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Cronyism blamed for half of Univ. of Texas law school grads’ inability to pass the bar

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A mushrooming scandal at the University of Texas has exposed rampant favoritism in the admissions process of its nationally-respected School of Law.

According to Watchdog.org, Democratic and Republican elected officials stand accused of calling in favors and using their clout to obtain admission to the law school for less-than-qualified but well-connected applicants.

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The prestigious program boasts a meager 59 percent of recent graduates who were able to pass the Texas bar exam. Those numbers rank UT “dead last among Texas’ nine law schools despite it being by far the most highly regarded school of the nine,” wrote Erik Telford at FoxNews.com.

“Every law school — even Harvard and Yale — turns out the occasional disappointing alum who cannot pass the bar,” said Telford. “In Texas, however, a disturbing number of these failed graduates are directly connected to the politicians who oversee the university’s source of funding.”

Telford singled out State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D) and State House Speaker Joe Straus (R) as particularly egregious offenders. A series of Zaffirini emails showed that the state Senator was more than willing to pull strings in applicants’ favor. Another six recent graduates who failed the bar exam twice each have connections to Straus’ office.

“None of the emails published so far explicitly mention any sort of quid pro quo, but none need do so,” wrote Watchdog.org’s Jon Cassidy, “as the recipients all know Zaffirini is the most powerful voice on higher education funding in the Texas Legislature. Even so, in one of the emails, Zaffirini mentions how much funding she’s secured for the university before switching topics to the applicant.”

Furthermore, the children of three Texas lawmakers, including Zaffirini’s son, have graduated from UT Law School and failed the bar exam eight times between them. In addition to Zaffirini, State Sen. John Carona (R) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts (R) each sent their sons to the program, neither of whom has passed the bar to this day.

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UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa opened a preliminary investigation into the charges earlier this year. Those findings are now in the hands of the University of Texas Board of Regents, which will decide whether to launch a full investigation.

[Image of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus via Facebook.com]


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In a secluded region in Russia’s Arctic they are rejecting Putin in rare protest

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Lyudmila Laptander, an activist advocating autonomy for her mineral-rich Nenets region in the Russian Arctic, worries authorities are planning to sacrifice its traditions for the promise of economic enrichment.

"If Nenets is merged with another region, I worry that no one will look after our language or our traditions, and that our small villages in the tundra will be forgotten," said Laptander, 61, a member of the Yasavey cultural group.

The autonomous region on the edge of the Arctic Ocean was gripped by protests in May against the government's plans to integrate it with neighbouring Arkhangelsk.

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People are paying to hire this donkey to crash their Zoom meetings

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The coronavirus pandemic has led millions of people to embrace meetings via Zoom, but admittedly, those can be as tedious as in-person conferences.

So one animal sanctuary in Canada, in dire need of cash after being forced to close to visitors, found a way to solve both problems.

Meet Buckwheat, a donkey at the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home, who is ready to inject some fun into your humdrum work-from-home office day -- for a price.

"Hello. We are crashing your meeting, we are crashing your meeting -- this is Buckwheat," says sanctuary volunteer Tim Fors, introducing the gray and white animal on a Zoom call.

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Republican senators are suddenly trying to social distance — from Trump

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There’s something interesting in today’s news:

A number of Republican Senators have said they are skipping the Republican National Convention this year. The convention was originally scheduled in Charlotte, North Carolina, but at Trump’s insistence was relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, last month. The stated reason was that Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper would not commit to permitting a full convention out of concerns about the spread of coronavirus, but the abrupt switch to Florida, less than 80 days before the convention, still seems odd to me. Regardless, the switch has created a new problem: Florida is in the midst of a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases, setting a record for new cases in a single day during the weekend —11,458—and running low of ICU beds.

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