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Romney recovering after weekend fall left him with stitches, bruises



Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday he is recovering after a fall over the weekend that knocked him unconscious and resulted in “a lot of stitches.”

Romney was seen on Capitol Hill with a black eye and stitches above his eye and his lip. The lawmaker briefly pulled off his facemask, showing a puffy and bruised upper lip.

“Yeah, I had kind of a tough, tough weekend you see that I look at that I got. I went to CPAC, that was a problem,” joked Romney, referring to the Conservative Political Action Conference, where former President Donald Trump spoke Sunday. Romney voted to convict Trump during both of his impeachment trials, earning him the ire of the former president and his allies. Trump lashed out at Romney and other Republicans who voted to impeach or convict him during his speech Sunday.

Romney told reporters he “took a fall” while in Boston while visiting his son and grandchildren. He said he went to the hospital to get stitches, but did not disclose whether he was admitted overnight.

“I asked the doctor how many stitches and she said, ‘I don’t know.'”

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Senate confirms Miguel Cardona as Biden’s education secretary



The Senate voted Monday to confirm Miguel Cardona as education secretary, clearing his way to lead President Joe Biden’s effort to reopen the nation’s schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardona, 45, a former public school teacher who went on to become Connecticut’s education chief, was approved on a 64-33 vote.

He takes charge of the Education Department amid mounting tension between Americans who believe students can safely return to the classroom now, and others who say the risks are still too great.

Although his position carries limited authority to force schools to reopen, Cardona will be asked to play a central role in achieving Biden’s goal to have a majority of elementary schools open five days a week within his first 100 days. He will be tasked with guiding schools through the reopening process, and sharing best practices on how to teach during a pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month released a road map for getting students back into classrooms safely. The agency said masks, social distancing and other strategies should be used, but vaccination of teachers was not a prerequisite for reopening.

Cardona, who gained attention for his efforts to reopen schools in Connecticut, has vowed to make it his top priority to reopen schools. At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, he said there are “great examples throughout our country of schools that have been able to reopen safely.”

The debate has become a political firestorm for Biden, who is caught between competing interests as he aims to get students into the classroom without provoking the powerful teachers unions that helped put him in the White House. He says his goal of returning students to the classroom is possible if Congress approves his relief plan, which includes $130 billion for the nation’s schools.

Republicans have rebuked Biden for failing to reopen schools faster, while teachers unions opposed the administration’s decision to continue with federally required standardized tests during the pandemic.

The tricky terrain is nothing new for Cardona, however, who faced similar tension navigating the pandemic in Connecticut, and who has won early praise even from Biden’s critics.

Republicans in Congress have applauded Cardona’s efforts to reopen schools in Connecticut, and some see him as a potential ally in their support for charter schools. Teachers, meanwhile, see him as a partner who brings years of experience in education and knows the demands of the teaching.

The nomination continues a meteoric rise for Cardona, who was appointed to lead Connecticut’s education department in 2019 after spending 20 years working in Meriden, Connecticut, public schools — the same district he attended as a child.

He began his career as a fourth grade teacher before becoming the state’s youngest principal at age 28. In 2012, he was named Connecticut’s principal of the year, and in 2015 he became an assistant superintendent of the district. When he was appointed state education commissioner, he became the first Latino to hold the post.

Cardona grew up in a public housing project in Meriden, raised by parents who came to Connecticut from Puerto Rico as children. Through his career, he has focused on closing education gaps and supporting bilingual education. It’s a personal issue for Cardona, who says he spoke only Spanish when he entered kindergarten and struggled to learn English.

Cardona was the first in his family to graduate from college, and his three degrees include a doctorate in education from the University of Connecticut. He and his wife, Marissa, have two children in high school.

His deep roots in public schooling fit the criteria Biden was looking for in an education secretary. During his campaign, Biden vowed to pick a secretary with experience in public education. It was meant to draw a contrast with then-secretary Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who spent decades advocating for school choice policies.

In an increasingly fractionalized world of education, Cardona has vowed to be a unifier. At his confirmation hearing, he promised to engage with “the vast, diverse community of people who have a stake in education.” He added that, “we gain strength from joining together.”

As he works to help schools reopen, he will also be tasked with helping them address the damage the pandemic has done on student learning. He has echoed Biden’s call for further education funding, saying schools will need to expand summer academic programs and hire more counselors to help students with mental health issues.

He’s also likely to face an early test as he weighs how much flexibility to grant states as they administer standardized tests. Last week, the Education Department ordered states to continue with annual testing but said assessments could be offered online or delayed until fall. The agency also held out the possibility that states could be granted “additional assessment flexibility” in certain cases.

Some states are already pushing for that extra flexibility, including Michigan, which is asking to replace state tests with local “benchmark” assessments that were administered this year. It will be up to Cardona to decide how much leniency to provide.

Republicans have also set the stage for a fight over transgender athletes. At last month’s hearing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., raised objections with policies that allow transgender girls to participate in girls’ athletics. It’s the subject of a legal battle in Connecticut, where some cisgender athletes are challenging a state policy that lets transgender students participate as their identified gender.

Pressed by Paul to take a stance on the issue, Cardona said he would support the right of “all students, including students who are transgender.”

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National Latino groups condemn Goya Foods CEO for calling Trump the ‘actual president’



Leaders of several national Latino organizations condemned Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue for declaring to a meeting of political conservatives that former President Donald Trump still is the “actual president of the United States.”

Unanue, whose comments have previously earned him a censure from his corporate board, made the statement about the former president at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, held over the weekend in Orlando, Fla. Unanue spoke to the conference Sunday.

“I’m honored to be here, but my biggest honor today is going to be that I think we’re going to be on the same stage as, in my opinion, the real, the legitimate and the still actual president of the United States, Donald J. Trump,” he said.

Several Latino groups said in a statement issued Monday that Unanue’s remarks “dangerously perpetuate falsehoods that were are the core of the criminal assault on the nation’s capital on Jan. 6th.”

That is the day that violent groups, including many armed participants and many who alleged the election had been stolen, violently stormed the Capitol, leaving six people dead and injuring others including police officers. Trump was impeached on a charge of inciting the attack but acquitted in a Senate trial.

The Latino groups said Unanue’s false allegation that Biden is now president because of widespread fraud is an “affront” to millions of Latino voters who cast ballots, despite voter suppression.

No widespread fraud has been found in the 2020 election. But the lie that the election was rigged was said repeatedly at CPAC, including by Trump.

The Latino groups said in their statement that Unanue is entitled to support the candidate of his choosing. But they added: “What he most clearly should not be entitled to is the platform his role at Goya Foods provides to attack our democracy — the belief and faith in free and fair elections, which has been the bedrock of our union and national success.”

“It is a slap in the face to those millions of voters and customers to insist, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that they were complicit in a grand electoral fraud,” the Latino group said in their statement.

Groups that joined in the statement include the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Mi Familia Vota, the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, LatinoJustice, Latino Commission on AIDS, Alianza Americas, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Hispanic Federation, and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

NBC News has reached out to Goya Foods via email and phone and did not receive an immediate response.

Last July, Unanue’s remarks praising Trump at a White House event and saying the country was “truly blessed” to have Trump as a leader set off a campaign to boycott Goya Foods, which bills itself as the nation’s largest Hispanic-owned food brand.

The comments prompted social media backlash with the hashtag, #BoycottGoya and #goyaway. But Trump and his allies countered with support for the company.

Goya’s board of directors censured Unanue in January after making similar, untrue claims about the election.

Unanue has said the backlash over his comments is a “suppression of free speech”.

Although most Latinos voted for Biden, exit polls showed Trump got about a third of the votes cast by Latinos.

Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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