just Admitted That Beyonce Actually Runs the World

We all know girls run the world. But when President Obama addressed the graduating class of Howard University on Saturday, he had two particular women in mind.

“When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T,” Obama told the graduates. “Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground. Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and Beyoncé runs the world.”

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

Can White House, Tech Startups Overcome Gun Lobby Resistance to ‘Smart Guns’?

As an engineer who has worked to ensure the safety of power plants and improve the performance of automotive airbags, Omer Kiyani has been drawn to jobs where he can help save lives.

So after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December 2012 sparked a nationwide debate over gun control and safety, Mr. Kiyani knew his engineering skills could make a difference.

A lifelong gun owner and member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Kiyani felt that additional gun control wasn’t the answer to curbing firearm violence but that technology could help saving lives.

While some are hailing smart guns and similar technology as part of the solution to gun violence, others complain the technology is a backdoor to further gun control. Furthermore, many critics and researchers have demonstrated defects in smart gun technology that raise concerns over reliability and security.

The Obama administration added fuel to the smart gun debate last week. A joint report released by the Justice Department, Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security details the administration’s efforts to jumpstart smart gun research and to create a market for the weapons among law enforcement.

Read the rest of this article at The Christian Science Monitor …

Some Republicans Are Really Sad That Donald Trump Is Their “Presumptive” Nominee

Donald Trump won a decisive victory in Indiana’s Republican presidential primary last night, forcing Ted Cruz out of the race and all but clinching the Republican presidential nomination.

“From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” Cruz, the first-term senator from Texas, told supporters last night in his concession speech. “I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed.” While the Republican campaign has taken a vicious turn in recent weeks, Trump extended an olive branch to Cruz in his victory speech Tuesday night, saying, “He is a tough, smart guy. And he has got an amazing future… I know how tough it is.”

With Cruz out of the race, Trump now has an almost certain path to the Republican nomination. While Ohio Governor John Kasich remains in the race, his campaign is now largely symbolic. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus all but called for Kasich to drop out shortly after Cruz’s announcement.

Many conservatives chafed at the idea. Some tweeted pictures to Priebus of their burning voter registration cards. Others tweeted him photos of themselves logging online to change their party affiliation.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

How You Could Be Eligible for a Major Pay Raise This Summer

Millions of Americans could soon get a raise, courtesy of the Obama Administration.

Last June, President Barack Obama announced a change to Department of Labor regulations that will extend overtime pay to most U.S. workers who earn a salary of $50,440 or less.

“In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” Obama wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed that announced the rule change. “That’s at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America.”

The change could go into effect as early as this summer, according to the trade publication AccountingWeb.

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

(Joshua Eaton)

Tibetan American Voices (Photo Essay)

was a Sunday, but many of the classrooms in Medford High School were full. The Tibetan Association of Boston (TAB) was holding its weekly language and culture school. As young children perfected their Tibetan language, their parents practiced a traditional circle dance in a cafeteria.

Jampa Choephell was at the circle’s center, keeping time on a drum hung from a silk scarf, called a “kata,” around his neck.

Read the rest of this article at the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism …

(Joshua Eaton)

The Disaffection of Tibetan Elections

Lhadolma Sherpa wasn’t bothered by the rain on Boston Common as she led fellow Tibetans in chants of “China lies, Tibetans die” and “China lies, the UN listens.”

It was March 10 — Tibetan Uprising Day, the anniversary of a 1959 revolt against Chinese rule. Around 200 Tibetans and their supporters were marching in laps around the Common, holding signs and chanting slogans to raise awareness about the dire situation in Tibet.

“I’m just trying to voice my support for all the 6 million [Tibetans inside Tibet] who can’t speak up for their basic human rights,” Sherpa said. “Even holding a Tibetan flag, you can land in prison for that.”

Read the rest of this article at the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism …