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Betsy DeVos’ DOE threatens to cut university funding for positive portrayal of Islam

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The U.S Department of Education threatened to pull federal funding from a Middle East studies course jointly run by Duke University and the University of North Carolina because it portrays Islam too positively.

The DOE ordered the universities to change their program or lose its federal grant money. In a letter to UNC, the department criticized the program, arguing that topics like Iranian art and film have “little or no relevance” to the Middle East studies program. The letter also argues that the program “appears to lack balance” because its programs are not focused on the discrimination faced by “religious minorities in the Middle East,” including Christians and Jews.

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“There is a considerable emphasis placed on the understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East,” the letter said. “This lack of balance of perspectives is troubling and strongly suggests that Duke-UNC CMES is not meeting legal requirement that National Resource Centers ‘provide a full understanding of the areas, regions, or countries.’”

The letter appears to reflect the views of new department civil rights chief Kenneth Marcus, The New York Times reported. He has long been a pro-Israel advocate and “waged a years-long campaign to delegitimize and defund Middle East studies programs that he has criticized as rife with anti-Israel bias.”

Palestinian rights groups condemned the letter and accused the Department of Education of trying to intimidate schools into curriculums that are approved by the current administration.

“They really want to send the message that if you want to criticize Israel, then the federal government is going to look very closely at your entire program and micromanage it to death,” Zoha Khalili, an attorney for Palestine Legal, told the Times, adding that the letter “sends a message to Middle Eastern studies programs that their continued existence depends on their willingness to toe the government line on Israel.”

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Henry Reichman, who chairs a committee on academic freedom at the American Association of University Professors, told the Associated Press that the government intervention could set a dangerous precedent.

“Is the government now going to judge funding programs based on the opinions of instructors or the approach of each course?” he asked. “The odor of right wing political correctness that comes through this definitely could have a chilling effect.”

Since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has taken over, the department has certainly moved far to the right. DeVos kicked off her 2019 “Back-to-School” tour earlier this week by visiting a Catholic school that prohibits trans people from attending classes or working there and claims that gender-affirming medical care is “self-mutilation and therefore immoral.”

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DeVos has also used her position to help big corporations at the expense of students. Her department has created new rules that make it more difficult for federal student loan borrowers to seek debt relief in cases where colleges defrauded them, and has rolled back Obama-era rules intended to protect students from abusive for-profit colleges.

This week, the department admitted in a court filing that it violated a court order barring the collection of student loan payments by borrowers defrauded by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit institution whose programs DeVos herself described as “worthless.”

The department admitted to trying to collect debts from more than 16,000 student borrowers who had attended programs run by Corinthian Colleges. The department also admitted that hundreds of borrowers had their credit negatively affected by the prohibited efforts to collect and more than 1,800 had their wages or tax refund garnished.

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After violating the May court order, the department promised that it would be “sending such borrowers notices informing them that they will be receiving refunds.”


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Stephen Colbert rips ‘idiot’ GOP senator for defending Trump’s unconstitutional self-dealing

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"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert returned from New Zealand for a new show that aired Monday evening.

"I have been as far from the insatiable black hole of news that is Donald Trump as you can get on this planet.

I've heard there have been some developments over the last 10 days that did not go well for Donnie,"

The host ripped Trump's 71-minute press conference.

"Seventy-one minutes is not a press conference, it's a one man show," he explained. "If you liked 'Fleabag,' you'll love Donald Trump in 'Douchebag,'" he said.

[caption id="attachment_1555275" align="aligncenter" width="800"] ‘The Late Show’ graphic (screengrab)[/caption]

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Texas Republicans are abandoning the state’s GOP Speaker: ‘We no longer support him’

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Some of the most powerful Texas House Republicans said Monday they no longer support GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen, marking the biggest blow yet to his political future amid the fallout from a secret recording released last week by a hardline conservative activist.

Five Republicans considered senior members of the lower chamber issued a statement withdrawing support for him: State Reps. Four Price of Amarillo, Dan Huberty of Houston, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Chris Paddie of Marshall and John Frullo of Lubbock.

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Donald Trump is making a mockery of Marco Rubio — and the Florida senator is letting him

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Sen. Marco Rubio was once one of Donald Trump’s most formidable opponents; now, the Florida senator bends over backward to excuse the president’s corruption.

In 2016, Rubio and Trump sparred frequently on the Republican primary debate stage. Trump picked the uninspired nickname “Little Marco” for the senator, which didn’t seem to do much damage on its own, but Rubio never gained the momentum or strength that his backers hoped would prove to be strong enough to take down the reality TV candidate. As Rubio grew desperate, he launched one of his most memorable and pitiful attacks by stooping to his opponent’s level, implying that Trump had a small penis. It was more of an embarrassing moment for Rubio than anyone else, though Trump helped himself with a crude rejoinder.

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