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July 30, 2018

Last week, Austin's Equity Office recommended that the Texas capital rename seven streets with Confederate-linked names and remove three history markers celebrating the Confederacy. But while Dixie Drive, Confederate Avenue, and Plantation Road may disappear in Austin, the city is unlikely to change its name, as not-quite-proposed in a second list of municipal items not directly tied to the Confederacy but tangentially connected through things like slavery and segregation. On that second list, proposed for discussion by the City Council, was the city's name itself, an homage to the "Father of Texas," Stephen F. Austin.

Austin, who died in 1836, had a complicated relationship with slavery, clearly tolerating it and encouraging retaining slavery for the economic success of Texas but not embracing it ideologically. Still, "no one sees this as an attempt to change the name of the city," David Green, a spokesman for the city, told The Washington Post on Sunday. Changing Austin's name would require a citywide vote, and lots of debate over what appellation would be better — perhaps Waterloo, Austin's name before 1839.

Walter L. Buenger, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, called the idea of changing Austin's name "far-fetched," and Gregg Cantrell, a Stephen Austin biographer and history professor at Texas Christian University, said the proposal wouldn't even make sense. Austin "didn't leave a paper trail" on whether he viewed African Americans as inferior to whites, Cantrell told the Post, but since he died three decades before the Civil War began, he wasn't a seditious figure like the Confederate generals and leaders whose monuments are being removed across the country. "Austin never had to make the choice Robert E. Lee made," Cantrell said. "We can't tar him with that particular brush." Peter Weber

4:50 p.m.

The United Nations has condemned itself for its conduct surrounding the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, The Guardian reports.

A new report commissioned by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, written by Gert Rosenthal, a Guatemalan former foreign minister, and seen by The Guardian before publication, reportedly concluded that there was a systemic failure on behalf of the organization, including competing strategies between agencies, a "culture of mistrust" in relations with Myanmar's government, and "mixed and incomplete signals coming from the field," all of which prevented the UN from adequately responding to the alleged genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya minority. Thousands of people have been killed, and villages razed, while more than 70,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh.

The report places particular emphasis on between the variance in approaches among U.N agencies, The Guardian writes — some practiced quiet diplomacy with the Myanmar government, others publicly condemned the human rights abuses. "Even at the highest level of the organization there was no common strategy," Rosenthal wrote in the report. The different approaches also reportedly devolved into "unseemly fighting."

Rosenthal's report also addresses the actions of former U.N. resident coordinator for Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien, who was accused of downplaying concerns about worsening abuses against the Rohingya. He found that there were, in fact, "instances of deliberately de-dramatizing" the situation by Lok-Dessallien.

The report is expected to be made public this week. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

4:14 p.m.

Megadeth lead vocalist has just announced he has been diagnosed with throat cancer.

Mustaine, who co-founded the heavy metal band after leaving Metallica in 1983, shared the news with fans on Monday, writing in a Facebook post that this is "clearly something to be respected and faced head on" but that "I've faced obstacles before" and that he and his doctors have "mapped out a treatment plan which they feel has a 90 percent success rate."

Although the band is canceling "most" of its remaining 2019 shows as a result, Mustaine says that "in some form," they will remain involved in an October "Megacruise" they had planned. Megadeth had a summer tour planned to commemorate its 35th anniversary, Variety reports.

Still, Mustaine says the band is continuing to work on its next album, which he writes that he "can't wait for everyone to hear," and he promises that "Megadeth will be back on the road ASAP." Brendan Morrow

4:03 p.m.

Alt-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sent child porn to Sandy Hook families, their lawyers alleged Monday.

The Infowars host has been locked in a legal battle with the families after he alleged the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting was a hoax. He was recently ordered to hand over files as a part of that lawsuit, but when he did, they were allegedly embedded with child pornography, the CT Post reports.

Families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting say after Jones alleged they were "crisis actors" perpetuating a fake shooting, his followers began sending them death threats and even published their addresses as they moved to avoid the threats. The families have since sued Jones for defamation, and won a victory in that challenge earlier this year when a judge ordered Jones to hand over business data to the families' lawyers. Now, those lawyers say when Jones complied with the court request, he also sent over electronic files containing child porn, per CT Post.

Jones has since claimed that the child porn was placed on his servers in a malware attack, and offered $1 million to whoever found who did it, per The Daily Beast. On his Friday Infowars show, he implied that Christopher Mattei, the attorney representing the Sandy Hook families, planted the material. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:59 p.m.

Check off another box for Julián Castro.

The Democratic 2020 hopeful has already laid out his Oval Office plans concerning police reform, education, and immigration. On Monday, he provided a little blast from the past when he turned his attention to housing issues, something with which he is no doubt familiar, as former President Barack Obama's housing secretary.

He's taking his time, too. Castro announced on his website that he would unveil the entire plan over the next several days, starting with his solution to the rental affordability crisis, which involves expanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a renters' tax credit, and local zoning reforms.

He also outlined his plan to end homelessness, which he hopes to accomplish by 2028, including the eradication of veteran, child, and youth homelessness by the end of his hypothetical first term in Washington. While Castro admits those target dates might sound too optimistic, he argues his tenure at HUD and his experience as San Antonio's mayor provided him with the necessary experience.

Castro says he'd achieve those goals by an increase in funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants by $5 billion, tripling spending. He would also expand Pell Grants to cover food and housing costs for college students, guarantee a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction, and establish permanent housing initiatives to provide health care and other services for those at risk of becoming homeless. Read part one of Castro's plan here. Tim O'Donnell

2:56 p.m.

@SudanMealProject isn't actually counting on your likes to hand out meals to children in Sudan.

Neither are @SudanMealProjectOfficial, @SudanMealOfficial, @sudan.meals.project, or pretty much any other Instagram accounts claiming to help people displaced during months of uprisings in Sudan. They're all just fishing for followers and engagement by falsely claiming they'll send a meal to Sudan for every like or share, Taylor Lorenz reports for The Atlantic.

Protests have rocked the northeast African country for months on end, forcing autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir from power in February but continuing as a military council now runs the country. Security forces have continually stormed protest camps, leaving dozens dead each time. It's all sparked a global outcry for those civilian protesters — though not necessarily because they're facing widespread starvation.

Sudan hasn't experienced a declared famine since the early 2000's, and near-famine conditions are actually more of the case in South Sudan, which is a completely separate nation. Yet dozens of Instagram accounts, all with the same steel-blue logo, are claiming they're helping the situation by purportedly sending meals overseas. They often claim one share of a post correlates to one meal sent overseas, which, as The Atlantic documents, is not true. They're largely just looking to grow their follower counts and engagement rates.

To make matters worse, as these accounts are exposed, they often change their Instagram handles to names like "@fakesudanmeal.project" and ask for shares to "expose" that the named account was fake all along. Instead, Lorenz recommends "amplifying the voices of actual Sudanese activists and organizations already working in the country, including Save the Children, UNICEF, and the International Rescue Committee." Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:38 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is setting his sights on states no Democratic candidate for president has won in decades.

Biden during a presidential forum on Monday was asked when he'll spend time in the south during his 2020 campaign, to which he responded, "I plan on campaigning in the south. I plan on, if I'm your nominee, winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not."

During the 2016 election, President Trump won Georgia by about five percentage points, and no Democrat has won the state since Bill Clinton in 1992. It's been even longer since a Democrat won South Carolina: the last one to do so was Jimmy Carter in 1976; Trump won the state in 2016 by 14 percentage points. North Carolina went to a Democrat more recently, though: Barack Obama won it in 2008. In 2016, Trump won North Carolina by almost four percentage points.

Biden also set his sights on Texas, another state no Democrat has won since Carter in 1976. "I believe we can win Texas and Florida if you look at the polling data now," Biden said. Some recent polls have showed Biden ahead of Trump in the state. Florida went to Trump in 2016 after going for Obama in 2012.

The former vice president also received a question from MSNBC's Joy Reid during this event about how he plans to work with Republicans, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), responding that "I know you're one of the ones who thinks it's naive to say we have to work together" but promising he'll be able to "persuade the public" and adding that "you can shame people to do things the right way." Brendan Morrow

2:34 p.m.

A bipartisan bill proposal could help end what its sponsors consider a "perpetual state" of probation and parole violations that keeps many formerly incarcerated citizens trapped within the correctional system, The Hill reports.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Jordan Harris (D) teamed up with colleague Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R), as well as rapper Meek Mill's Reform Alliance, which initially proposed the bill, last month to introduce the bill. If passed and signed, it would eliminate consecutive probation sentences and prohibit probation extensions over the nonpayment of fines and costs. Harris told The Hill that judges can currently extend probation parole times indefinitely, leading to the aforementioned perpetual state.

"Probation and parole is like the quicksand of the criminal justice system," he said. "The moment that you get in, it's hard to get out."

Delozier, the bill's lead sponsor, added that the bill would also allow former inmates more flexibility, mentioning, for example, that a parolee would be able to work with his or her parole officer to reschedule parole meetings for things like job interviews. That doesn't mean there won't be consequences if someone does break the rules of their probation, Delozier said, but "the flexibility does need to be there."

Pennsylvania has the second-highest rate of citizens on probation or parole in the U.S. Read more at The Hill. Tim O'Donnell

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