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Racial profiling at airports? Here’s an app for that

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WASHINGTON — Travelers who suspect they are victims of profiling by security screeners at US airports can now lodge a complaint in minutes, thanks to a smartphone application released on Monday.

The Sikh Coalition, supported by African American, Latino and Muslim civil rights groups, said its FlyRights app can be used by anyone who feels their rights were violated at the security barrier.

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“For too long, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has kept a long leash on its screeners, telling them not to profile, but taking no effective measures to stop it,” said its director of programs Amardeep Singh.

“Until that happens, we call on the public to hold the TSA accountable by downloading the FlyRights app and filing reports when appropriate.”

According to Department of Homeland Security data, only 11 official complaints of improper TSA screening were filed in the first half of 2011 through a bureaucratic process most travelers know nothing about.

The Sikh Coalition, which speaks for the 500,000-strong Sikh American community, expects that figure to grow “exponentially” once FlyRights — a free download for iPhone and Android — is widely distributed.

With their turbans and beards, both expressions of their faith, Sikh Americans often found themselves mistaken for Arabs in the emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

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Many Muslim Americans, including women who wear the hijab, say they too have been singled out for additional TSA searches for no apparent reason other than the way they look and dress.

“It is known that profiling is not an effective means of law enforcement,” said Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“When we profile, we not only stigmatize the minority community, but we also do our concerns about safety a disservice.”

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In a sign of the app’s potential scope, Singh said the very first person to use it Monday alleged she encountered gender discrimination on her way to an early-morning flight.

Building on the TSA’s own complaint process, FlyRights users can specify whether they have been wrongly treated by a TSA security officer on the basis of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality or disability.

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It goes on to ask for flight and incident details, before the user hits a blue button and sends the complaint directly to the civil rights offices of both the TSA and Homeland Security. The Sikh Coalition gets an optional copy.

The app’s key advantage, he said, is that travelers can fire off a complaint within minutes of an incident — rather than several hours later, once they find a computer at their destination.

In an email to AFP, the TSA — which screens two million passengers a day at more than 450 airports — denied it uses profiling. It also appeared to dispute the need for the app, saying travellers should complain directly to it.

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“TSA does not profile passengers on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion,” TSA spokesman Kawika Riley said.

“We encourage any traveler with a concern about potential discrimination to contact TSA directly through our numerous channels of communication.”

Prabhjit Singh, a Washington-based motivational speaker who travels extensively, alleged that he has been profiled around 30 times by TSA staff since February 2007.

The first time, he told AFP, he was ordered to submit to a pat-down of his deep-blue turban at Baltimore’s BWI airport despite passing without incident through a metal detector.

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In time, he said, he discovered the TSA had issued a directive calling for pat-downs of anyone wearing a turban, yarmulke or cowboy hat — “and there really isn’t any space (in a turban) to put anything.”


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Vehicles being used as weapons against protesters is ‘the new normal in 2020’: CNN

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CNN's Don Lemon on Friday evening devoted a segment to the rash of incidents in which people have driven through Black Lives Matter protesters in the same manner that killed Heather Heyer at the fatal 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Vehicles used as weapons," Don Lemon began. "You heard me right, vehicles are being used as weapons against Americans taking to the streets in Black Lives Matter protests in cities across this country."

CNN correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro reported shocking scenes captured on camera of vehicles running down protesters are "common now."

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Trump to ignore Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish and appoint Amy Coney Berman: reports

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President Donald Trump intends to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, US media reported Friday, who if confirmed would cement a solid conservative majority on the high court.

The president said this week he will announce his pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday, and various media outlets said it would be the 48-year-old conservative judge.

Citing sources close to the process, various media outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, said Trump would nominate Barrett.

If she is confirmed the court would shift to a 6-3 conservative majority.

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2020 Election

Trump tells supporters he won’t be ‘stupid’ enough for peaceful transition of power if he loses

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President Donald Trump continued to spread debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election during a Friday night campaign rally in Virginia.

Trump argued that it was impossible for him to lose the election, thus concluding he would be "stupid" to hand over power peacefully should he lose.

"We not gonna lose this, except if they cheat," Trump falsely claimed about the 2020 campaign, where he trails Joe Biden in national and battleground polling.

"That's the only way we're gonna lose is if there's, uh, mischief," he argued. "And it will have to be on a big scale."

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