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trial

Rapper Young Thug’s Trial Will Introduce Lyrics As A Form Of Evidence

A judge has stated that lyrics will be admissible as evidence in the trial of US rapper Young Thug, who’s currently being charged with racketeering and running what prosecutors call “a criminal street gang known as YSL (Young Slim Life or Young Stoner Life).

books

Texas County Considers Closing Its Libraries after Federal Judge Orders Banned Books Returned to Shelves

A federal judge ordered a rural Texas county to return 12 banned books back to library shelves, and now the county is considering closing its libraries altogether.

The list of banned books included “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.

Seven local residents sued county officials for removing the books, citing their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Federal Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the Llano County Library System had to reinstate the books into circulation at its three library branches.

A meeting agenda for the Commissioners Court of Llano County shows plans for a discussion to “continue or cease operations of the current physical Llano County library system pending further guidance from the Federal Courts.” The meeting is set for Thursday.

The agenda also lists discussions “regarding the continued employment and/or status of the Llano County Library System employees and the feasibility of the use of the library premises by the public.”

Leila Green Little, one of the residents suing the county, emailed supporters to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.

“We may not get another opportunity to save our library system and, more importantly, the public servants who work there.”

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According to the lawsuit, in 2021, county officials allegedly removed library board members and replaced them with new members who would review the content of all library books. Several books were removed from libraries, and access to an e-book service was revoked shortly after.

In his decision, Judge Pitman stated, “The First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination” and gave the library system 24 hours to return the books to their shelves.

In a statement to CNN, Ellen Leonida, the attorney representing the seven residents, underscored the extreme measure the county was considering.

“It appears that the defendants would rather shut down the Library System entirely — depriving thousands of Llano County residents of access to books, learning resources, and meeting space — than make the banned books available to residents who want to read them.”

There is a growing movement for the censorship of books in grade schools, universities and public libraries. According to CNN, books that tell the stories of Black and LGBTQ people or by authors in those communities were among the ten most challenged titles in 2021. The trend continued the following year.

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The American Library Association reported that, in the two decades since it began tracking book censorship, the number of attempts to ban books had reached an all-time high in 2022 at 1,269 total demands.

“The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 challenges reported in 2021. A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color. Of the reported book challenges, 58% targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula; 41% of book challenges targeted materials in public libraries.”

In a press release, Deborah Caldwelll-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, stated, “Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media.”

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color. Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore. The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.”

Man in Prison

American Journalist Danny Fenster Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison In Myanmar

A military court in Myanmar has sentenced Danny Fenster, a 37-year-old American journalist from Detroit, to 11 years in prison, according to a statement from his lawyer. Fester has been detained in Myanmar for more than 5 months now. 

Fester was denied bail and has been held in Insein Prison since his arrest on May 24th. Than Zaw Aung, Fester’s lawyer, claimed Fester was found guilty this week of three charges brought against him by the Myanmar military, which seized control of the country in a coup back in February. 

The charges against Fester include breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group, and incitement under section 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code; which makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that may “cause fear or spread false news.”

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About 100 journalists have been detained in the country since the coup, and about 30 remain behind bars. Fester’s lawyer also announced that he has now been hit with two new criminal charges under the nation’s sedition and terrorism laws, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. 

The new charges were made under Section 124a of Myanmer’s Penal Code, which mandates seven to 20 years in prison for attempting to bring hatred, contempt or disaffection toward the government or military.

The other charge is under “Section 50a of the Counter Terrorism Law, which makes it a crime to have contact with officially designated ‘terrorist’ groups. Under the terrorism charge, Fenster could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison if convicted,” according to his lawyer and Myanmar’s sentencing guidelines.

Fester was initially arrested at Yangon International Airport while trying to leave the country to visit his family in the US. It was unclear why the charges were brought against the former managing editor of Frontier Myanmer. 

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Frontier Myanmar said in a statement posted on Facebook it was “deeply disappointed at the sentencing. Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family,” said Thomas Keen, Frontier’s Editor-in-Chief.

Frontier Myanmar said the “charges were based on the allegation that Fenster was working for banned media outlet Myanmar Now in the aftermath of the military coup. But Fenster had resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020, and at the time of his arrest in May 2021 had been working with Frontier for more than nine months.”

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Kean.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the sentence was a “travesty of justice executed by a kangaroo court operating at the beck and call of the Myanmar military junta.”

“The rationale for this outrageous, rights abusing sentence is really twofold: To intimidate all remaining journalists inside Myanmar by punishing Fenster this way, while at the same time sending a message to the US that the Tatmadaw generals don’t appreciate being hit with economic sanctions and can bite back with hostage diplomacy,” Robertson said.

“Journalism is not a crime, and it shouldn’t be treated that way — meaning that Danny Fenster and the many Burmese journalists still behind bars should urgently be freed.”

Miami Florida

Florida Governor DeSantis Targets Social Media Platforms In Newly Signed Bill

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is targeting social media platforms ina newly signed bill that’s meant to monitor how social media platforms moderate online content. 

The legislation is one of the largest steps made by a Republican governor ever since allegations of online censorship were thrown at tech giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Tech industry leaders, however, claim that the legislation is unconstitutional and is setting everyone up for a massive court battle. 

On Monday, DeSantis claimed that a “council of censors in Silicon Valley are to blame for shutting down the debate over Covid-19 lockdowns and the origins of the coronavirus.”

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“I would say those lockdowns have ruined millions of people’s lives all around this country. Wouldn’t it have been good to have a full debate on that in our public square? But that was not what Silicon Valley wanted to do.”

The bill that he signed specifically “prohibits tech platforms from suspending or banning political candidates in the state, with possible fines of $250,000 per day if the de-platformed candidate is seeking statewide office and $25,000 per day if the candidate is running for a non-statewide office,” according to CNN.

The legislation would also give Florida residents the power to sue tech companies for de-platforming. Similar bills have been in the works in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Utah. 

US lawmakers have been proposing significant changed to the federal law in its relation to the legal leeway that tech platforms have when it comes to online censorship. The federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934, has been under fire by Democrats who argue that the platform’s benefit from a law that was created before the technology even existed. 

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Tech industry leaders have repeatedly denied blocking or removing content solely based on political ideology. Many tech platforms began flagging posts that discussed the Covid-19 pandemic, but were spreading harmful misinformation. 

After multiple Republicans and former president Donald Trump continued to spread falsehoods and misinformation about the 2020 election and the sanctity of our Democracy, many political leaders began getting deplatformed for the harmful information they were spewing. 

Florida’s legislation will “force tech platforms to step back from moderating their sites due to the threat of litigation by any internet user, from foreign extremists to disgruntled internet trolls,” said the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group.

“Florida taxpayers will also end up paying their share in the cost of enforcing new regulations, and for the inevitable legal challenges that will come along with the legislature’s effort to adopt a law with glaring constitutional challenges,” CCIA president Matt Schruers, wrote in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel.

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution — backstopped by Section 230 — makes it abundantly clear that states have no power to compel private companies to host speech, especially from politicians,” said Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, a co-author of Section 230, in a statement regarding the signing on the Florida bill.