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Associated Press

Ivanka Trump posts photo of herself behind Oval Office desk

Ivanka Trump is getting a strong reaction online after posting a photo of herself seated at the Oval Office desk while her father, President Donald Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stood on either side of her.

The first daughter posted the picture on Twitter , Instagram and Facebook with the message, “A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table!”

While the picture earned Trump plenty of kudos from supporters of her father on social media, others said she hadn’t earned the right to sit behind the desk.

Ivanka Trump sat next to Trudeau during a roundtable meeting with female executives from the U.S. and Canada on Monday.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press.

National security adviser Michael Flynn resigns amid Russia controversy

President Donald Trump‘s embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned late Monday night, following reports that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia. His departure upends Trump’s senior team after less than one month in office.

In a resignation letter, Flynn said he held numerous calls with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition and gave “incomplete information” about those discussions to Vice President Mike Pence. The vice president, apparently relying on information from Flynn, initially said the national security adviser had not discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, though Flynn later conceded the issue may have come up.

Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg as the acting national security adviser. Kellogg had previously been appointed the National Security Council chief of staff and advised Trump on national security issues during the campaign.

 The Justice Department warned the Trump administration weeks ago that contradictions between the public depictions and the actual details of the calls could leave Flynn in a compromised position, an administration official and two other people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press Monday night.

One person with knowledge of the situation said the Justice Department alerted the White House that there was a discrepancy between what officials were saying publicly about the contacts and the facts of what had occurred. Pence — apparently relying on information from Flynn — initially said sanctions were not discussed in the calls, though Flynn has now told White House officials that the topic may have come up.

A second official said the Justice Department was concerned Flynn could be in a compromised position as a result.

The White House has been aware of the Justice Department warnings for “weeks,” an administration official said, though it was unclear whether Trump and Pence had been alerted.

The people insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The Washington Post was the first to report the communication between former acting attorney general Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, and the Trump White House.

Flynn apologized to Pence last week, following a Washington Post report asserting that the national security adviser has indeed discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was consulting with Pence on Monday about his conversations with the national security adviser. Asked whether the president had been aware that Flynn might discuss sanctions with the Russian envoy, Spicer said, “No, absolutely not.”

Trump, who comments on a steady stream of issues on his Twitter feed, has been conspicuously silent about the matter since The Washington Post reported last week that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy. A U.S. official told The Associated Press that Flynn was in frequent contact with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the Obama administration slapped sanctions on Russia for election-related hacking, as well as at other times during the transition.

Flynn’s discussions with the Russian raised questions about whether Flynn offered assurances about the incoming administration’s new approach. Such conversations would breach diplomatic protocol and possibly violate the Logan Act, a law aimed at keeping citizens from conducting diplomacy.

Earlier Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump had “full confidence” in Flynn, though her assertions were not backed up by other senior Trump aides. Spicer would say only that Flynn was continuing to carry out “his daily functions.”

Flynn was spotted near the Oval Office just after 10 p.m. Monday. Amid the uncertainty over Flynn’s future, several of the president’s top advisers, including chief of staff Reince Priebus and counsel Don McGahn, ducked in and out of late-night meetings in the West Wing.

Several House Democrats called on Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to launch an investigation into Flynn’s ties to Russia. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for Flynn to be fired, saying he “cannot be trusted not to put Putin before America.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said that if Pence were misled, “I can’t imagine he would have trust in Gen. Flynn going forward.” She said it would also be “troubling” if Flynn had been negotiating with a foreign government before taking office.

It’s illegal for private citizens to conduct U.S. diplomacy. Flynn’s conversations also raise questions about Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow hacked Democratic emails during the election.

The controversy comes as Trump and his top advisers seek to steady the White House after a rocky start. The president, who seeks input from a wide range of business associates, friends and colleagues, has been asking people their opinions on his senior team, including Spicer and Priebus.

Advisers have privately conceded that the White House spit out too many disparate messages in the first few weeks, though they also note that the president’s own tweets sometimes muddy the day’s plans before most of the White House staff has arrived for work.

Trump voiced support for Priebus Monday, saying the chief of staff was doing, “not a good job, a great job.” But he did not make a similar show of support for his national security adviser.

Flynn sat in the front row of Trump’s news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier Monday. The president did not receive a question about Flynn’s future from the two reporters who were called upon, and he ignored journalists’ shouted follow-up inquiries as he left the room.

Over the weekend, Trump told associates he was troubled by the situation, but did not say whether he planned to ask Flynn to step down, according to a person who spoke with him recently. Flynn was a loyal Trump supporter during the campaign, but he is viewed skeptically by some in the administration’s national security circles, in part because of his ties to Russia.

In 2015, Flynn was paid to attend a gala dinner for Russia Today, a Kremlin-backed television station, and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the event.

Flynn spoke with the vice president about the matter twice on Friday, according to an administration official. The official said Pence was relying on information from Flynn when he went on television and denied that sanctions were discussed with Kislyak.

The administration officials and those who spoke with the president recently were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity.

The controversy surrounding Flynn comes as the young administration grapples with a series of national security challenges, including North Korea’s reported ballistic missile launch. The president, who was joined at his Mar-a-Lago estate by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend, voiced solidarity with Japan.

The White House is also dealing with fallout from the rocky rollout of Trump’s immigration executive order, which has been blocked by the courts. The order was intended to suspend the nation’s refugee program and bar citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

The new civics course in schools: How to avoid fake news

Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference.

As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of “Pope endorses Trump” headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think only education can solve this problem,” said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester.

Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency.

“It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” Lauro said, “but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.'”

Judging what to trust was easier when the sources were clearer — magazines, newspapers or something else, said Kean senior Mike Roche, who is taking Lauro’s class. Now “it all comes through the same medium of your cellphone or your computer, so it’s very easy to blur the lines and not have a clear distinction of what’s real and what’s fake,” he said.

A California lawmaker last month introduced a bill to require the state to add lessons on how to distinguish between real and fake news to the grade 7-12 curriculum.

High school government and politics teacher Lesley Battaglia added fake news to the usual election-season lessons on primaries and presidential debates, discussing credible sites and sources and running stories through fact-checking sites like Snopes. There were also lessons about anonymous sources and satire. (They got a kick out of China’s dissemination of a 2012 satirical story from The Onion naming Kim Jong Un as the sexiest man alive.)

“I’m making you guys do the hard stuff that not everybody always does. They see it in a tweet and that’s enough for them,” Battaglia told her students at Williamsville South High School in suburban Buffalo.

“It’s kind of crazy,” 17-year-old student Hannah Mercer said, “to think about how much it’s affecting people and swaying their opinions.”

Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy pioneered the idea of educating future news consumers, and not just journalists, a decade ago with the rise of online news. About four in 10 Americans often get news online, a 2016 Pew Research Center report found. Stony Brook last month partnered with the University of Hong Kong to launch a free online course.

“To me, it’s the new civics course,” said Tom Boll, after wrapping up his own course on real and fake news at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With everyone now able to post and share, gone are the days of the network news and newspaper editors serving as the primary gatekeepers of information, Boll, an adjunct professor, said.

“The gates are wide open,” he said, “and it’s up to us to figure out what to believe.”

That’s not easy, said Raleigh, North Carolina-area teacher Bill Ferriter, who encourages students to first use common sense to question whether a story could be true, to look at web addresses and authors for hints, and to be skeptical of articles that seem aimed at riling them up.

He pointed to an authentic-looking site reporting that President Barack Obama signed an order in December banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. A “.co” at the end of an impostor news site web address should have been a red flag, he said.

“The biggest challenge that I have whenever I try to teach kids about questionable content on the web,” said Ferriter, who teaches sixth grade, “is convincing them that there is such a thing as questionable content on the web.”

Some of Battaglia’s students fear fake news will chip away at the trust of even credible news sources and give public figures license to dismiss as fake news anything unfavorable.

“When people start to distrust all news sources is when people in power are just allowed to do whatever they want, said Katie Peter, “and that’s very scary.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau to discuss women in workforce

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will participate in a roundtable discussion about women in the workforce Monday, showing the rising policy influence of the first daughter who has stressed her commitment to issues like child care.

A White House official said the two countries would launch a new task force called the United States-Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs. The official said Trudeau’s office reached out to discuss working on a joint effort, noting that this was seen as an area of shared interest between both leaders.

Ivanka Trump, who has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women, was involved in recruiting participants and setting the agenda for the meeting and will attend, the official said. Ivanka Trump stressed the importance of maternity leave and child care on the campaign trail, and has recently been meeting with business leaders to discuss those issues.

The White House official said that Trump’s economic agenda will include a “focus on ensuring women enter and stay in the work force and addressing barriers facing female entrepreneurs.” The official requested anonymity to provide details in advance of the meeting.

Advancing women has been a clear priority for Trudeau. In late 2015, he drew attention for naming a Cabinet that was 50 percent women, saying that he chose a group that “looks like Canada.” Trump did not promise to appoint a gender-balanced Cabinet and has named a smaller number of women and minorities to top jobs.

“Our team reached out and suggested as it is an important part of the prime minister’s agenda and of our economic growth plan,” a Canadian official said. “It seemed like a natural fit given their commitments in their platform as well.” The official requested anonymity to discuss the meeting in advance.

Trump has offered a childcare plan and has signaled an interest in working on those issues.

The business round table will be part of an itinerary that includes a bilateral meeting and a working lunch. The visit is crucial for Canada, which relies heavily on the United States for trade. Trump has said he wants to discuss his plan to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, which involves the United States, Canada and Mexico. There are fears Canada could unintentionally be sideswiped as Trump negotiates with Mexico.

Female executives from the United States and Canada are expected for the round table, including General Electric Canada CEO Elyse Allan, TransAlta Corp. CEO Dawn Farrell, Linamar Corp. CEO Linda Hasenfratz, T&T Supermarket Inc. Tina Lee and Schnitzer Steel Industries CEO Tamara Lundgren.

Also expected are Julie Sweet, CEO-North America for Accenture, NRStor CEO Annette Verschuren, Monique Leroux, chair of the board of directors for Investissement Québec. Carol Stephenson, of the board of directors for General Motors Co. will attend in place of the GM CEO.

Additionally, the meeting will include Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Dina Powell, assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives. Powell, Telford and Freeland were involved in setting up the council and recruiting the CEOS.

The council includes many of the meeting attendees, as well as Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock and Catalyst CEO Deborah Gillis.

Topics at the event will likely include issues like providing maternity leave and childcare, how to recruit and retain women and how to better support women entrepreneurs.

Ivanka Trump does not have an official White House role. But her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president and she stepped away from her executive positions at the Trump Organization and her lifestyle brand to move her family to Washington. She has been at several public White House events so far and has been privately sitting down with CEOs and thought leaders as she weighs how to pursue her policy interest.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Rick Scott inauguration party cost more than $600,000

Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s big party in Washington D.C. to celebrate the inauguration of President Donald Trump cost at least $600,000, according to campaign finance records.

Scott and First Lady Ann Scott in January hosted the Florida Sunshine Ball at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium two days before Trump’s inauguration. Free tickets to the ball went to hundreds of people invited by the governor and first lady.

Records show that Scott’s political committee Let’s Get to Work paid a company more than $609,000 to rent the auditorium, hire caterers and stage the event featuring The Beach Boys.

Let’s Get to Work regularly receives donations from some of the state’s main corporate interests. In the last few weeks Duke Energy donated $100,000 as did private prison provider The Geo Group.Republish

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s Florida estate stirs protests, spurs ethics debate

President Donald Trump‘s South Florida estate is no longer just the place where he goes to escape.

He has described the sprawling Mar-a-Lago property as the Winter White House and has spent two weekends there so far this month. But it’s also become a magnet for anti-Trump protesters and the subject of an ethics debate over his invitation to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to join him this weekend — with Trump pledging to pay for the accommodations.

Demonstrators plan to assemble Sunday near the estate to protest Trump’s decision on the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The North Dakota project, opposed by a Native American tribe fearful of water contamination from potential oil leaks, had stalled in Democrat Barack Obama‘s administration. Trump’s executive order cleared the way for the developer to start building the final stretch of pipeline.

During Trump’s other weekend in Florida, several thousand people marched near the property to protest his temporary ban on travel to the United states by refugees as well as citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries. A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s decision that temporarily blocks the ban’s enforcement.

Trump’s election is also putting charitable organizations, such as the American Red Cross, in an awkward position for choosing Mar-a-Lago for events booked months in advance. The Red Cross held its annual fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, as it has done for many years, on Feb. 4, about a week after Trump enacted the travel ban. Trump and his wife, Melania, attended.

“What an honor, what a great honor it is. And let’s go to Florida,” Trump told Abe on Friday at a White House news conference shortly before they boarded Air Force One for the trip.

The two world leaders and their wives headed straight to Mar-a-Lago, where they enjoyed a late dinner at the crowded patio restaurant. Joining them under a white-and-yellow striped canopy were Robert Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, and several interpreters. Paying members and their guests took in the scene and mingled with Trump and Abe into the night.

On Saturday, Trump and Abe went to Trump’s golf course in nearby Jupiter and were expected to hold more talks over meals at Trump’s various Florida properties.

World leaders typically exchange gifts, and Trump and Abe did so when Abe rushed to New York City in November to become the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after the election. Abe gave Trump a pricey, gold-colored Honma golf driver; Trump reciprocated with a golf shirt and other golf accessories.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Abe’s free-of-charge stay at Mar-a-Lago is Trump’s gift to Abe this time around. But the gesture wasn’t sitting well with government watchdog groups.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said Trump and Abe don’t need to meet at Trump’s commercial property, where the membership fee recently was doubled to $200,000.

“Hosting a foreign leader at the president’s business resort creates impossible sets of conflicts,” Weissman said. “If the president hadn’t offered to pay, the U.S. government would be paying Donald Trump’s business for the purpose of hosting the Japanese leader.” Typically, the U.S. government would pick up the costs associated with such a visit.

Weissman said Camp David, the U.S. government-owned retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, which presidents use for personal getaways as well as to conduct the people’s business, would do fine.

“Why should you go to a resort in Florida?” Weissman asked. “Fine, you want to go to a resort in Florida? Don’t go to one Trump’s family owns.”

But Trump has shown that he isn’t too concerned about possible conflicts of interest involving him and his family. This past week, Trump used his official government Twitter account to criticize Nordstrom after the retailer said it had dropped a line of clothing and accessories sold by his daughter Ivanka.

Trump offered a possible explanation for inviting Abe to Mar-a-Lago, saying a “great friendship” had developed from their New York meeting.

The president is expected to continue bringing world leaders to the estate, helping to fulfill the vision of the property’s former owner, Marjorie Merriweather Post. The late cereal heiress willed Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. government after her death in 1973, intending for it to become a retreat for U.S. presidents and visiting dignitaries.

Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in the 1980s and retains a financial interest in the club.

Presidents through the years often escaped the majesty and protocol of the White House by choosing less formal settings for bilateral talks.

“It’s difficult, in effect, to get away inside the White House with the press corps in the same building,” said Bruce Buchanan, politics professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “In fact, it’s very desirable for presidents to have multiple venues within which to build and create relationships with other world leaders.”

President George W. Bush took advantage of his dusty ranch in Crawford, Texas, and regularly invited foreign counterparts there for talks.

Obama opted for Sunnylands, an estate in the California desert formerly owned by Walter and Leonore Annenberg. The late philanthropists built Sunnylands and long hoped the property they used as a winter home would become the “Camp David of the West.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Florida schools facing teacher shortages

School districts all over Florida are facing teacher shortages, including in elementary education, which historically had the easiest jobs to fill.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday that the shortages are forcing school districts to ramp up recruitment for the 2017-2018 school year.

The recruiting is starting earlier than ever, and recruiters are exploring out-of-state candidates in the Midwest and northeast.

“We are starting earlier, and we are definitely exploring more options than we ever have,” said Greg White, recruitment specialist for Osceola County schools in the Orlando area. “We’ve got to find those quality educators to be in front of our children.”

The Osceola school district recently partnered with Valencia College to create the Future Teachers Academy, which will offer scholarships to education majors who agree to teach in county schools after graduation. The Seminole County school district, also in the Orlando area, used to rely on state-run teacher job fairs but is for the first time hosting its own next month, hoping in can fill some jobs ahead of a later-spring hiring crunch.

A main reason for the shortage is a drop in Florida college students majoring in education.

Education program enrollment has dropped because “college students are not convinced that teaching will be a rewarding career path,” said Pamela Carroll, dean of the University of Central Florida’s college of education.

Educators also say relatively low pay and the state’s controversial teacher evaluation system, which is tied to standardized tests, has also soured the view of the teaching profession.

In the Orlando area, Orange County schools had added 10,000 students in the past two years. The school district has hired 1,800 new teachers, but it’s still not enough.

Palm Beach Superintendent Robert Avossa said Florida Atlantic University sent 40 new teachers to his district this year.

“I need 1,500,” he said.

The University of West Florida in the Panhandle used to send the Escambia County school district all the new teachers it needed. This year, the district hired 50 new graduates and had to recruit, sometimes out of state, for its other 250 openings, said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas.

Mallory Crider, a University of Central Florida junior majoring in elementary education, said her grandfather, who foots her college bills, initially discouraged her from pursuing a teaching degree, worried she wouldn’t earn much. But Crider said he came around when he realized how committed she was.

“I want to inspire kids the way they inspired me,” she said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

No matter the issue, Donald Trump knows a guy

President Donald Trump knows a guy.

No matter what issue Trump is addressing, he seems either to know somebody with a relevant personal experience or he’s got a firsthand tale to recount.

When he met airline CEOs on Thursday, Trump said his own pilot — “who’s a real expert” — had told him about problems with obsolete equipment.

When he met business and economic experts a week earlier, Trump cited the difficulties his friends in business were having borrowing money from banks as he spoke about the need to reduce financial regulations.

When he approvingly sized up Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Trump said last month that he’d had a “very bad experience” in his own businesses when dealing with the EU bureaucracy.

“Getting the approvals from Europe,” he said, “was very, very tough.”

Call him the anecdotal president: For good or ill, Trump processes policy proposals through his own personal frame of reference.

“It’s all about him,” says Jeff Shesol, who wrote speeches for President Bill Clinton. “His frame for Europe, his frame for the airlines, his frame for the banking system … is himself.”

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to draw on real-world experiences in developing or justifying policy.

Plenty of presidents and politicians have recognized the value of anecdotal storytelling in advancing their agendas.

President Barack Obama offered his own improbable life story as a metaphor for the wide-open possibilities available to all Americans. And he frequently drew on the concerns that came up in the 10 letters a day that he read from people who wrote to the White House.

Clinton was famous for sketching his encounters with ordinary Americans.

President Lyndon Johnson drew on his early experiences teaching disadvantaged Mexican-Americans in stressing the importance of education and economic opportunity for all Americans.

“I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American,” Johnson said after signing the Higher Education Act of 1965.

“Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan related the story of a woman who falsely collected welfare payments — then parlayed it into a stereotype of “welfare queens” cheating the system.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor specializing in political communication, says that in his first three weeks in office, Trump has surpassed even Reagan in his reliance on the use of “argument by anecdote.”

“Given the extemporaneous nature of Trump’s presidency,” she says, “we can reasonably assume that these individual moments are playing a more important role for him” in developing policy than they did for presidents past.

The risk, she adds, is that an overreliance on personal experiences “can lead to the assumption that something is typical when it’s atypical.”

With Trump, it’s hard to tell exactly what goes into his policymaking. But the billionaire businessman-turned-politician cites experiences from his own, very rarefied world that wouldn’t necessarily track those of ordinary Americans.

When he complained about onerous EU regulations, Trump appeared to be alluding to his failure to get approval for a sea wall at the Trump Organization’s golf resort in Ireland.

When he talked during the campaign about crumbling airport infrastructure, he mentioned the potholes at New York’s LaGuardia Airport — where Trump would have landed in his gilded private jet.

When he talked about the dangers of nuclear weaponry during the campaign, he would often invoke the expertise of his “brilliant” late Uncle John, a scientist at MIT.

In some cases, Trump may be drawing lessons from somewhat scrambled tales.

In calling for an investigation into alleged wide-scale voter fraud, for example, Trump has privately related a story about a pro golfer who either told Trump he had trouble voting himself or who had a friend who wasn’t allowed to vote even as others who somehow looked like they should be eligible to vote cast ballots, according to The New York Times.

Golfer Bernard Langer, a German citizen who is not eligible to vote in the U.S., later issued a statement to Golf Digest saying that elements of the story had gotten lost in translation. Langer said he’d told a friend the story of someone who couldn’t vote, and that tale had made its way to someone with ties to the White House and “from there, this was misconstrued.”

As for Trump’s difficulties with the EU, he did run into regulatory problems with the proposed sea wall at his Irish golf course, but he also encountered local opposition to that project.

In an interview in December, Trump said he’d also sought approval for a “massive, beautiful expansion” of the course but had dropped the idea after getting the OK from Ireland because it would have taken years to get EU clearance. However, there’s no record of him seeking approval for such an expansion.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

From protests to ‘pussy hats,’ Donald Trump resistance brews online

The revolution may not be televised — but it apparently will be tweeted. And Facebooked. And Instagrammed.

Not long after President Donald Trump temporarily barred most people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., social activist Dex Torricke-Barton took to Facebook. “I’m thinking of organizing a rally,” he posted. Within a few hours, more than 1,000 people expressed interest. The resulting protest a week later, in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, drew thousands more.

Torricke-Barton is far from alone. From organizing protests on the fly to raising money for refugee and immigrant rights groups, people have been using social media to fuel the resistance against Trump in ways their organizing predecessors from the 1960s could have hardly imagined.

ROOTS OF PROTEST

In Queens, New York, for instance, a group of 27 women met up to write postcards to their state and local representatives during a “Postcard-Writing Happy Hour” organized through Facebook.

And on Ravelry, the social network for knitters and crocheters, members have been trading advice and knitting patterns for the pink “pussy hats” that emerged as a symbol during the Women’s March on Washington and similar protests elsewhere after Trump’s inauguration.

“This is an incredible project because it’s mixed between digital and physical,” says Jayna Zweiman, one of the founders of the Pussyhat Project. “We harnessed social media for good.”

In 1969, activists planned massive marches around the U.S. to protests the war in Vietnam. The protests, called the Moratorium, drew millions of people around the world. But “it took months, a lot of effort, a national office of the organization to get it off the ground,” says Christopher Huff, a Beacon College professor focused on social movements of the 1960s. “The women’s march was achieved at a much larger scale at a fraction of the time.”

This immediacy is both an asset and a disadvantage. While online networks help people rally quickly around a cause, Huff says, they don’t necessarily help people grasp the “long-term effort” required to sustain a movement.

ONLINE, THEN OFF

In Silicon Valley and across the tech world, Trump’s travel ban created a stir that went well beyond the industry’s usual calls for deregulation and more coding classes for kids. Between aggregating donations, issuing fiery statements, and walking out of work in protest, tech company executives and employees took up the anti-Trump cause at a scale not seen in other industries.

New York-based Meetup, for instance, broke with nearly 15 years of helping people form and join interest groups on a non-partisan basis. “We’re vital plumbing for democracy,” the company wrote in a Medium post this week. “But after Donald Trump’s order to block people on the basis of nationality and religion, a line had been crossed.”

So Meetup held a company-wide “resist-a-thon” — a riff on the hackathons tech companies hold to devise new technologies — to help people get involved in the anti-Trump movement known as “the resistance.” It then unveiled more than 1,000 new “#resist” Meetup groups that people can join for free (it’s normally $15 a month to run a group). As of Wednesday, some 35,000 people had joined the #resist Meetup groups, and scheduled 625 events around the world.

Torricke-Barton, who in earlier incarnations wrote speeches for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, said he and two sisters of Iranian descent organized their last-minute protest using Facebook groups and Messenger. That’s quite a contrast with Torricke-Barton’s earlier experience protesting violence in Darfur more than a decade ago.

Back then, “lawyers, marketers, communications people would help you get (the protests) off the ground … networks had to be created in advance,” he said. “Now, protests can start without any kind of infrastructure.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Shortly after Trump’s order, the venture capitalist Bijan Sabet tweeted a link to the fundraising platform Crowdrise alongside an explanation of his support for the American Civil Liberties Union— and then asked his followers to do the same.

Sabet figured it might take as long as two months to reach his $50,000 goal. It took three days. That weekend, the ACLU raised $24 million, far more than the $4 million it receives in a typical year.

Sabet, whose father is from Iran, says he’s seeing civic involvement “level up,” and that social media is pushing that along. Previously, he said, people would maybe say, “yeah, I’m a bit frustrated, but I don’t have all the information, I don’t know how to get involved.” Now, there’s no excuse.

LITTLE THINGS

The effects of social media aren’t limited to huge efforts.

A week or so after the election, Marisa Frantz, an art director in Cerrillos, New Mexico, created a private Facebook group called “America is Watching.” To join, all people had to do was comment “yes.” If they then posted their zip code in comments, Frantz would send them contact information for their senators and representative, Frantz’s sister-in-law, Sarah Bailey Hogarty, explained in an email.

“Like many of us, I was floundering around feeling terrible and afraid,” said Hogarty, a digital producer for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “I wanted to do something, but I had no idea where to start.”

Hogarty called the group her “foothold to resistance.” Now, the group has more than 1,000 members across the U.S. and organizes weekly “calls to action,” such as contacting senators and representatives about a particular issue determined by a poll of the group.

Groups like this demonstrate how social media has helped “lower the barrier to entry” into social activism, in the words of Tarun Banerjee, a sociology professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“What social media can do really well is spread awareness,” Banerjee said. “Can people make President Trump back down because of social media? Probably not. But it can shine the light.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s options for restoring travel ban

President Donald Trump has promised more legal action after a federal appeals court refused to reinstate his ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Trump tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT” after the decision came out Thursday, but what he has in mind remains to be seen.

Trump said Friday that he has “no doubt” he will win the case in court and told reporters he’s considering signing a “brand-new order” on immigration.

The 3-0 ruling means that refugees and people from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — can continue entering the United States for now. The administration has several options on how to proceed.

A look at where the legal fight goes from here.

REHEARING AT THE APPEALS COURT

The Trump administration could decide to ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the three-judge panel’s ruling. But the odds of success seem low, said Margo Schlanger, a law professor at the University of Michigan. She noted that the three-judge panel was unanimous and included a judge chosen by a Republican president.

SUPREME COURT APPEAL

The government could file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court and ask the justices to restore the ban. But it would take at least five justices to overturn the ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and that may be a long shot. The high court still has only eight members since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia — four conservative and four liberal justices.

“There are almost surely four votes to deny an emergency request to reinstate the order,” said Peter Spiro, a law professor at Temple University.

The last immigration case to reach the justices ended in a 4-4 deadlock last year. That suggests a similar split over Trump’s order, which would let the 9th Circuit ruling stand and keep the freeze in place.

WAITING FOR GORSUCH

If the Supreme Court declines to intervene right away, the case would remain in the 9th Circuit and ultimately be considered on its legal merits. It also could return to U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who temporarily blocked the ban after Washington state and Minnesota urged a nationwide hold on the Jan. 27 order.

The lower court action so far is temporary and hasn’t resolved broader questions about the legality of Trump’s order. It simply halts deportations or other actions until judges can more fully consider whether the order violates legal or constitutional rights.

Allowing the case to play out longer at the appeals court has one advantage: By the time a ruling on the merits comes down, the Senate may have confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. That may improve Trump’s chances to prevail on appeal.

But just how the issue might reach the Supreme Court isn’t clear. Several other challenges have been launched in courts around the country, and the court could opt to wait before stepping in.

REVISING THE EXECUTIVE ORDER

The White House could amend the executive order to expressly carve out existing green card holders and other people that already have some ties to the United States. Up to 60,000 visas were initially canceled in the wake of the ban, affecting the lives of students, professors and workers.

White House counsel Donald McGahn had issued guidance days after the executive order saying it didn’t apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S., but the appeals court said that was not enough.

“The government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the executive order signed by the president,” the opinion said.

Revising the order “shifts the legal boundaries so that it becomes a tougher constitutional target,” Spiro said.

The appeals court issued a sharp rebuke to the Justice Department’s argument that the president has the constitutional power to restrict entry to the United States to prevent terrorism, and that courts cannot second-guess that authority.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the opinion said.

Washington state, Minnesota and other states say Trump showed his intent in the presidential campaign when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the country. They also say his order discriminates against Muslims because it provides exceptions for refugees who practice a religion that makes them a minority in their home country. That would favor Christians in the countries affected.

The appeals court said the administration failed to show that the order satisfied constitutional requirements to provide notice or a hearing before restricting travel. But it did not rule on whether the order violated religious protections under the First Amendment.

Justice Department lawyer Erez Reuveni told a Virginia judge hearing arguments in a similar case on Friday that the administration hasn’t decided what to do.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press. 

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