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Rochester School Won’t Let Its First Black Valedictorian Speak, So Mayor Does

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Jaisaan Lovett of Rochester, New York, became the first black valedictorian in his school’s history. As graduation approached, he expected to give a speech at the commencement ceremony for the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, just as past valedictorians had done.

But for reasons that remain unclear, that speaking invitation didn’t come. And according to Lovett, when he sought permission to give remarks from the school’s principal, Joseph Munno, the answer was no. 

“He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing,” Lovett said in an interview with The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “He just said no.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, for whose office Lovett works as an intern, intervened. Upon hearing what happened to Lovett, who will go on to study with a full scholarship at Clark Atlanta University, she gave him a platform to deliver his speech. Then she posted video of the speech to YouTube, and shared the post on Facebook and Twitter. 

″Unfortunately Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said before handing the mic over to Lovett. “For some reason, his school, in a country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and the city of Frederick Douglass, turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.” 

Lovett then delivered his speech, which sought to inspire others to succeed and thanked his parents for supporting him during his time at UPrep. He also took a moment to address his principal, who he said he had clashed with in the past.

“I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong,” Lovett said.

As news of the school’s refusal and the mayor’s intervention went viral, the UPrep Board of Trustees posted a message on the school’s Facebook page indicating they were looking into the situation and unable to comment publicly due to privacy reasons. The school did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

“We are aware of the concern with the Valedictorian not speaking at graduation. The Board will be reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened and looking into the related guidelines and school policies,” the message states. “UPrep wishes Jaisaan Lovett, the first black Valedictorian in the school’s four year graduation history, much success as he continues his education at Clark Atlanta University.”

The UPrep ruckus comes weeks after school officials cut the mic during a valedictorian’s commencement address in California. 

Petaluma High School senior Lulabel Seitz was abruptly silenced when she was about to talk about being sexually assaulted at school and the administration’s handling of her experience. She finished her remarks without a microphone at graduation and posted video of her speech in its entirety to YouTube.

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Russia Tried To Help Trump Win 2016 Election, Senate Intelligence Committee Reaffirms

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“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to ... hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.”

A Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday supports three U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Republican-led committee’s finding suggests the panel continues to conduct a bipartisan inquiry into the issue amid political rancor between Republicans and Democrats on allegations that Moscow interfered in the election.

“As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the (Intelligence Community Assessment’s) findings were accurate and on point,” said committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat.

“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton (Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton) and to help Donald Trump,” Warner said.

Separate from congressional inquiries, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any Republican Trump’s election campaign members coordinated with Moscow officials.

Neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which reported the intelligence agencies’ findings in January 2017, nor the Senate committee has concluded that Trump’s campaign or aides colluded with Russia.

The committee is still investigating any possible collusion, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, officials said.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, asked by reporters on Tuesday about the Senate panel’s report while traveling with Trump on Air Force One to West Virginia, said: “The president has been very clear and has said it many times that he feels the Russians meddled in the election.”

The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, dominated by Republicans sympathetic to Trump, found no conclusive evidence proving collusion. But House panel Republicans, in a report on April 27, did say that Russia ran an information warfare campaign to disrupt the election.

The Kremlin denies meddling and Trump denies collusion. On June 28, Trump said on Twitter that “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling on Our Election!”

The following day, however, he told reporters that he planned to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet on July 16 in Helsinki.

According to public records and congressional officials, the Senate Intelligence Committee report is the latest of four election-related inquiries on which the panel’s Republicans and Democrats continue to cooperate.

Earlier, the committee held a public hearing and issued a report on the security of U.S. election systems, on which there was no partisan dissent. 

Committee Democrats also are collaborating with Republicans on an inquiry that is likely to cite former President Barack Obama and his administration for moving too slowly to probe evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Committee Democrats and Republicans also are working together on an examination of the role social media played in influencing U.S. voters, and may hold hearings on that issue.

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Canada announces billions in retaliatory tariffs, says it will not back down

Canada struck back at the Trump administration over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on Friday, vowing to impose punitive measures on C$16.6 billion ($12.63 billion) worth of American goods until Washington relents.

The announcement by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland marks a new low in ties between the neighbors and trading partners which have become increasingly strained since U.S. President Donald Trump took power in January 2017.

The Canadian tariffs will come into effect on July 1 and largely target U.S. steel and aluminum products, but also foodstuffs such as coffee, ketchup and whiskies, according to a list by the Department of Finance. https://tinyurl.com/y8w5g895

"We will not escalate and we will not back down," Freeland told reporters at a Stelco Holdings Inc plant in the Ontario steel city of Hamilton.

Officials say the measures are designed in part to pressure Trump by focusing on goods from states where his political allies hold sway.

Canada's Liberal party government said last month it would retaliate after Trump moved against steel and aluminum imports from Canada and other nations, citing security grounds.

"We are acting very much in sorrow, not in anger," said Freeland, stressing the closeness of the overall relationship. Bilateral trade is worth around C$2 billion a day.

Freeland said she had already spoken to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer six times this week and was prepared to meet at any time to tackle the issue.

Ottawa also unveiled an aid package for affected industries and workers worth up to C$2 billion, consisting mainly of up to C$1.7 billion in commercial financing and insurance for firms in the steel and aluminum sectors and related industries.

The Trump administration is studying whether to put tariffs on Canadian autos, which economists say would help plunge the economy into a recession. Freeland called the idea "absolutely absurd."

The U.S. embassy in Ottawa said it had no immediate comment.

While opposition parties have so far largely backed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for standing up to Trump, their support could be tested once the U.S. tariffs start to bite.

Trudeau, who usually attends celebrations in Ottawa on July 1 to mark the Canada Day holiday, will instead spend part of the weekend with families of steel workers in the western province of Saskatchewan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter. Goodale is from Saskatchewan, where Evraz plc has a major plant.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said earlier this month the tariffs were designed in part to stop cheap steel entering the United States via Canada and other countries.

Ottawa would take measures to stop the dumping of steel in the coming weeks once it had finished consulting stakeholders, said Canadian Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, appearing at the same event as Freeland.

In Washington, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the tariffs would hit $170 million worth of U.S. beef products.

"We believe that cooperation is a better path forward than escalation," said Kent Bacus, the association's director of international trade and market access.

U.S. officials have also linked the tariffs to slow progress in talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump says is a disaster and must be changed.

Freeland said she expected the negotiations would enter an intensive phase after a Mexican presidential election on July 1.

($1=1.3141 Canadian dollars)

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