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Substitute teacher kneels for pledge, sparks debate

A school in Littleton, Massachusetts, is addressing parents and students after a substitute teacher knelt Thursday during the pledge of allegiance.

>> Read more trending news

According to a letter sent out from the Russell Street School’s Principal, Scott Bazydlo, a substitute teacher knelt during the pledge of allegiance. 

"While this topic is timely and does have educational merit, it should be addressed sensitively and age-appropriately by permanent faculty and (should be) inclusive of the beliefs of all children and families,” Bayzdlo’s letter reads. 

>> Related: Donald Trump says NFL anthem protesters should be ‘off the field’ and fired

The principal said students and parents brought the incident to the school’s attention, and the substitute teacher proceeded to talk to students about her political views. 

“The Littleton Public Schools respects the rights of all individuals to participate or respectfully abstain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance,” the principal wrote. “However, in our roles as educators, it is imperative we provide students all sides of an issue like this and allow them to form opinions with guidance from parents.”

Bazydlo says the move was inappropriate, as the teacher is not a permanent member of the faculty and it was outside the plans of the classroom’s teacher.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban: NFL protests not meant to disrespect veterans, military

The question came off as a loaded one.

A fan, who identified himself as a retired veteran, called in to the weekly Nick Saban radio show on Thursday to ask the University of Alabama football coach for his opinion on the NFL protests and whether Saban’s former players who have protested would be welcome back in the locker room or on the sideline.

>> Read more trending news

As Saban did during his Monday news conference, he began his response with the “I’m just a football coach” line.

“I don’t have all the answers to the problems that we have in society,” he said.

>> Related: Donald Trump says NFL anthem protesters should be ‘off the field’ and fired

The topic of football players kneeling in protest during the national anthem has dominated the sports landscape since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee last year in protest of police brutality against minorities. Scrutiny intensified after President Donald Trump last week called the protests disrespectful and suggested that players who don’t stand during the anthem should be fired.

“The one thing that’s a little disappointing to me is something that has always been real unifying … is no longer that way,” Saban said Thursday. “That is a little bothersome to me. I don’t think that what these people are doing is in any way, shape or form are meant to disrespect a veteran or somebody like yourself, who has worked so hard, fought so hard and sacrificed so much for all of us to have the quality of life that we want to have.

>> Related: Steelers fans burn memorabilia over national anthem stance

“But one of the things that you also fought for and made sacrifice for was that we all could have the freedom to have choice in terms of what we believe, what we did and what we said. This is not something -- look, I respect people’s individual rights. I have my opinion in terms of what I would do and how I would do (it). I would not want to ever disrespect the symbols that represent the values of our country. But, I also respect individual differences that other people have. I think they have the right to express those. Whether it’s our players or somebody else, whether I agree or disagree, I think they have the right to do that.”

>> Related: WWII veteran, 97, kneels in support of NFL's national anthem protests

College football players stay in the locker room during the national anthem.

No. 1 Alabama hosts Ole Miss on Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Feds demand Facebook handover private info of 'anti-administration political activists'

The Department of Justice is demanding that Facebook provide the government with the private information of three users, including the identities of an estimated 6,000 people who “liked” a page set up in protest of President Donald Trump.

>> Read more trending news

In search warrants filed in court, government officials sought the disclosure of a wide swath of personal information from the Facebook accounts of two political activists and a page set up to coordinate protests of Trump on Inauguration Day. Among the information sought was “all contact and personal identifying information,” including passwords, security questions and answers, credit card numbers and private messages.

The warrants were issued as part of the investigation into protests in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day. More than 200 people were arrested on a variety of charges, many connected to allegations of rioting.

The warrants cover interactions and information from Nov. 1, 2016, to Feb. 9. They are being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy,” ACLU-DC senior staff attorney Scott Michelman said in a news release.

“The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prevent this type of exploratory rummaging through a person’s private information. Moreover, when law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity.”

>> Related: Inauguration of Donald Trump: Protesters, police clash

In a motion filed Thursday in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, ACLU attorneys urged the court to rescind the warrants or narrow them in scope to protect the privacy of those involved.

Activist Lacy Macauley, whose Facebook account is among the three targeted by authorities, said in a declaration filed in court that officials would get access to "intimate messages exchanged with a romantic partner, detailed discussions of my own and other individuals' experiences with domestic violence and death threats referring to specific traumatic incidents from my life” if the warrant is allowed to remain as-is.

“My Facebook page contains the most private aspects of my life — and also a frightening amount of information on the people in my life,” MacAuley said Thursday in a statement. “There are intimate details of my love life, family, and things the federal government just doesn’t need to see. Jeff Sessions doesn’t need to see my family photos.”

>> Related: Donald Trump inauguration: Protesters take to streets outside 'DeploraBall'

Activist Emmelia Talarico, moderator of the Facebook page "Resist This," formerly known as "disruptJ20," said that federal investigators are asking for information that includes the list of people who were invited and indicated that they would be attending a January protest outside then Vice President Elect Mike Pence’s home. The “Queer Dance Party at Mike Pence’s House” drew a few hundred protesters in opposition to Pence’s stance in LGTBQ rights.

Officials would also get a list of all Facebook users who “liked” the “disruptJ20” page before Feb. 9, Talarico said, estimating that the government would get about 6,000 names.

>> Related: LGBTQ activists hold 'Queer Dance Party' outside Mike Pence's house

Talarico called the warrant a “direct attack on D.C.’s grassroots organizing community” in a statement released Thursday.

“This overreaching warrant would strike a devastating blow to organizers working every day to make this city a better place,” she said.

The warrants first became known to the public after Facebook challenged a gag order that prevented the company from notifying its users about requests for private account information from authorities. The government later withdrew the gag order.

It is the second time officials have sought what the ACLU characterized as “unlawful dragnet searches of the internet and social media” in connection to the Inauguration Day protests.

Earlier this year, web hosting service Dreamhost announced it was challenging a warrant from the DOJ that demanded the IP addresses of the 1.3 million people who visited the DisruptJ20.org website. A judge sided with Dreamhost and narrowed the scope of the government’s request, eliminating the requirement that the hosting service provide officials with IP addresses.

Rep. Scalise returns to Capitol Hill 3 months after GOP baseball shooting

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday, more than three months after he and four others were injured in a shooting during a Republican baseball team practice.

>> Read more trending news

“I’m back,” Scalise, R-Louisiana, wrote Thursday morning in a tweet.

Scalise was welcomed to the Chamber of the House of Representatives with resounding applause from his colleagues.

“Our prayers have been answered,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. “His bravery and his family’s strength have been such an inspiration.”

“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here, at work in the people’s house,” Scalise said.

The 51-year-old lawmaker was shot in the hip on June 14 as Republicans gathered at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, to practice for the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Three other people were shot, including a Capitol police officer, a Congressional aide and a lobbyist for Tyson Foods.

The shooter, identified by officials as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was shot and killed by responding police officers.

 

Trump waives Jones Act to aid Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

President Donald Trump on Thursday morning waived a little-known federal law aimed at protecting the U.S. shipping industry in an effort to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

>> Read more trending news

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the decision in a tweet Thursday morning.

“At (Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s) request, (Trump) has authorized the Jones Act to be waived for Puerto Rico,” Huckabee Sanders said. “It will go into effect immediately.”

The Jones Act bars foreign-flagged ships from taking goods and passengers between U.S. ports.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke waived the law earlier this month to help ease fuel shortages in the Southeast following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That order included Puerto Rico, but expired last week shortly after Hurricane Maria struck.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Michelle Obama: 'Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice'

Former First Lady Michelle Obama criticized women who cast ballots for President Donald Trump last year while addressing a crowd gathered Wednesday in Boston.

>> Read more trending news

“Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” Obama said, Boston.com reported.

Obama’s comment came during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with feminist author Roxane Gray during the Inbound marketing conference, according to The Associated Press.

Still, she said that she and her husband, former President Barack Obama, support the president and wish for his success.

She compared her and her family’s time in the White House to “being shot out of a cannon … with a blindfold and the spotlight on you,” although she said the experience made her stronger.

“Each blow, each negative comment just made me stronger,” she said, according to The Washington Post.

She told the crowd that she is working on a book focused on “believing in our most authentic selves,” the AP reported. She said it would include stories about her childhood.

Otto Warmbier's parents speak out about son's death, North Korean torture

Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was imprisoned for allegedly taking a propaganda poster in North Korea and later died, rebuked the DPRK as “terrorist” in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” their first since their son’s death.

>> Watch the interview here

Cindy said when she and Fred heard their son was in a coma, they never imagined there was nothing that could be done to save him.

>> On Rare.us: College professor under fire for comments about Otto Warmbier’s death

“So what we pictured, because we’re optimists, is that Otto would be asleep and maybe in a medically induced coma, and then when our doctors here would work with him and he’d get the best care and love, that he would come out of it,” she said.

Matching other accounts of North Korean torture, Fred said their first encounter with their son after he returned to the U.S. was horrifying:

>> On Rare.us: Otto Warmbier, American student released from North Korea, has died

"We walked over to the plane, the engines are still humming, they had just landed … When we got halfway up the steps we heard this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound. We weren’t really certain what it was. Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently. He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth."

>> Read more trending news

The Warmbiers said that “North Korea is not a victim; they are terrorist,” that they “tortured and intentionally injured [Otto]” and that they are a “state sponsor of terror.”

President Donald Trump said Otto Warmbier was “tortured beyond belief” in a tweet praising the interview.

>> See the tweet here

The interview comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have escalated significantly, with North Korea having fired at least 21 missiles during 14 tests since February 2017.

North Korean officials reach out to Republicans for help understanding Trump: report

North Korean officials are reaching out to Republican-linked analysts in an attempt to better understand President Donald Trump, according to a report published Tuesday by The Washington Post.

>> Read more trending news

The effort began before Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un started trading fiery rhetoric in the wake of the Hermit Kingdom’s repeated missile tests, the Post reported.

“Their number one concern is Trump,” a source, who was not identified, told the newspaper. “They can’t figure him out.”

The Post reported that at least seven invitations have been extended to Washington-based analysts, including Douglas Paal, an expert on Asia who served on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Paal, who is currently vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Post that he declined North Korea’s request to arrange talks between its officials and “American experts with Republican ties.”

Read more from The Washington Post

“The North Koreans are clearly eager to deliver a message,” Paal said, adding that North Korean officials wanted the meeting to take place in a neutral location, such as Switzerland. “But I think they’re only interested in getting out of the country for a bit.”

Tom Brady calls Trump's comments on national anthem protests 'divisive'

President Donald Trump has not been shy about pushing back on NFL players protesting the national anthem. As a result, the sports world has been set on fire with various players, coaches, front offices and even full leagues responding in kind. On Monday morning, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady followed suit.

>> Live updates: Trump slams NFL players for national anthem protests, athletes react

In response to Trump, with whom Brady is famously friendly, the legendary signal-caller took a stance in an interview with WEEI (via ESPN.com):

>> PHOTOS: NFL takes a stand on football Sunday

“I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive.

“I just want to support my teammates. I’m never one that says, ‘Oh, that’s wrong or that’s right.’ But I do believe in what I believe in, and I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me and that’s how I try to live every day.

“I’ve been blessed to be in a locker room with guys from all over the United States over the course of my career. Some of my great friends are from Florida, Virginia, New York, Montana, Colorado, Texas. I think one thing about football is that it brings so many guys together, guys that you would never have the opportunity to be around, whether it was in college and all the way into the pros. We’re all different. We’re all unique. That’s what makes us all so special.”

>> Read more trending news

Brady did not blast Trump in the same way that many have, but he was plain in his comments about disagreeing and referring to Trump’s sentiments as “divisive.”

Read more here.

Ivanka Trump used personal email for government business, watchdog group says

A watchdog group said Monday that emails released to the organization show that President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump used a personal email address to conduct White House business as recently as March, although a White House spokesperson said that the first daughter did not have a government email account when the correspondence was sent.

>> Read more trending news

The discovery by watchdog group American Oversight came one day after Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, said through a statement by his attorney that he used a private email address to conduct government business.

>> Related: Jared Kushner used personal email to conduct White House business, lawyer says

The emails from Ivanka Trump to Linda McMahon, administrator of the United States Small Business Administration, were sent in February, according to copies of the correspondence released by American Oversight. At the time, Ivanka Trump was not a federal employee but was “operating inside the White House in a nonofficial capacity,” Newsweek reported.

In a statement obtained by Newsweek, a White House spokesperson said that Ivanka Trump became a federal employee in March.

“She made clear that one of her reasons for doing so was to ensure that she would have access to government-issued communications devices and receive an official email account to protect government records,” the spokesperson said, adding that at the time of the communications, Ivanka Trump did not have an official email account.

Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, however, said that the situation shows “yet again … that there’s one rule for the Trump family and another for everyone else.”

“It’s simply breathtaking that both Ivanka and Jared Kushner would conduct government (business) on a personal email account after running a campaign centered on that very issue,” Evers said. “The fact that they would brazenly ignore rules governing email use raises even more questions about their judgment and fitness to hold positions in the White House.”

The Hill reported that the emails from Ivanka Trump showed that she copied her chief of staff, Julie Radford, on the emails, and that Radford had a White House email address.

Donald Trump criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sharply last year for her use of private email, leading supporters on chants of “Lock her up” and insisting that her actions were illegal as the two vied for a seat in the Oval Office. The FBI determined last year that Clinton did not break the law, although then-FBI Director James Comey said that she and her colleagues were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

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