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Student arrested for wearing gorilla mask, flaunting noose at Black Lives Matter protest

An East Tennessee State University student has been charged with civil rights intimidation after heckling Black Lives Matter demonstrators at a peaceful silent protest on the school's campus.

>> Read more trending stories 

Tristan Rettke, an ETSU freshman, arrived at the protest at Borchuck Plaza at the school's campus barefoot in a gorilla mask and denim overalls.

Video footage showed him attempting to hand out "noose-wrapped bananas" from a burlap sack to the demonstrators. The sack had a marijuana leaf and a Confederate flag printed on it.

"He pulled out his burlap sack and then he had the rope and whatnot and then he started offering us bananas," said Jaylen Grimes, one of the demonstrators. "A lot of us didn't take it, but I just took (it) as a sign of peace offering and just to show him that just because he's being disrespectful towards me, I won't be disrespectful towards him."

As part of his counterprotest efforts, Rettke held up a sign that said "Lives Matter."

A video posted by The Shade Room (@theshaderoom) on Sep 28, 2016 at 7:54pm PDT

"He's just trying to get a reaction out of us that we're not going to give him. We're bigger than that," said one protestor who held a sign that read "Black Lives Matter (doesn't mean) all lives don't (matter).

Rettke, 18, was escorted from the protest by public safety officers and was later criminally charged by the Johson City Police Department. 

Rettke told police he went to the event "in (an) attempt to provoke the protesters."

ETSU President Brian Noland held a press conference Wednesday after seeing video of the incident. He discussed the event during a "community dialogue" on campus.

"I was offended, but I was also saddened," Noland said, calling Rettke's actions "incomprehensible, intolerable and impermissible."

Rettke has been placed on interim suspension from the college. 

In a statement, ETSU said Rettke's actions "go against the values" of the school and that the university is a place "where people come first and all are treated with dignity and respect." 

The university applauded the protestors for remaining clam despite Rettke's actions. 

"We are exceptionally proud of the students who were peacefully participating in the event and the manner in which they exercised restraint, thoughtfulness and strength in the face of inappropriate and offensive behavior," Noland said.

"Of course, it's hard to stay calm because they're doing it because they know they can get under your skin," Grimes told The Johnson City Press. "You've just got to have thicker skin and be the bigger person and just show that ignorance is not going to override your ability to be calm. Because being calm is a lot more difficult than reacting the way they want us to react, which is in a violent stereotypical black way. But we're not all like that."

"We hold no ill towards him," another student, Grant Madison said. "I added him on Facebook and want to speak with him about why he did it."

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.7";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>Earlier today during a student-led Black Lives Matter event at Borchuck Plaza, our campus community was outraged by the...Posted by East Tennessee State University on Wednesday, September 28, 2016

 

Read more at the East Tennessean

During a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Borchuck Plaza, a man in a gorilla mask confronted protestors and dangled...Posted by East Tennessean on Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Australia's economy has grown for 25 years straight

People under 25 in Australia have never experienced a recession. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The country just released data showing its economy hasn't experienced two straight quarters of negative growth since 1991. 

Twenty-five years without a recession is signicant. Within that time frame, Europe's been battling its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

The U.S. had two to three economic downturns during that same time period, including the Great Recession. 

Australia has China to thank. The Asian country has, until recently, drawn very heavily on Australia's natural resources.

Australia's mining industry may be hurting now, but booms in the housing construction industry have picked up the slack to help the economy grow. 

Government investment –– like defense spending –– has also been a reason for the country's recent economic success.  

Australia's economy has grown for 100 straight quarters. If it continues the streak for one more year, it'll take the record from the Netherlands.

Georgetown University to make reparations for past ties to slavery

Georgetown University is taking steps to atone for its historical ties to slavery. 

The plan includes giving the descendants of slaves the same admissions advantages that children of alumni receive. Two buildings on campus will also be renamed.

One will honor Anne Marie Becraft, an African-American woman who opened a school for black girls in the Georgetown area, and the other will commemorate one of the slaves sold to help pay off the university's debt.

>> Read more trending stories  

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to pay off some of the school's debt. The slaves were uprooted from Maryland and sent to Louisiana.

The university has addressed its history with slavery before, but recently, a committee appointed to determine how the university should address its history found that slavery was deeply rooted in Georgetown's founding. 

Profits from the sale of slaves and from plantations run by slaves were a planned source of funding for the school, and many of the campus' early buildings were built, at least in part, by slaves.

Georgetown's investigation started in August, and the student body began putting pressure on the university last year to open a dialogue about its history with slavery.

The steps announced this week stopped short of calls for scholarships for the descendants of slaves, but the university claims its efforts won't end with Thursday's announcement. 

Target pulls girls' T-shirt after parents complain of offensive message

Target Australia received backlash for a girls' T-shirt that it was selling when parents called the message on the shirt "offensive" and insulting.

>> Read more trending stories  

The powder-pink shirt chronicled the "Batgirl to-do list:" Dry-clean cape, wash Batmobile, fight crime, save the world."

Some parents criticized the message, saying that it perpetuated gender stereotypes by suggesting a female complete chores before getting out to do more meaningful work. 

"I'm insulted that you present a future where our daughters need to complete their 'home duties' before they can go out and save the world," a Melbourne mother, Ninac Ollins, wrote on Target Australia's Facebook page. "We know that working mothers still do more housework than their spouses,. We don't need you to perpetuate this inequity."

Target, can you explain why you are selling something as offensive as this in your stores currently? What message are...Posted by Ninac Ollins on Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Another user, Summer Edwards, said the T-shirt's message "is utterly offensive and must be removed."

Target, are you serious? In a world where so many are fighting so hard for equality for our daughters, you put this on your shelves? Speechless.Posted by Shelley Wedemeyer on Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Target, your Batgirl T-shirt is out of step with 21st century family values," Edwards wrote.

"In a world where so many are fighting so hard for equality for our daughters, you put this on your shelves?" customer Shelley Wedemeyer asked the retailer.

Dozens of other customers and parents said they didn't see an issue with the shirt.

A Target Australia representative responded on behalf of the company, saying: "Thanks for sharing your feedback with us. It absolutely wasn't our intention to cause any offense with this shirt, so we really appreciate you all getting in touch with us to let us know your thoughts. We've taken this feedback on board, and sincerely apologize for any disappointment caused."

The shirt was later pulled from stores.

"After reviewing and reading our customers' concerns on the Batgirl tee, we have decided to remove the shirt from our stores. It was never Target's intention to offend our customers with this item," a spokeswoman told The Guardian.

Target Australia has no connection to the U.S. version of Target, according to Mashable.

The "Today" show pointed out that other messages on children's clothing have roused similar sentiments, including an Old Navy shirt that called boys "Ghostbusters" while girls were "Ghostbusters in training."

Victor Cruz criticizes Kaepernick's decision to sit during anthem

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was asked at a press conference Saturday what he thinks about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the national anthem.

"I'm not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said about the choice. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

>> Read more trending stories  

But Cruz said that certain political issues are "bigger than" Kaepernick.

Here are Cruz's full remarks:

I think, personally, the flag is the flag. Regardless of how you feel about the things that are going on in America today and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things like that. You’ve got to respect the flag and stand up with your teammates. It’s bigger than just you, in my opinion. I think you go up there. You’re with your team, and you pledge your allegiance to the flag and the national anthem as a team, and then you go about your business, whatever your beliefs are. Colin is his own man. He decided to sit down and sit out and that’s his prerogative. But from a personal standpoint, I think you have to stand out there with your team and understand that this is a game and understand that what’s going on in the country.

Cancer patient sent to 'debtors' prison' for bounced checks

Lee Robertson is one of many people suffering the consequences of ailing health and legal woes.

The 44-year-old began chemotherapy in 2009 to combat pancreatic cancer.

He couldn't work, wrote checks to pay for goods and services, and before long, he was in debt for owing a few stores about $200, The Huffington Post reported.

Over the course of six years, Robertson was arrested seven times, and was ultimately sentenced to 90 days in jail for owing the Sherwood District Court in Arkansas $3,054.51.

>> Read more trending stories  

This week, Sherwood District Court Judge Milas "Butch" Hale is the subject of a lawsuit claiming the judge has been running a "modern-day debtors' prison." The class action federal civil rights lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Robertson is one of the plaintiffs.

"This is a broken court system that disregards due process rights at every turn. People are doomed for failure when they appear before the court, and most significantly trapped in this never-ending cycle of expanding debt," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "With the resurgence of debtors' prisons, we will continue to see people cycle in and out of jails and prisons across our country merely because of their inability to pay fines and fees tied to low-level, nonviolent offenses."

The suit lawsuit describes a "lucrative" system in Sherwood that "only barely resembles an actual court or independent judicial process," The Post reported.

The suit alleges that defendants, including Robertson and three other plaintiffs, unknowingly forfeit their right to an attorney by signing a "waiver of counsel" that is required to be let into the courtroom and that the court bars defendants' family and friends from witnessing the proceedings. 

The suit also claims that the Sherwood Police Department acts as an "extension" of the court's "collections scheme," arresting hundreds of people on "failure to pay" or "failure to appear" charges.

"A single bounced check written 10 years ago for $15 can be leveraged into a debt of thousands and thousands of dollars in fines and fees for inability to pay the original check and then inability to pay the payments that were set up," state ACLU executive director Rita Sklar told KATV-TV.

"Each overdrawn check, no matter how small, can bring in $400 in fines and fees, plus restitution for the amount of the check," The Post reported, adding that the city's budget benefits from paid fines and fees.

"We do not run a so called 'debtor's prison' in Sherwood," Halle told KATV. "If a defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty, of writing a hot check we set up a payment plan. It is only after the third or fourth time that they fail to comply with a court order that we incarcerate."

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Must read article on our new debtors' prison lawsuit in Sherwood, Arkansas by Ryan J. Reilly at The Huffington Post.Posted by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on Thursday, August 25, 2016

Restaurant ignores critics, sells 'Black Olives Matter' shirts and hats

An Albuquerque Italian restaurant has set the internet on fire with its line of "Black Olives Matters" shirts and hats, with critics castigating what they feel is a flippant play on the "Black Lives Matters" movement and fans urging the business not to back down.

It appears that the restaurant, Paisano's, is embracing the social media storm.

>> Read more trending stories  

The restaurant says its slogan originated to promote a dish on the menu and later inspired the branded T-shirts and hats. The hat is being sold for $25, the restaurant says on its Facebook page. Many Twitter commentators were swift to condemn the marketing ploy:

But the restaurant is receiving lots of support, too.

New customers Cedric and Marcea who came in specifically because of the T-shirt news story "controversy"       " Great...Posted by Paisano's on Thursday, August 11, 2016

Restaurant owner Rick Camuglia told BuzzFeed News his chef came up with the idea to place the phrase on the restaurant's sign first, and he approved it. Camuglia was surprised by the public's reaction.

 

"We thought it was a cute play on words that would draw somebody to try our black olives," he said. "It was literal. There was nothing positive or negative about (Black Lives Matter) that inspired us to put that on the sign."

>> Restaurant's 'Black Olives Matter' sign draws ire, boosts sales

In July, the restaurant posted a message of thanks to its supporters, as well as a link noting the controversy has boosted sales.

Thank you Albuquerque, New Mexico, and surrounding States!Since Wednesday, July 13th, we have been inundated with...Posted by Paisano's on Friday, July 15, 2016

Why is it always so cold in offices?

It's summer. It's hot. Some days it's muggy.

Summer is the season to show off hard-earned physical improvements like more toned calves and triceps that you may have worked for in the winter months. It's also a time to show off tanned complexions -- sometimes earned at pools and on beaches and sometimes purchased at tanning salons.

Plus, for many women, summer is a time when sleeveless shirts, dresses and skirts are appropriate attire to combat the heat. 

But why is wearing light clothing sometimes unbearable and uncomfortable? 

Because workplace offices are often freezing cold. 

Yes, air conditioning is a nice escape from the sweltering heat outside, but sometimes, too much cold air is undesirable.

>> Read more trending stories  

So why is it so cold? And why do so many women have to bring cardigans and light blankets to work while their male colleagues barely notice the temperature?

A piece published in The Washington Post in July 2015 points to "the gender divide -- thermostat edition," alleging air conditioning is a "big, sexist plot."

"All these women who actually dress for the season -- linens, sundresses, flowy silk shirts, short-sleeve tops -- (change) their wardrobes to fit the sweltering temperatures around them," Post reporter Petula Dvorak wrote. "And then there are the men, stalwart in their business armor, manipulating their environment for their own comfort, heaven forbid they make any adjustments in what they wear."

Dvorak poses a question: Will there ever be a day when men wear linen, seersucker or formal shorts to work, adjust the thermostat accordingly, and women can feel comfortable in their offices?

Read more at The Washington Post.

'I can no longer stay silent': Michael Jordan pledges $2M to foster community, police relations

Michael Jordan announced he will donate $2 million to two organizations that strive to improve community and police relations, according to ESPN's sports and culture website The Undefeated.

Jordan released a letter to the sports news site saying that he would donate $1 million to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

>> Read more trending stories  

Jordan wrote that he can "no longer stay silent" in light of recent racial tension and violence between citizens and law enforcement officers. 

He called for new policies to ensure that citizens of color are treated fairly and that police officers receive respect and support. 

Both groups were informed of the donations Sunday night.

"We're surprised and shocked, but obviously thrilled," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director of the Legal Defense Fund. "We've been working on these issues for some many years, and it's great to hear that Michael Jordan and his people are aware of our work and are willing to make a contribution."

"What an opportunity for Michael Jordan to do this and help raise the discussion between police and the members of the communities they serve," said Terrence Cunningham, the IACP president and chief of the Wellesley, Massachusetts, police department. "The IACP aims to provide a toolbox for departments and communities to come together to discuss implicit bias and police legitimacy, and this is an opportunity to help that along."

"I applaud Michael Jordan for these donations," NBA commissioner Adam Silver told The Undefeated Monday. "His championing of important social issues including fundamental civil and human rights carries enormous impact in communities everywhere."

Here is Jordan's full statement:

"As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well. "I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers -- who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported. "Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change. "To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference. "We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country -- a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities."

Read more at The Undefeated

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