Texas High School Valedictorian Ditches Approved Speech To Slam State’s Strict New Abortion Law
The controversial law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks after conception, before many women learn they are pregnant.
Viral Valedictorian Speech
This year’s valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, is receiving widespread praise on social media for defending abortion rights in a now-viral graduation address.
Paxton Smith had previously submitted a speech to school officials that talked about the effects of media on young minds. When it came time to give that speech, however, she scrapped it and instead chose to go after the state’s heartbeat bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed last month.
“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent,” she said n her remarks Sunday.
The bill Smith is referring to goes into effect this September and bans any abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can happen as early as six weeks after conception — when many women are unaware they’re even pregnant.
The controversial legislation makes no exceptions for rape or incest, only medical emergencies. It also allows anyone to sue an abortion provider for as much as $10,000, along with anyone else who helped someone get an abortion.
“I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does. We have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us,” Smith continued.
“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is, I hope that you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”
Reactions From High Profile Figures and School
Smith later told the AP that she expected her microphone to be cut off after ditching her original speech, but it wasn’t.
She also feared her diploma would be withheld, and it wasn’t either, though officials considered it.
Still, the Richardson Independent School District was less than enthusiastic about what she did and issued a statement saying it would review student speech protocols in advance of next year’s ceremonies.
“The content of each student speaker’s message is the private, voluntary expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District or its employees,” it added.
The reaction across social media was far more supportive, with Smith earning applause from celebrities like Sarah Silverman and Olivia Wilde.
“Paxton, thank you for having the courage of your convictions and inspiring Texas with your refusal to accept injustice as the price of participation in civic life. May we all use our place in this democracy to fight for what we believe to be right and follow your example!,” wrote Beto O’Rourke, a former U.S. Representative from Texas.
“This took guts,” Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tweeted.
See what others are saying: (AP News) (CBS News) (Refinery29)
U.S. Air Force Signs Contract to Put Facial Recognition on Drones
The contract has raised concerns regarding privacy, accuracy, and the overall ethics of facial recognition technology.
The United States Air Force signed a contract with RealNetworks to use its facial recognition technology, SAFR, on smaller drones.
According to VICE, the contract limits the addition of this facial recognition technology to small, typically unarmed drones rather than the larger ones equipped with weapons.
Special operations teams will use the drones for reconnaissance during ops in foreign countries. Additionally, RealNetworks includes rescue missions, perimeter protection, and domestic search operations in the list of possible utilizations.
However, VICE reports that the contract did include discussion of a future in which this tech could be applied to target identification. As of now, the larger, armed drones identify targets using cameras and cell phone tracking, but those have been known to be inaccurate. Facial recognition could be used to lower the frequency of those mistakes made by drone operators.
Some have expressed ethical concerns regarding this development, including the worry that this could allow for unsavory and lethal action without any measure of accountability.
“There are innumerable ethical implications, from the way such devices might redistribute power or threaten groups within a society, to the ways in which they threaten established international humanitarian law in conflict zones,” Nicholas Davis, an industry professor at the University of Sydney, said in an interview with Newsweek.
“Remote killing in many ways is easy killing: a kind of virtual, video-game killing. This in itself is morally problematic,” Lily Hamourtziadou, a senior lecturer in criminology and security studies in the U.K. added. “Moreover, when a killing is attributed to a machine, there is lack of accountability and justice, and violence is used with impunity.”
RealNetworks claims that their software is more than 99% accurate and can recognize a face from a kilometer away despite reports that facial recognition software in general is famously faulty.
See what others are saying: (VICE) (Firstpost) (Gizmodo)
Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools
Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.
Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.
The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.
One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.
Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.
In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.
OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications.
In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported.
NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.
“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others,“ it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.”
Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools.
In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.
See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)
31 Children Found Working Graveyard Shift in U.S. Meatpacking Plants
Evidence suggests the company may have minors employed at 400 other locations.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently found that a leading contractor for sanitation allegedly employed 31 minors from ages 13 to 17 for overnight cleaning of slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities.
Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. is under investigation for employing over 30 minors in three locations in the Midwest. The DOL claims the children were cleaning dangerous equipment with hazardous chemicals up to 6 or 7 days a week. Several of these children reported injuries, including chemical burns.
The DOL filed a complaint with the Federal District Court of Nebraska for a nationwide injunction on Packers. According to their complaint, evidence suggests that Packers may have kids working at 400 other locations across the country.
The court partially fulfilled the DOL’s request and ordered Packers to “immediately cease and refrain from employing oppressive child labor.”
The order also demanded Packers comply with the DOL’s investigation because the complaint included claims that Packers’ managers had been tampering with evidence – including obstructing interviews and attempting to hide or delete important documents, text messages, and incident reports.
According to the complaint, the purpose for the nationwide injunction request is the safety of the kids while the DOL investigates.
“While Wage and Hour is continuing to pour over records to identify such children, it is slow, painstaking work. Yet, the children working overnight on the kill floor of these slaughterhouses cannot wait,” it reads.
Packers denied the accusations. In a statement to NBC News, it said that it has “an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy — period.”
Packers also said it was surprised by the complaint because it claims to be cooperating with the investigation by providing important documents and responses.
A hearing has been set for Nov. 26 to decide whether the order will be dissolved, extended, or modified.