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Updated: 59 min 59 sec ago

Weld schools leaders counter Denver high school’s allegations, saying no Confederate flag was displayed at football game

4 hours 37 min ago

Weld County schools leaders weighed in Sunday after a football game in Denver where Manual High School players and the principal alleged a Confederate flag was displayed and that players were taunted with racial slurs — saying they found no evidence this happened.

The Weld officials declared they’ve canceled future sports competitions with Manual High School in Denver and denounced any form of racism.

Photo provided by The Greeley TribuneThis January file photo depicts Weld Central Middle School’s mascot. The mascot, which is the same one used by Weld Central High School, has come under fire recently.

Weld Central High officials reviewed a video recording of the Friday night football game at Manual that included shots of the crowd, Superintendent Greg Rabenhorst and Weld Central High School Principal Dan Kennedy said in a letter distributed to families.

“From our viewings, no signs of a Confederate flag exist. Further, we have no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior on or off the field….,” Rabenhorst and Kennedy wrote.

“We are not certain what may have led to what currently appears to be false accusations toward our team and spectators.”

Weld Central is located in Keenesburg, about 40 miles northeast of Denver, and the school’s Confederate-themed “Rebel” mascot has stirred conflict recently reflecting the national debate around Civil War monuments and racism.

Concerns surfaced Saturday after Manual Principal Nick Dawkins put out a letter addressing incidents he called “extremely concerning” and publicly shared “the facts as I know them at this time.”

The visiting Weld Central team had “a Rebel mascot,” Dawkins said in a letter to families, and “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the game, offending many members of the Manual community. We asked them to remove the flag and they did so. However, the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field. Three of our players were injured during the game, including a student who suffered a concussion and a student who was transported to the hospital for a leg injury.”

Those players will be fine, the letter said.

But, in addition, “some of our players reported that, when tackled, players from the opposing team taunted them with racial slurs,” Dawkins wrote.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg was notified and “is reaching out to the Weld County superintendent to express our concerns that such symbols of racism and hatred, and racial slurs, ought to have no place in athletics or in any part of our students’ experiences,” Dawkins’ letter said. “We are all very concerned about what occurred and are trying to gather as much information as we can so we can determine next steps.”

The Weld schools officials’ letter said their investigation isn’t done and that “any behavior of this form found to be true will be subject to discipline. In the event any accusations are substantiated, we as a district will take full responsibility in condemning such behavior and disciplining students as appropriate.”

On Sunday, Denver Public Schools officials posted a follow-on letter from Dawkins to parents saying Monday’s junior varsity football game with Weld Central has been canceled and that Manual officials are “reaching out to the Colorado High School Athletics Association (CHSAA) for support in ensuring all future athletic contests are conducted in a positive spirit.”

Dawkins’ Sunday letter thanks families for support and kindness, noting that Manual has been “challenged by our fears over DACA” and by the deaths of two Manual students.

On Sept. 5 the Trump administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded immigrants brought as children illegally to the U.S. from deportation.

“It is in this light that I am asking our community and media to respect the healing and grieving process our students are going through by allowing us to return our focus to school and the upcoming spirit week and homecoming activities that can make high school so fun,” Dawkins wrote.



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Messenger or Messages or something else? The search for an all-in-one mobile messaging app is elusive

5 hours 43 min ago

Q: My issue: Understanding the Messages app (on Android phone) and the Messenger app (part of Facebook) and why they seem to fight each other? First, it starts out very confusing because the names are very similar. Second: Not all of my family and friends are on Facebook. The majority are on Facebook. When I receive texts from some friends, it comes up in Messages and asks to be the default app. Then a text will come in on Messenger on FB, causing Messenger to load and ask if IT can be the default app. Also, each app has a switch to turn on SMS capability. Is there a single app that would work for both FB and non-FB friends (sacrificing some of the integration with FB)?  Or should I use Messenger exclusively and remove Messages from my phone? Or is there another app that is better than both?  ~ Steve Pitts, Boulder County

Tech+ You only use two messaging services Steve? What about WhatsApp, Slack, Skype and SnapChat?

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Excessiveness aside, you’re not alone in your ask. Wired, Engadget and others have complained about the lack of a single universal messaging app for years. But the idea of using just one mobile app to communicate with friends and family who prefer a service different from yours has been elusive, and something the technology universe just won’t seem to give us. Or not quite.

One promising app that does come to the top is Disa, at disa.im, and is available for Android devices. It combines three services: Facebook messaging, WhatsApp and the phone’s built-in texting. (It, too, also asks to take over the phone’s built-in Messages app). But the good news is the company isn’t done. It hopes to integrate more messaging services by encouraging developers to create more plugins for alternative messaging options.

For iPhone users, IM+ from developer Shape, also mixes multiple messaging services into one app. But recent reviews are mixed as to whether everything is working as promised.

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We know this challenge isn’t impossible. For computers, there are many more options, such as Franz, which supports Slack, WhatsApp, WeChat, HipChat, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Google Hangouts, GroupMe, Skype and “many more,” according to the European developer (Wired magazine’s review called Franz “not perfect” but the next best thing). These apps — including All in One Messenger and Rambox — are limited to PCs, Macs and Linux computers.

But for now, universal messaging apps for mobile devices are not as universal as one would hope.

ScreenshotAndroid’s built-in “Messages” app lets users pick a separate messaging app by default.

Of course in your case Steve, it sounds like you’re just using Facebook Messenger and your phone’s built-in SMS texting app — i.e. Android’s Messages.

If you prefer to use just one, then it’ll have to be Facebook’s option because Android’s built-in “Messages” doesn’t connect to Facebook. However, Facebook will oblige so you can keep messages from all of your Facebook friends and non-Facebook friends in one app.

Prefer to keep them separate? Go into Android’s Messages app, select the three vertical dots in the top right, select “Settings” and pick the top option “Default SMS app.” You’ll be able to pick which messaging service you want to have priority.

Likewise, go into Facebook Messenger settings (click your circle photo to get into settings), then select “SMS” and turn it off. Then you won’t get those annoying requests to make Facebook the default.

Hey readers, if you have discovered a must-share universal app, then please, share it. Comment below or contact Tech+ via dpo.st/mailbag.

Everything’s better online! For complete answers and quick links, see the latest Tech+ Q&A at dpo.st/mailbag. Miss a week? Then subscribe to the new weekly Tech+ newsletter to get this week’s question and more delivered to your inbox. Sign up, see past Tech+ answers or ask your own tech question at dpo.st/mailbag. If you’re emailing your question, please add “Mailbag” to the subject line.



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In Denver’s raucous RiNo market, an island of affordable apartments will rise

5 hours 43 min ago

Mayor Michael Hancock likes to refer to the area along the the University of Colorado A-Line train route in north and east Denver as the “Corridor of Opportunity.” With a high concentration of undeveloped land there, Hancock and city officials believe the spaces along the 22.8 miles of RTD track connecting downtown and Denver International Airport represent one of the best commercial investments opportunities in the world.

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Property along the corridor, particularly in the River North neighborhood, is getting mighty expensive these days. Thanks to the foresight of a local nonprofit, an island of permanently affordable housing soon will be established amid that roiling real estate sea.

The Urban Land Conservancy announced today it is partnering with Medici Communities to build 65 apartments on 1.5 acres at the corner of 36th and Walnut streets. A block from RTD’s 38th & Blake Station, the Walnut Street Lofts will be reserved for people making 30 percent to 60 percent of the area’s median income when it welcomes its first tenants in late 2019, offering rents ranging from $400 for a one-bedroom, to $1,200 for a three-bedroom. 

“ULC is thrilled to partner with Medici to bring the only affordable housing option to RiNo’s 38th and Blake Station area,” Debra Bustos, the Conservancy’s vice president of real estate, said in a news release.

Aaron Miripol, ULC’s president and CEO, credited Bustos for taking the lead on purchasing the property for $1.7 million in 2011. It’s an example of “land banking,” a key strategy for the organization in which it swoops in and buys land along transportation corridors before major development begins and prices explode. The purchase price breaks down to less than $30 per square foot, Miripol said, while he is seeing properties selling for $200 per square foot in the area today.

The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority awarded Medici $1,198,115 in low-income housing tax credits to help finance the estimated $17 million project. Medici previously worked with ULC to build the 50-unit Evans Station Lofts in  southwest Denver in 2013. Features of that affordable housing project, including community space for nonprofit organizations and artists, a computer lab and rooftop deck, will be echoed on Walnut, ULC said. One difference is the Conservancy sold Medici the land for the Evans project, but it is maintaining a 99-year, automatically renewing land lease on Walnut Street and selling Medici development rights. That means for 198 years ULC will control what happens on the land.

“Whatever happens in the future, it’s going to remain affordable,” Miripol said. “We going to ensure it remains a community resource. It will last multiple generations.”

“This is a great (transit-oriented development) location, and it will provide affordable access to jobs across metro Denver to people who can’t afford or don’t want to pay for a car,” Medici principal and Walnut Station project leader Josh Russell said. “When you reduce the cost of housing and transportation for a moderate-income household, you have a chance to make a really positive impact and set the table for long-term self sufficiency.”

Colorado development firm McWinney is chipping in $1.5 million toward the Walnut Street project. The company owns an adjacent property and is putting up the money to earn a height variance for whatever it builds there from the city of Denver. Under the guidelines of a plan unanimously approved by the City Council last year, developers who build affordable housing or pay cash in lieu of affordable units can earn approval to construct buildings up to 16 stories tall on the blocks nearest the 38th & Blake Station.

“We have been working on a zoning incentive package for two years with stakeholders that increases density at the station, in exchange for affordable housing and community serving businesses,” City Council President Albus Brooks said in a news release. “We hope this will be a model for the rest of our city.”

The Urban Land Conservancy has invested in 28 projects in the metro area since it was founded in 2003. That includes a 156-unit affordable apartment project near the 40th and Colorado train station, also in the “Corridor of Opportunity.” Miripol said the nonprofit still has 20-plus acres in its bank to continue its mission of benefiting urban communities.

Jeff Allen is president of the Cole Neighborhood Association. His group represents Denver’s Cole neighborhood, just across the train tracks from RiNo and the Walnut Street project. The association endorsed the project and wrote a letter supporting Medici’s application for low-income housing tax credits to finance it. 

“We recognize that there is a critical need for affordable housing all over Denver but especially close to light rail or commuter rail stations,” Allen said.

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J.D. Martinez’s clutch hit secures top wild card for Diamondbacks

6 hours 48 min ago

PHOENIX — J.D. Martinez lined a two-out RBI single to deep left field with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Sunday to clinch the top wild card in the National League.

The Diamondbacks, who won only 69 games a year ago but are 90-66 this season, were already assured a playoff berth earlier in the day when St. Louis lost at Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee was beaten at home by the Chicago Cubs.

The comeback victory over Miami ensured Arizona will host the NL wild-card game Oct. 4.

Fernando Rodney (5-4) pitched a perfect inning for the win.

A throwing error by reliever Justin Nicolino (2-3) on Kristopher Negron’s sacrifice bunt helped load the bases with no outs in the Arizona ninth. Ketel Marte and Paul Goldschmidt each hit into a forceout at home. That brought up Martinez, who has been spectacular since he was acquired from Detroit in July. He sent Javy Guerra’s pitch on a line shot over the head of left fielder Marcell Ozuna to win it.

Giancarlo Stanton and Brian Anderson each doubled in a run for the Marlins.

Chris Herrmann homered for the Diamondbacks

Arizona tied it 2-all when Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single, went to second on Ozuna’s error and scored on Daniel Descalso‘s single.

Miami starter Dan Straily gave up one run on four hits in six innings, striking out nine and walking three. Diamondbacks counterpart Patrick Corbin allowed two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

The Diamondbacks learned they had clinched a postseason spot halfway through the fourth inning with an announcement on the big message board that was followed by a roar from the crowd. In the Arizona dugout, there were hugs and high-fives, and players even came out briefly and clapped hands and cheered the fans.

It’s the sixth time Arizona has advanced to the postseason in its 20-year history. The other years were 1999, 2001 (World Series champions), 2002, 2007 and 2011.

UMPIRE CHANGE

Plate umpire Jeff Kellogg was hit in the head inadvertently by Marte’s bat. After one more batter to lead off the eighth, Kellogg left the game was replaced at home by first base ump James Hoye.

TRAINER’S ROOM

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Diamondbacks: Manager Torey Lovullo said an X-ray on Friday revealed the fracture in INF Chris Owings’ middle finger is not completely healed. The earliest possible return for Owings would be the NL Division Series. … C Jeff Mathis (broken hand) has been cleared for more baseball activity and hopes he can play in the final series of the regular season at Kansas City.

UP NEXT

Marlins: RHP Odrisamer Despaigne (0-3, 4.37 ERA) starts Monday night at Colorado against RHP Tyler Chatwood (8-13, 4.56).

Diamondbacks: Arizona continues its final regular-season homestand Monday night when RHP Zack Godley (8-8, 3.20 ERA) pitches against Giants RHP Johnny Cueto (7-8, 4.49).



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FBI: “Double Hat Bandit” suspect arrested for bank robberies

7 hours 43 sec ago

BOISE, Idaho — A 54-year-old man suspected of robbing banks and credit union in seven states has been arrested in Indiana.

The FBI announced on Friday that Shayne Carson was arrested Thursday without incident in the parking lot of a motel in Whiteland, Indiana. Carson is scheduled to be transferred to Utah to face a bank robbery charge stemming from a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to the complaint, Carson is believed to be the “Double Hat Bandit.” Carson allegedly wore two hats — typically a beanie over a baseball cap — during 13 bank robberies throughout Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Idaho since last December. All the banks hit were inside grocery stores.

Carson is also a suspect in additional bank robberies in Colorado, Iowa and Ohio. Those incidents are still under investigation.



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Man with pellet gun who was shot by Fort Collins police officer is sentenced to community corrections

7 hours 2 min ago

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A man who was shot by a police officer in northern Colorado while he was holding a pellet gun has been sentenced to three years in a community corrections program.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports Austin Snodgrass struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty Thursday to felony menacing.

Prosecutors say the officer was justified when he shot Snodgrass, who walked toward him while pointing a pellet gun at him outside of a home Jan. 21.

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Investigators say Snodgrass acknowledged luring police to his home with a false report that his roommate had been stabbed. He says he lied to get officers to shoot him because he did not want to live anymore.

Community Corrections aims to reintegrate felony offenders into the community by providing counseling and life skills training.



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Mexico honors its greatest wrestler, El Santo, at centennial

7 hours 22 min ago

By Gustavo Martinez Contreras, The Associated Press

TULANCINGO, Mexico — You may have never heard the name Rodolfo Guzman.

But his silver-masked alter ego, El Santo, was a larger-than-life presence in professional wrestling rings, in comics and on the silver screen, helping popularize Mexico’s “lucha libre” around the world and entering the pantheon of pop culture icons.

“Lucha libre wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for El Santo,” said Roberto Shimizu, art director for the Old Toy Museum in Mexico City. “And for us Mexicans, El Santo is a figure of rectitude, of integrity, of dedication. He represents every virtue.”

Even as Mexico remains in shock from this week’s devastating earthquake, the country has been quietly marking Saturday’s centennial of the birth of El Santo, or the Saint. On Friday his son — also a pro wrestler who wears a silver mask and goes by El Hijo del Santo, or El Santo’s Son — hosted a Mass in memory of both his father and the victims of the quake.

Born Sept. 23, 1917, in Tulancingo, a small city about two hours northeast of Mexico City, Guzman’s family moved to the capital’s notoriously gritty Tepito neighborhood with his family as a boy. Today a statue of El Santo stands in Tepito, where he began his career.

He became a superstar after a legendary match in 1953, around the dawn of the television era in Mexico, in which he wagered his mask against nemesis Black Shadow.

Soon afterward a comic book series featuring El Santo was a smash hit, and the next step was obvious: movies. El Santo shot his first, “Santo vs. the Evil Brain,” in 1958, and went on to star in nearly 50 films including the most celebrated, 1962’s “Santo vs. the Vampire Women.”

“While Americans had Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, we had Rodolfo Guzman, El Santo, fighting everybody from the mummies to the Nazis,” said Felipe Carrillo Montiel, an El Santo expert. “But unlike those American superheroes, he was a real man — you could read his comics during the week and then go see him wrestle on the weekend at your local arena.”

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The silver screen cemented El Santo’s international celebrity and laid the foundations for what remains a profitable brand. El Hijo del Santo, his youngest son and the only one who followed him into wrestling, has similarly crossed over into films and comics and even environmental activism. The younger Santo runs three stores where you can buy all manner of merchandise, from T-shirts to posters to El Santo-brand tequila.

Tuesday’s earthquake led to an El Santo event in Tulancingo being partly rescheduled, and a lucha libre show planned for Saturday was also postponed.

Yet despite the muted celebrations, observers say Guzman’s legacy at 100 is palpable. This summer an exhibit in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park showcased 100 photographs to mark the centennial, and El Hijo was the guest of honor at a celebration at city hall honoring his father.

“He was the original action figure,” Shimizu said. “His image was reproduced millions of times, and every single kid in Mexico had one.”

Guzman died of a heart attack in 1984. He was buried wearing his silver mask.



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Redskins put it all together in prime time to rout Raiders

7 hours 40 min ago

LANDOVER, Md. — Kirk Cousins threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns, Chris Thompson had 188 all-purpose yards and a score and the Washington Redskins sacked Derek Carr four times and held the Oakland Raiders to 128 yards in a dominating 27-10 victory on Sunday night.

Cousins was a spectacular 25 of 30, including TD passes to Thompson, Vernon Davis and a 52-yarder to Josh Doctson. Thompson had 150 yards receiving and 38 yards rushing, joining Jamaal Charles as the only running backs to put up 150 yards receiving against the Raiders (2-1) since they moved to Oakland in 1995.

Thompson was again a difference maker and has four of Washington’s seven offensive touchdowns this season. The Redskins (2-1), who piled up 472 yards, improved to 4-6 in prime-time games under coach Jay Gruden and tied the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East.

Under pressure all night, Carr was 19 of 31 for 118 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Carr had thrown 112 consecutive passes before being picked off by Montae Nicholson on the second play of the game.

Oakland’s rushing offense, which came in ranked fifth in the NFL, managed just 32 yards.

OAKLAND 0-FER

The Raiders went 0 of 11 on third down as part of their anemic offensive effort. Their 47 first-half yards were their fewest since Week 14 against Denver in 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Oakland’s only touchdown, a 21-yard pass from Carr to Jared Cook, came after the Redskins’ Jamison Crowder muffed the punt return and the Raiders recovered at the Washington 18. The Raiders had scoring drives of 18 and 8 yards.

REDSKINS SACK MASTERS

The Redskins’ defensive front dominated the Raiders’ offensive line for much of the games. Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan each had a solo sack and rookie Jonathan Allen was in on two — with Junior Galette and Matt Ioannidis.

It was the most sacks of Carr since the 2015 finale against Kansas City (six).

ANTHEM PROTEST

Washington’s Dan Snyder followed the lead of a handful of other owners by linking arms with his players on the sideline during the national anthem. Seven Redskins players kneeled: tight ends Jordan Reed and Niles Paul, receivers Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Brian Quick and linebackers Chris Carter and Ryan Anderson.

A vast majority of Raiders players sat on the bench arm in arm. Carr was among those standing, along with coach Jack Del Rio.

INJURIES

Raiders: WR Michael Crabtree left with a chest injury. … CB Sean Smith returned from a neck injury and was beaten down the field by Davis and others.

Redskins: Reed (chest/rib), RB Rob Kelley (rib), and LB Mason Foster (shoulder) were all inactive . … RB Samaje Perine injured his hand on the play he fumbled in the fourth quarter. … OT Ty Nsekhe suffered a groin injury.

QUOTABLE

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Raiders LT Donald Penn to NBC on President Donald Trump’s comments about anthem protests: “I think it’s just going to start a domino effect. I think it’s going to start a lot more protests, a lot more guys are going to start taking knees, a lot more guys are going to start sitting through the national anthem because he’s basically calling us out.”

UP NEXT

Raiders: Visit the Denver Broncos in an AFC West matchup Sunday.

Redskins: Visit the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, Oct. 2.



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Denver police bomb squad rolls out three times for “see something say something” alerts about suspicious packages

September 24, 2017 - 8:57pm

Denver police are investigating after responding to “see something say something” calls alerting them about two more suspicious packages Sunday, following a similar incident on Saturday that blocked the 16th Street Mall.

In each case, police received alerts, raced to where callers said the packages were sitting and closed off central streets to pedestrians and vehicles along the mall as their bomb squad rolled into action.

“Our officers were able to check out the suspicious items in each case and determine they were not harmful,” Denver Police spokesman Doug Schepman said.

“The three incidents remain under investigation. There have not been any arrests.”

The callers apparently were different in each case, he said. And investigators say it is unclear, at this point, whether the three incidents this weekend are related.

On Sunday, police went to the intersection of the mall and Champa Street to check out one package, clearing away cars and people until they determined the package wasn’t dangerous.

Later Sunday afternoon, they closed Stout Street between 15th and 17th streets for nearly an hour while officers assessed another package.

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The police also closed down the mall between Court and Tremont streets Saturday as they investigated a package. Denver and other U.S. cities have been conducting campaigns based on the slogan “If You See Something, Say Something” to enlist public eyes and ears to increase safety.

“Part of the follow-up investigation will be to determine whether there is any malicious intent involved,” Schepman said, acknowledging these could have been packages inadvertently discarded that then raised concerns.

“Folks saw the items and reported them,” he said.

“We want folks to report to us anything that seems suspicious or out of place. We take the appropriate precautions. … We would rather that folks give us a call and we come check it out.”



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Obama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook

September 24, 2017 - 8:33pm

Nine days after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as “crazy” the idea that fake news on his company’s social network played a key role in the U.S. election, President Barack Obama pulled the youthful tech billionaire aside and delivered what he hoped would be a wake-up call.

For months leading up to the vote, Obama and his top aides quietly agonized over how to respond to Russia’s brazen intervention on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign without making matters worse. Weeks after Trump’s surprise victory, some of Obama’s aides looked back with regret and wished they had done more.

Now huddled in a private room on the sidelines of a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, two months before Trump’s inauguration, Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously. Unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, Obama warned, it would only get worse in the next presidential race.

Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem posed by fake news. But he told Obama those messages weren’t widespread on Facebook and that there was no easy fix, according to people briefed on the exchange, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of a private conversation.

The conversation on Nov. 19 was a flashpoint in a tumultuous year in which Zuckerberg came to recognize the magnitude of a new threat – a coordinated assault on a U.S. election by a shadowy foreign force that exploited the social network he created.

Like the U.S. government, Facebook didn’t foresee the wave of disinformation that was coming and the political pressure that followed. The company then grappled with a series of hard choices designed to shore up its own systems without impinging on free discourse for its users around the world.

One outcome of those efforts was Zuckerberg’s admission on Thursday that Facebook had indeed been manipulated and that the company would now turn over to Congress more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements that were bought by suspected Russian operatives.

But that highly public moment came after months of maneuvering behind the scenes that has thrust Facebook, one of the world’s most valuable companies – and one that’s used by one-third of the world’s population each month – into a multi-sided Washington power struggle in which the company has much to lose.

Some critics say Facebook dragged its feet and is acting only now because of outside political pressure.

“There’s been a systematic failure of responsibility” on Facebook’s part, said Zeynep Tufekci, as associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies social media companies’ impact on society and governments. “It’s rooted in their overconfidence that they know best, their naivete about how the world works, their expensive effort to avoid oversight, and their business model of having very few employees so that no one is minding the store.”

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Facebook says it responded appropriately.

“We believe in the power of democracy, which is why we’re taking this work on elections integrity so seriously, and have come forward at every opportunity to share what we’ve found,” said Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy and communications. A spokesperson for Obama declined to comment.

This account – based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the government’s investigation and Facebook’s response – provides the first detailed backstory of a 16-month journey in which the company came to terms with an unanticipated foreign attack on the U.S. political system and its search for tools to limit the damage.

Among the revelations is how Facebook detected elements of the Russian information operation in June 2016 and then notified the FBI. Yet in the months that followed, the government and the private sector struggled to work together to diagnose and fix the problem.

The growing political drama over these issues has come at a time of broader reckoning for Facebook, as Zuckerberg has wrestled with whether to take a more active role in combatting an emerging dark side on the social network – including fake news, suicides on live video, and allegations that the company was censoring political speech.

These issues have forced Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies to weigh core values, including freedom of speech, against the problems created when malevolent actors use those same freedoms to pump messages of violence, hate and disinformation.

There has been a rising bipartisan clamor, meanwhile, for new regulation of a tech industry that, amid a historic surge in wealth and power over the past decade, has largely had its way in Washington despite concerns raised by critics about its behavior.

In particular, momentum is building in Congress and elsewhere in the federal government for a law requiring tech companies – like newspapers, television stations and other traditional carriers of campaign messages – to disclose who buys political ads and how much they spend on them.

“There is no question that the idea that Silicon Valley is the darling of our markets and of our society – that sentiment is definitely turning,” said Tim O’Reilly, an adviser to tech executives and chief executive of the influential Silicon Valley-based publisher O’Reilly Media.

The encounter in Lima was not the first time Obama had sought Facebook’s help.

In the aftermath of the December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California, the president dispatched members of his national security team – including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and top counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco – to huddle with leading Silicon Valley executives over ways to thwart the Islamic State’s practice of using U.S.-based technology platforms to recruit members and inspire attacks.

The result was a summit, on Jan. 8, 2016, which was attended by one of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The outreach effort paid off in the view of the Obama administration when Facebook agreed to set up a special unit to develop tools for finding Islamic State messages and blocking their dissemination.

Facebook’s efforts were aided in part by the relatively transparent ways in which the extremist group sought to build its global brand. Most of its propaganda messages on Facebook incorporated the Islamic State’s distinctive black flag – the kind of image that software programs can be trained to automatically detect.

In contrast, the Russian disinformation effort has proven far harder to track and combat because Russian operatives were taking advantage of Facebook’s core functions, connecting users with shared content and with targeted native ads to shape the political environment in an unusually contentious political season, say people familiar with Facebook’s response.

Unlike the Islamic State, what Russian operatives posted on Facebook was, for the most part, indistinguishable from legitimate political speech. The difference was the accounts that were set up to spread the misinformation and hate were illegitimate.

It turned out that Facebook, without realizing it, had stumbled into the Russian operation as it was getting underway in June 2016.

At the time, cybersecurity experts at the company were tracking a Russian hacker group known as APT28, or Fancy Bear, which U.S. intelligence officials considered an arm of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, according to people familiar with Facebook’s activities.

Members of the Russian hacker group were best known for stealing military plans and data from political targets, so the security experts assumed that they were planning some sort of espionage operation – not a sweeping disinformation campaign designed to shape the outcome of the U.S. presidential race.

Facebook executives shared with the FBI their suspicions that a Russian espionage operation was in the works, a person familiar with the matter said. An FBI spokesperson had no immediate comment.

Soon thereafter, Facebook’s cyber experts found evidence that members of APT28 were setting up a series of shadowy accounts – including a persona known as Guccifer 2.0 and a Facebook page called DCLeaks – to promote stolen emails and other documents during the presidential race. Facebook officials once again contacted the FBI to share what they had seen.

After the November election, Facebook began to look more broadly at the accounts that had been created during the campaign.

A review by the company found that most of the groups behind the problematic pages had clear financial motives, which suggested that they weren’t working for a foreign government.

But amid the mass of data the company was analyzing, the security team did not find clear evidence of Russian disinformation or ad purchases by Russian-linked accounts.

Nor did any U.S. law enforcement or intelligence officials visit the company to lay out what they knew, said people familiar with the effort, even after the nation’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, testified on Capitol Hill in January that the Russians had waged a massive propaganda campaign online.

The sophistication of the Russian tactics caught Facebook off-guard. Its highly regarded security team had erected formidable defenses against traditional cyber attacks but failed to anticipate that Facebook users – deploying easily available automated tools such as ad micro-targeting – pumped skillfully crafted propaganda through the social network without setting off any alarm bells.

As Facebook struggled to find clear evidence of Russian manipulation, the idea was gaining credence in other influential quarters.

In the electrified aftermath of the election, aides to Hillary Clinton and Obama pored over polling numbers and turnout data, looking for clues to explain what they saw as an unnatural turn of events.

One of the theories to emerge from their post-mortem was that Russian operatives who were directed by the Kremlin to support Trump may have taken advantage of Facebook and other social media platforms to direct their messages to American voters in key demographic areas in order to increase enthusiasm for Trump and suppress support for Clinton.

These former advisers didn’t have hard evidence that Russian trolls were using Facebook to micro-target voters in swing districts – at least not yet – but they shared their theories with the House and Senate intelligence committees, which launched parallel investigations into Russia’s role in the presidential campaign in January.

Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, initially wasn’t sure what to make of Facebook’s role. U.S. intelligence agencies had briefed the Virginia Democrat and other members of the committee about alleged Russian contacts with the Trump campaign and about how the Kremlin leaked Democratic emails to WikiLeaks to undercut Clinton.

But the intelligence agencies had little data on Russia’s use of Facebook and other U.S.-based social media platforms, in part because of rules designed to protect the privacy of communications between Americans.

Facebook’s effort to understand Russia’s multifaceted influence campaign continued as well.

Zuckerberg announced in a 6,000-word blog post in February that Facebook needed to play a greater role in controlling its dark side.

“It is our responsibility,” he wrote, “to amplify the good effects [of the Facebook platform] and mitigate the bad – to continue increasing diversity while strengthening our common understanding so our community can create the greatest positive impact on the world.”

The extent of Facebook’s internal self-examination became clear in April, when Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos co-authored a 13-page white paper detailing the results of a sprawling research effort that included input from experts from across the company, who in some cases also worked to build new software aimed specifically at detecting foreign propaganda.

“Facebook sits at a critical juncture,” Stamos wrote in the paper, adding that the effort focused on “actions taken by organized actors (governments or non-state actors) to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment, most frequently to achieve a strategic and/or geopolitical outcome.” He described how the company had used a technique known as machine learning to build specialized data-mining software that can detect patterns of behavior – for example, the repeated posting of the same content – that malevolent actors might use.

The software tool was given a secret designation, and Facebook is now deploying it and others in the run-up to elections around the world. It was used in the French election in May, where it helped disable 30,000 fake accounts, the company said. It was put to the test again on Sunday when Germans went to the polls. Facebook declined to share the software tool’s code name. Another recently developed tool shows users when articles have been disputed by third-party fact checkers.

Notably, Stamos’s paper did not raise the topic of political advertising – an omission that was noticed by Capitol Hill investigators. Facebook, worth $495 billion, is the largest online advertising company in the world after Google. Although not mentioned explicitly in the report, Stamos’s team had searched extensively for evidence of foreign purchases of political advertising but had come up short.

A few weeks after the French election, Warner flew out to California to visit Facebook in person. It was an opportunity for the senator to press Stamos directly on whether the Russians had used the company’s tools to disseminate anti-Clinton ads to key districts.

Officials said Stamos underlined to Warner the magnitude of the challenge Facebook faced policing political content that looked legitimate.

Stamos told Warner that Facebook had found no accounts that used advertising but agreed with the senator that some likely existed. The difficulty for Facebook was finding them.

Finally, Stamos appealed to Warner for help: If U.S. intelligence agencies had any information about the Russian operation or the troll farms it used to disseminate misinformation, they should share it with Facebook. The company is still waiting, people involved in the matter said.

For months, a team of engineers at Facebook had been searching through accounts, looking for signs that they were set up by operatives working on behalf of the Kremlin. The task was immense.

Warner’s visit spurred the company to make some changes in how it conducted its internal investigation. Instead of searching through impossibly large batches of data, Facebook decided to focus on a subset of political ads.

Technicians then searched for “indicators” that would link those ads to Russia. To narrow down the search further, Facebook zeroed in on a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, which had been publicly identified as a troll farm.

“They worked backwards,” a U.S. official said of the process at Facebook.

The breakthrough moment came just days after a Facebook spokesman on July 20 told CNN that “we have seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.”

Facebook’s talking points were about to change.

By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency.

After making the discovery, Facebook reached out to Warner’s staff to share what they had learned.

Congressional investigators say the disclosure only scratches the surface. One called Facebook’s discoveries thus far “the tip of the iceberg.” Nobody really knows how many accounts are out there and how to prevent more of them from being created to shape the next election – and turn American society against itself.



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No protests in NASCAR after warnings from executives

September 24, 2017 - 8:27pm

LOUDON, N.H. — It appeared no drivers, crew or other team members protested during the national anthem Sunday prior to a race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.

Several team owners and executives had said they wouldn’t want anyone in their organizations to protest. Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt’s longtime team owner, said of protesting: “It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.”

Childress said he told his team that “anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”

Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty’s sentiments took it a step further, saying: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

When asked if a protester at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired, he said, “You’re right.”

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Another team owner, Chip Ganassi, said he supports Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s comments. Tomlin said before the Steelers played on Sunday that players would remain in the locker room and that “we’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as coach of the Washington Redskins, said of the anthem that, “so much has been sacrificed for our country and our flag. It’s a big deal for us to honor America.”

“I’m proud of the way we’ve represented ourselves, and I’m proud of this sport, too,” Gibbs said after JGR driver Kyle Busch won at New Hampshire. “I think this sport has a certain way they look at things. I really appreciate that.”

NASCAR said 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson had not been invited to the White House for recognition as he had in the past, but that it necessarily wasn’t out of the ordinary because of the change in office.



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PHOTOS: The Day in Sports — September 24, 2017

September 24, 2017 - 8:17pm

A look at The Day in Sports on Sept. 24, 2017.

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Right-wing activist Milo Yiannopoulos holds short, small California rally

September 24, 2017 - 8:05pm

By Daisy Nguyen, The Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. — A weeklong conservative free speech showcase at famously liberal University of California, Berkeley was supposed to start Sunday. But it apparently ended the same day after a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos and angry shouts from small groups of competing protesters who came to celebrate and condemn him.

Yiannopoulos blew kisses, posed for selfies and briefly addressed a few dozen supporters at the campus while a slightly larger crowd protesting him was kept separate by police. Wearing sunglasses and an American flag hoodie under a denim jacket, he spoke without amplification for a few moments on the steps of Sproul Hall. Then he led a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” before being whisked away in a car. The whole appearance lasted less than a half hour.

Jake Wall, a college student from Los Angeles in town to visit his girlfriend, described Yiannopolous’ showing as a “meet and greet.” He said Yiannapoulos couldn’t make any points without a microphone and promised his admirers he’d return to deliver a proper address.

“When you can’t speak through a mic, how effective was that?” Wall asked. University officials said a request for amplification, required under school rules, was never made.

A defiant Yiannapoulos announced Saturday that he would appear at an unsanctioned rally despite the sudden cancellation of a planned four-day conservative event dubbed Free Speech Week. The campus conservative group Berkeley Patriot, which had been organizing the gathering with Yiannopoulos, told university administrators that the group would cancel it, the university said.

Yiannopoulos said he was blindsided by the news.

Those hoping to hear him speak Sunday were herded through metal detectors, while demonstrators who came out against the appearance were held behind barricades on Sproul Plaza, the center of activity on campus during the 1960s Free Speech Movement.

Kat McLain, 26, said she considers herself a liberal but decided to come out to support conservatives’ right to be heard. “There’s no way to come to a peaceful resolution until we can stop and talk to each other,” she said.

University officials said there were no injuries and at least two arrests, including one of somebody allegedly using unpermitted amplified sound. The Berkeley Police Department said at least five people were arrested near campus, most of them for carrying a banned weapon.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof joked that the money spent on mobilizing police for the short appearance amounted to “probably the most expensive photo op in the university’s history.” But he defended the tactical strategy of deploying so many officers, saying they had to be prepared for the unexpected.

Campus police Chief Margo Bennett estimated that the university spent roughly $800,000 on security.

Berkeley freshman Alexandria Storm bemoaned the money spent on a huge police presence for an event that went bust. “This is a waste of resources, a waste of student dollars to militarize the police,” she said.

UC Berkeley recently shelled out $600,000 for security when conservative Ben Shapiro spoke.

Berkeley’s reputation as a liberal stronghold and the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement has made the city and campus flashpoints for the country’s political divisions since the election of Republican President Donald Trump.

Yiannopoulos’ attempt to speak at Berkeley in February was shut down by masked anarchists who rioted on campus.

“Claims that this (the cancellation of the Free Speech Week event) is somehow the outcome desired by the campus are without basis in fact,” Mogulof said in a statement Saturday. “The University was prepared to do whatever was necessary to support the First Amendment rights of the student organization.”

Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.



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France: Macron’s party suffers hit in French Senate election

September 24, 2017 - 8:00pm

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s upstart centrist party suffered its first electoral blow Sunday, as traditional conservatives dominated Senate elections amid mounting disenchantment with Macron’s leadership.

The results damage Macron’s legitimacy as he seeks to make his mark on Europe’s future and embarks on a divisive labor law overhaul that he hopes will invigorate the moribund French economy. Truckers plan to block highways and fuel depots Monday in the latest show of anti-Macron defiance.

Macron could still pass his reforms despite the election result, however. That’s because the lower house of Parliament has the final say in legislation over the Senate, and because lawmakers from the conservative Republicans party support many of Macron’s pro-business policy plans.

Official results from voting across mainland France showed the Republicans clearly winning Sunday’s vote for about half the chamber’s 348 seats, followed by the Socialists, traditional centrists, and Macron’s 17-month-old Republic on the Move! party.

A final count including France’s overseas territories is expected in the coming days.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front, struggling with internal strife and muddled strategy since her second-place showing in the May presidential race, failed to land a single Senate seat.

French broadcasters’ projections forecast the Republicans having between 146 and 156 seats in the new Senate, while Macron’s party is set to have just about 22. That’s especially devastating after Macron overwhelmingly won May elections and his party clinched a large majority in June elections for the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Macron himself didn’t comment on Sunday’s Senate embarrassment, but Republic on the Move! tried to look at the bright side.

It noted that the party won Senate seats for the first time since Macron founded it last year, in an attempt to attract voters tired of traditional parties and their failure to end chronic double-digit unemployment.

Republic on the Move! blamed the indirect voting system for its weak showing Sunday: Senators aren’t chosen by the public but by some 75,000 elected officials across the country. Since Macron’s party was only created in 2016, it has scant representation among those officials. Also, many of them are upset by Macron’s plan to slash the budgets of local authorities.

Macron’s party said Sunday’s elections were “by nature more difficult for a young political movement like ours,” and said that those casting ballots Sunday “have not yet acknowledged that the French have already moved beyond (traditional political) divides.”

The lower house has the final say in French lawmaking, but Macron also needs support in the Senate to follow through quickly on other major changes he has promised, notably to unemployment benefits, the pension system and the French Constitution.

While Macron has charmed President Donald Trump and other international allies, the 39-year-old French leader has struggled at home.

Tens of thousands of people protested Saturday in Paris over Macron’s labor law changes, which they fear are dismantling the French way of life. More protests and strikes lay ahead.

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Macron insists the changes — which reduce union powers and give companies more freedom to lay off workers — are need to create jobs and compete globally.

Macron’s team is hoping Sunday’s election results don’t dent France’s influence as he pushes his vision for a post-Brexit Europe in a sweeping policy speech Tuesday. After months in the spotlight as the vibrant new champion of European unity, Macron now risks being overshadowed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, bolstered by her party’s re-election Sunday.

Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report.



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Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls agree on buyout, source says

September 24, 2017 - 7:48pm

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade signed with Chicago before last season in large part because the affinity for his hometown was still very strong.

A year later, he’s about to be on the move.

Wade and the Bulls agreed to terms on a buyout agreement Sunday, a person with direct knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press. Wade is considering several options, including a potential return to Miami or a reunion with longtime friend LeBron James in Cleveland, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the buyout has not been formally announced.

Wade will have other suitors as well. ESPN reported San Antonio would be a possible landing spot and Oklahoma City — which added Paul George this summer and will formally complete the trade with New York for Carmelo Anthony on Monday — would also seem to make sense as well. Wade has kept his home in Miami, and Heat teammates have made little secret that they would welcome him back with open arms.

Wade, speaking to AP on Sunday night, indicated he may decide his next move quickly.

“I’m going to take tonight and some of tomorrow and speak to the teams or players that are on my list and go from there,” Wade said. “My decision is a pure basketball decision and I’ll make the one that fits me best at this point in my career, and with what I feel I have to offer a team that needs what I have to offer.”

Heat President Pat Riley said late last week that he is still in love with Wade. He could not discuss the possibility of trying to bring Wade back to the Heat because NBA tampering rules do not allow such conversations about players under contract with other clubs.

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That contract is about to come to a quick close. Wade was due about $24 million this season from the Bulls, who traded Jimmy Butler away this summer and are entering a rebuilding phase.

After the Butler trade, it was evident Wade was getting a buyout. The question was when. And now the question is: What will Wade decide next?

“Anything that happens from a personnel standpoint down the road, or any opportunities that are there, we’re always going to approach that,” Riley said Friday.

The opportunity is coming for the Heat, and anyone else who’s interested.

Wade averaged 18.3 points for Chicago and returned from injury late in the season to help the Bulls get into the playoffs. Over his 14 seasons, Wade has averaged 23.3 points, been to the playoffs 12 times, won three rings and took home the 2006 NBA Finals MVP award.

Bulls President John Paxson told CSN Chicago last week that he and general manager Gar Forman sat down with Wade when the season ended, and planned to do so again when Wade went back to Chicago.

Given how quickly the buyout was agreed to, that talk apparently happened fast.

The Denver Nuggets in 2016 courted Wade, offering him a two-year, $50-million deal. Wade turned them down and opted for the Bulls, but said the Nuggets had really impressed him.

The Denver Post contributed to this report.

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Revised health-care bill would help Alaska and Maine — home of two holdout senators

September 24, 2017 - 7:46pm

WASHINGTON – The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

With party leaders just one “no” vote away from defeat, Republican senators from across the political spectrum distanced themselves from the plan written by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. They voiced opinions ranging from measured skepticism to outright hostility toward a proposal that had already been trending toward failure over the past three days.

The fresh discord over a signature Republican promise added turbulence to the start of a critical week for President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. In addition to health care, both are watching Tuesday’s special-election primary runoff in Alabama, a high-stakes intraparty fight between establishment Republicans and conservatives that could set the tone for the midterm elections next year. GOP leaders also are expected to unveil their most detailed blueprint yet of tax cuts they hope to pass by the end of the year.

“Eventually we’ll win, whether it’s now or later,” Trump said of the health-care effort Sunday as he prepared to board Air Force One to return to Washington after spending the weekend at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate Republican who has opposed previous efforts that cut Medicaid and eased coverage requirements, said in a TV interview that it was “very difficult” to envision herself voting for the health-care bill.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a conservative who has advocated a more far-reaching repeal of the ACA, commonly called Obamacare, said he and at least one other conservative colleague do not back the measure “right now.”

And Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has stated definitively that he opposes the current measure, showed no signs of backing down without dramatic changes to the bill’s core approach that probably would come at the cost of other Republican votes.

Graham and Cassidy pledged to keep trying to pass their bill – but the White House and McConnell gave differing accounts of the path ahead. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short predicted a Wednesday vote, while a McConnell spokesman declined to publicly embrace that timeline.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Collins cited concerns about how the Cassidy-Graham legislation would affect Medicaid recipients and people with preexisting medical conditions, among other things.

“It is very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill,” Collins said. “I have a number of serious reservations about it.”

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Collins voted against a repeal bill in July, and she is a key vote in the current dynamic. She said she chatted at length with Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to sway her. She said she wants to see the limited analysis due out this week from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before making a final decision.

Two Republican senators – Paul and John McCain, Ariz. – have already said they will vote against Cassidy-Graham. A third would be enough to defeat the bill, since no Democrats are expected to support it. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate and can lose only two votes from their own party and still pass legislation with the help of a tiebreaking vote from Pence.

Trump said Sunday that the senators opposed to or leaning against voting for the bill, including McCain and Collins, would benefit from the block grants included in the proposal.

“Every state you’re talking about, it happens to be particularly good for,” Trump said.

The bill has been roundly rejected by influential national groups representing physicians, hospitals and insurers. Over the weekend, six such organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, issued a joint statement urging the Senate to reject the measure.

While the CBO plans to release a “preliminary assessment” early this week, officials there have said they will not be able to provide estimates of how Cassidy-Graham would affect insurance premiums or the number of people with coverage “for at least several weeks.” Trump and McConnell are trying to bring the bill to a vote by the end of this week to take advantage of a procedural rule allowing the plan to pass with just 51 votes.

It remained far from clear Sunday that they could get even close to that number.

Addressing Cassidy-Graham at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Cruz said: “Right now, they don’t have my vote. And I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s either,” referring to one of Utah’s senators.

Cruz said that he and Lee met with Graham and Cassidy last week to propose changes to the measure that would get them to yes. Their changes were not included in the latest draft.

Conn Carroll, a Lee spokesman, said Sunday: “We want some technical changes. We are working with Cassidy, but we haven’t committed to anything yet.”

Graham and Cassidy appeared on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” where they defended their plan and vowed to keep up their efforts to shepherd it to passage.

“We’re moving forward. And we’ll see what happens next week. I’m very excited about it,” Graham said.

The South Carolina Republican mentioned Collins and Paul as he made his pitch. “Rand Paul objects to the taxes,” he said. “But when you look at the bill, Rand, we save a lot of money over time for Medicaid. We put a cap on Obamacare growth.”

Paul said in a Sunday interview that he broadly opposes a keystone of the Cassidy-Graham plan: turning funding for the ACA into block grants for states.

“The problem I have with block grants is that looks like I’ve affirmatively said I’m OK with 90 percent of Obamacare as long as we reshuffle it and give it to Republican states,” he said. “That’s a horrible message.”

Paul said he is willing to listen to suggestions about how that element of the bill could be constricted. “Would I talk to them if they said they wanted to make the block grants half as much? I might,” he said.

Paul presents another challenge as well: Winning him over would probably alienate Republican senators who oppose a more aggressive repeal. That left GOP leaders no better off in their quest to secure enough Republican votes to pass Cassidy-Graham.

The proposal, which would also dramatically cut Medicaid spending over time, has drawn concerns from Republicans from states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA. In an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., whose state expanded Medicaid, said he needs more information before he will take a position.

“I think the CBO will have a role to play in this,” Gardner said. “I believe there’s information that will be coming through a committee hearing on Monday and additional text changes that will add additional information.”

McConnell is also keeping a close eye this week on the Senate race in Alabama, where Republican Sen. Luther Strange is trying to get past insurgent primary challenger Roy Moore, a controversial but popular former judge. Trump and McConnell both back Strange, but supporters and associates of Trump, including former chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, have praised Moore.

A Moore victory would be a blow to both McConnell and Trump, who have put their powerful political operations behind Strange. Some Republicans also say that outcome would embolden conservative insurgents to challenge other Republican senators in 2018.

Also this week, the “Big Six” negotiators from the White House, the Senate and the House are expected to unveil more details of their tax overhaul plan, which, like the health-care talks, could spark messy disagreements among Republicans.

Some of the elements of the plan have already started to take shape. Republicans are targeting a corporate rate of 20 percent in their overhaul, according to three people familiar with the emerging blueprint – a number that represents a substantial cut from the current 35 percent rate but falls short of the 15 percent Trump has advocated.

But for Senate Republicans, the first order of business this week is resolving the health-care push, one way or the other. Even the bill’s champions have started pondering the prospect of failure.

Asked on “This Week” what he will tell people if he comes up short, Graham responded: “That I did everything I could to get money and power out of Washington to give you better health care closer to where you live, and I’m not going to stop fighting.”

He also held up the possibility of using health care as a negotiating tactic in future legislative talks.

“I’m on the Budget Committee,” Graham said, adding, “we’re not going to vote for a budget resolution that doesn’t allow the health-care debate to continue.”



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Anthony Weiner faces sentencing in latest chapter of sexting drama

September 24, 2017 - 7:32pm

NEW YORK — It seemed as if Anthony Weiner had hit rock bottom when he resigned from Congress in 2011.

“Bye-bye, pervert!” one heckler shouted as the Democrat quit amid revelations that he had sent graphic pictures of himself to women on social media. Time has shown his self-destructive drama had only just begun.

Weiner, 53, is set to be sentenced Monday for sending obscene material to a 15-year-old girl in a case that may have also have played a role in costing Hillary Clinton — former boss of Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin — the presidential election.

Federal prosecutors have asked for a sentence of slightly more than two years behind bars because of the seriousness of the crime, in which Weiner sent adult porn to the girl and got her to take her clothes off for him on Skype.

“The defendant did far more than exchange typed words on a lifeless cellphone screen with a faceless stranger,” prosecutors wrote to the judge. “Transmitting obscenity to a minor to induce her to engage in sexually explicit conduct by video chat and photo — is far from mere ‘sexting.'”

But Weiner’s attorneys contend he is a changed man who has finally learned his lesson, calling his compulsive sexting a “deep sickness” best treated without time behind bars. The memo also suggested Weiner himself was a victim of the scandal, saying the North Carolina high school student initiated contact with him because she “hoped somehow to influence the U.S. presidential election” and write a tell-all book.

Some legal observers doubt the wisdom of the defense in questioning the girl’s motivations.

The strategy “is fraught with peril since an attack on a victim can be read by the judge as undermining the defendant’s claim that he has accepted full responsibility,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor. He added that he expects Weiner to get jail time, “given the nature of the charges and the lack of any real mitigating factors here.”

The sentencing will be the latest chapter in the spectacular downfall of Weiner, a once-promising politician and half of an up-and-coming Washington power couple.

The trouble began in 2011, when an explicit photo of Weiner, then a congressman representing part of New York City, sent from his Twitter account became public. He first claimed his account had been hacked but later resigned after admitting he’d had explicit online contact with at least a half-dozen women.

Weiner tried to resurrect his career by running for mayor in 2013 and surged to the lead in the polls. But once again, more racy online messages, where he used the cheesy moniker “Carlos Danger,” surfaced to doom his candidacy and open the door for the then-little-known Democrat who would go on to win, Bill de Blasio.

His stunning downfall in that campaign was captured in the behind-the-scenes documentary “Weiner,” which featured a memorable scene of Weiner and his wife alone in a conference room staring at each other in what a New York Times review called “the longest and most painful onscreen marital silence this side of an Ingmar Bergman film.”

In the end, the most significant impact of Weiner’s woes may have been on the 2016 presidential contest.

More than any other factor, Clinton has blamed her loss on FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen an investigation into her private email server in the campaign’s final days. Comey’s decision came after FBI agents investigating Weiner’s sexual misdeeds discovered that her emails had been forwarded to Weiner’s laptop, apparently by his wife.

In a matter of days, the FBI concluded there was nothing new in the emails, but Clinton has said the damage was done. Some political analysts suggested the issue may have indeed been a factor in tilting the election in Donald Trump’s favor, particularly across Midwestern battlegrounds such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In her new book “What Happened,” Clinton revealed the moment that Abedin burst into tears after learning her husband had triggered Comey’s “October surprise.”

“When we heard this Huma looked stricken,” Clinton wrote. “Anthony had already caused so much heartache. And now this. ‘This man is going to be the death of me,’ (Huma) said, bursting into tears.”

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In a letter to the court, Weiner expressed his “profound” sorrow for endangering the welfare of a girl he admits knowing was underage. The fallout included news his wife had filed for divorce in May on the same day he pleaded guilty.

“My continued acting out over the years crushed the aspirations of my wife and ruined our marriage,” he said. His young son, he added, “will forever have to answer questions about the public and private failings of his father.”

Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.



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Tyson Jost makes preseason debut for the Avalanche

September 24, 2017 - 7:23pm

A year ago in the preseason, the Avalanche lost its top prospect to an ankle injury. Mikko Rantanen, selected with the 10th pick of the 2015 draft, went down during a rookie showcase game in Westminster.

This month, Colorado’s newest top prospect, Tyson Jost — the No. 10 selection of the 2016 draft — injured his groin at a rookie showcase in San Jose, Calif. It was feared Jost, 19, would miss the entire preseason, as Rantanen did the year before.

Fear not, Avalanche fans. Jost made his preseason debut Sunday against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. He centered wingers Rocco Grimaldi and Andrew Agozzino, assisted on Grimaldi’s goal, and proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy after Colorado’s 5-1 victory.

“We wanted to be smart about it,” Jost said of his injury. “I was itching to get back on the ice, and not miss training camp. I was knocking down their door every morning, trying to convince them to let me out. But that’s one thing I have to learn about being a pro — it’s a long season. They did a great job with it, and I’m happy to get back on the ice.”

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Forward Colin Wilson, who was acquired from Nashville in an offseason trade, also made his preseason debut. Wilson began training camp skating on his own, and was in a orange hands-off jersey with the team last week.

Center Nathan MacKinnon had a big game for the Avs, scoring two power-play goals in the third period from the left circle. Forwards J.T. Compher and Grimaldi scored goals to erase Minnesota’s 1-0 lead and Rantanen scored early in the third period to make it 3-1. MacKinnon assisted on Rantanen’s goal.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov played the entire game for the Avs, who fell 2-1 in Minnesota on Saturday night with a different lineup.

Footnote. The Avalanche (2-2 preseason) concludes its exhibition schedule this week with games Monday at Dallas and Thursday in Las Vegas. The regular-season opener is Oct. 5 against the Rangers in New York.

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PHOTOS: NFL players kneel in protest during the national anthem

September 24, 2017 - 7:07pm

President Donald Trump’s criticism of players who kneel during the national anthem sparked a mass increase in such protests around the National Football League Sunday, as about 200 players sat, knelt or raised their fists in defiance during early games.

A week ago, just six players protested.

Most of the players on Sunday locked arms with their teammates — some standing, others kneeling — in show of solidarity. A handful of teams stayed off the field until after “The Star-Spangled Banner” to avoid the issue altogether.

As he prepared to board Air Force One to return to Washington from New Jersey, Trump said the players protesting the anthem were “very disrespectful to our country” and called again on owners to stop what he considers unpatriotic displays in America’s most popular sport.

“This has nothing to do with race,” Trump said. “This has to do with respect for our country.”

The president’s attack on athletes turned the anthems — usually sung during commercials — into must-watch television shown live by the networks and Yahoo!, which streamed the game in London. In some NFL stadiums, crowds booed or yelled at players to stand. There was also some applause.

The NFL and its players, often at odds, used Sunday’s anthems to show unity. One of Trump’s biggest supporters in the NFL, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, joined the chorus when he expressed “deep disappointment” with Trump.

“I like Bob very much. He’s my friend. He gave me a Super Bowl ring a month ago. So he’s a good friend of mine and I want him to do what he wants to do,” Trump said. “… We have great people representing our country, especially our soldiers our first responders and they should be treated with respect.

“And when you get on your knee and you don’t respect the American flag or the anthem.”

The protests started more than a year ago when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the anthem as a protest of police treatment of minorities. This season, no team has signed him, and some supporters believe NFL owners are avoiding him because of the controversy.

A handful of white players didn’t stand Sunday, but the vast majority of those actively protesting were black.

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Defensive star Von Miller was among the large group of Denver Broncos who took a knee in Buffalo Sunday, where Bills running back LeSean McCoy stretched during the anthem.

“We felt like President Trump’s speech was an assault on our most cherished right, freedom of speech,” said Miller, who normally steers clear of politics and social issues.

Dozens of more players protested before the Raiders-Redskins game, the final one of the day and not far from the White House in Landover, Maryland. All but a handful of Raiders sat on their bench and seven Redskins took a knee while their teammates stood arm-in-arm along with owner Dan Snyder and president Bruce Allen.

In Chicago, the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the tunnel except for one player, Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, who stood outside with a hand over his heart. Both the Seahawks and Titans stayed inside until after the national anthem was over in Nashville, a throwback to the pre-2009 NFL when teams, not the league, set pre-game policy regarding players standing on the sideline for the anthem.

A handful of NFL players had been continuing Kaepernick’s protest this season, but that ballooned Sunday following Trump’s two-day weekend rant. It began with the president calling for NFL protesters to be fired and continued Saturday when he rescinded a White House invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors over star Stephen Curry’s criticism.

The president’s delving into the NFL protests started by Kaepernick brought new attention and angered many players who took one insult as a personal attack on their mothers.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’” Trump said to loud applause Friday night at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.

“I’m a son of a queen,” Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett said.

Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady was among the New England Patriots who locked arms in solidarity in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Aaron Rodgers did the same with his teammates in Green Bay.

“Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

In Detroit, anthem singer Rico Lavelle took a knee at the word “brave,” lowering his head and raising his right fist. In Nashville, anthem singer Meghan Linsey, took a knee as she finished singing.

Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, whose brother, Woody, is the ambassador to England and one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, called it “an honor and a privilege to stand arm-in-arm unified with our players during today’s national anthem” in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The issue reverberated across the Atlantic, where about two dozen players took a knee during the playing of the U.S. anthem at Wembley Stadium.

“We stand with our brothers,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “They have the right and we knelt with them today. To protest, non-violent protest, is as American as it gets, so we knelt with them today to let them know that we’re a unified front.”

Jaguars owner Shad Khan and players on both teams who were not kneeling remained locked arm-in-arm throughout the playing of the anthem and “God Save The Queen.” No players knelt during the British anthem.

“Me taking a knee doesn’t change the fact that I support our military, I’m a patriot and I love my country,” Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “But I also recognize there are some social injustices in this country and today I wanted to take a knee in support of my brothers who have been doing it.”

Alexander said he’ll go back to standing for the anthem next week.

“I just wanted to show them that I was with them today, especially in the backdrop of our president making the comments about our players, about their mothers,” Alexander said. “And then you put that in conjunction with how he tried to gray-area Nazism and KKK members as being fine people, I had to take a knee.”

The National Hockey League’s reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins announced Sunday they’ve accepted a White House invitation from Trump. The Penguins said they respect the office of the president and “the long tradition of championship team visiting the White House.”

Before Game 1 of the WNBA Finals in Minneapolis on Sunday, the Los Angeles Sparks left the floor while the Minnesota Lynx stood arm-in-arm. The Sparks returned to a chorus of boos when the song was finished.

Trump also mocked the league’s crackdown on illegal hits, suggesting the league had softened because of its safety initiatives.

Kahn, who was among the NFL owners who chipped in $1 million to the Trump inauguration committee, said he met with his team captains before kickoff in London “to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump.”

Among the strongest criticisms of the president Sunday was this from Saints coach Sean Payton: “I’m disappointed in the comments that were made. I think we need a little bit more wisdom in that office,” he said of the White House. “I want that guy to be one of the smarter guys in the room and it seems like every time he’s opening up his mouth it’s something that is dividing our country and not pulling us together.”

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Segregation lingers in U.S. schools 60 years after Little Rock

September 24, 2017 - 6:52pm

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Among the most lasting and indelible images of the civil rights movement were the nine black teenagers who had to be escorted by federal troops past an angry white mob and through the doors of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Sept. 25, 1957.

It had been three years since the Supreme Court had declared “separate but equal” in America’s public schools unconstitutional, but the decision was met with bitter resistance across the South. It would take more than a decade before the last vestiges of Jim Crow fell away from classrooms. Even the brave sacrifice of the “Little Rock Nine” felt short-lived — rather than allow more black students and further integration, the district’s high schools closed the following school year.

The watershed moment was “a physical manifestation for all to see of what that massive resistance looked like,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“The imagery of these perfectly dressed, lovely, serious young people seeking to enter a high school … to see them met with ugliness and rage and hate and violence was incredibly powerful,” Ifill said.

Six decades later, the sacrifice of those black students stands as a symbol of the turbulence of the era, but also as a testament to an intractable problem: Though legal segregation has long ended, few white and minority students share a classroom today.

The lack of progress is clear and remains frustrating in the school district that includes Central High. The Little Rock School District, which is about two-thirds black, has been under state control since 2015 over the academic performance of some of its schools. The district has seen a proliferation of charter schools in recent years that opponents say contributes to self-segregation.

Ernest Green still remembers the promise of the era that put him and the eight other students on the front line. After reading about the May 17, 1954, Brown v. Board of Education decision in the local newspaper, he recalled: “I thought to myself, ‘Good, because I think the face of the South ought to change.'”

He and his classmates came face-to-face with Southern opposition after integrating Central. The first day of school was only the beginning of the hardships they would endure.

Green described the experience as “like going to war every day.” Threatening phone calls came to their homes nightly. Students threw acid on them at school.

“For all of us, we decided that this was a year that we were going to support each other,” said Green, now 76, and the first member of the Little Rock Nine to graduate from Central. “The principal of the school told me at one point … that I didn’t have to come to the ceremony, that they would mail me my diploma.”

Green ignored his suggestion, knowing the magnitude of his accomplishment. Sitting in the audience at graduation with his family was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., then in the throes of the civil rights movement.

For the 1958-1959 school year when the district’s high schools closed — known as “The Lost Year” — the remaining students either went to nearby public schools in the state or out of state where they had friends or relatives, or found other alternatives such as private schools, correspondence courses or early entrance into college.

Terrence Roberts, also one of the Little Rock Nine, said the challenge his former school district now faces is just part of a larger problem nationwide for public education.

“To me it’s a testament to the fact that we as a people have been reluctant to have a meaningful conversation about the need for public education,” Roberts, now 75, said. “When you look at the history of public education, it’s not surprising at all because public education has always been under the gun.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, the average black student in Little Rock went to a school that was roughly 14 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic and 68 percent black, according to Arkansas Department of Education data. Twenty years ago, a black student in Little Rock would have gone to a school that was 27 percent white, 1.7 percent Hispanic and 70 percent black, historical data from the National Center for Education Statistics show.

“One of the important lessons we should take away from Little Rock is just how hard and difficult desegregation has been,” said Ohio State University historian Hasan Kwame Jeffries. “Little Rock does a lot of foreshadowing. It anticipates the efforts by Southern states to find public money to defray the cost and expense of sending white children to private schools. This becomes part of the agenda for the next half-century.”

Nationally, the numbers are similarly stark. The average black student nationwide in 1980 went to a school that was 36 percent white. In the 2014-2015 school year, a black student would have gone to a school that was 27 percent white.

Overall enrollment in public schools has been declining, and the racial gap has widened, according to NCES. In 2004, 58 percent of students enrolled were white, compared to 17 percent black and 19 percent Hispanic. In 2014, public schools were 49.5 percent white — less than half for the first time since such data was first collected — 16 percent black and 25 percent Hispanic.

Additionally, while nearly two-thirds of black and Hispanic students attend schools with at least 75 percent minority enrollment, only 5 percent of white students are enrolled in similar schools. While public schools are indeed more diverse, that diversity is including a decreasing share of white students.

Community leaders have vented over the “Reflections of Progress” theme that’s been attached to the slate of events marking the 60th anniversary of Central High’s desegregation, saying it doesn’t acknowledge the backslide they’ve seen the district undergo. They’re using the milestone to call attention to the state takeover of the district, comparing it to Gov. Orval Faubus’ efforts to block integration in 1957.

“They’re coming back to visit and to see what? They can visit any number of schools where there isn’t any hint of desegregation,” state Sen. Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock, said, referring to the eight surviving members of the group, now in their 70s, who will return to mark the day. “For the Little Rock Nine to come back to the same place where they started and the schools are under state control now by the state Board of Education, I think that is something that is the ultimate embarrassment for the state. That is not something to be celebrated, and it is not something to be remotely proud of.”

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Some trace much of the current public school debate over school choice to what began in the wake of the Brown v. Board decision as segregationist academies, and later Christian academies, opened throughout the South in response to desegregation.

“There has never been a moment where there has not been vociferous resistance to desegregation,” Jeffries, the historian, said. “They used to couch it in explicitly racist terms. Now, it’s this sort of colorblind language, but the desire remains the same.”

Civil rights lawyer Catherine Lhamon, who now serves as chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, noted that while meaningful integration happened across the country during the mid-1960s and 1970s, it was only through aggressive federal enforcement. As integration became less of a political priority in the 1980s, re-segregation emerged.

“Local control has never resounded to the benefit of black students,” Lhamon said. “More often than not, it has been a means to mask discrimination and a failure to offer meaningful opportunity to all. It takes federal intervention now, too. That is something Congress promised us and that we have been able to rely on.”

Efforts by Sen. Elliott and others to stem the growth of charter schools in the district so far have had little success in the Republican state. The Arkansas Board of Education approved three new charter schools in the district earlier this month, despite a request from the district’s superintendent to hold off.

“I would say pause for two years and allow the existing charter seat expansions that have already been approved to take place, allow what’s going on in the Little Rock School District to play itself out, because we have really positive things going on with our academic scores,” Superintendent Michael Poore said before the three charter schools were approved.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he believes the district is showing it can innovate and compete with the charter schools.

Ifill said the unlearned lessons of Little Rock remain, and that the 60th anniversary cannot only be about lamenting re-segregation.

“We are living with the consequences of the failure of white people to accept the Supreme Court’s decision to take on integration, and the failure of our larger society to do the work to make this happen,” Ifill said. “Do we want to just observe that we are a segregated society, or do we want to try to do what the Supreme Court told us to do — to understand that education is the foundation of public citizenship?”

For more on the Little Rock Nine, including historical stories and photos, and video interviews with people who lived through the era, visit apnews.com/tag/LittleRockNine.

AP data journalist Larry Fenn, AP Director of Corporate Archives Valerie Komor and archivist Francesca Pitaro contributed from New York. AP video producer Noreen Nasir contributed from Washington, D.C.



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