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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg defends Attorney General Jeff Sessions' point about free speech. Photo: Lynne Sladky / AP

Mike Bloomberg penned an open letter on Thursday, saying despite having"terrible timing" as a defender of free speech, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a point in identifying what he sees as a major problem: "College students and administrators have been displaying a shocking disregard for First Amendment rights."

Bloomberg's bottom line: The former NYC mayor explained that an "unwillingness" to hear opposing views is becoming a defining feature of campus culture, and over time "these attitudes threaten a bedrock of American freedom."

The research:

  • Bloomberg points to a recent survey of students at four-year colleges that "uncovered an alarming level of both legal ignorance and political intolerance": 44 percent said they don't believe the First Amendment protects hate speech; a majority thinks it's acceptable to shout down a speaker they oppose to prevent the audience from listening; 20 percent thinks violence is justifiable to shut down views they find offensive.
  • He also states that "the rise of intolerance on campus has coincided with the increasing homogeneity of the academic faculty. In 1995, liberal faculty members outnumbered conservatives by roughly two to one. Today, it is closer to five to one."

His concern:

  • "Respectful and reasoned dialogue is essential in a democratic society, and its survival depends on leaders -- inside and outside government -- who will vigorously and unflinchingly defend the rights of speakers with unpopular viewpoint."
  • "Administrators must shoulder some of the blame, too. By tolerating and sometimes nurturing a culture in which students feel entitled to protection... they are sheltering students from opinions they may find challenging or even disturbing."

His call for a solution:

  • "The country's best hope for countering an increasingly polarized and vitriolic political environment rests with its citizens' willingness to listen to one another. This is especially difficult -- and especially necessary -- when they disagree, even profoundly.
  • "More civic leaders from both parties should take up this challenge. Free speech is an issue that must transcend partisanship."

Go deeper

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro.

4 hours ago - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.

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