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Texas A&M could be on thin ice in canceling white nationalist rally

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 9:38 PM

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

When a white nationalist spoke at Texas A&M University in December, school officials said they were duty-bound to tolerate free speech, even speech they considered repugnant.

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A&M changed its policy later to bar outside people from using on-campus conference rooms without sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group. No such requirement applies to outdoor events at several free-speech zones on the College Station campus, but the university cited safety concerns Monday in canceling a far-right rally that had been booked through its events staff for next month.

Preston Wiginton, who had organized the rally and lined up use of Rudder Plaza in the heart of campus without a university sponsor, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that half of him wants to sue A&M and the other half doesn’t want to bother because “A&M, the Texas Legislature and many white people have proven to me that whites accept their own demise.” Later in the day, he said he is pursuing a lawsuit and might walk down a public street through campus with activists and others who had planned to attend the “White Lives Matter” rally that was canceled.

Whether A&M’s cancellation of the event was a violation of Wiginton’s right to free speech would ultimately be up to the courts. But school officials who gathered in President Michael Young’s office on Monday, where the decision was made, were well aware that pulling the plug on the rally could expose the university to legal attack, according to two well-placed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

In April, a federal judge in Alabama barred Auburn University from blocking white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking, saying there was no evidence that he advocates violence. Auburn had canceled the event, citing safety concerns, after initially saying it could go forward as an exercise of free speech.

Spencer had been among speakers lined up for the now-canceled event at A&M. He was also the speaker at the December event in A&M’s Memorial Student Center, where he told an audience of more than 400 people that “America, at the end of the day, belongs to white men … This country does belong to white people — culturally, socially and politically.”

Rudder Plaza is one of several outdoor free-speech zones on campus.

“I don’t care if Black Lives Matter is there or if the American Communist Party is there. Why am I not allowed there?” Wiginton said.

A&M’s news release Monday — its only official statement on the matter — cited several reasons, including safety concerns in the wake of race-related violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and disruption of class schedules and pedestrian and bus movement.

“You can’t say that because the Charlottesville rally turned violent, another group’s rally will turn violent because it shares the same viewpoint,” said Samantha Harris, vice president of policy research for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based group that advocates for free speech and religious liberty at colleges and universities.

The argument that anticipated disruption is grounds for cancellation doesn’t hold legal water, said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has written extensively on free speech.

“The anticipation of what might happen is not necessarily what will happen. It’s easy to say we’re afraid of disruption to avoid saying we don’t want the message,” Stone said, adding that opponents of marches for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights have also employed such tactics.

“The question is to what extent could the university reasonably control the disruption,” he said. “It could limit the size of the event, limit the hours, put up barriers. Fundamentally, it’s the responsibility of the university to do whatever it can reasonably do to let the event take place. They do have a right to prevent events where there is a clear and present danger, which usually means waiting until the moment is upon you. You might have to use tear gas or whatever you have to do to disperse people. You can’t prove it up in advance.”

Stone said universities are permitted to require outside groups to be sponsored by student, faculty or staff organizations before securing permission for an event on campus. The University of Texas mandates such sponsorship, whether the events are indoors or outdoors, said spokesman J.B. Bird.

What You Need To Know: Richard B. Spencer

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911 operator sentenced to jail, probation for hanging up on emergency calls

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 7:23 AM

911 Operator Accused of Hanging Up on Calls Sentenced to Jail, Probation

She was supposed to be the connection between residents and emergency services, but instead of speaking to callers to the Harris County 911 center, she hung up on them. Creshanda Williams found out this week she will be spending time in jail and on probation for not dispatching help.

Williams was found guilty of interference with emergency telephone calls, KTRK reported.

The investigation of Williams’ calls started after Jim Moten said he dialed 911 after seeing two vehicles speeding. He thought his call was dropped after 45 seconds. The call wasn’t dropped, he was hung up on. Court documents said that Williams was the person who answered Moten’s call and hung up, saying “Ain’t nobody got time for this. For real.”

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Court documents said that Williams had an abnormally large number of what are called “short calls,” or calls that last less than 20 seconds. The documents stated that “thousands of short calls have been attributed to the defendant from October 2015 through March 2016,” KTRK reported.

Williams worked for the 911 call center for a year and a half, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The calls she received ranged from robberies to homicides in addition to speeding cars, KHOU reported. Williams allegedly told investigators that she hung up on calls because she didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Williams has been sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months probation, the Chronicle reported.

Her supervisor had been placed on a year of internal probation, officials said last year, the Chronicle reported.

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College students create app making it easier to track diabetes

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 8:11 AM



Boston25News.com
(Boston25News.com)

When it comes to diabetes, the numbers are staggering -- 30 million Americans are estimated to be living with the disease, 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States and about 25 percent of those patients don’t know they have the disease.

Those numbers caught the attention of some Harvard students who came up with an easy way for people to track their blood sugar levels.

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It’s an app called Checkmate Diabetes.

Harvard graduate student Michael Heisterkamp is part of the team developing the app and is also a diabetes patient. 

“You need to check 4-5 times a day, up to eight times a day, depending on what your doctor recommends, and that can be a bit of a grind," Heisterkamp said.

All those tests are essential for a person with diabetes because they need to make sure they’re in a safe range.

Dr. Jason Sloane, an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said ‘the biggest problem is, once complications hit, it’s very hard to reverse them.”

Harvard senior Emi Gonzales got the idea for the app when there was a guest speaker in a class.

“He had lost his leg and was about to lose his other leg," Gonzales said. "And I talked to some more people with diabetes and this just seemed like a situation that needed fixing.”

The app makes a game out of tracking blood sugar levels, creating competitions within a person’s network. 

“If you have a scoring system and someone is doing better than you, pushing you, you know you want to get to first right," Gonzales said.

Checkmate Diabetes also offers the ability to connect with other patients.

Soon, they’ll start adding prizes.

Sloan, who has consulted with the budding entrepreneurs, said gamification has been shown to work for health care.

He believes this approach can get people to pay attention to diabetes earlier. 

“It has the potential to change things dramatically,” Sloan said. “Convincing young people, from my experience, has been very difficult. Even from a personal perspective, one of the last things I wanted to pay attention to was my blood sugar.”

Dr. Sloan said earlier interventions can reduce serious complications like kidney failure, amputations, and heart disease later in life.

Checkmate Diabetes is free to download.

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Tortoise covered with paint, concrete discovered in Florida

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 8:30 AM

Good Samaritans Rescue Tortoise Covered in Paint, Concrete

A gopher tortoise covered with red spray paint and concrete was discovered near Montverde, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Wednesday in a Facebook post.

A pair of good Samaritans spotted the tortoise, which had concrete on its shell and limbs, in the middle of County Road 455 and took it to a wildlife rehabilitation center, officials said.

"It is both illegal and very harmful to the health of a gopher tortoise to apply man-made substances, such as paint or concrete, to any part of their body or shell," the post said.

Gopher tortoises are protected because they're considered a threatened species in Florida.

Read: Lake County man dug up gopher tortoises to eat them, deputies say

Read: 65-year-old woman has had pet tortoise 56 years

"Removing paint and concrete from gopher tortoises without harming it is a challenging process that causes the animal stress," the post said. "Applying substances like paint on tortoises can inhibit their ability to absorb vitamins from the sun’s UV rays through their shells, has the potential to cause respiratory problems and can lead to harmful chemicals being absorbed into their bloodstream."

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Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call FWC at 888-404-3922 or email the agency at tip@myfwc.com.

Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward.

Click here to read more information about gopher tortoises.

Read: California tortoise with cracked shell gets $4K repair

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Burglary suspect tries to disguise face with plastic water-bottle case wrapper

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 12:05 AM

VIDEO: Suspect Uses Plastic Water-Bottle Case Wrapper to Disguise Face

Police in Georgia have identified the suspect who burglarized a game store using an unusual disguise. 

The St. Marys Police Department said they have obtained an arrest warrant for 22-year-old Kerry Dean Hammond, Jr.

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According to police, surveillance video shows him running around the store with the plastic wrapper from a package of bottled water over his head. 

The break-in happened on April 13 around 1:30 a.m. 

The St. Marys Police Department shared the video to its Facebook page and said the “craftily disguised gent decided to burglarize GameStop.” 

The video has been viewed more than 17,000 times. 

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