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

1:43 a.m.

Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Berlin and President Trump's new acting director of national intelligence, is not popular in Germany. After alienating much of the country early on with diplomatic bomb-throwing, Der Spiegel wrote a year ago, "the spotlight on Grenell seems to have grown dimmer, though not necessarily by choice. He still tweets assiduously and he never seems to say no when Fox News calls, but in Berlin, he has largely become isolated. The powerful avoid him. Doors have been shut."

But if Berlin was excited at the prospect of getting a new U.S. ambassador, well, tough luck. Even after he takes over as head of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, as early as Thursday, "Grenell is expected to keep his current ambassadorship as long as he is acting intelligence director," The New York Times reports, citing one administration official, adding: "Grenell did not respond to a request for comment."

Grenell also declined Der Spiegel's multiple requests for comment, reporter Konstantin von Hammerstein noted. So "Der Spiegel focused its reporting on conversations with more than 30 sources who have come into contact with Grenell," including "numerous American and German diplomats, Cabinet members, lawmakers, high-ranking officials, lobbyists, and think tank experts." He added:

A majority of them describe Grenell as a vain, narcissistic person who dishes out aggressively, but can barely handle criticism. His brash demeanor, some claim, hides a deep insecurity, and they say he thirsts for the approval of others. ...They also say Grenell knows little about Germany and Europe, that he ignores most of the dossiers his colleagues at the embassy write for him, and that his knowledge of the subject matter is superficial. [Der Spiegel]

It isn't clear how Grenell would divide his responsibilities for the 210 days he is legally eligible to be acting DNI without Senate confirmation. Peter Weber

1:30 a.m.

No one can explain how a class ring lost in Maine 47 years ago was just found in Finland, but it now means even more to owner Debra McKenna.

The ring originally belonged to McKenna's high school sweetheart, Shawn. They met at Morse High School, and on Valentine's Day 1973, he asked McKenna out on a date. They soon became a couple, and when he went away to college in the fall, he gave her his class ring. Not long after, McKenna lost it while shopping at a department store. She forgot about the ring, but never forgot about Shawn — the pair wed in 1977, and remained married until 2017, when Shawn died of cancer.

Last month, thousands of miles away from McKenna's home, a man named Marko Saarinen was using his metal detector in Kaarina, Finland. While in a park, his detector started making noise, and under about eight inches of dirt, he found a ring with a blue stone. It belonged to someone who attended Morse High School, and was inscribed with "1973" and "S.M." He notified the school's alumni association, and they soon determined that Shawn McKenna was the only person in the Class of 1973 with the initials "S.M."

When his widow learned that the long-lost ring had been found, "there was a lot of weeping," she told the Bangor Daily News. She doesn't have the slightest idea how the ring got from Maine to Finland, but did find it remarkable that on the side of the ring, it says "Shipbuilders," which is the mascot of Morse High School — it's also Saarinen's profession. "Shawn used to say there's no such thing as coincidences," McKenna said. Catherine Garcia

12:46 a.m.

President Trump held a rally in Phoenix on Wednesday night at the same time Democrats were debating in Las Vegas, and he was sure to get in several digs against the candidates.

He called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) a "phony," referred to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as "crazy," and called former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg "Mini Mike." Trump proclaimed that it doesn't matter who the Democratic nominee is, because "we're going to win," but seemed to hint that he thinks it will be a close race in Arizona in November. While he won the state in 2016, he only beat Hillary Clinton by 3.5 percentage points. "We'll be back a lot," he said.

Trump also told an oft-repeated story about a man who allegedly told Trump "my wife used to look at me like I'm a total loser," but because of how high his 401(k) is, "she loves me again. She thinks I'm a genius." The man's profession and his 401(k)'s rate of growth always changes when he tells the story, and Trump kept Wednesday's version of the man shrouded in mystery, simply referring to him as "Henry," USA Today reports. Catherine Garcia

12:39 a.m.

President Trump confirmed Wednesday night that he is appointing Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence. Current acting DNI Joseph Maguire, who would have had to step down by March 12 because he lacked Senate confirmation, "was blindsided by the news," The Washington Post reports, as were many people in the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill. Grenell will take responsibility for America's 17 intelligence agencies on Thursday, The New York Times reports.

Trump isn't expected to nominate Grenell for the job, so he can hold the office for only 210 days under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Grenell has no real intelligence experience and has never run a large bureaucracy. His most relevant experience to head the U.S. intelligence community are his two-year ambassadorship and long stint as spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. Before Trump sent him to Berlin, "Grenell was known mainly as an online media critic and conservative Fox News foreign policy analyst," The Associated Press reports. One administration official told AP that "Grenell was named in an acting capacity because Trump wanted him in quickly and there were doubts about whether he could be confirmed in the job."

Director of national intelligence is "a job considered to be among the most nonpartisan in Washington," the Times notes. By picking Grenell, Trump is signaling "he wants a trusted, aggressive leader atop an intelligence community that he has long viewed with suspicion and at times gone to war against," and "the list of people with the requisite experience who have not been critical of the president is slim." Also, Grenell will be the first openly gay member of Trump's Cabinet, its third Fox News contributor, and, along with U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft, the second Cabinet member who is a "Gold" level member of the Trump Organization's Trump Card loyalty program. Peter Weber

February 19, 2020

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had the most speaking time during Wednesday's Democratic debate — a good three-and-a-half minutes more than former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who spoke the least.

The New York Times calculated that Warren talked for 16 minutes, 35 seconds, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) close behind at 15 minutes, 55 seconds. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke for 15 minutes, 24 seconds, while former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg clocked in at 13 minutes, 25 seconds.

Rounding out the pack was former Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke for 13 minutes, 25 seconds, and Bloomberg, who in his debate debut spoke for 13 minutes, two seconds. Catherine Garcia

February 19, 2020

Some of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's rivals don't think he should exist.

Or rather, they don't think the billions of dollars he has in the bank should've ever been his. So during Wednesday night's Democratic, Meet The Press host Chuck Todd posed the very meta question to Bloomberg himself.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) answered the "should billionaires exist" question first, affirming his previously declaration that no, they should not. Todd then asked Bloomberg "should you exist," to which Bloomberg said "I can't speak for all billionaires." But he's "been very lucky" and "worked hard" for his money, Bloomberg said and he deserves it because he's "giving it all away to make this country better. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 19, 2020

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wasn't afraid to call out her fellow candidates during the Democratic debate in Nevada — former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was her favorite target — and her supporters appeared to approve of her performance.

The debate started at 9 p.m. ET, and shortly after 10 p.m., her chief marketing officer made a big announcement on Twitter. "That, my friends, was the Warren campaign's best hour of fundraising to date," Caitlin Mitchell said. "Keep it up."

The Warren campaign is hoping to raise $7 million before the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. She has vowed not to hold pricey fundraisers, and will not take any contributions over $200 from banking, tech, and investment executives. Catherine Garcia

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