There's also news about why doorbell cams cause some concern and why a store clerk is jobless after questioning customers' citizenship.
No more manholes after city bans gender-specific words
There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into "maintenance holes" instead.
Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but "human-made." And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join "collegiate Greek system residences" rather than fraternities and sororities.
Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that's drawing both praise and scorn.
That means "manpower" will become "human effort" or "workforce," while masculine and feminine pronouns like "she," ''her," ''he" and "him" will be replaced by "they" and "them," according to the measure approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The San Francisco Bay Area city is known for its long history of progressive politics and "first of" ordinances. Berkeley was among the first cities to adopt curbside recycling in the 1970s and more recently, became the first in the U.S. to tax sugary drinks and ban natural gas in new homes.
Berkeley also was the birthplace of the nation's free-speech movement in the 1960s and where protests from both left- and right-wing extremist groups devolved into violence during a flashpoint in the country's political divisions soon after President Donald Trump's election.
Rigel Robinson, who graduated from UC Berkeley last year and at 23 is the youngest member of the City Council, said it was time to change a municipal code that makes it sound like "men are the only ones that exist in entire industries or that men are the only ones on city government."
"As society and our cultures become more aware about issues of gender identity and gender expression, it's important that our laws reflect that," said Robinson, who co-authored the measure. "Women and non-binary people are just as deserving of accurate representation."
When the changes take effect in the fall, all city forms will be updated and lists with the old words and their replacements will be posted at public libraries and the council chambers. The changes will cost taxpayers $600, Robinson said.
Removing gendered terms has been slowly happening for decades in the United States as colleges, companies and organizations implement gender-neutral alternatives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, changed a Sacramento political tradition by adopting the unofficial title "first partner" instead of "first lady," saying it's more inclusive. The change reflected Siebel Newsom's experience as an actress and filmmaker focused on gender politics and inequality.
But formalizing the shift in the sweeping way that Berkeley is doing is "remarkable and sends a message," Rutgers University linguistics professor Kristen Syrett said.
"Anytime you're talking about something where gender is not the issue but you use a gendered term, that immediately sends a message of exclusion, even if it's a dialogue that has nothing to do with gender," said Syrett, who recently spearheaded an update to the guidelines on inclusive language for the Linguistic Society of America.
Doorbell cams gain in popularity amid privacy fears
The woodsy community of Wolcott, Connecticut, doesn't see a lot of crime. But when the police chief heard about an opportunity to distribute doorbell cameras to some homes, he didn't hesitate.
The police who keep watch over the town of 16,000 raffled off free cameras in a partnership with the camera manufacturer. So far, the devices have encountered more bears than criminals, but Chief Ed Stephens is still a fan. "Anything that helps keep the town safe, I'm going to do it," he said.
But as more police agencies join with the company known as Ring, the partnerships are raising privacy concerns. Critics complain that the systems turn neighborhoods into places of constant surveillance and create suspicion that falls heavier on minorities. Police say the cameras can serve as a digital neighborhood watch.
Critics also say Ring, a subsidiary of Amazon, appears to be marketing its cameras by stirring up fear of crime at a time when it's decreasing. Amazon's promotional videos show people lurking around homes, and the company recently posted a job opening for a managing news editor to "deliver breaking crime news alerts to our neighbors."
"Amazon is profiting off of fear," said Chris Gilliard, an English professor at Michigan's Macomb Community College and a prominent critic of Ring and other technology that he says can reinforce race barriers. Part of the strategy seems to be selling the cameras "where the fear of crime is more real than the actual existence of crime."
The cameras offer a wide view from wherever they are positioned. Homeowners get phone alerts with streaming video if the doorbell rings or the device's heat sensors detect a person or a passing car. Ring's basic doorbell sells for $99, with recurring charges starting at $3 a month for users who want footage stored. Ring says it stores the recordings for two months.
Many law enforcement agencies nationwide said the idea to partner with Ring came after the company promoted its product at law enforcement conferences.
Some departments have chosen to simply use Ring's Neighbors app, which encourages residents to share videos of suspicious activity. Other agencies agreed to provide subsidies, matched by Ring, to offer hundreds of discounted cameras in hopes of tapping into footage of residential streets, yards and sidewalks. And some police chiefs raffle off the devices.
Ring would not disclose the number of communities with such partnerships. Sharing video is always voluntary and privacy is protected, according to the company and police.
"There is nothing required of homeowners who participate in the subsidies, and their identity and data remain private," spokeswoman Brigid Gorham said. She said customers can control who views their footage, and no personally identifiable information is shared with police without a user's consent.
Realistically, though, if police want video for an investigation, they can seek a search warrant.
Tech industry analyst Carolina Milanesi said engaging with police and offering incentives is a "very smart move by Ring" and a missed opportunity for competitors, including Google's Nest and smaller companies such as Arlo Technologies and SimpliSafe.
But a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called the system "an unmitigated disaster" for the privacy of many neighborhoods.
Through the subsidy programs, Amazon "gets to offer, at taxpayer dime, discounted products that allow it to really expand its tentacles into wide areas of private life way more than it already has," Mohammad Tajsar said.
And movie fans go wild at trailer for 'Top Gun' sequel
Tom Cruise has made an unexpected flyby at San Diego Comic-Con to debut the first trailer for "Top Gun: Maverick."
The audience in the 8,000 seat room went wild for Cruise Thursday afternoon. He closed out what had been billed only as a panel for "Terminator: Dark Fate."
Cruise says all the flying in the trailer is real and that "Top Gun: Maverick" is a love letter to aviation. They worked with the Navy for the film, which is currently in production.
"Top Gun: Maverick" is expected to hit theaters next June. Val Kilmer, Jon Hamm and Miles Teller co-star.
Cruise said Comic-Con was the perfect place to premiere the trailer. He shot the original some 34 years ago in San Diego.
Convenience store clerk says customers 'need to go back to their country'
A cashier at an Illinois convenience store is out of a job after a video showing him questioning customers' citizenship went viral.
Carolina Buitron told CNN affiliate WBBM that she and her cousins were riding their bikes on Tuesday when one bicycle broke down near the Bucky's Convenience Store in Naperville, Illinois.
Her 15-year-old cousin went into the store to buy some chips while they waited for help, she said.
"At first it seemed like he was trying to be friendly," she told WBBM. She said the cashier then questioned the legal status of her two cousins waiting outside.
"He's like, 'oh, are those two girls adopted?' And she's like 'no, they're my cousins, they came from Mexico.' And he asked, 'are they illegal?'"
That part of the incident is not seen in the videos that were posted on Facebook on Tuesday and quickly gained hundreds of thousands of views.
One video begins with the clerk, who has not been identified, saying something to two women about "undocumented people."
He points at his chest and says, "I'm an American."
One of the women then asks, "What is your problem?"
"It's illegal," the clerk said, which led to more arguing.
He then asked the woman, "Are you a citizen?"
"Yes," the woman replied and then repeatedly asked, "What is your problem?"
"Don't you know the rules?" the clerk asked. "They need to go back to their country."
The argument got more heated and one of the women threatened to call the police. "ICE will come," the clerk said. "You're in the wrong country."
Dozens of people protested outside of the store on Wednesday.
Buchanan Energy, which owns the store, released a statement on Thursday that said the employee no longer worked there and his comments did not reflect the company's beliefs.
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico also weighed in, condemning hate in the community. The Naperville Police Department said they were looking into the incident.
Dreaded middle airplane seat could get better next year
No one really wants the middle seats on airplanes.
Being awkwardly sandwiched between two people while fighting for elbow room is the bane of most passengers. Now a new design might actually make people want the middle seat -- or at least make the flying experience less miserable.
The S1 design from the Colorado-based startup, Molon Labe Seating, features three economy seats in a staggered layout, putting the middle seat slightly behind the aisle and window seats, and at a slightly lower height.
Sitting directly adjacent to two people means that passengers only have so much shoulder room. But moving the middle seat back a few inches allows for more space, so the company made the middle seat about three to five inches wider than the standard 18 inch seat.
"That little bit of stagger means that every single person gets to spread out a little more," Hank Scott, the founder and CEO of Molon Labe Seating, told CNN.
Passengers won't have to fight over elbow space either. The armrests are also built so that they are not a uniform height from front to back. They will allow the aisle and window passengers to rest their elbows on the front of the armrest while leaving space at the back, which is lower, for the middle passenger.
"No seats are any smaller, one seat ends up being wider, and we've solved the elbow wars," Scott said.
The seats are intended for shorter, domestic flights, though the company is developing a version for longer flights that include more padding and larger TV screens.
So when can passengers test out these seats for themselves?
The seats were certified by the Federal Aviation Administration last month, and are being manufactured by Primus Aerospace in Colorado. Scott said that he expected they would be available on two airlines by April or May of 2020. Though he could not disclose which airlines would feature the seats, he said one of them is based in North America.
It's not just passengers who will be happier with the new arrangement, Scott said. The seats are lighter than standard airline seats, which could help cut down on fuel costs.
Family of biracial boy dragged by school bus settles lawsuit
A Utah school district has settled a civil rights lawsuit by the family of a biracial student who was dragged by a school bus, the family's attorney told CNN Thursday.
The boy's mother, Brenda Mayes, filed the lawsuit in May against a former bus driver who she alleges closed the bus door on her 14-year-old son's backpack and dragged him approximately 150 feet in February because of his "racial animus" toward students of mixed race.
The lawsuit also alleged that the driver, John Naisbitt, previously displayed "racial animus and discriminatory conduct" toward other students of mixed race. The complaint cited at least two prior incidents involving other students dating back to September 2017.
The bus driver told CNN affiliate KSTU in May that he retired several days after the incident.
Naisbitt had denied that he intentionally closed the doors, the station reported. He claimed the boy staged the incident after Naisbitt disciplined his brother.
"I didn't see him in there," Naisbitt told the station. "If I had, I would have stopped," he said.
The district and Mayes' family reached the settlement of $62,500 less than a week ago, according to Mayes' attorney Robert Sykes.
"This is a fair settlement and the family is happy about it. There was clearly a racist act, and this is a horrible thing that the bus driver did," Sykes said.
The suit had requested that disciplinary action be taken against Naisbitt and that criminal charges be filed.
"This school district needs to take some action to reign in this bad conduct, hopefully they will take take some action," Sykes said.
The Davis School District declined to comment on the settlement.
"We take these matters very seriously and do everything we can to protect students, district spokeswoman, Shauna Lund said in a statement.
Reached at his home in Hooper, Naisbitt told KSTU in May he was "not at all" racist.
"No," he said. "Look at my dog. He's as black as could be."
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