Senate Reaches Bipartisan Agreement to Fund HBCUs

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Funding for the minority-serving institutions had expired during a months-long standoff between Republicans and Democrats.

SENATE REPUBLICANS AND Democrats reached an agreement to permanently fund historically black colleges and universities and other minority serving institutions after a months-long standoff during which federal funding for the schools expired.

"While this funding should never have lapsed in the first place, I'm glad that we were able to reach a deal that provides minority-serving institutions with the certainty of funding they deserve – and I truly appreciate the work done on both sides of the aisle to get us to this point," Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, said in a statement.

The bipartisan proposal would make permanent $255 million in annual funding for HBCUs, simplifies the application for federal student aid, known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and eliminates annual paperwork required of borrowers enrolled in income-based student loan repayment plans.

The proposal is paid for by simplifying the federal student aid form, which, among other things would eliminate up to 22 questions and require applicants to submit their tax information only once. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the changes would save taxpayers $2.8 billion over ten years, which will be used to pay for the permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

The proposal is also co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Chris Coons of Delaware.

"It's hard to think of a piece of legislation that would have more of a lasting impact on minority students and their families than this bill," Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.

The deal comes after months of an escalating showdown in the Senate over how to fund HBCUs, with Republican and Democrats offering dueling strategies.

Senate Republicans had refused to consider a two-year extension House Democrats passed in September, objecting to how it's paid for, and instead attempted to leverage the time-sensitive situation by attaching the HBCU funding to a new piece of legislation that includes several bipartisan measures to partially update the Higher Education Act. Democrats, for their part, had refused to back the package of bipartisan proposals on grounds that it would dash any hopes of Congress passing a more comprehensive reauthorization of the federal higher education law, which hasn't been updated for more than a decade and for which there are ongoing bipartisan negotiations.

The brokered deal announced Wednesday includes wins for both sides.

For Alexander, the former governor and president of the University of Tennessee system who is not seeking reelection next year, it will enshrine the simplification of the federal aid form, which he's pursued for the better part of a decade. And for Murray and other Democrats, the addition of that bipartisan proposal – and not the broader package of proposals for which there is support from both sides of the aisle – means ongoing congressional efforts to produce a comprehensive reauthorization that addresses more complicated issues, like campus sexual assault and a redesign of federal student loan and repayment programs, will continue.

"This deal is a win-win," Murray said. "Now, I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican colleagues on efforts to overhaul the Higher Education Act in a comprehensive, bipartisan way that does right by all students."

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More Than 500 Legal Scholars Say Trump Committed Impeachable Acts

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Their open letter comes as House Democrats are drawing up articles of impeachment for a full floor vote.

A group of more than 500 legal scholars has signed an open letter to Congress declaring that President Donald Trump “engaged in impeachable conduct” as the impeachment proceedings against him continue.

“We do not reach this conclusion lightly,” stated the letter, dated Friday.

Trump “betrayed his oath of office” by attempting to pressure Ukrainian leaders to help him “distort” the 2020 election “at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress.”

“The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ warrant impeachment,” the scholars asserted.

The signees include professors and other experts from an array of academic institutions such as Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, George Washington University and the University of Michigan, among many others. Their message was spearheaded by the Protect Democracy Project, a nonprofit created in 2017 with the goal of holding the White House “accountable to the laws and longstanding practices that have protected our democracy through both Democratic and Republican Administrations.” 

Since the impeachment inquiry began in late September, House investigators have heard from a number of witnesses both in private and in public who have painted a fuller picture of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

According to sworn testimony from U.S. foreign policy officials, Trump threatened to withhold millions of dollars in military aid in exchange for investigations that would help his reelection campaign, and conditioned a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president on a public announcement of those investigations.

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On Tuesday, a panel of four constitutional law experts took questions from the House Judiciary Committee over whether the president’s alleged offenses were serious enough to warrant articles of impeachment ― or a formal description of impeachable misconduct. Three of the four experts said Trump’s behavior was clearly impeachable, while a fourth dissenting in part because he believed more testimony was needed.

In their letter, the legal experts said Trump’s “conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”

They also noted that “conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable.”

“Whether President Trump’s conduct is classified as bribery, as a high crime or misdemeanor, or as both, it is clearly impeachable under our Constitution,” the signees concurred.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday asked that articles of impeachment against Trump be prepared, saying the president’s actions have left “us no choice” 

If the articles are passed in the Democratic-controlled House, the process moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is not likely to result in Trump’s removal from office.

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Texas Cop Reportedly Shoots Black Man In The Head As Questions Go Unanswered

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Here we go again. A Texas police officer has reportedly killed a Black person under suspicious circumstances, and all indications point toward a possible coverup. Sound familiar?

The mother of a young Black man killed by police claims a detective said that her son was shot in the head even though he didn’t have a gun or pose a threat to the officer involved. Michael Dean was killed on Monday, according to Temple Daily Telegraph. But days later, there are still a handful of unanswered questions.

“If my son was in the wrong, so be it,” Christine Dean said on Wednesday. “But why is he dead? He didn’t deserve to be shot down. Nobody can give me answers. If he was in the wrong there would [be] a whole story out there, wouldn’t there?”

Temple Police shared only basic details about the incident and directed media questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The investigation was transferred to the Texas Rangers and the Bell County District Attorney’s Office. The officer, who has nine years of experience on the force, had not been identified as of Friday afternoon.

“At this time the investigation is still ongoing; any new information will be released when warranted as to not compromise the investigation.” DPS Sgt. Bryan Washko said.

Dean’s mother said a police detective initially told her that her son didn’t pull over right away and when he exited the car, he walked toward the officer, who then shot him.

“Things just don’t add up. He knows not to get out of a car when he’s pulled over. And people said they saw the police officer pull him (Michael) out of the car,” she said.

Christine Dean said the people who should be giving her answers, the Temple Police Department, are refraining to do so. “Temple has washed their hands of it. We’re told to contact the Texas Rangers,” she said.

The Temple Police Department didn’t release info that someone was killed in an officer-involved shooting until Tuesday afternoon. When questioned as to why this was omitted from the initial news release after Dean had already been declared dead, spokesman Chris Christoff said the incident occurred in public, “meaning that the vehicle had the potential of being easily recognizable. We wanted an opportunity to notify Dean’s family prior to releasing the information to the public.”

Christine Dean said the cops didn’t tell the family that Michael was dead until about 1:30 a.m., which was more than five hours after he was shot. He was pronounced dead at 8:26 p.m., shortly after he was shot at around 8:15 p.m.

Christoff’s excuse for the late family notification was “The area was subject to extensive investigative procedure to include stabilizing the scene; maintaining the flow of traffic; contacting and the arrival of all the necessary resources and off-duty personnel to include justice of the peace; contacting all of the investigators to the scene to include the Texas Rangers; and confirming the identity of the deceased and the identifies/contact inform for next of kin.”

The officer-involved shooting also wasn’t listed on LexisNexis Community Crime Map, which is what Temple Police Department uses to inform the public of incidents in the neighborhood.

Bell County Justice of the Peace Ted Duffield issued the order for an autopsy, and explained that the body was sent Tuesday morning to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. Dean’s body has yet to be returned by press time Wednesday, Duffield said. Dean was shot in the head, according to Duffield.

Michael was adopted by his family at four years old along with his four siblings. “He’s not a criminal. He wasn’t out there committing crimes,” his mother said. “They’re making it seem like he was a bad person.”

“I feel like someone messed up. I really do,” Christine said. “I want to know why my son died on the concrete. I’ve never heard of anyone not giving information about their loved one. If he did something wrong and you had to do it, so be it — but tell me.”

Dean leaves behind three elementary-age children.

 

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Kamala Harris Dropping Out Of Presidential Race

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The California senator struggled to gain traction in recent months.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is dropping her presidential bid. She informed her staff on Tuesday.

Harris held a call with her team in Iowa on Tuesday, saying that she had made the decision because of financial struggles experienced by the campaign.

“I don’t think anyone on my team was expecting this,” said one staffer, who said they were completely shocked by the news. 

Harris will be going to New York City and Baltimore to inform staff there, and she intends to travel to the four early states where she has a campaign presence to be with her team there as well this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Harris emailed her supporters that she was withdrawing from the presidential race: 

My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.

I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.

In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do.

So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret ― but also with deep gratitude ― that I am suspending my campaign today.

The news came just as a super PAC reserved airtime in Iowa for an ad blitz, set to begin on Tuesday, meant to bolster the candidate. (It quickly cancelled the spots after Harris’ announcement.) Harris’ team had been upfront about its financial issues and had cut staff in New Hampshire in order to double down on the caucus state

Presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters after a town hall in Iowa, said he was disappointed the California senator had been forced out of the contest. 

“She’s a first-rate candidate and a real competitor and I have mixed emotions about it because she is really a solid, solid person and loaded with talent,” he said. 

Harris entered the race as a top-tier candidate, drawing more than 20,000 people to a kickoff rally in Oakland. She faced immediate progressive scrutiny of her record as a prosecutor in California. Throughout the campaign, she struggled to weave together her progressive positioning as a senator and presidential candidate with the more traditional stances she held during her decades as a prosecutor.

The high point of her campaign came during the first presidential debate, when she attacked Biden for his stance on desegregation efforts in the 1970s. She skyrocketed in the polls, but was unable to sustain her place in the field as the Biden campaign aggressively fought back and Harris struggled to explain her own views on mandatory busing. 

As her poll numbers began to sink in the late summer and early fall, her campaign announced a renewed focus on Iowa, ditching a previous strategy of focusing on her delegate-rich home state of California and heavily African-American South Carolina. 

Harris was spending far more money than she was bringing in, and according to The New York Times, she made the final decision to drop out after a financial audit showed she would have to go into debt in order to stay in the race. 

Morgan State Marching Band To Grace Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade With HBCU Love

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hanksgiving Day is upon us and Morgan State University’s Magnificent Marching Machine will be making history this year. Local Baltimore news outlet WBALTV 11 has revealed that the HBCU’s marching band will be the first historically black university in Maryland to play at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the fifth in the country.

The band of over 100 members began making their way to the Big Apple on Tuesday and containing their excitement seemed like an impossible feat. But, why wouldn’t they be excited to show off their skills at the two-mile long parade?

“I’ve always wanted to be in the Macy’s Day parade and when I got in. My mind was blown,” said trumpeter Arthur Crowner.

The band has endured bootcamp-like preparation, which consisted of daily three-hour practices and physical workouts. Melvin Miles, director of the Morgan State University Band said, “What we are doing now is just trying to spend some time marching around the track so that we get used to just being in parade formation for that amount of time.”

Nonetheless, the Magnificent Marching Machine will be performing five songs. Due to contractual purposes, they were unable to reveal which songs, but they’ve promised that the performance will be a hit, according to WBALTV 11.

The band is expected to line up to practice with the other parade acts at 1 a.m. Thursday morning. “I don’t know if I’m going to get a lot of sleep, but it’s not going to matter because we’re going to have so much fun and we can sleep after,” alto saxophonist De’Aunjana’e Wise told the outlet.

The Magnificent Marching Machine will kick things off for the marching bands, as they are the first to perform.

North Carolina A&T State University performed at the parade in 2012.

Prairie View A&M University’s Marching Storm represented Texas in 2017.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will start on Thursday at 9 a.m.

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