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Legendary musician Fats Domino dies at 89

Legendary New Orleans musician Antoine “Fats” Domino has died, family members said on Wednesday. He was 89 years old.

>> Read more trending news

Domino’s daughter confirmed news of her father’s death to WWL. She told the news station that her father was surrounded by friends and family and died peacefully.

The most shocking accusations from R. Kelly alleged abuse victim Kitti Jones

Another woman is coming forward with allegations of physical, verbal and sexual abuse that she received from R. Kelly.

Kitti Jones, a former Dallas radio DJ and divorced mother of one, detailed years of her alleged abuse in a new profile for Rolling Stone published on Monday. The report comes just over a month after Jerhoda Pace alleged that she had an underage sexual relationship with the singer while detailing her life as part of Kelly’s alleged “sex cult” during an interview on The Real.

In July BuzzFeed News published a report that alleged Kelly had at least six women live in his Chicago and Georgia properties who allegedly fulfilled his desires and were punished if they break any of his “rules.”

In a statement to PEOPLE at the time, Kelly’s lawyer, Linda Mensch, strongly denied the allegations, and Kelly called the claims of abuse “a bunch of crap” on social media. PEOPLE has reached out for comment on the latest accusations but has yet to hear a reply.

Kelly’s representative said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Mr. Kelly is aware of the repeated and now evolving claims of [Ms. Jones]. It is unfortunate that Ms. Jones, after public statements to the contrary, is now attempting to portray a relationship history with Mr. Kelly as anything other than consensual involvement between two adults. As stated previously, Mr. Kelly does not control the decision-making or force the actions of any other human being, including Ms. Jones, by her own admission. Any claim of wrongdoing of any kind or of mistreatment of any woman by him is false, ill-motived and defamatory.”

»RELATED ITEM: Opinion: Why do people still love R. Kelly, and what does that say about us?

Jones – who met Kelly in 2011 – said the singer began to force her to have sex with other women by 2013 and that she couldn’t say no because she was scared of being “punished.”

She also claimed that Kelly “videotapes everything he does” and would sometimes make her watch videos of him with other girls. “He would masturbate to that and then have you give him oral sex while he’s watching what he did with somebody else on his iPad,” she said.

In one example, Jones claims she witnessed Kelly urinating on two women while she and the women were in the middle of a sex act with him. “It was just a game for him,” she said while also claiming that the forced sexual encounters became more frequent as time went on.

>> One of R. Kelly’s alleged ‘cult’ victims violated her nondisclosure agreement to speak out

2. Kelly Allegedly Became Physically Violent After Jones Mentioned His Child-Pornography Trial

Jones claimed that the first instance of physical abuse occurred within a month of her moving to be with him in Chicago when she confronted Kelly over the video at the center of his child-pornography trial. She claims he said, “Bitch, don’t you ever fucking accuse me of something like that,” and repeatedly kicked her and slapped her in the face. “He just turned into a monster. I blamed myself ’cause I was like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t [have] said anything,'” Jones told the magazine.

In 2002, Chicago police opened an investigation into Kelly after a now-infamous videotape was sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times. The tape allegedly shows Kelly telling a girl to call him “daddy” and urinating in her mouth. The girl in the video’s aunt identified her and said she would have been 14 years old while it was filmed. “It’s crap, and that’s how we’re going to treat it,” Kelly told a Chicago TV station at the time, denying that it was him in the video. His lawyer at the time, John M. Touhy, claimed the tape was a fake. Shortly after, Kelly was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography, but he was later cleared of all charges in 2008.

3. The Singer Allegedly Asked for Jones’ Number the Night They Met—and Insisted She Call Him “Daddy”

Jones said she first met Kelly in June 2011 while working an after-party for one of his concerts in Texas. After some small talk, Jones said Kelly went to shake her hand and gave her a piece of paper with his phone number on it and told her to text him her number, she told Rolling Stone. After texting Kelly from the bathroom, Jones said he replied to always call him “daddy” and never Rob (his full name is Robert Kelly.)

>> R. Kelly walks out after interviewer asks about past sex allegations

4. Jones Claims She Quit Her Job After Kelly Said He’d Double Her Salary to Live With Him

After quitting her job as a DJ in November 2011, Jones sold her car and moved into Kelly’s Chicago apartment as she was “falling in love” with him at the time, she told the publication. According to Jones, Kelly said he would pay her double her salary if she moved to Chicago, but he also warned her of the close relationships he had with other women.

“He said, ‘I have friends and I have girls I’ve raised,'” Jones said. “I didn’t know what he meant by ‘raised’ at the time. He said, ‘I eventually want you to meet them, but I want to make sure you’re mentally ready for that.'”

5. Jones Says She was Housed with Other Girlfriends, Who Were Monitored By Cameras and Constant Text Updates to “Daddy”

In January 2013, Kelly moved Jones to his Chicago recording studio, which had living quarters. She lived with two of his other girlfriends, and he allegedly demanded that each of them contact Kelly or one of his employees before leaving their room — even for something as small as needing to go the bathroom.

Jones said cameras monitored the women’s every move and that Kelly would punish them for attempting to leave without permission by taking away their phones and access to basic necessities. The women living in the studio were obligated to look down while walking through the hallway and could not look at other men. “When I was on tour, it was just clear [that] people knew not to be in my path,” Jones said.

6. Kelly Allegedly Used Starvation as a Punishment

According to Jones, Kelly would withhold food from her as punishment for not following his demands, sometimes for as long as two and a half days. In 2013, Jones said she sent a text to her childhood friend LaToya Howard that said, “I feel dizzy” and asked her to bring food since she was left with no money or card and Kelly was not responding.

Veda Loca, Jones’ coworker from her time as a DJ, said that she noticed Jones’ drastic weight loss after she broke up with Kelly and said Jones told her she had not been allowed to eat at times.

7. After Jones Tried to Leave, Kelly Allegedly Attacked Her Physically

After contemplating suicide in August 2013, Jones claims she managed to escape that following September by saying she needed to return to Dallas to help her son with school shopping. Two months later, Kelly went to Dallas for a show and invited Jones on his tour bus to retrieve her possessions. When Jones got on the bus, she alleges he attacked her.

“I knew he wasn’t going to kill me, but it was a lot of force,” she said. “[He was] instilling the fear back in me. And it worked.” This is the last in-person encounter Jones and Kelly had together.

Who was Sgt. La David Johnson? 7 things to know about the fallen soldier, ‘Wheelie King’

This story has been updated.

The mother of fallen U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson said last Wednesday that during a call with her son’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, President Donald Trump said the soldier “knew what he signed up for.”

» RELATED: Fallen soldier's widow: 'Nothing to say' to Trump

Trump has since denied he said those words and told members of the Senate Finance Committee, “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a wonderful woman. I didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all, she knows it.”

The initial account from Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, was first described by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, last Tuesday.

» RELATED: Family says Trump told fallen soldier's widow that husband 'knew what he signed up for'

Trump denied Wilson’s account in a Twitter exchange last week.

» RELATED: Trump: Lawmaker 'fabricated' account of his talk with widow

After she was pressed from reporters, Johnson said, “Yes, he did state that comment,” the New York Times reported.

The fallen soldier’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, also affirmed her mother-in-law’s comments on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview with Wilson.

» RELATED: Funeral held for soldier at center of Trump rift

When asked if she had anything to say to Trump now, Johnson said, “No, I don't have nothing to say to him.”

Here are 7 things to know about Sgt. La David Johnson:

He was from Florida.

Johnson lived in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Hours after Johnson was identified as a fallen soldier in the Oct. 4 attack in Niger, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement:

Ann and I join Floridians across the state in honoring the lives of U.S. Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson and the other three U.S. soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and our freedom. We will never forget their heroic actions and our hearts break for their families and loved ones. We will continue to pray for the safety of all our brave military members across our country and abroad.

He was married and was expecting his third child with his wife.

Johnson is survived by his widow Myeshia Johnson.

He was the father of a 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

They were set to welcome their third child in January, according to the New York Times.

» RELATED: Letters to grieving families are a presidential tradition. Here are some famous ones.

He was part of the “5,000 Role Models of Excellence” program.

Wilson founded the program in 1993 in an effort to recruit adult male role models and train them to help “at-risk” youth.

According to its official website, the current program serves 103 schools within Miami-Dade County Public Schools, has more than 8,000 participants and more than 6,000 volunteers.

“He was a true role model,” Wilson told the Miami Herald about Johnson. She added that his cousins, who also went into the program, followed his example.

The program has launched a scholarship in his honor to ensure Johnson’s family, including his three children, will be able to attend college.

You can contribute at this GoFundMe page.

» RELATED: Woman claims she was not permitted to sing national anthem on flight carrying remains of fallen soldier

He joined the Army in 2014.

According to, Johnson enlisted in January 2014 as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic.

Before joining the Army, he was known as the “Wheelie King.”

When he was a Walmart employee in Miami, Florida, many in the community knew Johnson as the local stunt rider who wore “wildly-colored socks” and donned a T-shirt with “Wheelie King” written on it, Miami’s Local 10 News reported.

After news of his death was announced, some remembered him as the “Wheelie King” on social media.

He was the fourth U.S. soldier identified in the Niger ambush.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the Pentagon released Johnson’s name as the fourth soldier killed in the Oct. 4 attack.

» RELATED: Georgia soldier among those killed in Niger attack

Johnson’s body was recovered two days later, on Oct. 6.

He was 25 years old.

The three other soldiers killed in the ambush were Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright.

It’s the first time American forces have been killed and wounded in combat in the country, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said during a news conference.

The soldiers were wounded while conducting a mission in support of Nigerian security forces, according to White.

They were attached to the Green Berets, which included the Nigerian patrol, and were ambushed by Islamic militants near the Niger border with Mali, according to The New York Times.

Johnson’s awards and accolades include:

  • Army Achievement Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Medal
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Army Parachutist Bade
  • Driver and Mechanic Badge
  • Marksmanship Qualification Badge
  • Canadian Parachutist Wings 

More about Johnson at

Cheerleaders continue to take a knee at Kennesaw State football games

Four Kennesaw State University cheerleaders were seen taking a knee in the stadium tunnel during the national anthem at the university’s football game Saturday evening, continuing their protest to raise awareness about police misconduct and racial inequality.

The protest is part of an ongoing controversy on the 35,000 student campus that has drawn national attention over free speech rights and patriotism.

About three dozen students remained seated during the anthem, with some raising their fists in solidarity with the cheerleaders. A dozen students marched around Fifth Third Bank Stadium chanting “land of the free but we can’t take a knee.”

Most spectators stood during the anthem.

The cheerleaders first took at knee at the Sept. 30 football game, and since then the university makes them wait in the tunnel during the national anthem.

Woodstock resident John Smith, 55, said he was dismayed by the protest as he arrived at the stadium Saturday.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “When they put that uniform on, they’re representing the university. They shouldn’t be protesting. It’s a respect thing.”

KSU has been under a national microscope after five cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem at the Sept. 30 football game to protest police misconduct and the subsequent decision to keep cheerleaders off the field during the anthem, which many feel violate the students’ free speech rights. KSU officials have said the change had nothing to do with the cheerleaders.

The state Board of Regents announced Wednesday it’s conducting a review of how KSU responded to the cheerleaders’ actions after text messages obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren boasting to state Rep. Earl Ehrhart that they convinced KSU president Sam Olens to keep cheerleaders off the field.

Several campus protests have taken in support of the cheerleaders during the last two weeks. But many Cobb residents have described the cheerleaders’ actions as unpatriotic.

Michelle Williams reveals she suffered from suicidal thoughts: ‘I wanted out’

Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams is opening up about her struggles with depression since she was a young teen.

While guest co-hosting The Talk on Wednesday, the singer, 37, revealed she was suicidal while sitting at the top of the charts with the rest of the girl group, which included Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland.

“I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time, suffering with depression,” she said on the show. “When I disclosed it to our manager [Mathew Knowles] at the time, bless his heart, he was like, ‘You all just signed a multi-million dollar deal. You’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?'” she recalled Beyoncé’s dad telling her at the time.

“So I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m just tired,'” she continued. However, Williams’ depression only continued to get worse “to the point where I was suicidal … and wanted out” from the group.

The star says she has struggled with depression since she was 13 years old, and it wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she realized what she was suffering from.

“I think at the age of 25, had I had a name to what I was feeling at the time, I would have disclosed that ‘I’ve been suffering from depression,'” she said.

After her episode of The Talk aired on Wednesday, Williams thanked the show for “being a safe place” to discuss her story. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help!” she tweeted her fans.

Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

According to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women under 60 years old are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women in the same age group. In fact, data from 2015 showed black women had a 39 percent higher breast cancer death rate.

» RELATED: GOP, Dem senators push health deal as Trump keeps distance

New research from Emory University, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute points to differences in health insurance as the culprit.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included data from the National Cancer Data Base on 563,497 black and white women between the ages of 18 and 64 who had been diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer between 2004 and 2013.

» RELATED: Could dark hair dyes and chemical relaxers be linked to higher risk for breast cancer?

The researchers examined five factors for the study: 

  • Demographics (age, stage, state, year of diagnosis, etc.)
  • Comorbidities (other health conditions)
  • Insurance (lack of insurance, private insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.)
  • Tumor characteristics (size, type, stage, etc.)
  • Treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, surgery, etc.)

» RELATED: FDA approves Lilly pill for common advanced breast cancer

The findings

They found that insurance explained one-third of the additional risk of death among the black women compared to white women diagnosed by early-stage breast cancer.

Additionally, almost three times as many black women (22.7 percent) were either uninsured or had Medicaid insurance compared to white women (8.4 percent).

» RELATED: Your guide to health care changes in Georgia

“Lack of insurance is a barrier to receipt of timely and high-quality treatment and screening services,” study authors wrote.

Other major factors that explained the differences: tumor characteristics (23.2 percent), comorbidities (11.3 percent) and treatment (4.8 percent).

» RELATED: Black moms three times more likely to die in childbirth than white moms

Nearly 80 percent of the women in the study had the most common type of breast cancer (hormone receptor-positive breast cancer) and according to the researchers, when matched for factors such as insurance, comorbidity and others, those factors accounted for a combined 76.3 percent of the total excess risk of death in black patients.

The authors noted that when it came to treatment differences, black and white women contrasted most for hormone therapy, which, according to ACS, is typically used after surgery to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

» RELATED: How long do black women have to work to earn as much as white men? The numbers will surprise you

“Several studies reported that black women are less likely to complete chemotherapy and hormone therapy,” study author Ahmedin Jemal told the ACS. “This could be for many reasons, including problems with transportation or the inability to pay for medicine.”

Additionally, previous research has shown that black women get lower quality mammograms and are less likely to have a follow-up appointment after receiving abnormal mammograms.

» RELATED: Work the night shift? You may be at higher risk for breast cancer, study says

And insurance is vital for both high-quality cancer care and for early detection.

“We know so much about cancer prevention and control,” Jemal, who is also vice president of the ACS surveillance and health services research program, said. “But we’re not applying it to the whole population equally. We have to make the standard of care available to everyone, including people with low income. And blacks are disproportionately represented in that group.”

Read the full study at

Learn more about the study and more about how women can protect themselves from breast cancer at

School ends Civil War dress up day weeks after child was called a ‘slave’; mom wants more done 

A Cobb County elementary school will no longer host a dress up activity at the conclusion of its studies on the Civil War, but the mother who says her fifth grade son was called a slave by another student isn’t satisfied.

Corrie Davis has been hoping for a resolution since early October, when her son told her what happened in class at Big Shanty Elementary School in Kennesaw.

“Toward the end of school break last week, my son walked over and said, ‘Mom, something happened at school.’”

MORE: Parents angry at Cobb school about Civil War dress-up day

Davis said her stomach dropped when he told her how one of her son’s friends, a white child, said he was dressed as a plantation owner during the Sept. 22 activity. When her son, who is black, asked why he would dress that way, the friend said, “We had to dress up so I’m a plantation owner and you’re my slave.”

RELATED: Teacher who told students to remove Trump shirt resigns

Since then, Davis has asked first and foremost that the school agree not to host “a dress up activity that is oppressive,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But officials had refused to say they’d stop until Thursday afternoon, when Assistant Superintendent for Cobb County Elementary Schools Robin Lattizori emailed a letter Davis considered “cold” and only in the interest of protecting the school.

“The lack of care toward my family is overwhelming to me right now,” Davis said shortly after receiving the letter.

School officials did not return mulitple requests for comment by the AJC.

While the school — but not necessarily the district — agreed to change the curriculum for dressing in Civil War attire, Davis said she asked for more in conversations with officials.

Davis said her son doesn’t feel like he can get a fair shot with the principal now and spin-off conversations about race among the students is getting out of control.

Davis said she wants an expert from outside of Cobb to help students navigate these difficult conversations that stem from the Sept. 22 simulation. The instructions for dress up day included:

"BE CREATIVE and use your resources to ensure that your costume is as accurate as possible," the Georgia school's note informed parents. It included a small picture of a man in Civil War dress with what appears to be one of several flags used by the Confederate States of America.

The mother of two wants the school district to intervene and ask for more professional devleopment, such as diversity and sensitivity training for school officials and teachers. 

She’s also still waiting for a formal apology.

In other news:


George W. Bush warns 'bigotry seems emboldened' in America: Read his full remarks

Former President George W. Bush warned Americans to be wary of growing trends toward nativism and isolationism on Thursday during a speech at the Bush Institute’s national forum.

>> Read more trending news

“Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.”

The speech was widely interpreted as a veiled message aimed at the politics of President Donald Trump, who has often touted an “America first” view of world politics. However, Trump was not named in the speech.

Read Bush’s full remarks from the forum, “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World”:

Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here.

And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries.

I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny.

Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie (Tom Bernstein), I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.)

It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and applause) Thank you.

We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other.

And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.

For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.

We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.

This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world.

That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change.

Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual.

These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union.

America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper.

The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats.

America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets. 

Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed.

We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions.

And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country.

A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young.

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust.

For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression.

In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.

Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence.

Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.

Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another.

Thank you.

Students kneel during national anthem as Olens takes president’s office

As Sam Olens was being installed as president of Kennesaw State University, students took a knee during the national anthem to protest how the school handled cheerleaders who knelt at a football game.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Eric Stirgus, on the KSU campus, reports that about a dozen students knelt at their seats during Olens’ investiture.

Students have also scheduled a sit-in on the campus green, where Olens is supposed to celebrate officially taking the office that he has held for about a year.

Students are not the only ones protesting.

Some faculty are also boycotting the ceremony because they believe Olens appointment -- he is the former state attorney general -- was a political appointment rather than one based on solid academic experience.

“We are boycotting the Olens ceremony because he is not our President,” wrote Susan S. Raines, a professor of conflict management at KSU. “He was not chosen through a transparent, traditional hiring process. He is not qualified for the position which was gifted him by the Governor through the Board of Regents.

She continued, “He has repeatedly shown that he does not know how to carry out the duties of the office, including recent violations of constitutional rights on campus. He will never be our President.”

Reporter Meris Lutz, also on the campus, spoke with Mark Robinson, a staff member who was crossing the green outside the convocation center. Robinson did not appear surprised that some would boycott the ceremony after the handling of the protest and apparent intervention of public officials. 

“It’s a public university with public funds and I do believe the cheerleaders’ first amendment rights come into play,” he said. “It’s understandable that people would protest.”

Robinson emphasized that he was expressing a personal opinion. 

Olens did not address the controversy in his remarks at the campus convocation center. He got choked up speaking about his parents and talked about his goals of helping students succeed. 

 State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Cobb Cobb Republican, indirectly addressed the situation, acknowledging there are some times "rough waters," but KSU is in good hands with Olens. 

"I've never seen anyone more honest than Sam Olens," Tippins said in his speech. 

Stirgus reports that the building where Olens ceremony is taking place is about half empty, and a plea was sent out to professors last week to come and even bring classes with them because too few RSVP’s were coming in.

The recent events started Sept. 30 when five cheerleaders knelt during a football game’s as the national anthem played. Various KSU officials had been in discussion about what to do if this happened, and local politicians, including a state representative and the local sheriff called Olens to pressure him to take action.

The school decided to keep the cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem, sparking both praise from many in the community and criticism by others.

The Georgia Board of Regents announced Wednesday it’s conducting a review of how KSU responded to the cheerleaders’ protest.

 Olens said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon he regrets how the situation was handled.  


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Gucci Mane marries Keyshia Ka’oir in lavish Miami ceremony

The big day has finally come:Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’oir have walked down the aisle.

The pair were married Tuesday evening at the Four Seasons in Miami, PEOPLE confirms.

» RELATED: Here's why everyone is talking about Gucci Mane's wedding before it even happens

The couple chronicles the road to their extravagant wedding in Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’oir: The Mane Event, — a 10-part special premiering on BET at 10 p.m. — in which fans will get an up-close look at all that went into crafting the nuptials.

“I want a royal wedding!” Ka’oir, 32, declared in a PEOPLE exclusive clip ahead of the show“All white with diamonds and crystals.”

Along with her excitement, Ka’oir also expressed some frustration in the clip, saying, “I don’t know if it’s the wedding. I don’t know if it’s the fame … I don’t know if it’s because who my husband is gonna be. Everybody going coco-loco on me.”

Earlier this week, the lovebirds shared sweet photos of their wedding rehearsal, with the rapper, 37, surprising his leading lady with a new car.

“His and Hers Guwop bought his wife a Wraith!” Mane captioned an Instagram photo of himself and Ka’oir posing in front of cars.

He also shared a photo of himself sporting a wide smile in a red and black suit, writing, “Waiting on my bride!!! #KeyshiaAndGucciWeddingRehearsal.”

Mane popped the question in November 2016 during an Atlanta Hawks game — and the NBA shared the sweet moment on Twitter for the world to see.

In the video, Mane and Ka’oir can be seen on the “Kiss Cam” before the rapper presents a shocked Ka’oir with a huge sparkler. The team’s mascot, Harry the Hawk, was also on hand to congratulate the couple, giving Ka’oir a bouquet of roses.

After the proposal, Mane shared several photos of the happy couple on Instagram. “She said yessssss!!!!!!!!!!! Lucky me,” Mane captioned one photo, alongside a pair of Santa emojis.

In a separate post, he showed off a close-up view of Ka’oir’s stunning diamond ring. “She deserve it!! My bride to be!!#Wopsters luv you my baby,” the Atlanta-native captioned the video.

It hasn’t been all glitz and glamour, though. In the miniseries, fans will see Ka’oir’s struggles with choosing bridesmaids and a potential prenup — along with her attempts to push through venue complications due to the recent Hurricane Irma.

Mane and Ka’oir began dating in 2010, after Mane flew her to Atlanta to be in his “911 Emergency” music video. Ka’oir told The Fader, “he was in love with me on sight.” 

Ka’oir stayed with Mane throughout his most recent stint in prison, for a highly publicized murder charge which was eventually dropped. In his book The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, he wrote that after he went back to prison, he got sober because he “wanted to be able to go on tour and have the energy to put on a show for my fans…I wanted Keyshia to lose her mind when she came to pick me up.”

Gwinnett employee suspended after referencing racial slur during event

A Gwinnett County employee has been suspended after referencing a racial slur while emceeing a department awards ceremony, officials said. 

The incident involving community services manager John Register is just the latest in a recent string of racially charged controversies to spring up within Gwinnett’s government.

According to the suspension letter sent to Register on Monday by Tina Fleming, the director of the county’s Department of Community Services, Register emceed part of the team’s annual “service award meeting” on Oct. 6. 

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While holding a microphone, Register allegedly referred to aquatics manager Jim Cyrus, who is black, as “still the HNIC.” He used only the letters in the initialism, which stands for “head [slur] in charge.”

“Many” staff members heard what Register said, according to Fleming’s letter, and at least four later complained to their supervisors. 

“Your behavior reflected unfavorably, not only on this Department, but on the County as an employer,” Fleming wrote. “While your comments may not have been intended to be offensive, they in fact were as evidenced by complaints received thereafter.”

Register is serving a one-week suspension this week and is not receiving pay, Gwinnett spokesman Joe Sorenson said. Register is not a merit employee so “there will not be any kind of hearings regarding the matter,” Sorenson said.

Attempts to contact Register were not successful Wednesday.

Gwinnett, a minority-majority county and one of the most diverse communities in the Southeast, has seen a  spate of racially charged incidents this year. 

To learn more about those incidents and the fallout from Register’s alleged comments, read the full story at


The AJC's Tyler Estep keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Gwinnett County government and politics. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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In other Gwinnett news:

Bow Wow corrects those who joke on him for Death Row tweet

Bow Wow is correcting some fans and followers who were quick to criticize him for a tweet he posted Tuesday.

XXL Mag reported that the former kid rapper, who goes by Shad Moss, tweeted a photo of himself among iconic rappers Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, Tupac and others who were signed to the former label Death Row Records.

>> Read more trending news

The image appears to be a Photoshopped version of Vibe magazine’s iconic 1996 Death Row cover.

One Twitter user quoted the original tweet saying, “Inaccurate. Where's Biggie?”

In response, Bow replied that he had been on Death Row since he was 6. He posted the picture after a fan sent it to him. 

“(I)t brought back memories. Big was on bad boy (sic) my bros,” he tweeted.

Bow is right. The Notorious B.I.G. was signed to Bad Boy Records, now Bad Boy Entertainment, on the East Coast. It was founded by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who produces records for many of the artists on the roster.

“Fan sent me the pic its not the original from VIBE,” he further clarified.

For further proof, the TV host tweeted photos of him with Snoop and Dre in 1993 and a screenshot of his appearance in Snoop’s “Gin & Juice” music video that same year.

The Source reported that, although Moss has never been officially signed to Death Row, he became connected to the label when Dre and Snoop made a stop at Moss’ hometown of Columbus, Ohio, during their The Chronic Tour in 1993. The tour manager asked if anyone wanted to come onstage, and Moss was hoisted up by his mother and her boyfriend. His freestyle impressed Snoop and and at 5 years old, he opened the tour for Snoop. He was even heard on skits on Snoop’s explicit “Doggystyle” album.

According to the publication, Bow Wow was supposed to record an album with Death Row, but label discussions fell through and by 1998, Snoop left the label. Bow Wow was introduced to Jermaine Dupri and his rap career soared.

As much as Bow Wow may be joked about for flexing on social media, this time, he was right.

Colin Kaepernick or Tim Tebow: Who would you sign?

Recently, a few names creep up every time a quarterback is injured in the NFL.

A day after Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy grew agitated when asked about the prospect of adding Colin Kaepernick (see video above) instead of going with backup Brett Hundley or Joe Callahan.

“Did you just listen to that question I just answered?” McCarthy roared. “I got three years invested in Brett Hundley. Two years invested in Joe Callahan. The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be. OK? We’re fortunate to have a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. We’re committed to the path that we’re on. We need to play better as a football team.”

It’s not the first time it’s happened this season. Baltimore addressed the question when Joe Flacco was injured. Oakland when Derek Carr hurt his back. Miami when Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season. Tennessee pondered after Marcus Mariota got hurt.

Kaepernick, who became a free agent in March, has become a lightning rod for refusing to stand during the national anthem in protest of what he deemed are wrongdoings against African-Americans in the United States. President Trump has voiced his disgust with Kaepernick and other players who protest during the anthem.

The Undefeated has tracked all the quarterbacks -- not named Kaepernick -- who have been signed (not including draft picks) so far this season. The number stands at 39.

Kaepernick has filed a grievance claiming collusion by the league to keep him off NFL rosters.

So, play general manager. Here are nine unemployed NFL quarterbacks whose names most often surface when quarterback injuries occur. Who would you most likely sign?

Lil Jon opens school in Ghana in honor of his mother

Atlanta  artist Lil Jon often talks about the value of education.

Now, the award-winning rapper and producer has put his influence behind helping children go to school in rural eastern Ghana.

He recently partnered with the nonprofit Pencils of Promise to open a school in Abomayaw  in memory and honor of his mother, Carrie M. Smith.

Students in that community have been “taught in unfavorable learning conditions. Kindergarten students are learning in open pavilions with unfinished walls and dirt floors, and without formal doors or windows.” according to Pencils of Promise.

 Lil Jon is  known for hits like Get Low”,  with the East Side Boyz, and “Yeah” with Usher and Ludacris. To help raise money he asked friends and fans to donate to the project in lieu of birthdays gifts ealier this year.


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The three-unit school, which will also have an ancillary office and washroom facilities. According to PoP’s website, the school will impact hundreds of students  over the lifetime of the school.

In addition to the new kindergarten classrooms, repairs will be made and windows fitted to the primary students’ classrooms, providing the students with more light during class hours and better ventilation. The Abomayaw community committed to providing up to 20 percent of the labor and resources needed to complete  construction.

Lil Jon is also helping build a second school in Ghana.

Pencils of Promise currently works in Ghana, Laos and Guatemala.

Supreme Court denies DeKalb officer’s bid to dismiss murder indictment

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday that the prosecution of a former DeKalb County police officer charged with fatally shooting an unarmed veteran can resume after a year on hold. 

Don Samuel, the attorney for Robert Olsen -- accused of killing Anthony Hill, naked at the time, outside a Chamblee apartment complex in March 2015 -- had argued that prosecutors violated the principle of grand jury secrecy by allowing unauthorized personnel with no connection to the case into the proceedings. 

RELATED: DeKalb cop charged in unarmed vet’s slaying wants case thrown out

IN-DEPTH: In DeKalb police shooting, a rare indictment, a long road to trial

“Grand jurors were outnumbered by non-grand jurors at times,” Samuel said during a Sept. 2016 hearing. 

But the Supreme Court was not convinced that the presence of extraneous staff “violated the need for grand jury secrecy or compromised the grand jury’s independence from outside influences.”

In a statement sent to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Samuel blasted the decision, saying it “enshrines the notion that the grand jury is nothing more than a tool of the prosecution that enhances its advantage in a criminal prosecution.

“The constitutional ‘right’ to a grand jury is no longer a ‘right’ at all,” he said. 

Olsen is charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, violation of oath of office and making a false statement.

A more complete story will be available later today on 

White restaurant manager charged with enslaving black cook

A white restaurant manager in South Carolina has been charged with enslaving a black buffet cook for at least five years, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week.

>> Read more trending news 

The cook, Christopher Smith, 39, alleges that he was forced to work up to seven days a week, often for 18 hours a day without breaks, brutally beaten and threatened repeatedly.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, is accused in the indictment of using “force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to enslave Smith at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. Conway is just inland from Myrtle Beach.

Edwards was formally charged with “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.” He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the federal felony of “forced labor,” according to the U.S. attorney general’s Civil Rights Division. He also would have to pay up to a $250,000 fine and full restitution to Smith.

The attorney general notes that the indictment is “merely an accusation” and that Edwards is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. 

Allegations of a brutal enslavement first emerged about two years ago in a civil suit filed on behalf of the cook. The suit, which also names Edwards’s brother, the restaurant’s owner, as a defendant, is pending.

The 2015 complaint alleged that Edwards beat Smith with a frying pan, burned him with tongs that Edwards had dipped into a grease fryer, beat him with his belt buckle and fists and routinely used racial slurs in speaking to him, according to The Post and Courier. Smith, who was paid a salary of less than $3,000, has an intellectual disability, the Post reported.

On one occasion, when Smith was too slow about restocking the buffet, Edwards took Smith into the back of the restaurant and beat him with his belt buckle, according to the Washington Post’s account of the lawsuit.

“Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, ‘No, Bobby, please!’ After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work,” the complaint read, according to the Post.

The Post and Courier said that Smith was forced to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant and at times was so exhausted from working that someone had to feed him. 

Smith told WMBF in Myrtle Beach in 2015 that he began washing dishes after school at J&J when he was 12 years old. He worked there for more than 20 years before Bobby Edwards became the manager in 2010. 

Smith’s lawsuit says he never told anyone of the enslavement because he was afraid Edwards would kill him. The allegations came to light after a waitress told her mother-in-law of the abuse, and the woman went to state social workers.

Read more at WMBF, The Washington Post and The Post and Courier.

Homeless man asks group for money, shoots them after getting $5

Police are looking for a gunman who shot a man in the back twice during a robbery.

>> Read more trending news 

A group of friends said they visited the Bulldogs bar in Atlanta Monday night to get a drink after work. A stranger was outside and tried to strike up a conversation, then followed the group inside. When they all left, they said shots were fired.

WSB-TV spoke to a witness who asked to hide his identity because the gunman who shot his friend Monday night has not been arrested.

"I was begging for him not to shoot," the witness said.

The witness said he got a bad feeling when he noticed the guy was lurking around. They said the stranger followed them to a car deck around the corner.

"He started yelling obscenities, such as 'Hey, which one is with who? I wanna have sex with one of you guys.' He then screamed that he was homeless and that he wanted to know if one of us could give him some money," the witness told WSB-TV.

The witness said he gave him $5 hoping he’d go away but it just made things worse.

"He literally pulled up his shirt and pulled out a gun," the witness said.

Most of the group ran but the witness and one friend were in shock. They said the gunman forced them to undress and the friend decided to run.

"He shot twice, shot him in his back twice," he said.

The victim is still in the hospital.

Anyone who knows who the gunman may be, can call Crimestoppers at 404-577-8477.

College football player cut from team after kneeling for national anthem

A Pennsylvania quarterback is off his college team after he knelt for the national anthem for the second game in a row.

>> Do students have to stand for the Pledge, anthem?

Gyree Durante, a sophomore, is a second-string quarterback at Albright College in Reading. He said his decision to kneel was a protest against racism and social injustices in the nation. Durante, who is a native of Norristown, told WCAU: “At some point in life, there’s going to be a time when you’ve got to take a stand. For me, it just happened to be on Saturday afternoon.”

>> On A San Francisco 49ers player went after VP Mike Pence for leaving the football game

A spokeswoman for the college said the decision to stand during the anthem was agreed upon by the entire team. She says the team agreed to kneel during the coin toss and stand during the anthem. The spokeswoman explained that the decision to kneel was done “out of the mutual respect team members have for one another and the value they place on their differences.” Her statement went on to say that Durante’s decision to kneel showed that he “chose not to support team unity,” leading to his dismissal from the team.

>> Pence abruptly leaves Colts game after players take a knee during anthem

Durante’s teammates said they believe their colleague broke the trust of the team. One freshman said: "Time and time again he told us he would stand. … When you can’t have a player on a team that you can trust, he’s got to go.”

>> Read more trending news

Read more here.

Janet Jackson and Ciara visit Disneyland with their kids

Musicians and celebrated dancers Janet Jackson and Ciara enjoyed some girl time and family time in Disneyland over the weekend.

Fresh off her sold-out Hollywood Bowl show, People reported that Jackson went to the Anaheim, California, park with her son Eissa Al Mana, 9 months, and Ciara, who brought her 3-year-old son Future Zahir along for the fun.

>> Read more trending news

An Instagram video posted by Ciara shows her and baby Future enjoying a roller coaster ride.

Entertainment Weekly reported that Ciara’s daughter, Sienna Princess, with husband Russell Wilson, appeared to not be at the Park, nor was Wilson. Future Jr. is Ciara’s son from her previous marriage to rapper Future, who according to TMZ, was also at the park, though it’s not clear if he was there the same day as his ex.

Jackson’s estranged husband and Eissa’s father, Wissam Al Mana, didn’t appear to be at the amusement park. Jackson is in the process of divorcing the Qatari business man.

The trip looks like one Ciara will cherish. She shared a selfie of her with the fellow dancer at the park on Instagram.

“Love You,” she captioned the post.

Jackson is currently on the North American leg of her State of the World Tour. Ciara was in attendance at the singer’s Sunday Show in Los Angeles.

Do students have to stand for the Pledge, anthem?

The silent protest during the playing of the national anthem that started with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has spread not only around the National Football League, but, lately, to high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools around the country.

Kaepernick began the protest – first sitting, then kneeling as the national anthem was being played – during pre-season play last year, saying he was doing it because he is bothered by police treatment of blacks in America. 

While Kaepernick’s actions went unnoticed for the first few games, his protests eventually gained press coverage, and he was joined by other professional athletes in similar protests around the country.

The protests are now being mimicked by a younger audience, as public school officials in districts around the United States are seeing protests by students. One recent protest was carried out by a six-year-old, and reports of protests and suspensions have grown in the past few weeks.

Earlier this month in Texas, a high school student was suspended for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. The Windfern High School (Houston) student, India Landry, was told she had to stand for the pledge, and when she did not, she was told by the school’s principal that she was suspended.

Landry has filed suit against the school.

A Florida first-grader decided to take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance in his classroom last month and was reprimanded in front of other students in the class, according to his mother.

The increase in incidents has led some to ask what right students have when it comes to displays of patriotism at school. Can students at a public school refuse to stand for the national anthem or sit through the pledge? 

Yes, they can.

In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court held in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, that forcing a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, then punishing them if they did not, violated First Amendment rights to free speech and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The ruling came in a case brought by students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They argued that pledging allegiance to the United States would violate the tenets of their faith. 

The Justices ruled that it did not matter if a person refused to recite the pledge because of religious beliefs or some other standard because no U.S. official could compel a person to “confess .. their faith” about anything.

Writing the majority opinion for the court, Justice Robert H. Jackson said, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

So, if public schools cannot ban students from sitting or kneeling during the anthem or pledge, can they discipline them if they do protest?

No, they cannot, according to Frank LoMonte, the former executive director of the Student Press Law Center. 

It does not matter if a student is part of a sports team or some other school group when he or she decides to protest, LoMonte told the website Education Week. Public institutions cannot withhold privileges when employees exercise free speech rights and that right extends to students.

"You can't condition a privilege on forsaking your constitutional right any more than you can condition a right or a benefit," LoMonte explained.While some school districts have continued to tell students they must stand for the pledge or the anthem, others have made it clear they cannot ban such protests, nor will they punish students who do choose to protest by kneeling. 

Twelve football players from Laguna Creek (California) High School knelt during the national anthem before a football game at their school in September. While the school administration received complaints from some parents, the Elk Grove Unified School District issued a statement saying that it would not discipline the students, citing their right to exercise their “freedom of speech and expression protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution." 

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