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Bill Cosby retrial is set for November, judge rules

Bill Cosby will be retried on three charges of assault starting November 6 of this year, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Judge Steven O'Neill ruled Thursday.

The famed comedian stood trial in June on three charges of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in January 2004.

Judge O'Neill declared a mistrial in the case after jurors said they were unable to come to a unanimous verdict on any of the charges.

The trial was light on forensics and largely relied on the testimony of Constand, who worked as the director of basketball operations for Temple University's women's basketball team at the time.

She said Cosby, a powerful alum at the school, mentored her and gained her trust in order to take advantage of her. He gave her a pill that incapacitated her and then digitally penetrated her, she testified.

Cosby, 79, did not testify in his own defense during the trial. His defense attorneys attacked Constand's credibility, pointing out inconsistencies in her testimony on dates and details. His attorneys said that the sexual contact did occur but that it was part of a consensual relationship.

Jurors were sharply divided in the case and reported being "hopelessly deadlocked" on a verdict. One juror who spoke with CNN afterward said that a retrial would be a "waste of money" because "there's no new evidence."



Fight for survival hits Lincoln University on many fronts

Lincoln University is perched high on the hills above Missouri’s capital city, but the school is often overlooked by state government.

Lincoln, ignored by federal officials and state lawmakers, faces budget cuts year after year and must regularly reduce the number of faculty and programs as a result.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, the university stands to lose $3.8 million in state and federal appropriations, according to Lincoln University figures. 

To cover the deficit, the university will terminate 48 staff and faculty positions by the end of June and cut all employee pay by 0.5 percent, the first across-the-board pay cut ever imposed by the university.

On average, Lincoln’s budget has hovered around $50 million annually. Counting tuition, housing and other revenue streams, Lincoln generates around $13 million each year. The remaining $37 million must be made up with state and federal funding, according to independent auditor reports.

Lincoln has finalized a $33.5 million budget for the next academic year. Yet, despite all the financial shuffling, the school will still be about $1.8 million short, Provost Debra Greene told faculty and staff in early May.

“This amount has to come from salary,” she said in a memo. “There are no other places to cut.”

To help bridge the gap, the school will increase undergraduate and graduate tuition by 2 percent, then-President Kevin Rome told the Lincoln community in mid-May.

“We’re a small school in the middle of nowhere,” said Randy Mitchell, a junior at Lincoln studying journalism. “If the state is going to cut money, it’s going to come from us.”

“The legislators don’t see their children coming here,” said Jacob Rowell, a recent graduate with a degree in environmental science. “They don’t really think of us.”

Chronic underfunding

Lincoln University and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis are the only two historically black colleges and universities in Missouri, a designation created in 1964 to identify schools founded to educate African Americans.

Although it has the designation, 53 percent of Lincoln’s student body of 3,289 undergraduate and graduate students is white — 1,500 students. There are 1,349 black students and 440 students of other ethnicities, according to data from Lincoln. Just 36 of the 184 instructional faculty belong to a minority group.

Lincoln, established in 1866, became a land grant university in 1890. The original 1862 Land Grant College Act, also known as the Morrill Act, gave 30,000 acres of federal land to states to create or extend eduction in agricultural or mechanical arts. MU was awarded land grant status in 1870 when it created the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, later renamed the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

The Morrill Act was extended in 1890 to include former slave states, but instead of granting land, the act included a mechanism for schools to receive annual funding.

The Second Morrill Act forbade racial discrimination in admissions policies for colleges receiving the federal funds. To circumvent this provision, a state could maintain separate institutions. Thus, land grant institutions like Lincoln University served African Americans.

Under the law, land grant schools can receive federal funds as long as there is a dollar-for-dollar state or local match.

To receive the state funding match, Lincoln’s appropriation must be passed in a separate legislative process by both the Missouri House and Senate, meaning the money is not guaranteed.

All this means the history of support from land grant funding at Lincoln is spotty. Between fiscal years 2007 and 2014, the legislature allocated no revenue for the land grant match. In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the state matched $500,000 each year.

In fiscal year 2017, the Missouri House and Senate passed a $2 million match to secure an equal amount of federal land grant funds, but $1 million was withheld by former Gov. Jay Nixon.

During the last legislative session, $2.5 million in land grant funding passed both the Missouri House and Senate, but it still needs Gov. Eric Greitens’ approval.

Budget cutting

During former president Rome’s four-year tenure, the chronic underfunding turned into persistent faculty, staff and program cuts.

From his first year in the fall of 2013 until Rome left this month, faculty and staff positions declined from 529 to 450, according to Lincoln University data.

In addition:

• Lincoln’s history department was suspended in 2016 based on its low graduation numbers. It was reinstated in February after campus outcry.

• Journalism and social work were put on academic monitoring, meaning the programs would end if the number of graduates dropped.

• Students on track for a degree in early childhood education, music education or sacred music had to change majors — and often remain in school longer — when their programs ended.

• Chemistry was also doomed, but faculty resistance kept it from deactivation, according to Inside Higher Ed.

• In May, Lincoln’s curators voted to block promotions, tenure and sabbatical requests, according to the Jefferson City New-Tribune. This month, the board adjusted that position by approving promotions for five faculty and tenure for another four.

Discontent simmers

Not surprisingly, faculty and staff have been outraged by many of these decisions. A budget committee made up of faculty and staff members was disbanded in 2013, they say, depriving them of any voice to object to cuts or suggest alternatives.

“We lost our voice.” said Aimee Busalacki, an associate professor of biology. “Under the Rome administration, even the smallest measure of shared governance we previously had was eroded to the point where it’s nearly nonexistent.”

Angered that the administration was acting unilaterally, the faculty placed much of the blame on Said Sewell, then provost and vice president of academic affairs. In September 2016, they declared a vote of no-confidence in Sewell.

The faculty senate, an organized forum at Lincoln created by and for faculty members, voted 88-18 in favor of the resolution stating: “Dr. Sewell has repeatedly violated the principles of shared governance and has not responded in any substantive way to the concerns expressed by our members.”

At about the same time, much of the faculty joined the Missouri National Education Association to prompt collective bargaining.

“Before this, we never thought about unionizing. And I don’t just mean discussing or debating it. No one had ever thought about it,” said Noel Heermance, who has taught English at Lincoln for 48 years. “Not because we don’t think, but we had never been under the conditions where we need to think about it.”

Busalacki, now president of Lincoln’s chapter of the Missouri National Education Association, added: “Union organization was initiated due to feelings by members of the faculty that the administration was making unilateral decisions that were negatively impacting our ability to give students at Lincoln University the best education.”

Faculty and staff were also upset about the unprecedented announcement this spring that their pay would be cut by 0.5 percent.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of a pay decrease, even during past budget problems,” said Stephanie Clark, a math instructor and chair of the faculty senate. “The proposed pay decrease adds insult to injury, especially for the little amount that it will save the university.”

Although both Sewell and Rome have resigned, the faculty remains worried that many problems with administration are tied to the budget.

“When the pay is low, administrators come and do their thing and leave,” Heermance said. “We need someone who is familiar with the school. How can anybody know the curriculum and the people when they’re here for a brief period? But we can’t pay for that kind of leadership here.”

Starting again

Rome, who left in June, will become president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. Mike Middleton, who served as interim president for MU for 15 months when there were conflicts between students and administration, took over as interim president of Lincoln in early June to again face conflicts between faculty and administration.

Middleton has said publicly that colleges and universities must become more cooperative to save money and avoid unnecessary duplication of programs and services. On June 14, Lincoln and the UM System signed a memorandum of understanding to “enhance their partnership, and benefit students and the economic development of the state.”

An advisory board will be created to assess the strengths of both universities, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. The partnership was also set up to share scholarly work, mutually seek grants, collaborate on research and organize international programs

“There’s hope,” said Leslie Cross, the news and development director at the independently funded KJLU radio station, which sits in a small house at the corner of Lincoln’s campus. “But these budget cuts are tied to problems that still haven’t been solved.”

Students, meanwhile, have learned that all they can do is watch and hope their education plans aren’t impacted further. Open enrollment and an average tuition of $6,500 per semester primarily attracts a student body from rural Missouri.

“We deal with financial problems; it’s part of going here,” student Randy Mitchell said. “And now there’s a lot of friction. Everything that happens because of these cuts, we just take. If it was MU, there’d be protests. But protests take time off work and days away from school. We can’t afford that.” 




Cory Booker on 2020: 'I don't know what the future's going to bring'

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker seems to tread carefully around speculation of a potential 2020 White House bid.

"I don't know what the future's going to bring," Booker told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN. "I'm not making predictions, but I want to unleash the fullness of who I am right now, and I want to call out injustice where I see it."

The Democratic senator has come increasingly into the national spotlight under Donald Trump's presidency. Just last week, he and Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis staged a sit-in on the Capitol steps to discuss the Senate health care bill. The action, livestreamed on Booker's Facebook page, added further fodder to conjectures about his role as an emerging leader in the Democratic party.

However, the New Jersey senator noted that he is not actively "thinking about aspirations for another office," instead indicating that any potential candidacy would arise out of his commitment to his role as a lawmaker.

"I think that politicians make a terrible mistake if they're thinking about aspirations for another office because I think it undermines their integrity where they are," Booker said.

"If I start thinking about the future like that or engaging in that stuff ... I think it would make me a lesser of a senator," he continued. Booker said it was by virtue of being "100% present" as mayor of Newark that opportunities arose for his congressional campaign.

Moreover, Booker said he has no intention of posturing for a theoretical White House run.

"I'm a guy that's going to criticize policies that, frankly, in a lot of states that are important for presidential elections would find that very much of a threat," he said. "My loyalty is to the position I'm in right now."




Meet Coast Guard's First African-American Female Helicopter Pilot, La'Shanda Holmes

Drive across South Ave. to East 7th Street in Plainfield, and you might catch a glimpse of a banner celebrating Lieutenant La'Shanda Holmes, the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Holmes was born in Plainfield's Muhlenberg Hospital in 1985.  After her mom passed away when she was just two years old, she faced a difficult childhood, and spent time in the foster care system.

Overcoming adversity, Holmes attended Atlanta's Spelman College as a Bonner Scholar. The program provides a four-year scholarship to students in need who have a commitment to service. 

As a freshman, she studied biochemistry. That year, she worked at a career fair, sitting across the way from a gentleman from the Coast Guard. The Iraq War had begun, and he hadn't had many students visit his booth. Holmes struck up a conversation, and became intrigued in what he had to say about the military service. 

She was offered a scholarship for her last two years at college, and in 2005, headed to boot camp in Cape May, NJ. Holmes graduated from Spelman College in 2007, and from Officer Candidate School in 2008.  In 2010, she earned the coveted Wings of Gold, pinned on her by mentor Lt. Jeanine Menze, the first African-American female pilot in the Coast Guard who flew C-130s.

Holmes moved to Los Angeles, where she worked search and rescue, marine environment protection, and drug migrant interdiction duty. After, in Atlantic City, she worked Rotary Wing Air Intercept, or RWAI, around the President of the United States.

While in Atlantic City, she found out about the White House Fellows Program under the Obama administration, and was appointed to the 2015-16 class.

Today, Lt. Holmes is stationed in Miami. She has applied to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and has received an acceptance letter to become a five-year term member. 



Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks

Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks

Cable news outlets are pulling huge ratings and reporters are becoming overnight celebrities as the attacks between President Trump and the media enters strange new territory.

The Trump White House has agitated for the fight, believing that every day it spends feuding with the media exposes further press bias and energizes the conservative base.

But Trump’s claim that MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding” from a “face-lift” unified the media, with anchors from Fox News to CNN expressing outrage at the president’s tweets and pointing to them as evidence that the press should not treat Trump like a normal president.

Trump again sent the media into a fury over the weekend when he tweeted a doctored videoshowing him at a fake wrestling match body-slamming someone with the CNN logo over their face. Reporters accused Trump of encouraging violence against the press.

The relationship between the White House and the media is in shambles, with the daily press briefings devolving into shouting matches and airing of grievances. Both sides engage in stunts, grandstanding and political theater meant to undermine or embarrass the other.

The White House has long viewed attacking the media, dubbed “the opposition party” by chief strategist Stephen Bannon, as a winning strategy. But the nasty turn has also been a boon to the media and the individual reporters who register acts of protest against the administration.

“Ratings are part of it, but the media’s open contempt for this administration is part of it too,” said Tim Graham, the director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. “I imagine it will continue as long as the ratings keep going up.”

Left-leaning MSNBC pulled big numbers as the only network in open opposition to the president, even before the spat between Trump and the “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Brzezinski engulfed Washington.

According to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings, MSNBC’s total viewers are up 73 percent year-over-year, with primetime viewership up 86 percent, easily making it the fastest growing cable news outlet.

Anchor Rachel Maddow has become a cultural icon on the left while also attracting a younger audience of viewers. MSNBC’s share of the coveted 25 to 54 demographic grew 78 percent in primetime over last year. Their primetime audience has nearly tripled since second quarter of 2014.

Scarborough said over Twitter that his show had a record month for ratings.

CNN, meanwhile, is running third in the cable wars. Journalistically, the network has had a rough stretch, with retraction-related dismissals, sting videos showing producers expressing frustration with the network’s editorial decisions and allegations of bias coming from the right.

But CNN has still grown 25 percent in total viewers and 10 percent in primetime year-over-year. The network’s deep well of contributors and political talkers ensures that the Trump Show is always rolling.

It’s a stark departure from the pre-Trump era, when sagging ratings provoked a move away from breaking news and political programming. As recently as 2014, CNN was airing “Dirty Jobs”, “America’s Most Wanted”, or “Our America with Lisa Ling” in the primetime 9 o’clock hour.

Some media watchers are growing alarmed by the increasingly antagonistic approach some in the press are taking. But most expect it will continue as long as the feuding with Trump attracts new viewers.

“The news world is reaping some short-term benefits from the running battle with Trump, but this is really a short-sighted and ultimately losing strategy,” said Jeffrey McCall, a media critic and professor at DePauw University. “Sure, it's sensational and somewhat entertaining, but it makes the media look small and petty. Media credibility is quite low and most news consumers aren't going to sympathize with the news industry, even when Trump makes boorish attacks.”

Fox News is still the front-runner in the cable wars, despite shake-ups that roiled both its primetime line-up and executive suites. 

Fox’s audience grew 19 percent between 8pm and 11 pm, as viewers tune in to watch Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity rail against the news media on a nightly basis.

Feuding with Trump has also become a profitable endeavor for many individual reporters, with viral video clips and tweets opening new doors for previously little-known journalists.

Taking on the White House worked for Brian Karem, an editor for a regional newspaper in the Washington suburbs.

Karem was little-known before Tuesday, when a video of him lecturing White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders over press access went viral.

Less than a week later, he has nearly 80,000 followers.

After his exchange, Karem made the cable news rounds to call Sanders a bully. He sat for scores of interviews with print and online outlets, where he claimed the nickname “honey badger” — a supposedly fearless animal — and said members of the press corps had likened him to legendary reporters Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.

Left-leaning outlets have held Karem up as a hero, although the episode cemented in the minds of many conservatives that reporters want to use the briefings to make their names by grandstanding against the administration.

That’s a point press secretary Sean Spicer made in explaining why fewer press briefing would be televised.

Other reporters have had similar experiences.

Veteran White House reporter April Ryan, who has been covering the White House for 20 years and has long been one of the most respected journalists in the press corps, scored a contributor position on CNN this year after several high-profile dust-ups with Trump and Spicer.

CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta has become the face of the resistance inside the briefing room, ranting against the administration on the air and on social media. 

Acosta’s antagonistic tweets have gone viral amid the furor over the White House decision to take the briefings off-camera. Frustrated with the lack of camera access, Acosta began to tweet pictures of his socks — the only things in the briefing, he wrote, that he was allowed to show on camera.   

But Acosta has drawn scorn from many conservatives, who say he is grandstanding and making himself the story.

“In honor of the Fourth of July, let's save all our fireworks for Tuesday,” Sanders said at the start of Friday’s press briefing.

The frenzy and eagerness to capitalize on what some in media have dubbed the “Trump Effect” has led to some sloppy journalism.

CNN admitted that it did not follow protocol in pushing out a story alleging that a Trump associate had improper ties with a Russian bank. The network had to retract the story, while the three journalists responsible for it resigned.

That latest CNN embarrassment came after a story authored by some of the network’s top talent, including anchor Jake Tapper and political analyst Gloria Borger, was retracted after it was directly contradicted by public testimony from former FBI director James Comey.

In his testimony, Comey also said that a New York Times bombshell story alleging Trump officials had colluded with Moscow was totally false and that most reports on the matter should not be trusted.

Those incidents have emboldened the White House, with Trump’s allies in conservative media saying the mainstream media is nothing but “fake news.”

Now, some on the left, like Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi and Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald, are sounding the alarm. Both argued this week that media outlets are behaving recklessly in covering the Russia investigation, which has driven much of the coverage on CNN and MSNBC.

“Over and over, major U.S. media outlets have published claims about the Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false — always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle,” Greenwald wrote. “In virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources that these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.” 





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