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California state senator resigns after sexual misconduct accusations

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A California state senator accused of engaging in “unwelcome flirtation and sexually suggestive behavior” with several women, including subordinates, resigned on Thursday as colleagues were due to vote on whether he should be expelled.

Tony Mendoza, a Los Angeles-area lawmaker, became the third member of the California legislature, all Democrats, to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement took root last fall, toppling powerful men in politics, the media and other realms of American life.

His resignation came two days after the Senate Rules Committee released a summary of an independent investigative report prepared by two law firms finding it “more likely than not” that Mendoza had made unwanted advances toward six women, four of whom worked for him.

The alleged instances of “unwelcome flirtation and sexually suggestive behavior” occurred over the past decade, during Mendoza’s tenure as a state Assembly member, from 2006 to 2012, and as a senator, from 2014 to the present.

“None of these women alleged they had a sexual relationship with Mendoza or that he had been physically aggressive or sexually crude towards them,” the report said. “However, the recipients of this unwelcome behavior understood that Mendoza was suggesting sexual contact.”

In his resignation letter, Mendoza said he was “immensely sorry if my words or actions ever made anyone feel uncomfortable.” He said the findings of the Senate investigation “do not comport with my recollection or perception of the events described.”

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Mendoza, 46, has categorically denied serving alcohol to anyone under age, as was alleged by one 19-year-old intern. He also has accused Senate leaders, including Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, of denying him due process in what Mendoza called “a secret investigation of my case.”

Mendoza had taken a leave of absence in January after allegations against him first surfaced, and that leave was extended for 60 days by the Rules Committee without his consent.

He stepped down as the Senate was expected to consider a resolution introduced by de Leon that sought to expel Mendoza, citing the conclusions of the investigation and the body’s zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment.

The last time the California Senate expelled any of its members was in 1905, when four senators accused of taking bribes were voted out, according to legislative historian cited by the Sacramento Bee.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles)

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How Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement

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When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.

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Why do conservatives hate Oberlin College so much?

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When I was an undergraduate at Oberlin in the mid-Aughts, there was a student in my class year who was obsessed with 19th-century British Royal Naval culture. Every Friday evening, he would host a sing-along in a dorm lounge, for which he would bring xeroxes of historical sea shanty lyrics and pass them around so that we could sing along, waving our glasses of “grog.” This was a semi-established event — he had distributed flyers around campus advertising the weekly British Royal Naval sea-shanty singalong and grog-drinking event, which would extend late into the night. Though he was not a resident of the dorm where it took place, he was welcomed into the lounge by its members, and became a fixture of sorts.Like many well-endowed liberal arts schools in rural areas, Oberlin College functions as a sort of de facto social welfare state, and is designed to encourage and cultivate one’s passions, even if they are not strictly academic. Thus, after writing up a proposal for the student-run activities board, the same student, the British Royal Navy culture guy, was able to plan, organize and execute a ticketed Royal Naval Ball, held in the atrium of the science center. The event featured 20 dishes of authentic British era-appropriate cuisine, cooked by student chefs, several courses of wine and port, and a violinist present to play period-specific music. The whole affair culminated with a traditional, British partner line dance — its sole inauthenticity the fact that we didn’t pay attention to our dance partners’ genders the way the Brits would have.
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2020 Election

Here are 5 reasons why 2020’s down-ballot races could reshape America’s future

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The political press always tends to focus mostly on the marquee race for the White House but that's especially true this cycle, as Donald Trump runs for a second term. He demands attention and his antics enrage his opponents and delight his supporters in equal measure.

But national reporters risk missing the big picture by centering so much of their reporting at the top when many of the most important political battles in 2020 will take place further down the ballot.

Trump is catnip for reporters and their editors, but the dearth of coverage of downballot races didn't begin with his election. As the news media in general faces structural changes—with print circulation declining and much of their work moving into digital spaces that are more difficult to monetize--publishers have cut back on reporters assigned to the state and local government beat. Nevertheless, Trump has arguably worsened the trend by getting so much airtime— one estimate suggested that over the past four years, Trump has taken up, on average, 15 percent of the entire daily news cycle on the three leading cable networks, nearly three times what Obama did.

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