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Speculation persists about Kamala Harris preparing for a presidential run In 2020

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A first-term U.S. Senator from California could be the rising star Democrats are hoping can lead the party in the 2020 presidential race.

She is Kamala Harris who, according to her Senate bio, "was the first African-American and first woman to serve as Attorney General of California and the second African-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate in history."

McClatchy is reporting that, while she has denied interest in running in 2020, she appears to making the moves that a potential candidate would, including speaking to key groups and on high-profile panels, fundraising for fellow Democrats, and connecting with journalists.

As Democratic political adviser Bob Shrum told the news outlet, "From everything I've seen of her she'd be an attractive candidate, she could be a compelling candidate, and I think she'd have a lot of appeal for primary voters."

Others have agreed, with the Washington Post calling her "formidable" due to her "California fundraising and activist base coupled with her historic status in the party..."

And in the wake of Hillary Clinton's failure to become the first female president, the Huffington Post has suggested Harris could be "the next best hope for shattering that glass ceiling."

Both outlets compared her rise to that of former President Obama who also ran with just one Senate term under his belt.

However, when the Los Angeles Times' Patt Morrison asked her about running for the top job a few months ago, Harris deflected the question, saying, "I don't know why my name is in that context. I'm focused on being the junior senator from California and very proud to be representing our beautiful state."

Even if she decides to join the race in 2020, she may have some tough competition for the Democratic nomination in the form of former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

 

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Historically Black University Cancels Sen. John Cornyn’s Speech After Outcry

A Houston university has canceled an upcoming commencement speech by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), days after protesters booed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at another historically black university’s graduation. More than 800 people signed a petition to protest Texas Southern University’s decision to invite Cornyn, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, to speak at its Saturday commencement ceremony. On Friday, the Houston Chronicle reported that the speech was off.

“Every consideration is made to ensure that our student’s graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come,” the university said in a statement posted on Facebook. “We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families.”

Cornyn aides told the Chronicle that the senator “respects the Administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the University in the future.”

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Rebecca Trevino, the student who started the online petition, wrote that having Cornyn speak at TSU would be an insult to all historically black colleges and universities. The petition notes Cornyn’s support for DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his voting record in favor of voter ID laws, his opposition to sanctuary cities, and his criticism of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, after whom TSU’s law school is named.

This is our graduation,” Trevino wrote. “We have the right to decide if we want to refuse to sit and listen to the words of a politician who chooses to use his political power in ways that continually harm marginalized and oppressed people.”

A similar petition followed Bethune-Cookman University’s announcement that DeVos ― who has made controversial comments about HBCUs ― would be the commencement keynote speaker. Protesters say they gathered 50,000 signatures to stop the speech at the school in Daytona Beach, Florida.

DeVos ultimately gave the keynote address on Wednesday, but students in the audience turned their backs and repeatedly interrupted her with loud booing.

TSU did not immediately respond to a question about whether DeVos’ reception at Bethune-Cookman influenced TSU’s decision to cancel Cornyn’s speech.

According to TSU’s calendar, U.S. Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, both Texas Democrats, will give presentations at the school’s commencement.

 

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White House: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

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President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, according to the White House.

The president informed Comey of his termination a week after he generated national headlines with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Reports emerged on Tuesday that the FBI had found part of that testimony to be inaccurate.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, President Trump informed Comey, "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigations" before stating that he agreed with the recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to relieve the director of his post.

"I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau," wrote Trump.

Comey may have been blindsided by his firing on Tuesday, according to reports that say FBI and Justice officials had no prior knowledge of Trump's bombshell announcement.

"Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The FBI is one of our Nations most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement, said President Trump.

 
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Norfolk student wins award at international robotics competition

Norfolk Academy junior Chai Hibbert won a prestigious award at an international robotics competition in St. Louis.

The FIRST Championship is an international event that brought in more than 15,000 students from 33 countries.

Hibbert, who has been on the Bulldogs Robotic Team for the past two years, was selected as one of 20 students who won the FIRST Dean’s List Award. She was one of five students in the state to compete for the award.

Hibbert competed at the FIRST Tech Challenge level, which requires teams to create the most complex robots.

“When they called my name, I almost felt numb as I walked across the stage,” Hibbert said. “After receiving the award, I felt so proud that I could represent my team at such a high level.”

Hibbert’s win marks a significant step for Norfolk Academy Robotics, which started in 2012.

Physics teacher and the team’s faculty advisor Robert Call says this year’s team had a lot of enthusiasm and drive.

“This year’s team did a fantastic job.  Their success was due in large part to our team leaders and Chai was an important member of that group,” Mr. Call said. “Chai was particularly good at handling the details that other people overlooked. She did a great job of looking at the broader scope of FIRST beyond being a robot-building competition.”

The school’s robotics team continues to grow. This year’s team had 21 students, but the school’s headmaster says the new engineering curriculium in the lower school may fuel more interest in the years ahead.

“We are delighted, of course, about this news and proud of Chai,” said Headmaster Dennis G. Manning. “Her extraordinary achievement comes in the context of  our increased emphasis on STEM education, the number of Ph.D’s on our faculty,  our robotics program, and our transformational new Lower School Engineering, Design, and Innovation initiative. These are national-caliber programs clearly bearing national-caliber results.”

 

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Trump suggests financing for historically black colleges may be unconstitutional

In his signing statement, President Donald Trump outlines a range of provisions in the spending bill that he says would “unconstitutionally” limit his authority as commander in chief. President Donald Trump signaled Friday that he may not implement a 25-year-old federal program that helps historically black colleges finance construction projects on their campuses, suggesting that it may run afoul of the Constitution.

In a signing statement on the $1.1 trillion omnibus government spending bill, Trump singled out the Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program as an example of provisions in the funding bill “that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.”

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Trump said his administration would treat those programs “in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the law under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”’

Previous presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, often issued such statements when they signed legislation to signal they may ignore or disregard parts of laws passed by Congress.

In his first signing statement, Trump outlines a range of provisions in the spending bill that he says would “unconstitutionally” limit his authority as commander in chief — and indicates that where the bill conflicts with the White House’s interpretation of the president’s powers under the Constitution, he will go with the Constitution.

Neither the White House, nor the Education Department immediately responded to a request for comment.

Trump’s statement also suggests concern about programs listed under the “School Improvement Programs” section of the budget. Those include a wide range of education-related programs, such as after-school initiatives and programs that support Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native education.

Advocates for HBCUs and a legal expert said they were confused by the reference to the HBCU financing program.

Cheryl Smith, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund, also known as UNCF, which advocates for private HBCUs, said in a statement that the organization is “puzzled by this provision and seeking clarification from the White House as to its meaning.”

Smith noted that the federal designation of an institution as an HBCU is not based on race, but rather on mission, accreditation status and the year the institution was established.” She speculated that the “signing statement may simply be the Office of Management and Budget being overly cautious and perhaps not fully understanding this important distinction as it relates to HBCUs, but UNCF needs more information regarding their thinking and intent.”

Under the program, which was created by Congress in 1992, the Education Department provides federally-backed loans to historically black colleges and universities for the construction of buildings and other facilities. The bill provides $20 million in federal loan subsidies in fiscal year 2017 to support as much as $282 million worth of financing to the schools.

Derek W. Black, a law professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies constitutional and education law, called Trump’s reference to the HBCU program “rather odd.”

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“If Congress is validly spending money on these programs, and there’s no court finding or litigation suggesting discrimination, the idea that the executive would unilaterally not allocate those funds would be a rather momentous position to take.” Black said.

Although Congress and the president have long tussled over war powers in signing statements, for example, Black said he thought it was “very unusual” that the statement alluded to apparent discrimination in education programs.

“The administration is basically putting us on notice that they think there might be a problem, and therefore they might have to exercise judgement in these programs,” he said.

He also said it was unusual that the statement referenced only “race, ethnicity and gender.”

“Why stop here?” he asked. “If you’re worried about the allocation of benefits in unfair ways, why not add other things like religion or disability?”

 

 

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