Tesla Says Vehicle in Deadly Crash Was on Autopilot 

A vehicle in a fatal crash last week in California was operating on Autopilot, making it the latest accident to involve a self-driving vehicle, Tesla has confirmed.

The electric car maker said the driver, who was killed in the accident, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash, despite several warnings from the vehicle. Tesla Inc. tells drivers that its Autopilot system, which can maintain speed, change lanes and self-park, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel in order to take control of the vehicle to avoid accidents. 

Tesla said its vehicle logs show the driver took no action to stop the Model X SUV from crashing into a concrete lane divider. Photographs of the SUV show that the front of the vehicle was demolished, its hood was ripped off  and its front wheels were scattered on the freeway.

The vehicle also caught fire, though Tesla said no one was in the vehicle when that happened. The company said the crash was made worse by a missing or damaged safety shield on the end of the freeway barrier that is supposed to reduce the impact into the concrete lane divider.

The crash happened in Mountain View, in California’s Silicon Valley. The driver was Walter Huang, 38, a software engineer for Apple.

“None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends,” Tesla said on its website late Friday.

Earlier this month, a self-driving Volvo SUV being tested by ride-hailing service Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

Tesla Inc. defended its Autopilot feature, saying that while it doesn’t prevent all accidents, it makes them less likely to occur than is the case for vehicles without it.

Federal investigators are looking into last week’s crash, as well a separate crash in January of a Tesla Model S that may have been operating under the Autopilot system.

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AP Analysis: Blacks Largely Missing From High-Salary Positions

Jonathan Garland’s fascination with architecture started early: He spent much of his childhood designing Lego houses and gazing at Boston buildings on rides with his father away from their largely minority neighborhood. 

But when Garland looked around at his architectural college, he didn’t see many who looked like him. There were few black faces among students, and fewer teaching skills or giving lectures. 

 

“If you do something simple like Google ‘architects’ and you go to the images tab, you’re primarily going to see white males,” said Garland, 35, who’s worked at Boston and New York architectural firms. “That’s the image, that’s the brand, that’s the look of an architect.”

And that’s not uncommon in other lucrative fields, 50 years after the Reverend Martin Luther King, a leader in the fight for equal employment opportunities, was assassinated.

An Associated Press analysis of government data has found that black workers are chronically underrepresented compared with whites in high-salary jobs in technology, business, life sciences and engineering, among other areas. Instead, many black workers find jobs in low-wage, less prestigious fields where they’re overrepresented, such as food service or preparation, building maintenance and office work, the AP analysis found.

‘Other America’

In one of his final speeches, King described the “Other America,” where unemployment and underemployment created a “fatigue of despair” for African-Americans. Despite economic progress for blacks in areas such as incomes and graduation rates, some experts say many African-Americans remain part of this “Other America,” with little hope of attaining top professional jobs, thanks to systemic yet subtle racism.

The AP analysis found that a white worker had a far better chance than a black one of holding a job in the 11 categories with the highest median annual salaries, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ratio of white-to-black workers is about 10-to-1 in management, 8-to-1 in computers and mathematics, 12-to-1 in law and 7-to-1 in education — compared with a ratio of 5.5 white workers for every black one in all jobs nationally. The top five high-salary fields have a median income range of $65,000 to $100,000, compared with $36,000 for all occupations nationwide.

In Boston, a hub for technology and innovation and home to prestigious universities, white workers outnumber black ones by about 27-to-1 in computer- and mathematics-related professions, compared with the overall ratio of 9.5-to-1 for workers in the city. Overall, Boston’s ratio of white-to-black workers is wider than that of the nation in six of the top 10 high-income fields.

Boston, where King had deep ties, earning his doctorate and meeting his wife, has a history of racial discord. Eight years after King’s assassination, at the height of turbulent school desegregation, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from an anti-busing rally at City Hall showed a white man attacking a black bystander with an American flag.

The young victim was Theodore Landsmark. He’s now 71, a lawyer, an architect and director of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

Why progress lags

He said “structural discrimination” is the overarching cause of disproportionate race representation in high-salary fields. Landsmark and others say gains are elusive for myriad reasons: Substandard schools in low-income neighborhoods. White-dominated office cliques. Boardrooms that prefer familiarity to diversity. Discriminatory hiring practices. Companies that claim a lack of qualified candidates but have no programs to train minority talent.

Some also say investors are more likely to support white startups. When Rica Elysee, a lifelong Boston resident who grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods, brought her idea of an online platform linking beauty professionals with customers for in-home appointments to investors, she was shunned, she said.

“They said I didn’t belong in the program, that they couldn’t identify with it because they weren’t black,” said Elysee, 32, who initially marketed BeautyLynk to black women like herself. “I remember crying pretty harshly. They couldn’t relate to what I was doing.”

Some even advised her to move out of Boston, which had a booming innovation economy but was “not encouraging minorities in the tech space,” she said. Three years later, Elysee said BeautyLynk is slowly growing but still needs capital.

Most American metro areas are like Boston, with AP’s analysis showing that racial disparities in employment are indifferent to geography and politics. California’s Silicon Valley struggles to achieve diversity in computer fields. In Seattle, home to Amazon, whites outnumber blacks nearly 28-to-1 in computer- and math-related fields. Financial powerhouse New York has a 3-to-1 ratio of white-to-black workers in all occupations, but nearly 6-to-1 in business and finance. Hollywood shows inequality in entertainment, with almost nine whites for every black worker.

In Atlanta, King’s hometown, the proportional representation of black-to-white workers is close to even in many fields. Many reasons are cited. Atlanta has historically black colleges and universities such as King’s alma mater, Morehouse; the first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, pressed for policies helping black professionals after his 1973 election; and events like the 1996 Olympics opened doors for entrepreneurs of all races.

Nationally, it’s much different

Atlanta is an exception. For nearly all of the past half-century, black unemployment nationally has hovered at about twice that of whites.

President Donald Trump touted on Twitter that December’s 6.8 percent unemployment rate for blacks was the lowest in 45 years — a number critics say ignores a greater reality. For example, in an economy that increasingly demands advanced degrees, Department of Education data show that black representation among graduates in science, tech, engineering and mathematics peaked at 9.9 percent in 2010 and has been slowly declining.

In Boston, Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh said in a recent speech that the city is addressing the issue and is committed to placing 20,000 low-income residents in “good-paying jobs” by 2022.

Landsmark said stronger role models may be a solution. As Boston Architectural College’s president, he mentored Garland. They discussed race issues in the professional world — as when Garland, trying to land jobs in his neighborhood, realized many people who looked like him were unfamiliar with the very concept of architecture. He once had to explain to a homeowner who wanted his roof reframed: “I’m not a builder, I’m an architect.”

Today, Garland speaks at high schools and works at the DREAM Collaborative, which focuses on projects in low-income neighborhoods.

“I know the barriers exist in other folks’ minds, and I have to disprove that,” he said. “I keep myself focused on the issues.”

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Trump Blasts California Governor’s Immigrant Pardons

President Donald Trump blasted California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday for his pardon of five ex-convicts facing deportation, including two who fled the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia with their families four decades ago.

In a tweet, Trump referred to Brown as “Moonbeam,” a nickname a newspaper columnist coined for him in the 1970s. Trump then listed the ex-convicts’ crimes; they included misdemeanor domestic violence, drug possession, and kidnapping and robbery.

Trump wrote: “Is this really what the great people of California want?”

A spokesman for Brown responded to a request for comment with more information about the five men but did not directly address Trump’s criticism.

In a news release about the pardons on Friday, the governor’s office said that “those granted pardons all completed their sentences years ago and the majority were convicted of drug-related or other nonviolent crimes.”

“Pardons are not granted unless they are earned,” the governor’s office said.

Brown’s pardons marked the third time the Democrat has intervened on behalf of immigrants who were deported or faced deportation over convictions. Brown has accused the Trump administration of “basically going to war” with California over immigration policy.

Brown’s pardons don’t automatically stop deportation proceedings, but eliminate the convictions on which authorities based their intentions.

​Pardon for Arpaio

Trump has been criticized for his own pardon, that of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted last year of a misdemeanor contempt charge for flouting the courts in carrying out his signature immigration patrols.

Trump’s pardon spared Arpaio from a possible jail sentence. The 85-year-old longtime lawman announced a run for Senate in January.

Those pardoned Friday by Brown included Sokha Chhan and Phann Pheach, who face deportation to Cambodia, a country ruled in the 1970s by the genocidal Khmer Rouge. Chhan was convicted of two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence in 2002 and served about a year in jail. Pheach was convicted of possessing drugs and obstructing a police officer in 2005 and served six months in jail. His wife said he is in federal custody.

Also pardoned was Daniel Maher, who served five years in prison stemming from the 1994 armed robbery of a San Jose auto parts store. He was convicted of kidnapping, robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Maher is facing deportation to China, where he has never lived. Maher is from Macau, which became part of China after his family immigrated to California when he was 3.

Also pardoned while facing deportation were Daniel Mena and Francisco Acevedo Alaniz. Mena served three years of probation after being convicted of possessing illegal drugs in 2003. Alaniz served five months in prison for a 1997 car theft conviction.

The governor is a former Jesuit seminarian and traditionally issues pardons close to major Christian holidays. Easter falls on Sunday.

California’s longest-serving governor has now issued 1,519 pardons, including 404 during his first two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983.

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Migrant Drug Test Explodes Into Italy-France Diplomatic Spat

Italy summoned the French ambassador for consultations Saturday after armed French border patrol agents used an Italian train station to force a Nigerian train passenger to provide a urine sample for a drug test.

France said it had a right to use the facility at the Bardonecchia train station west of Turin, citing a 1990 agreement.

But Italy shot back, saying just this month it had told French customs authorities that the station room was now off-limits because a humanitarian aid group was there to provide care and counseling for migrants seeking to make the dangerous Alpine crossing into France.

The incident underscored the heightened tensions following Italy’s inconclusive March 4 election, which became a referendum on Italy’s management of the European migrant crisis. Populist, right-wing and anti-immigrant parties scored big, capitalizing on Italian anger with the migrant influx and refusal of other European governments to share the burden.

The humanitarian group Rainbow4Africa had raised the alarm at what it called a “raid” Friday night by five armed French border agents. It accused the agents of intimidating its doctor and other workers at Baronecchia and of violating the rights of the Nigerian passenger in their custody.

A volunteer who saw the incident told Sky TG24 that the Nigerian had Italian identity papers and a valid Paris-Naples train ticket.

Agreement cited

The French budget ministry said its rail agents asked to use the facility to respect the rights of the man on the train, whom they suspected of having drugs on him. It cited a 1990 agreement allowing such use of the room, and added that the urine test turned out negative.

Italy, however, said French authorities were well aware the room was no longer available. It said French and Italian talks were even planned in Turin on April 16 to discuss further cooperation.

The foreign ministry said during its consultations with French Ambassador Christian Masset it lodged its “firm protest” over the “unacceptable” behavior of the French agents, and warned that border cooperation was now undermined.

Bardonecchia Mayor Francesco Avato said the French had no right to enter the facility, which he said the city operates with Rainbow4Africa as a “neutral” space to try to persuade migrants not to make the crossing.

Former Italian Premier Enrico Letta denounced the French move as the latest error by one of Italy’s partners in Europe.

“And Europe wonders about the outcome of Italy’s election!” he tweeted.

French and Austrian border patrol agents have stepped up their checks along Italy’s northern border to prevent migrants from entering their countries aboard trains, trucks or even on foot across the snow-covered mountains, an option that more and more desperate migrants are attempting despite the cold and danger.

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Pentagon Identifies US Soldier Killed in Syria

The Pentagon has identified the U.S. soldier who died Friday in Syria following an explosion in the northern city of Manbij. 

The soldier was identified Saturday as Johnathan Dunbar, 36, from Austin, Texas. A British soldier was also killed, while five other troops were wounded by a roadside bomb blast Thursday night, according to U.S. officials.

Britain’s Defense Ministry confirmed the second fatality came from within its ranks. A defense spokesman said the British service member was embedded with U.S. forces at the time of the attack and said the coalition forces were carrying out an operation against the Islamic State group.

The attack near Manbij, a former Islamic State stronghold where U.S. forces are stationed, occurred one day after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would withdraw U.S. forces in the near future.

“We’re coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon — very soon we’re coming out,” Trump said in a speech in the Midwestern U.S. state of Ohio without offering details.

A U.S. defense official said, however, the U.S. mission in Syria remained unchanged and added that U.S. troops were there to defeat IS.

The U.S. has more than 2,000 military personnel in Syria, 60 of whom have been killed since the campaign to destroy IS began in 2014.

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Syrian Army Declares Victory as Rebels Vacate Most of Ghouta

The Syrian army declared victory Saturday in eastern Ghouta after opposition fighters evacuated from most of the area near the capital, except for the town of Douma, where negotiations were still underway for rebels there to leave or face an all-out government offensive.

The government gave rebels in Douma — the area’s largest town and stronghold of the powerful Army of Islam rebel group — an ultimatum to agree on leaving by late Saturday. Some pro-government news websites reported that the army was massing troops around Douma, adding that the ultimatum might be extended until Sunday. 

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian troops had been massing troops around Douma in case negotiations collapsed.

The army statement came shortly after another group of opposition fighters and their relatives left southern and western parts of eastern Ghouta Saturday afternoon, bringing President Bashar al-Assad’s forces a step closer to eliminating threats from insurgents groups nearby.

State TV said 38 buses left the towns of Zamalka, Ein Tarma, Arbeen and Jobar, taking more than 1,700 rebels and civilians to the northwestern rebel-held province of Idlib. The channel said troops entered the towns and raised the national flag in Arbeen’s main square.

“The importance of this victory lies in restoring security and stability to the city of Damascus and its surrounding areas after the suffering of its civilians from the crimes of terrorists over several years,” said the army statement, read on TV by Brigadier General Ali Mayhoub.

Routes reopened

The government forces’ reclamation of most of eastern Ghouta reopens a major network of roads and highways that link Damascus with other parts of the country. Those routes have been closed since 2012, when rebels captured eastern suburbs of the capital.

The army statement vowed “to wipe out terrorism and bring back stability and security to all parts of Syria.”

A crushing government offensive under the cover of Russian airstrikes that began February 18 has forced opposition fighters in most of eastern Ghouta to agree to evacuate and head to Idlib province.

“Arbeen, Zamalka, Jobar and Ein Tarma in eastern Ghouta are free of terrorists,” shouted a correspondent for state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV channel from Arbeen.

State news agency SANA said 38,000 fighters and civilians had headed to Idlib over the past two weeks, marking one of the largest displacements since Syria’s conflict began seven years ago. More than 100,000 others headed to government-controlled areas over the past weeks.

Before the last wave of violence began in eastern Ghouta last month, the U.N. had estimated that 393,000 people were living in the area under a tight government siege.

Tens of thousands of rebels and civilians have been relocated to Idlib over the past years from different parts of Syria, making it one of the most inhabited regions in the country.

The top U.N. official in Syria, Ali Al-Za’tari, told Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV in an interview aired Saturday that “Idlib cannot take more people.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a vehicle carrying evacuees from eastern Ghouta had a road accident in the government-held village of Nahr al-Bared, leaving five fighters and three civilians dead. It said the bus had left eastern Ghouta Friday night.

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Fire Breaks Out at Aid Facility in Yemen 

A massive fire was reported Saturday at a World Food Program facility in Yemen, in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.

Yemen’s official news agency quoted a Yemeni official as saying the fire had severely damaged humanitarian aid held at the outpost. The cause of the fire was unclear.

An official told AFP the fire had engulfed four warehouses and destroyed an estimated 50 tons of food. Yemeni officials urged the United Nations to investigate.

The warehouse holds not only food but also mattresses and other supplies for Yemenis fleeing the ravages of civil war. Yemen’s current unrest broke out in 2015 between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and a Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government. 

Hodeida is a lifeline for the nation, which the U.N. says is on the verge of famine. Many Yemenis depend on food imports to survive.

 

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Scientist, Pop Culture Icon Stephen Hawking Mourned at Cambridge Funeral

Crowds lined the streets of Cambridge, England, on Saturday for the funeral of one of the world’s most famous scientists: physicist Stephen Hawking, who died March 14 at age 76.

The scientist, confined for decades to a wheelchair and voice synthesizer because of the disease ALS, was known for his charisma, curiosity, and a crackling sense of humor. His science books and television cameos made him a pop-culture icon.

Hawking described his research as seeking “a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”

Hawking’s funeral was held Saturday at the Cambridge University church known as Great St. Mary’s. As the funeral procession arrived, bells rang 76 times — once for each year of Hawking’s life.

In addition to Hawking’s family members, caretakers, former students, and admirers, the ceremony was attended by a number of famous faces. Among them was actor Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in an award-winning film biography of his life called The Theory of Everything, released in 2014.

Redmayne’s co-star, Felicity Jones, model Lily Cole, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, and Britain’s Astronomer Royal, the Lord Rees of Ludlow (Martin Rees), were also there.

The eulogy, read by professor Faye Dowker, praised Hawking as someone “revered for his devotion as a scholar to the pursuit of knowledge.”

Hawking will be given one last high honor: his remains are to be interred in Westminster Abbey among some of Britain’s most legendary intellectuals. Hawking will take his place next to 17th-century mathematical scientist Isaac Newton and near 19th-century evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin.

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