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Celebs Support Texas Teen Who Refused to Cut His Dreads

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  • Texas teenager DeAndre Arnold was told by his school district that he would have to cut his dreadlocked hair per a recently-reworded rule. 
  • When he refused, citing his hair as a proud representation of his Trinidad heritage, he was suspended and told he could not walk at graduation. 
  • Since the controversy started, Arnold has received support from famous figures including Ellen DeGeneres and Alicia Keys, who gifted him $20,000 for college.
  • Arnold and his mother also received an invitation to the Oscars by the makers of “Hair Love,” an animated short about a black father doing his daughter’s hair.

Hair Controversy

DeAndre Arnold has been suspended from his Texas high school for weeks, not due to poor grades or drug use, but because he won’t cut his dreadlocked hair. 

In December, the 18-year-old was contacted by Barbers Hill Independent School District and told he would have to chop his long hair to be above his ear lobes, per a recently-reworded rule outlined in the student handbook. When Arnold refused, citing his hair as a proud representation of his father’s Trinidadian culture, his high school suspended him until he changes his mind. 

Arnold was also told that he wouldn’t be allowed to walk in his upcoming graduation ceremony until he trimmed his dreadlocks. 

The teen has been sporting his hairstyle since the seventh grade. He told CBS This Morning that he always wears his hair up and out of his face at school.   

Superintendent Gregory Poole said the school’s dress code does not prohibit dreadlocks and is focused solely on the length of the hair. The district’s handbook was modified in recent months and now states that male students’ hair cannot extend a certain length regardless of whether it is worn down or tied back. 

“Every school district in the nation has a dress code,” Poole told CBS. 

“We’d love to see DeAndre back in class, and there’s no way we would inhibit him from graduating, but we are going to be fair to the 6,200 other kids that have to comply by the same policy,” Poole added.  

But Arnold and his mother, Sandy Arnold, believe the controversy stems deeper, into issues of race. Arnold expressed that his hair is meaningful to him because it ties him to his heritage. 

“The culture really plays a role in this,” Arnold told CBS. “Being around my dad, and around his people, I’ve really seen something that I wanted to take part in and, you know, the dread locks or the locks, that was just something that I really liked.” 

“There’s no people of color on the school board,” DeAndre’s mother added. “So I get it, they don’t understand about his hair.” 

Widespread Support for Arnold

The controversy has made headlines across the nation in the past few weeks, and Arnold has received a wave of support from people who have commended him for sticking to his guns.

On Thursday night, the teen was surprised with an invite to the Oscars by the people behind “Hair Love,” a nominated animated short that follows the story of a black man faced with the task of doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. 

Since Deandre Arnold’s school didn’t want to let him walk at his graduation because of his hair we figured that he should walk with us on the red carpet at the Oscars as our special guest,” director Matthew A. Cherry wrote.

The invitation was extended via a video message from Cherry and a couple of the film’s producers, Gabrielle Union and her husband Dwyane Wade, a recently-retired NBA All-Star.

Union and Wade are flying Arnold and his mother out to Los Angeles for the event where their tickets, wardrobe, and red carpet glam will all be taken care of. 

The Oscars invitation was not the only form of support Arnold received from famous figures this week. When the teen appeared on an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that aired on Wednesday, he was presented with a $20,000 check by surprise guest Alicia Keys to go toward his college education and dreams of becoming a veterinarian. 

“I couldn’t believe the story when I heard it,” Keys told Arnold. “And I’m super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. And I know that the school needs to do the right thing.”

DeGeneres expressed her solidarity as well. 

“I’m sure this is not easy or comfortable for you,” DeGeneres told him. “But I want you to just relax and know that I’m here for you.”

Arnold reiterated his hair’s significance during the episode. 

“My hair is really important to me because my dad is from Trinidad and, you know, it’s part of our culture and our heritage,” he said. “And I really wish the school would kinda be open to other cultures and just at least let us try to tell you some things, don’t just shut us out.” 

The popular talk show host also brought up that girls at the high school are allowed to keep their hair long, pointing out the discrepancy. She urged officials of the Barbers Hill School District to reconsider their punishment.

“I am begging you, this kid is a good kid,” DeGeneres said to the camera, addressing the school district’s administrators. “He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids. He’s a good guy. I just am urging you to do the right thing. Please. Change your mind.”

Also on Wednesday, Houston Texans Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted his support for the young man with whom he shares his first name.

“Never cut your locks DeAndre Arnold,” Hopkins tweeted.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Washington Post

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Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission

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While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.


New Eviction Ban

Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.

Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.

However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.

According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission. 

While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.

“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday. 

Hurdles Remain

Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.

First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.

The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted. 

Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.

Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.

The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.

Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.

Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.

“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”

Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.

Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)

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Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds

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The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.


Concerns for Emperor Penguins

Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.

More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.

That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.

However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.

U.S. Moves To Protect the Species

The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.

If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.

“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.

“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)

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Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations

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The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.


Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter

Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.


Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.

Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.

DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools

On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.

The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.

DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.

At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.

Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)

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