May 25, 2016

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

3:52 p.m.

Shortly after police detained Russian opposition leader and Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny upon his return to Moscow from Germany, where he was recovering from a poisoning allegedly carried out by Russia's FSB spy agency, President-elect Joe Biden's incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called for the anti-corruption activist's immediate release.

Sullivan said the Kremlin's actions were a "violation of human rights" and "an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard."

The forceful statement quickly drew attention from members of the U.S. media, who compared it to the Trump administration's generally more lax approach to Moscow.

Sullivan also beat the current White House to the punch — there's been no word on the Navalny situation from President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, or National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien as of yet. Tim O'Donnell

2:46 p.m.

Despite security concerns, the plan is still for President-elect Joe Biden to take the oath of office on the West Front of the United States Capitol during Wednesday's inauguration ceremony, incoming White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said Sunday during an appearance on ABC's This Week.

Bedingfield said that doing so would reflect American "resilience" following the deadly riot at the Capitol earlier this month, when a pro-Trump mob violently forced its way into the building.

Bedingfield also provided a glimpse of what may be in Biden's inaugural address. She didn't get into specifics, but her expectations mirrored those of other advisers, who anticipate Biden will call for unity and "lay out a positive, optimistic vision for the country." Tim O'Donnell

2:14 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reiterated his belief that his Republican colleagues in the Senate should not embrace what he considers "an unconstitutional impeachment" of President Trump.

Speaking with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo on Sunday morning, Graham said Trump is facing a "scarlet letter" impeachment that's driven by the "radical left" and called on President-elect Joe Biden and the GOP to put a stop to it. The biggest risk of following through, Graham argued, is the destruction of the Republican Party. If the party "wants to move forward, President Trump's gonna be the most important voice ... for a long time."

That said, Graham did issue a warning for Trump, as well. When asked about the possibility of the president pardoning people involved in the deadly siege of the United States Capitol — the impetus for Trump's impeachment — Graham said he hopes "we don't go down that road" because it "would destroy" Trump.

1:37 p.m.

Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and fierce critic of the Kremlin, flew back to Moscow following five months in Berlin, where he was recovering after he was allegedly poisoned by Russia's FSB spy agency. At airport border control, Navalny kissed his wife goodbye before Russian law enforcement promptly detained him, as expected.

Moscow's prison service said it had orders to arrest Navalny because he violated conditions after an embezzlement conviction. Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's top rivals, has maintained the charges were politically motivated. Still, while he was always aware of his impending detainment, he told reporters who traveled with him it never crossed his mind not to return home to Moscow. "This is my home," he said. "I'm not scared of anything."

Alexei Makarin, the deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow, told Bloomberg that Navalny could have stayed in Germany, but in that case the Russian people "would quickly lose interest in him." Now, the anti-corruption activist may be seen as a "symbol of resistance behind bars and a big risk for Putin."

Navalny's wife and lawyer, however, opted to wait behind passport control where Navalny was taken, which reportedly suggests there's a chance he'll be released "with a writ of summons."

As far as the United States is concerned, if Russia does continue to hold Navalny, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul argues it will be the first big foreign policy test for the Biden administration. Tim O'Donnell

12:45 p.m.

Israel has vaccinated at least 25 percent of its population against the coronavirus so far, which leads the world and makes it "the country to watch for herd effects from" the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, says infectious disease expert David Fishman. Recently, the case rate in Israel appears to have declined sharply, and while there could be a few reasons for that, it's possible the vaccination effort is beginning to play a role.

One study from Clalit that was published last week reports that 14 days after receiving the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot, infection rates among 200,000 Israelis older than 60 fell 33 percent among those vaccinated compared to 200,000 from the same demographic who hadn't received a jab.

At first glance, Fishman writes, that might seem disappointing since clinical trials suggested the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. But he actually believes the 33 percent figure is "auspicious." Because vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are mingling, there could be "herd effects of immunization." In other words, when inoculated people interact with people who haven't had their shot, the latter individual may still be protected because the other person is. On a larger scale, that would drive down the number of infections among non-vaccinated people, thus shrinking the gap between the two groups' infection rates.

More data needs to come in, and Fishman thinks "we'll know more" this week, but he's cautiously optimistic about how things are going. Tim O'Donnell

11:26 a.m.

Luke Mogelson, a veteran war correspondent and contributing writer for The New Yorker, captured what appears to be the "clearest" footage yet of the deadly riot at the United States Capitol earlier this month.

Mogelson attended (in a journalistic capacity) President Trump's rally on Jan. 6, which preceded the pro-Trump mob's march to and breach of the Capitol. He followed the rioters into the building and filmed a group that entered the empty Senate chamber. They began taking photos of documents in the room as part of a self-declared "information operation." One man said he was attempting to find something that he could "use against these scumbags," while another said he thought Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) "would want us to do this."

In a later scene, Mogelson witnessed Jake Angeli, otherwise known as Q Shaman, sitting in Vice President Mike Pence's chair, as a lone Capitol Police officer tried unsuccessfully to get him to move. He also gathered footage from outside the Capitol, including a large crowd aggressively forcing its way into the building, as well as a man telling people around him to "start making a list, put all those names down" and "start hunting them down one by one."

The New Yorker notes that although the footage was "not originally intended for publication, it documents a historic event and serves as a visceral complement to Mogelson's probing, illuminating" written feature. Read the full report here and watch the complete footage here. Tim O'Donnell

8:30 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden's inaugural address will outline how he plans to handle the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout while in office, and he will also urge Americans to move on from their current political divisions and unify, advisers and allies told Bloomberg. Although those sources anticipate Biden will acknowledge the difficulties of the moment, they expect the overall tone of the speech to be optimistic in contrast to President Trump's "American carnage" speech in 2017.

"People want to know someone is in charge, help is on the way, chaos is behind us now," said Matt Teper, who served as Biden's chief speech writer at the beginning of his tenure as former President Barack Obama's vice president. "There's a recognition that things aren't great right now, but there's definitely hope that they're going to get better."

Teper added that a darker outlook is neither "the tone anyone wants" to hear nor Biden's way of "looking at the world." Rather, Teper said, he operates more along the lines of "'we're going to fix things and we're going to move forward.'"

Still, Bloomberg notes, that message of unity and healing likely won't be accepted blindly across the political spectrum, especially since House Democrats impeached Trump just a week before. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

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