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Northern Michigan University offers marijuana studies degree

A new program at Northern Michigan University gives students a unique opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business and science of marijuana.

>> Read more trending news 

The four-year degree program, formally called Medical Plant Chemistry, is in its inception this semester. About a dozen students are currently enrolled in the program, and more and more students are showing interest. 

“We’re gaining students every week,” Mark Paulsen, director of Northern Michigan’s chemistry department, said, according to USA Today. “With a full 12 months of recruitment, we expect that to grow.”

But the program isn’t as chilled out as one might think. 

“Obviously, the program is new and different and it might speak to a certain crowd. But for a student to succeed, they’re going to have to be very dedicated and motivated,” Brandon Canfield, the associate chemistry professor who developed the Medical Plant Chemistry curriculum, told the Detroit Free Press. “This is not an easy program. It’s a really intense, biology chemistry program.”

The program, which has basic requirements in general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry and plant physiology, branches into two tracks: a bio-analytical track and an entrepreneurial track. Those who choose the bio-analytical track are to further their studies with courses in atomic spectrometry, genetics and biostatistics, while those who choose the entrepreneurial track are required to take courses in accounting, entrepreneurship and finance. 

“When (people) hear what my major is, there are a lot of people who say, ‘Wow, cool, dude. You’re going to get a degree growing marijuana,’” said sophomore student Alex Roth. “But it’s not an easy degree at all.”

Other universities across the country offer marijuana-related courses and certificate programs. But according to CNN, Northern Michigan’s program may be the first in the country to offer up a fully focused marijuana-based undergraduate degree.

Roth and other students enrolled in the program understand that their major doesn’t mean they’ll be growing the plant. They want to help bust stereotypes about marijuana and focus on medicinal properties to combat such conditions as chronic pain, nausea, seizures and glaucoma.

Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana, WITI reported. Eight of those states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana.

According to the San Francisco Gate, the marijuana industry is expected to grow more than 100 percent to $44 billion per year by 2020.

“Many of the states are legalizing different substances and they’re really looking for quality people to do the chemistry and the science,” university trustee James Haveman told the Detroit Free Press. “And it’s the university’s responsibility to produce those kinds of students for those kinds of jobs.”

“We’ve had an overwhelming response from growing operations, dispensaries and other businesses who want to take on our students as interns,” Canfield said. “I expect in the next couple years we’ll see quite a few of these programs popping up.”

Read more at USA TodayDetroit Free Press, and Northern Michigan University.

ACLU: Oklahoma school's national anthem policy is unconstitutional

The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that an Oklahoma school's national anthem policy is unconstitutional.

>> Read more trending news

The statement was released after Stuart Public Schools enacted a policy requiring all students, staff and spectators to stand for the national anthem, prohibiting any form of protest.

The Hughes County school's policy was announced amid a nationwide conversation about kneeling during the national anthem. Professional football players started kneeling in protest of police brutality against minorities. The protests received increased scrutiny after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who chose to join the protests.

While some say the protests are disrespectful to U.S. service members, other say they fall under free speech and raise awareness to an important domestic issue in the country.

The ACLU of Oklahoma's legal director released a statement Wednesday:

“Stuart Public Schools’ new policy is blatantly unconstitutional and unenforceable. The Supreme Court has made clear that students have the right to express themselves. Our Constitution guarantees that public schools can neither mandate forced displays of patriotism and nationalism, nor forbid lawful protests against injustice. Stuart Public Schools has chosen to violate both of these guarantees. This school district’s school’s leaders are in desperate need of a First Amendment lesson, one that they are likely to receive swiftly in the event they actually attempt to enforce this unlawful policy.”

The organization's director of external affairs also released a statement:

“Forcing students to stand for the National Anthem is irresponsible and flies in the face of every conceivable understanding of the First Amendment. If this school district were actually interested in real patriotism, they would do their duty as a government actor to uphold the values of the Constitution rather than waste taxpayers’ time and resources with an unlawful attempt to shut down the expression of their students and staff.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer at University of Florida: Live updates

Florida’s flagship public university braced Thursday for a speech and rally by a white nationalist that was expected to bring thousands of protesters – and, some feared, violent demonstrations -- to its campus. 

>> Read more trending news

Richard Spencer is due to speak from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, about 2 miles from the center of the University of Florida campus.

School named after Confederate president to be renamed after Barack Obama

A Mississippi school that was named after a Confederate president is to be renamed next year after former U.S. President Barack Obama after an Oct. 5 vote by the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees.

>> Read more trending news 

Davis IB Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi, has operated for years under the namesake of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. But by the time the 2018-2019 academic year rolls around, the school will be renamed Barack Obama Magnet IB Elementary School.

The decision was announced Tuesday after months of discussion. Parents of students who attend the school, including PTA President Janelle Jefferson, expressed excitement and approval, saying the new name is more appropriate for the school, which has a population of 97 percent black students.

“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Jefferson said, according to The Clarion Ledger.

Jefferson said the new name reflects “a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”

The decision came soon after the Mississippi State Board of Education requested Gov. Phil Bryant declare Jackson Public Schools in a state of emergency for lack of certified teachers and proper procedures, among other issues, Newsweek reported. If Bryant approves the request, the school board will be disbanded, according to The Clarion Ledger

The potential for the disbandment led board members to encourage PTA members at three schools in the Jackson Public Schools system to consider renaming at a hastened pace. 

There’s no word on the renaming developments of two other schools in the county: George Elementary, named after Confederate Gen. James Zachariah George, and Lee Elementary, named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

As of January, at least 19 U.S. schools had been named after Obama, according to Education Week.

Rapper Lil Jon opens school in Ghana in honor of his mother

Lil Jon often talks about the value of education.

>> Read more trending news

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 earlier this year.

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

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.

Read more at Pencils of Promise.

Related:

Lil Jon turns up and turns out to vote

‘Walking Dead’ superfan Lil Jon shows up on ‘Talking Dead’

Video showing high school cheerleaders yelling racial slur prompts investigation

Administrators in a Utah school district are investigating a disturbing video that appears to show a group of cheerleaders shouting a racial slurKSTU reports. The 10-second recording, which was posted to Instagram, features a group of teenage girls who individually and as a group repeatedly yell a profane phrase with the N-word while laughing.

>> Watch the news report here

“We are shocked by the conduct of these students and the contents of the video,” read a statement from the Weber School District. “School officials have started an investigation and the matter is being taken very seriously. We are trying to determine when the video was made, where it was filmed, why the students would engage in such conduct, and how the clip ended up on social media.”

School officials first became aware of the footage on Monday after it began making rounds on social media. While they confirmed three of the girls in the video are cheerleaders, there is no indication the footage was filmed during extra-curricular activities. The IT department has been instructed to look into whether the clip was created with a video-editing app capable of generating the offensive phrase.

>> Read more trending news 

“The video was then possibly uploaded into an app that plays it backwards, producing an entirely different-sounding phrase. In this case, a very derogatory, offensive racial slur,” the district explained, adding that the girls may have actually been saying the phrase “surgeon cuff” and playing it backwards.

Other students were quick to point out that, forwards or backwards, the intent was the same.

Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay told the Desert News that the students could be expelled or kicked off the cheerleading squad, saying, “All of those things would be on the table. Obviously, they knew what they were doing. It’s just completely inappropriate.”

Philando Castile fundraiser nets over $72,000, eliminates students’ lunch debt

Philando Castile is still ensuring that the students he served in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are eating a good lunch, despite his death last year at the hands of a police officer.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, visited J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School on Friday to help deliver a special gift -- a check for $10,000 to pay off the lunch debt for the school’s students. The money was part of more than $72,000 raised by a project designed to honor the beloved nutrition supervisor, who was known to pay for students’ lunch out of his own pocket if they had no money. 

The remaining $62,000 raised in his name will go toward eliminating the lunch debt of students throughout Saint Paul Public Schools, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported. The funds raised so far are enough to pay off students’ debt for a year. 

Philando Castile was shot to death July 6, 2016, after he was pulled over by St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez and a colleague in nearby Falcon Heights. The immediate aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was also in the car, as was Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter. 

Yanez, who pulled the trigger, was charged with manslaughter in Castile’s death, but was acquitted in June. The shooting and the officer’s acquittal touched off protests across the country. 

>> Read more trending news

The fundraising project, called Philando Feeds the Children, was started by Pamela Fergus, a professor at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, as a project for her diversity and ethics class. 

“Philando was ‘Mr. Phil’ to the students at J.J. Hill. He supervised their food program and interacted with the kids every day,” the fundraising page at YouCaring.com reads. “He knew their names and their diets. He loved his job!”

The page states that Castile’s death affected all the children who knew and loved him. 

“This fund hopes to provide the kids with a lasting connection to Mr. Phil,” it states.

The Star Tribune reported that Fergus set a goal of raising $5,000 for the project. Within the first two weeks, donors gave more than $50,000.

“We just had this little idea that we were going to help do Mr. Phil’s job and make sure you guys have good lunch to eat every day,” Fergus told the children gathered in the lunchroom where Castile worked, according to CBS Minnesota.  

About 70 percent of students in Saint Paul schools qualify for free lunch, the Star Tribune reported. About 2,000 students end up owing the district lunch money at the end of each school year. 

Fergus told the students Friday that the project would continue to raise money so they could “always get a good lunch,” the newspaper said. 

The fundraising website bears out that promise. As of Tuesday morning, the total funds raised had jumped to almost $74,000. 

Valerie Castile said the feedback on the project had been overwhelming and that she was considering involving other school systems across the country.

“No child should go hungry,” she said. “And this project helps keep my son alive.”

The project received praise from a commenter on the fundraising site, who called Philando Castile’s death “senseless.”

“Philando worked at Chelsea Heights Elementary before J.J. Hill,” one woman wrote. “My oldest two boys remember him. I remember him hairnet and all.”

The woman called Castile a “gentle soul.”

“Thank you for giving voice to the importance of his life,” she wrote. 

Cookie Monster has a new job: Food truck owner, chef

The next season of “Sesame Street” begins Nov. 11 on HBO, followed by a spring debut on PBS.

What’s new for the season? Definitely more kindness episodes, more episodes talking about differences and recognizing that people can be different because of race, ethnicity, economics, abilities and more.

>> Read more trending news

Last season, “Sesame Street” introduced Julia, a muppet with autism.

>>RELATED: WE All WIN WHEN “SESAME STREET” INVITES MUPPET WITH AUTISM TO PLAY

But also new this season, Cookie Monster is getting his own food truck.

He’s teaming up with a new friend named Gonger. The two will go on a road trip to find the main ingredient, Fox News reported.

For example, in the opening episode, he needs apples, so he heads to an apple orchard. Throughout the season he’ll investigate where cranberries, avocados, tortillas, pineapples, maple syrup, pasta and milk come from.

The idea behind the few feature is to have kids learn how food’s made and then eat healthier because of it.

They will also have some big-named chefs helping them create meals like Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi who will visit for the “international street food fair,” Fox News reported.

Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Fired Florida cheerleading coach accused of allowing squad to drink alcohol

Florida cheerleading coach was fired after she was accused of allowing her high school squad to drink alcohol, school district officials said.

>> Read more trending news

An internal investigation was launched after a sleepover at Kristy King’s home.

The former Heritage High School varsity cheerleading coach, who was terminated by Brevard County Schools on Aug. 15, denied the allegations.

“They’re coming from my soon-to-be ex-husband, all of this,” she said.

According to district records, an anonymous complaint was made about underage drinking at her home. 

That complaint was later attributed to King's estranged husband, who told district officials he was monitoring the couple’s home security system in July, when he, "observed some of the cheerleaders consuming alcohol." 

He said the issue was not about his pending divorce. 

“If Brevard Public Schools wants to talk about this, all the allegations, all the accusations, all the issues, it's not coming from parents. Where it's coming from is my soon-to-be ex-husband,” King said. 

District officials interviewed several cheerleaders who were at King's home for a sleepover ahead of a cheerleading camp. 

Some said they saw no drinking, but one cheerleader told investigators, "One of the girls got out some alcohol for everyone." 

Another student said, "The girls wanted to drink, so they took the alcohol from the pantry and began drinking." 

Police went to the home the night of the sleepover, and after speaking to some of the cheerleaders outside the home, officers cleared the call with no findings. 

But Brevard Public Schools concluded King knowingly provided and allowed juvenile cheerleaders to drink at her home. 

In its final report, the district sustained allegations of unprofessional and unethical conduct. 

King was with the district for less than a year. 

Drexel professor put on leave after Las Vegas shooting, white supremacy tweets

A Drexel University professor whose tweets suggested a link between white supremacy and the shooting massacre at a Las Vegas country music festival has been put on leave.

>> Read more trending news

Associate professor George Ciccariello-Maher wrote in an op-ed piece published Tuesday by The Washington Post that the Philadelphia university placed him on leave following a series of tweets about the shooting prompted death threats.

Last week, the political science and global studies professor posted a tweet reading, “It’s the white supremacist patriarchy, stupid.” That tweet was followed by a series of similar statements. The professor wrote in the op-ed that threats came in after conservative media outlets highlighted his tweets.

Ciccariello-Maher wrote that the shooting was “a morbid symptom of what happens when those who believe they deserve to own the world also think it is being stolen from them,” The Washington Times reported. “It is the spinal column of Trumpism, and most extreme form is the white genocide myth. The narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years. White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want.”

Drexel said the decision was necessary to ensure campus safety.

The professor has not responded to an emailed request for additional comment. 

In his op-ed piece, Ciccariello-Maher wrote that “By bowing to pressure from racist internet trolls, Drexel has sent the wrong signal: That you can control a university’s curriculum with anonymous threats of violence.

“Such cowardice notwithstanding, I am prepared to take all necessary legal action to protect my academic freedom, tenure rights and most importantly, the rights of my students to learn in a safe environment where threats don’t hold sway over intellectual debate.”

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