Rock Island County Board to vote on refugee resettlement

ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS  -- The Rock Island County Board is still planning to vote on Tuesday, January 21st,  on whether refugees are welcome to relocate to the county. The vote was planned before a Maryland federal judge blocked an executive order from President Donald Trump that gave local and state governments the right to turn away refugees from resettling in their communities. One Moline organization says there are opportunities for refugees in Rock Island County and is asking for the boards supportive vote.

Man Dim, or Dim, is a refugee from Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia. She relocated to Moline three and a half years ago with her parents.

"We needed money and more education, so we came here," Dim said. "It was my first time going to school and first time in the United States and not speaking English, it was really hard."

Now, Dim is planning to attend Augustana College in the fall to study to be a dentist.

"When I came here in the United States, we got dental care and it made me so interested," she said.

Hanna Niang is also a refugee from Myanmar. She works at World Relief in Moline and attends Black Hawk College.

"Tons of things are new," Niang said. "The way you learn, the way you dress, the way you talk, everything is different. Here, I have a brighter future."

World Relief Moline wants to protect that future for others like Hanna and Dim.

"The Quad Cities is such a welcoming community," World Relief Moline Director Laura Fontaine said. "If everybody is on the same page and we have the county's support, it will make for a more welcoming community."

Fontaine says that in the last two years, World Relief Moline has settled 194 refugees.

"We have a very very small percentage that we resettle here in Rock Island County," Fontaine said.

Even though counties don't have to vote on refugee resettlement since the Maryland judge placed an injunction on the executive order, World Relief Moline says Rock Island County should still show it's support.


The Rock Island County Board Chairman, Richard Brunk, says the board plans to vote on refugee resettlement on the 21st.

Mom ‘devastated’ after seeing video of her 5-year-old girl bullied on school bus

DALLAS – A Dallas mother was told by her child’s school district that it would cost her $600 to see a video that showed what happened to her 5-year-old daughter on a small school bus in November.

Audrey Billings did so, and what she saw left her crushed.

“I was devastated, I cried,” Billings told CNN on Thursday.

The video of the November 11 incident shows the 5-year-old getting pushed, pulled, poked with a pencil and grabbed around the head by at least two students on the bus over a period of nearly 14 minutes. The 5-year-old is also shown trying to fight back against the other students.

She calls out to the bus driver several times during the assault and starts crying as she continues to get hit. The bus driver does not respond on the video, which does not show the entire bus ride.

It is not clear from the video what prompted the children’s actions or physical contact.

Billings, who first saw the video Saturday, told CNN she wants a major change to the Dallas Independent School District’s bullying policy and its procedures for handling bullying incidents.

Dallas ISD spokeswoman Robyn L. Harris said “students were disciplined according to the Student Code of Conduct.”

“Dallas ISD has taken steps to improve our transportation services to further ensure the safety of students. The district has provided additional training and monitoring. We are dedicated to ensuring a safe environment for all students and remain committed to meeting the expectations of our parents and community.” Harris said in a statement.

Harris said the bus driver was immediately removed from the route.

Billings said she reached out to the school district after her daughter said students were hurting her. Billings said she spoke to the principal and was initially only given the “play by play” of what occurred.

When she asked to be sent videos for multiple days she was told she would need to pay $600 to have each one redacted, Billings said.

Billings said she reluctantly paid for the one she viewed.

Her daughter no longer rides the bus, Billings said.

Green Bay and San Francisco police chiefs make friendly wager on NFC Championship

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith has made a deal with San Francisco Police Chief William Scott for the NFC Championship game between the Packers and the 49ers, Sunday.

According to Green Bay police, the terms of this friendly wager are that the losing police chief will take a photo wearing the opposing team’s jersey that will be posted to social media.

“It would be a little difficult to find a 49er jersey in Wisconsin, but we are confident it won’t be needed,” the Green Bay Police Department said on social media.

 Green Bay Police notes the losing chief will also be making a small personal donation to the winner’s non-profit police foundation.

In related news, the Green Bay Metro Fire Department and the San Francisco Fire Department have also partnered to remind communities of the importance of practicing fire safety along with some friendly competition.

Read that story here.

Truck crashes into McHenry County Starbucks, injures 5

MCHENRY COUNTY, Illinois– CBS Chicago reports that five people were injured when a full-size pickup crashed into a Starbucks in McHenry, causing the building to collapse.

According to the report, McHenry Police spokesman Patrick Polidori said that a Dodge Ram pickup truck was traveling westbound on West Elm Street when it lost control and crashed into the building.

Some guy just drove his truck right into the Starbucks in Mchenry (via @moneylinematt23 ) pic.twitter.com/p17FjhmmGk

— Chase (@chase_cco) January 16, 2020

Dispatch reports indicate that it happened shortly before 5 p.m., in the 4300 block of West Elm Street.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Rain finally falls in wildfire-ravaged Australian states, bringing new risks – and some relief

AUSTRALIA (CNN) –Severe thunderstorms are pelting some regions of Australia suffering from historic wildfires with powerful rain, bringing much-needed relief to firefighters battling the worst blazes the country has seen in decades.

“Our fingers are crossed that this continues over the coming days,” the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) said Friday in a tweet.

Rain has fallen on most firegrounds in the state over the last 24 hours, the RFS said. However, it wasn’t enough to put out the flames. Eighty-two fires are still burning, including 30 that are yet to be contained.

Residents of drought-hit areas who have spent years waiting for rain celebrated its arrival on Thursday. Rain fell in major cities, including Sydney, where water flowed through the streets.

Forecasters predict more rain over the next few days, but they warn it could cause flash flooding in areas of parched land. Years of drought have left some regions so dry that rain just runs off the ground. The massive fires have burned through some of the vegetation that would normally soak up the precipitation.

Trees weakened by fire are also at risk of falling, and rain could wash ash and debris in waterways, causing water pollution, authorities say.

The Victoria State Emergency Service posted several images on Facebook showing damage from the storm, including a sinkhole four meters (13 feet) deep.

Lightning from the storms has sparked a number of new grass fires in New South Wales and Victoria, though it’s hoped the damp conditions will help stop the flames from spreading.

Parts of Melbourne were hit with as much as 77 millimeters (3 inches) of rain, causing flooding and some damage, the Victoria Bureau of Meteorology said Thursday.

CNN affiliate Nine News reported some neighborhoods were hit by a month’s worth of rain in just hours, though not in East Gippsland, where some of the worst fires in the state are raging.

Earlier this week, the New South Wales RFS had said that if the rain forecasts held true, it could be a panacea for the region’s firefighters.

“This will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one,” it said Monday on Twitter. “Fingers crossed.”

Haze blankets Melbourne

The fires that have swept through Victoria and NSW all summer are some of the most powerful and damaging conflagrations Australia has seen in decades.

At least 28 people have died nationwide, and in the state of NSW alone, more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. State and federal authorities are struggling to contain the massive blazes, even with firefighting assistance from other countries, including the United States.

All this has been exacerbated by persistent heat and drought caused by climate change. Tens of thousands of people participated in protests around the country last week calling on the government to do more to combat the climate crisis.

The situation is already dire. Significant amounts of flora and fauna unique to Australia have been burned or killed. One group of ecologists estimated that perhaps a billion animals have been affected nationwide. Some towns have been running out of water. Others have gone up in flames completely.

Smoke from the fires has blanketed major cities in haze in recent weeks.

Rain has helped clear the skies, but the air quality is expected to worsen in coming days, according to the Victoria Environment Protection Authority.

Haze has affected the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, with officials canceling some practice sessions and qualifying matches earlier this week. Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire after having trouble breathing.

In recent years, extreme temperatures have made for tough conditions at tennis’ first Grand Slam of the calendar year — some competitors collapsed or complained of heatstroke at the 2018 event.

Tennis Australia officials say they’re taking precautions to protect players should the heat and smog return.

Temperatures in Melbourne have dropped sharply in the last 48 hours, to below 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), eliminating the risk of excessive heat — for now.

Augustana athlete Jacob Pauley balances hoops with family

College athletes have plenty on their plates, but for one Augustana basketball player, the balancing act includes much more than the sport or even academics, and it's his greatest motivation each and every day.

Augustine's Jacob Pauley looks like any other college student-athlete.

A normal day consists of class, practice at the Carver Center and twice a week a conference showdown in the CCIW.

But for the former Geneseo standout, there's 1 thing that makes his life much different than his teammates.

Estes is the energetic 2-year-old daughter of Jacob and his wife Kaitlin. Jacob and Caitlin found out they were expecting during Jacob's senior year of high school.

Jacob says that support system has allowed him to continue playing the sport he loves.

Head coach Grey Giovanine says it's Jacobs maturity that stands out the most.

"It's a very different perspective than what our other players are accustomed to and I've really tried to put that to the forefront. I'll ask our team what they did on their days off and they've slept in or played video games." "I think it's been a great thing for our payers to be around someone that has that type of responsibility."

"They are my why. That's why I get up and do what I do every morning. They are definitely my why and why I do everything."-Jacob

Iowa Police keeping eye on Illinois border for recreational marijuana, as national trends point to higher possession arrests

PRINCETON, Iowa -- Recreational marijuana has been legal in Illinois for just over two weeks, and Iowa police departments are keeping an eye on drivers heading into town from Illinois.

A National Bureau of Economic Research study shows that counties bordering states with legal recreational marijuana, like Scott County, see a sharp increase of possession arrests when drivers cross state lines.

Princeton Police Chief Brian Carsten says he and his patrols monitor the busy Highway 67 daily, and now, they're keeping an eye on drivers coming across the Mississippi River from Illinois into Iowa.

He hasn't seen a big impact in town just yet, and he doesn't know when that will happen.

"It's like looking into a crystal ball and seeing how it's going to affect you," Carsten says. "I may think it won't affect us at all, and six months from now I may think, 'Oh crap this really turned into something.'"

Carsten handles several possession arrests every month and says most of the time, the person is just passing through town.

"I don't know if we're going to see a big difference because I don't think the people we're dealing with in the street and in patrol are the ones that are going to dispensaries and buying it legally," Carsten says.

Carsten says he and his officers will be conducting field sobriety tests, under Iowa law, for any driver suspected to be under the influence of marijuana.

Christopher Tolkien, the son of ‘Lord of the Rings’ author, has died at 95

(CNN) — Christopher Tolkien, the son of “The Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien, has died, the Tolkien Society announced Thursday. He was 95 years old.

Tolkien was his father’s literary executor, editing much of the author’s work published posthumously after his death in 1973, including “The Silmarillion.”

But many fans will also be familiar with Tolkien’s detailed maps of Middle-earth, the setting of “The Lord of the Rings” series, which readers have referenced over the years as they journeyed alongside the hobbit Frodo Baggins in his quest to destroy the One Ring.

“Christopher’s commitment to his father’s works have seen dozens of publications released, and his own work as an academic in Oxford demonstrates his ability and skill as a scholar,” Tolkien Society Chair Shaun Gunner said in a statement. “We have lost a titan and he will be sorely missed.”

Born in Leeds, England, on November 21, 1924, Christopher Tolkien grew up in Oxford. According to the Tolkien Society, he would go on to join the Royal Air Force during World War II and was stationed in South Africa.

He was an accomplished academic in his own right, per the Tolkien Society, and was a lecturer at the University of Oxford.

But Tolkien was best known as the preeminent expert on his father’s work and the lore that accompanied it.

After his father’s death, Christopher Tolkien began working on his father’s manuscripts and helped publish “The Silmarillion,” which chronicles the origins of Middle-earth and its people. He continued to edit other Tolkien tales as recently as 2018.

“Tolkien studies would never be what it is today without Christopher Tolkien’s contribution,” scholar Dimitra Fimi said in the Tolkien Society’s statement. “From editing ‘The Silmarillion’ to the mammoth task of giving us the ‘History of Middle-earth’ series, he revealed his father’s grand vision of a rich and complex mythology.”

According to publisher HarperCollins, Tolkien edited or oversaw the publication of 24 editions of his father’s works.

“Christopher was a devoted curator of his father’s work and the timeless and ongoing popularity of the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is a fitting testimony to the decades he spent bringing Middle-earth to generations of readers,” said Charlie Redmayne, chief executive officer of Haper Collins UK. “The most charming of men, and a true gentleman, it was an honor and privilege to know and work with him and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

The statement said Christopher Tolkien began helping his father at age 5 by listening to bedtime tales and catching inconsistencies. His father also paid him for each mistake he found in “The Hobbit.”

Iowa Republicans introduce constitutional amendment declaring no right to an abortion in the state

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Republican legislative leaders Thursday introduced a resolution that would declare there is no right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution, a move in the first week of the session guaranteed to prompt a heated debate.

The proposed constitutional amendment comes in a response to a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling striking down a law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. The court said in that ruling that the state constitution guarantees women the freedom to make their own health decisions, including whether to terminate a pregnancy.

“Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free,” the decision said.

A month before that ruling, the legislature passed and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed in May 2018 a law that was at the time the nation’s broadest abortion limit — a bill that banned abortions at the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

However, a state district court judge struck down that law too in January 2019, citing the earlier supreme court decision and federal court rulings indicating such laws were unconstitutional. Reynolds decided the next month not to appeal the ruling.

In February 2019, a group of Senate Republicans introduced the ultimate in abortion control measures: a bill that would declare life begins at conception.

Sen Jake Chapman, a staunch anti-abortion lawmaker who led the subcommittee that moved the bill to a full Senate committee said: “We’re not going to stop. We will continue to fight for life.” The bill didn’t advance.

In March 2019, all but three of the 32 Senate Republicans signed onto a Chapman bill to amend the constitution to declare no right to abortion in Iowa. Chapman said his bill addressed what he considered judicial tyranny and overreach. It didn’t advance.

It is a similar measure that has emerged early this session and has better prospects of moving forward. Republican leaders in the House and Senate have said their caucuses are opposed to abortion and Reynolds said in her Condition of the State address on Tuesday: “We must protect life by making clear, through an amendment, that our constitution does not grant a right to an abortion. It’s time, and unfortunately it’s necessary.”

After going before a subcommittee Thursday, the proposal now moves to a full committee for consideration.

Chapman called the 2018 ruling “the most misconstrued decision I have ever seen.” He said the amendment would make clear the judicial branch cannot rewrite the constitution.

Speaking against the amendment, Jordanne Beach of Urbandale told the subcommittee that constitutional amendments should establish citizens’ rights, not deny them.

“This perverse weaponizing of our state constitution would mean that it no longer applies equally to all Iowans, instead depriving those who may become pregnant of their most fundamental rights,” she said.

A constitutional amendment in Iowa must pass this year, again next year and then would go to voters as early as 2022.

Domino’s worker sentenced for fatally stabbing 21-year-old boss; victim’s family sues pizza chain

LA PUENTE, Calif. (KTLA) – A man who fatally stabbed his supervisor in the back at a Southern California pizza restaurant nearly two years ago was sentenced this week to 26 years to life in state prison.

Rafael Sanchez, of Baldwin Park, who was 32 at the time of the attack, snuck up behind his supervisor, 21-year-old Daniel Anthony Sanchez, and stabbed him in the neck and back, officials said.

Rafael Sanchez, 32, of Baldwin Park, is seen at his sentencing in a Pomona courtroom on Jan. 15, 2020. (Credit: KTLA)

The stabbing occurred just after the defendant was told "to do his work," the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

The attack occurred on March 10, 2018 at a Domino's Pizza on the 1000 block of Hacienda Boulevard in La Puente, sheriff’s officials said.

The victim, who was not related to the defendant, was a student at Mount San Antonio College and was hoping to be a high school English teacher, according to statements made at his sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Daniel Anthony Sanchez is seen in his high school graduation photo. (Credit: KTLA)

His mother sobbed throughout her statement.

“I knew I would lose Daniel,” she said in court. "He was just too perfect."

His mother and others who spoke at the sentencing wore matching T-shirts that read "Justice for Daniel, our hero."

After the sentencing, the victim's family announced that they had just filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza and the owner of the franchise, M. Lehmann Enterprises.

The suit alleges that Rafael Sanchez had problems while working at another Domino’s location and, as a result, was transferred to the La Puente location where the attack occurred, according to Michael Carrillo, the family’s attorney.

The family of Daniel Anthony Sanchez outside a courtroom in Pomona on Jan. 15, 2020. (Credit: KTLA)

“This could have all been avoided had Domino’s Pizza, the supervisors, the managers, done their job and gotten rid of this murderer, this violent man,” Carrillo said.

The complaint says that both the general manager and the CEO of the franchise were aware that the defendant had twice before been convicted for driving under the influence and for being drunk in public.

The complaint also states that Rafael Sanchez had sexually harassed a coworker — who filed an incident report — but he was never reprimanded or disciplined.

A jury on Nov. 19 found Rafael Sanchez guilty of one count of first-degree murder and found true an allegation that he used a knife to kill his supervisor.

Oklahoma senators file legislation to create ‘Make America Great Again’ license plates

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Two state senators want "Make America Great Again" and "Keep America Great" specialty license plates available for purchase in Oklahoma.

Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) has filed Senate Bill 1384 with co-author, Sen. Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) to create the special Oklahoma plates.

"With the introduction of these specialty license plates, we are providing Oklahomans with the option to show their support for America," said Sen. Dahm. "The added benefit of these special license plates is the proceeds from their sales will support two veteran groups here in Oklahoma that President Trump has donated to in the past."

The Senators say that for every purchase of the specialty licenses, $10 would be donated to Folds of Honor Foundation and $10 to Warriors for Freedom Foundation.

"I believe these license plates could be very popular with Oklahomans," said Sen. Quinn. "Our president has been very supportive of veterans, and these plates are a great way to give back to some very deserving Oklahoma veteran groups."

The fee for special license plates is $35 per year, in addition to all other registration fees. $20 of the plate fee supports the charity, foundation, or fund designated by the special plate.

“I don’t think it’s such a bad deal, especially if the money’s going to the veterans,” says Gary Pierce, an Oklahoma motorist.

Others don’t see it that way.

“I know who started that 'Make America Great Again,' and I’m not in his corner,” says Lawrence Johnson, an Oklahoma motorist.

There are currently 98 special plates available in Oklahoma.

Friends and coworkers remember Richard Stout, Taxslayer Center employee hit by car

MOLINE, Illinois – Friends and coworkers are remembering a Taxslayer Center employee who was killed while trying to cross the street on his way to work early Wednesday morning.

Coworkers say 65-year-old Richard Stout was trying to walk across the street from the bus station to the Taxslayer doors. They say he was focusing on the ground since it was icy out instead of the cars coming at him.  One car stopped for him, but the car in the next lane didn’t see him.

“He was trying to get across the street with a bad leg and moving really slow and watching his steps instead of watching the cars,” says Taxslayer Center Executive Director, Scott Mullen.

Stout had been a maintenance worker at the Taxslayer for 25 years, and employees say he hardly missed a day.

“Every time you walked past Rich you couldn’t get by without having a conversation,” says Mullen.

But he wasn’t only known at the Taxslayer, he was a face lots of people in the Quad Cities saw when he umpired little league games.

“Everyone pretty much in Moline, if you’re at a sporting event you’d know him,” says grounds crew worker, Joe Atkinson.

“He umpired two of my daughter’s softball games on a regular basis,” Mullen remembers.

Police say no arrests have been made in the accident.

Senate approves Trump trade deal

(CNN) -- Senators of both parties came together Thursday morning to pass President Donald Trump's foremost legislative priority -- the revised North American Free Trade Agreement -- with his historic impeachment trial about to formally begin.

Among other changes from the Bill Clinton-era trade agreement known as NAFTA, the USMCA includes new provisions for digital commerce, more stringent rules of origin for auto parts and new minimum wage requirements for certain auto workers.

It passed with a vote of 89-10. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania was the only Republican who voted against it. Nine Democrats -- Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Chuck Schumer of New York, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island-- opposed it. Booker initially voted for the deal before changing his vote to "no" at the end.

The pact was signed by the three countries' leaders in November 2018, but the text was later changed after months of negotiations between the Trump administration and House Democrats. The new version enshrined additional labor protections and got rid of controversial patent protections for biologic drugs.

Final Senate passage of the bill marks the culmination of years of arduous negotiations. Throughout the process, many lawmakers and lobbyists doubted ratification would ever happen, especially in a divided Congress. It will now go to the President's desk to be signed.

During the Senate Finance Committee's hearing on the USMCA implementing legislation, Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and longtime supporter of the deal who helped shepherd it to ratification, quipped that the effort to pass the agreement had "tested my patience at times."

And House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, said when the deal between House Democrats and the Trump administration was announced that negotiations had often gotten heated, joking that he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer probably set a world record for how many times they had hung up the phone on each other.

Lighthizer attended the Senate vote Thursday -- he could be seen sitting with a number of his staff in the gallery above the Senate floor.

While Trump has argued that NAFTA was "perhaps the worst trade deal ever made," the USMCA enjoys broad support among Senate Republicans, who are now positioned to pass a new version of the deal, including policies embraced by Democrats and backed by the famously trade-skeptical AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in the United States.

The GOP has remained largely behind Trump on the deal, despite new policies Republicans have opposed in the past. Only two Republicans voted against the rebranded US-Mexico-Canada Agreement when it passed the House overwhelmingly in December. Senate Republicans who have questioned some aspects of the agreement, such as its sunset provision, broadly say they will still support it because the deal will bring stability for American workers.

"It is a good agreement. It is not a perfect agreement," Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said during the Finance Committee's hearing on the deal.

Many Democrats also supported the agreement when it came to a vote Thursday, pointing to changes secured by House Democrats.

"There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said when the deal was announced. Supporters on Thursday included Sens. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, both staunch labor advocates.

But some, such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, voted against it. Whitehouse said the environmental protections in the deal are not strong enough.

In the Senate, the parliamentarian required the bill to pass through several committees with an up or down vote before reaching a full vote. The last of those, the Foreign Relations Committee, voted to advance the deal Wednesday.

Leaders in both parties sought a vote on the agreement before the impeachment trial begins, hoping to avoid any procedural and timing complications it will cause.

Trump administration updates public school prayer guidance on National Religious Freedom Day

(CNN) — The Trump administration on Thursday announced it is updating federal guidance for prayer in public schools and other initiatives aimed at protecting religious freedom, which administration officials said are aimed at reducing discrimination against people and groups of faith.

The changes, announced on National Religious Freedom Day, include proposing new rules from nine federal agencies on social services programs, updating federal guidance on prayer in public schools and instructing federal agencies to ensure states do not condition grants of federal funds “in a manner that would disadvantage grant applicants based on their religious character,” according to the White House.

“This afternoon we’re proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools. … There’s nothing more important than that, I would say,” President Donald Trump said Thursday alongside administration officials, religious representatives, students and teacher advocates.

The updated guidance will require state departments of education to provide a clear process for people to report complaints that individuals were denied constitutionally protected prayer. It also requires those departments to report public charges of religious discrimination, such as a lawsuit, to the US Department of Education, and adds a section describing religious expression and the Equal Access Act.

Trump claimed that “there’s a growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict and even prohibit religious expression.” He called the new guidance “the right to pray.”

He added, “While I’m President … we will not let anyone push God from the public square. We will uphold religious liberty for all.”

The Department of Education is proposing additional regulations and guidance, including a regulation laying out that “a public institution of higher education cannot deny a religious student group the same benefits, privileges and rights that other secular student groups have,” a senior administration official said.

With the updated guidance on prayer in public schools, the department will also be “fulfilling a statutory requirement to issue guidance on constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools” — guidance that’s required to be updated every two years, but hasn’t been updated since 2003. The guidance, the official said, will now spell out processes for reporting allegations of religious discrimination in schools to the department.

Dr. William Jeynes, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, consulted with the Department of Education on the new guidelines related to religious liberty in schools. He said that among his recommendations, he suggested terms like a “moment of silence” be used in lieu of “prayer” within some of the guidance, and relayed to the administration that faith plays a major role for some children.

“What I am especially concerned about is students who … my goodness, they don’t have much going for them in life. They have a lot of hurdles to overcome, whether it be a family situation, a neighborhood situation, racism, low socioeconomic status — I mean the list goes on — and there are quite a lot of … kids where God is about all they have. And we don’t want to discourage them,” Jeynes said. “We just want them to be able to use any source of strength that they have. So, personally, that is my greatest concern, that students shouldn’t have to be hassled if they want to pray over their meal or what have you.”

The newly announced changes are the latest in a line of efforts to further put faith front and center in the Trump administration.

During the last United Nations General Assembly, Trump announced new initiatives as part of a global call for protecting religious freedom. In 2018 the Department of Health and Human Services created a civil rights division meant to protect medical personnel who refused to treat certain patients because of their religious beliefs. Cabinet members established a weekly Bible study early in the administration.

The administration’s latest efforts were swiftly criticized Thursday by some nonprofit groups, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, argued that “(t)he educational rules break no ground, and pretty accurately summarize the state of the law with regard to school prayer and religious instruction, similar to the guidelines previously issued about this by both Presidents (Bill) Clinton and (George W.) Bush.” The foundation also said the administration missed “the chance to adequately warn schools about common First Amendment violations.”

“Importantly, both the Bush guidance and the copycat document released today affirm a core constitutional protection: School officials are prohibited from imposing their faith on students,” said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “The question, as always, is whether public-school officials will heed this warning. If they don’t, we’ll be there, as always, to correct them — and if necessary, we’ll see them in court.”

The Rev. Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s informal evangelical advisory board, contended that the “White House isn’t saying whether one should pray or to whom or what they should pray to” with the announced changes but that “they are simply making it clear that in the United States students have First Amendment rights also, and our ‘separation of church and state’ wasn’t intended to suppress a vibrant religious life in America but to facilitate it.”

Russian government resigns as Putin proposes reforms that could extend his grip on power

(CNN) — The entire Russian government is resigning, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday, after Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping reforms that could extend his decades-long grip on power beyond the end of his presidency.

Putin thanked members of the government for their work but added that “not everything worked out.” Putin added that in the near future he would meet with each member of the cabinet. The mass resignation includes Medvedev.

The surprise announcement came after Putin proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the powers of the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the presidency.

Taking power from the presidency and handing it to parliament could signal a power shift that has been long speculated about in Russia.

Putin’s critics have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain control of the country after his presidential term ends in 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers. Similarly, in 2008 Putin swapped places with the prime minister to circumvent the constitutional provision banning the same person from serving two consecutive terms.

In his statement, Medvedev indicated that the government was resigning to clear the way for Putin’s proposed reforms.

Putin “outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution, significant changes not only to a number of articles of the constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole,” Medvedev said in his statement, which was aired on Russian state television.

“In this context, it’s obvious that we, as the government … should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this. And in these conditions, I believe that it would be right, in accordance with Section 117 of the constitution,” for the government to resign, Medvedev added.

Putin nominated the head of the Federal Taxation Service, Mikhail Mishustin, to replace Medvedev as prime minister, according to a Kremlin statement.

“With his consent, [Putin] submitted Mishustin’s candidacy for the post of prime minister for consideration by the State Duma,” the Kremlin wrote.

The lower house of Russian parliament will discuss and vote on the country’s next prime minister on January 16, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said, according to state-run news agency TASS.

According to the Russian constitution, State Duma must consider the candidate within a week from the date of their official submission.

Power to the parliament

In his annual address to the Federal Assembly earlier Wednesday, Putin said he agreed that no one should serve as president for more than two consecutive terms, and proposed several constitutional amendments.

His key proposal is to transfer the power to select the prime minister and cabinet from the president to the parliament.

“I know that a constitutional provision is being discussed in our society that the same person should not be president for more than two consecutive terms,” Putin said. “I don’t think this is a fundamental issue, but I agree with that,” he said.

“I propose … entrusting the State Duma with the power to approve the candidacy of the prime minister, and then, per the prime minister’s proposal, [appoint] all deputy prime ministers and federal ministers,” Putin said. “In this case, the president will be obliged to appoint them, that is, he will not have the right to reject parliament-approved candidacies.”

Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, said the “only goal of Putin and his regime” was to remain “the sole leader for life, taking ownership of an entire country, and appropriating wealth to himself and his friends.”

“All those who said that Putin will step away from power in 2024 are such idiots (and/or crooks),” he tweeted.

According to the current constitution, the president needs to secure approval from the lower house of parliament to appoint the head of the government, and it is within presidential rights to then appoint all deputies and ministers.

In a televised statement, Putin asked current members of government to fulfill their duties until a new one is formed.

“I want to express satisfaction with the results that have been achieved,” Putin said. “Of course not everything worked out, but nothing ever works out in full.”

Medvedev is expected to become deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council. Putin is the chairman.

University of Illinois raises tuition for the first time in six years

(AP) -- University of Illinois administrators have voted to raise tuition costs for in-state freshmen for the first time in six years.

The tuition hike was approved Thursday, January 16 at a board meeting.

Freshmen entering the university for the 2020-2021 academic year will pay 1.8% more to attend the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses, and 1% more to attend the Springfield campus.

Click here to see the itemized dollar increases for U of I's three campuses.

The university says the tuition hike will strengthen efforts to attract and keep faculty across the University of Illinois system in response to record-high enrollment.

In the proposal, the Board of Trustees explained that tuition adjustments were necessary in order to "balance student affordability with the financial demands corresponding to the challenging fiscal environment in the state of Illinois."

Trustees also extended University President Tim Killeen's contract to July 2024, and approved a salary increase.

Saudi Arabia has paid $500M toward the cost of US troops in country

(CNN) — Saudi Arabia has paid the US approximately $500 million to begin to cover the cost of US troops operating in the country, according to a US official.

The payment was made in December last year. President Donald Trump’s asserted last week in an interview with Fox News that Saudi Arabia had “already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

Earlier this week the Pentagon could not confirm that any payment had been made.

This is not the first time the Saudis have contributed to cover US military costs. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states paid $36 billion towards the costs of the Gulf War in 1990-91.

Bilateral talks are ongoing over precisely what expenses will be covered by the Saudis. That decision will lead to a final calculation on what the US believes the Saudis owe.

“Consistent with the President’s guidance to increase partner burden-sharing, the Department of Defense has engaged Saudi Arabia on sharing the cost of these deployments, which support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression. The Saudi government has agreed to help underwrite the cost of these activities and has made the first contribution,” said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, Pentagon spokeswoman. “Discussions are ongoing to formalize a mechanism for future contributions that offset the cost of these deployments.”

The US has deployed thousands of additional US troops and missile defense batteries to Saudi Arabia in response to what Pentagon officials have said is an increased threat from Iran.

The Saudi funds are to cover the overall costs of deploying troops, as well as fighter jets and Patriot missile defense batteries to protect Saudi oil installations from Iranian missile and drone attacks. The deployments began after what the Saudis said were Iranian attacks on oil facilities in September 2019.

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The US and several European nations blamed Iran for a missile attack that targeted Saudi energy facilities temporarily affecting the country’s ability to produce oil.

The military buildup has come despite Trump repeatedly claiming that he wants to reduce the US military commitment in the Middle East, a pledge that he cited when he ordered the reduction of US troops in Syria, a move that received broad bipartisan opposition in Congress, as many lawmakers see it as an abandonment of America’s partner in the fight against ISIS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

“In response to elevated threats in the Middle East over the past eight months, the Department of Defense has deployed U.S. military forces to the region to enhance U.S. defenses and augment Saudi air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure,” Rebarich said.

The ongoing discussions with the Saudis are aimed at formalizing a mechanism for future payments to offset the costs of deployments. But the Pentagon is insisting that future payments will not necessarily lead to the deployment of additional forces or taking on additional military missions.

Separately Saudi Arabia has partially reimbursed the US for the cost of aerial refueling operations that the US military provided to Saudi warplanes, according to the US official.

The US stopped providing aerial refueling to Saudi jets participating in its campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen in November of 2018.

In December of 2018 the US military said it was seeking a $331 million reimbursement from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after discovering it had failed to properly charge the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen for aerial refueling services.

The US official said payments were made last year with the full amount likely to be paid soon.

Farmers puzzled over phase one of the trade deal

DAVENPORT, IOWA-- The regions farmers are skeptical over china`s pledge to buy from America.

The 'phase one' agreement - signed yesterday - will see Beijing purchase upwards of 30 billion dollars worth of farm goods.

Soybean producers say China is yet to come to the table.

Robb Edwoldt is a soybean and corn farmer, this past year he's been hauling seed.

For nearly two years, the world`s largest economies have been slapping tariffs on each other.

This week China agreed to buy billions of dollars worth of farm products from America over the next two years.

It's part of what's called "phase one" of the deal.

Overnight soybean futures dropped nearly 15 cents per bushel.

Farmers are puzzled over where soybeans fit into this agreement.

Others say while the agreement looks good on paper, they're yet to see more money in their pockets.

Silos across the Quad Cities remain full as farmers hold off for the right price.

Till then the producers of the region remain in limbo.

The U.S. today signed a deal between Canada and Mexico, it's set to create hundreds of new jobs and eliminate tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.

2020 JEFFERSON AWARDS: 86-Year-Old Feeds Hundreds of Families All in a Day’s Work

He’s got a bad back, but that’s really the only thing “bad” about Donn Rudd.

The 86-year-old Rock Island native volunteers every single day for two food pantries – driving around to collect food, drop off food, and help feed families across the Quad Cities.

“I enjoy it, because it gives me something to do,” he said. “Otherwise, I would probably just sit around in the house and not do anything.”

His inspiration to give back started with a tragic event in his life. About four years ago, his second wife passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

“She was a wonderful woman,” recalled Donn. “Three weeks after she passed away, I got a call from this church wanting to know if I would volunteer at the food pantry and I said yes and I’ve been working every day since.”

“I think God just needed – he knew I needed something to do.”

Every morning, Donn drives around the area picking up excess food from grocery stores, schools, and the food bank. He brings all those supplies to Christ United Methodist Church in East Moline and the Silvis United Methodist Church.

“He’s feeding people in the community,” explained Donn’s granddaughter, Gabi Lenger. “He helped start up the food pantry in Silvis and 7 days a week he’s running around, getting pizzas, getting food from HyVee or the elementary schools’ leftover lunch and he’s bringing it here and he’s maybe even giving rides home to people who need it. He’s always giving back.”

It’s that selfless service that inspired Gabi to nominate Donn to be a 2020 Nominee of the Jefferson Awards, a foundation that celebrates people who are “multiplying good” by serving others in our community.

“He inspires me to be better and give back to my community,” said Gabi.

“He’s completely selfless and he just loves taking care of people. It’s what he does. I think that’s his purpose in life – just feeding these people.”

Donn turns 87 in May 2020, but doesn’t have any plans to slow down. Instead, he hopes to inspire others that age is just a number and shouldn’t hold you back from helping others.

“I’m just very blessed that I get to do this at 86 and I hope I’m still doing it at 90,” he said. “I think volunteering is one of the best things you can do. I just really enjoy meeting different people and working with different people. I haven’t met anybody I didn’t like!”

Every Thursday in January and February, WQAD News 8 is introducing you to our 2020 Jefferson Awards Nominees. Then, in April, we will announce our Jefferson Awards Finalist. That person gets to attend the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. this June and meet other Jefferson Awards Finalists from across the country.

The Jefferson Awards are sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Budget Blinds.

To see who was nominated in the previous five seasons of the Jefferson Awards on WQAD News 8, click here.

Wendy Williams apologizes for Joaquin Phoenix ‘cleft lip’ comments

(CNN) — After being slammed for appearing to mock those with cleft lips and palates, Wendy Williams has apologized.

The daytime talk show host ran afoul of some parents and activists after recent comments she made regarding a scar on actor Joaquin Phoenix’s lip.

While discussing the Golden Globes during her January 7 show, Williams told her show’s audience she finds Phoenix — who won a best actor Golden Globe for his “Joker” performance — “oddly attractive.”

“When he shaves off his mustache, he’s got a hairline fracture,” Williams said. “He’s got one of those, what do you call it, cleft lip, cleft palate.”

Williams pulled her top lip up over her teeth to demonstrate the look of a cleft.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both a cleft lip and a cleft palate “are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy. Together, these birth defects commonly are called ‘orofacial clefts.'”

Canadian football player Adam Bighill was one of several people who criticized Williams on social media and repeatedly called for Williams to apologize.

On Wednesday he tweeted a photo of him holding his son, Beau.

“Today is Beau’s big day. He is getting his lip repaired today in Winnipeg by the fantastic Dr. Ross,” Bighill wrote. “Thanks to everyone who has reached out, and in advance, thanks for any of your well wishes for Beau. He is so loved!”

Williams responded to the tweet, writing “@Bighill44 We’re thinking about Beau today as he is in surgery.”

“I want to apologize to the cleft community and in Beau’s honor, our show is donating to @operationsmile and @AmerCleftPalate and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community,” she wrote.

Bighill responded, tweeting, “Thank you @WendyWilliams for your apology, your donation, and for thinking of Beau today for his surgery. I forgive you, and I encourage others to as well. I wish you all the best.”

Phoenix has never said he had a cleft lip or palate.

In a Vanity Fair profile published in October, it was reported that his lip scar was “not a surgically fixed cleft, he says, but a nonsurgical scar he was born with.”

CNN has reached out to reps for Phoenix for comment.