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May 25, 2016
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Students at Oberlin College are asking the school to put academics on the back burner so they can better turn their attention to activism. More than 1,300 students at the Midwestern liberal arts college have now signed a petition asking that the college get rid of any grade below a C for the semester, and some students are requesting alternatives to the standard written midterm examination, such as a conversation with a professor in lieu of an essay.

The students say that between their activism work and their heavy course load, finding success within the usual grading parameters is increasingly difficult. "A lot of us worked alongside community members in Cleveland who were protesting," Megan Bautista, a co-liaison in Oberlin's student government, said, referring to the protests surrounding the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a police officer in 2014. "But we needed to organize on campus as well — it wasn't sustainable to keep driving 40 minutes away. A lot of us started suffering academically."

The student activists' request doesn't come without precedence: In the 1970s, Oberlin adjusted its grading to accommodate student activists protesting the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings, The New Yorker reports. But current students contend that same luxury was not granted to them even though the recent Rice protests were over a police shooting that took place just 30 miles east of campus.

"You know, we're paying for a service. We're paying for our attendance here. We need to be able to get what we need in a way that we can actually consume it," student Zakiya Acey told The New Yorker. "Because I'm dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems — having to deal with all of that, I can't produce the work that they want me to do. But I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways."

Read the full story on the ongoing battle at Oberlin over at The New Yorker. Becca Stanek

1:08 p.m. ET

Alabama's Senator-elect Doug Jones (D) made an appearance on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, talking with host Jake Tapper about his win at the polls this past week, his plans for his new role in Washington, and President Trump.

Jones broke with fellow Democrats who have said the president should resign because of sexual harassment accusations made against him. "Those allegations were made before the election, and so people had an opportunity to judge" last year, Jones said. "We need to move on and not get distracted by those issues."

Jones also indicated he won't be a strict party-line voter in the Senate given his may GOP constituents. "Now, don't expect me to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats," he said. "I'm going to talk to people on both sides of the aisle, try to figure out what I think is in the best interest of my state and in the country."

Watch the full CNN interview below. Bonnie Kristian

12:33 p.m. ET

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short had a testy conversation with NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday in which he maintained the Trump administration is not internally debating whether to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller from his probe into Russian election meddling efforts.

Todd raised the subject of emails the Trump transition team claims Mueller obtained unlawfully, but Short pleaded ignorance of the specifics of that situation. Instead, he argued the Russia investigation in general has been wasteful and unnecessary, which led to this rapid-fire exchange:

Todd: Ok, but is the president going to continue to cooperate?

Short: He is continuing to cooperate —

Todd: Or is he setting the stage —

Short: No, come on, Chuck.

Todd: For firing Bob Mueller?

Short: No, there's no conversation —

Todd: There's no way he's going to fire him?

Short: There's no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House, Chuck.

Todd: None whatsoever?

Short: You guys keep bringing that up. We have continued to cooperate in every single possible way with that investigation. [NBC]

Mueller's office denied accessing the emails unlawfully, stating it has always "secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process" when obtaining communications for the investigation. Watch an excerpt of the NBC interview below. Bonnie Kristian

12:03 p.m. ET

Britain's Prince Harry has interviewed former President Obama for a radio show set to air later this month. Though recorded in September, the first teaser clip of the conversation was shared by Kensington Palace social media accounts Sunday.

Clocking in under a minute, the short video sees Obama and the prince joking as they prepare to begin their interview. "Do I have to speak faster, because I'm a slow speaker?" Obama asks. "Do I need a British accent?" Harry assures him that won't be necessary, but warns against leaving Obama's trademark "long pauses between the answers." Watch the teaser below. Bonnie Kristian

11:01 a.m. ET
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not the only federal agency reportedly prohibited by the Trump White House from using words and phrases including "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based."

The Washington Post reported Saturday evening that other divisions in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been given the same list of banned terms. Furthermore, staff at one agency were reportedly told to say "ObamaCare" instead of "Affordable Care Act," and ObamaCare "exchanges" instead of "marketplaces," while the State Department is calling sex education "sexual risk avoidance."

"People were surprised, people were not thrilled" about the directive, an unnamed HHS official told the Post. "We all kind of looked at each other and said, 'Oh, God.'" Bonnie Kristian

10:51 a.m. ET

California's Thomas Fire grew to be the second-largest wildfire in the state's recorded history by Sunday morning. The blaze has burned more than 267,000 acres and is expected to grow larger than the all-time biggest California fire as soon as Sunday night thanks to continued high winds in Southern California. The fire now poses a serious threat to hundreds of homes in Montecito, a coastal town on the outskirts of Santa Barbara.

"When the [sundowner winds] surface in that area and the fire starts running down slopes, you are not going to stop it," said Mark Brown, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "And we are not going to stand in front of it and put firefighters in untenable situations."

See the fire's projected growth via the Los Angeles Times below. Bonnie Kristian

10:42 a.m. ET

President Trump defended congressional Republicans' final tax bill while speaking with reporters Saturday, accusing Democrats of criticizing the plan without knowing what it will do. "It's going to be one of the great Christmas gifts to middle-income people," Trump said. "The Democrats have their sound bite, the standard sound bite before they even know what the bill is all about."

Trump also praised the strength of the economy, which he said will "start to rock" at up to 6 percent annual growth thanks to the tax bill and "what we've done with regulation and other things." Watch an excerpt of the president's comments via his Twitter account below. Bonnie Kristian

8:49 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) is excited to trim the White House tree now that he has declared an end to hostilities in the "War on Christmas," and this year, the first family is decorating on a theme. Joined by the first lady, some of his children, and various administration staff, Trump adorns his "tree of shame" with ornaments featuring the faces of "all the haters and losers [he] destroyed this year."

The haters and losers are mostly former members of the Trump White House, but fired FBI Director James Comey and former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are on the tree, too. Elf on the Shelf Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Kate McKinnon) shows up on the mantel to help with the tree trimming and wish everyone a merry Christmas, because "everybody is gonna get away with everything!"

Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

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