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Rachel Dolezal struggles after racial identity scandal

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A woman who rose to prominence as a black civil rights leader then lost her job when her parents exposed her as white is struggling to make a living these days.

Rachel Dolezal said she has been unable to find steady work in the nearly two years since she was outed as a white woman in local media reports, and she is uncertain about her future.

“I was presented as a con and a fraud and a liar,” Dolezal, 40, told The Associated Press this week. “I think some of the treatment was pretty cruel.”

She still identifies as black, and looks black, despite being “Caucasian biologically.”

“People didn’t seem able to consider that maybe both were true,” she said. “OK, I was born to white parents, but maybe I had an authentic black identity.”

Dolezal had blond hair and freckles while growing up near Troy, Montana, with religious parents. She says she began to change her perspective as a teenager, after her parents adopted four black children. Dolezal decided to become publicly black years later, after getting divorced.

The ruse worked for years until 2015 when her parents, with whom she has long feuded, told local reporters their daughter was born white but was presenting herself as a black activist in the Spokane region, an area with few minorities.

The story became an international sensation, and Dolezal lost the various jobs by which she pieced together a modest living for her family.

Attacked by both blacks and whites, she was fired as head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP and kicked off a police ombudsman commission, and she lost her job teaching African studies at Eastern Washington University in nearby Cheney.

Despite failing to find a job, Dolezal says she has to stay in the area because of a custody agreement involving one of her sons.

She has sold some of her artwork, and also braids hair to earn money. But she said local colleges have refused to hire her, as have nonprofits, government agencies and even local grocery stores.

She was worried she might become homeless in March, but friends bought some of her artwork, which provided enough money to pay the rent for a few months.

Dolezal has written a book about her ordeal, scheduled to be published next week. The book, called “In Full Color,” features a cover photo of the author with the darkened skin and frizzy hair that allowed her for years to pass as a light-skinned black person.

Dolezal last year legally changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo, a west African moniker that means “gift from the gods.” She changed her name in part to give her a better chance of landing work from employers who might not be interested in hiring the controversial Rachel Dolezal, a name she still intends to use as her public persona.

“Maybe if I applied with a new name, people would see me for the qualifications and expertise on my resume, and not toss my application in the trash based on my name,” she said.

The local chapter of the NAACP was not interested in commenting on Dolezal.

“We moved on long ago,” the organization said in an email.

Dolezal is the mother of two sons, ages 15 and 1, and also raised a stepbrother who is now 21 and a college student.

One of the reasons she wrote a book was to “settle the score.”

“People might as well know the whole truth of my life story,'” she said. “My life is not a sound bite.”

Race, she believes, is a “social construct” used to pigeonhole people.

“I unapologetically stand on the black side,” she said. “Blackness better defines who I am philosophically and socially than whiteness does.”

Dolezal said it is hard for her to look toward the future when she is struggling so hard to survive the present.

“I want to provide for my kids,” she said. “I want to get back to activism. I’m no less committed to that work.”

Maryland high school thrust into immigration debate

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Outside a Maryland high school dragged into the national immigration debate by an alleged rape, a makeshift sign reflects that strain: “Rockville Strong.”

Rockville High School students and parents declined to comment Thursday about the case involving a 14-year-old girl and a suspect authorities say came to the U.S. illegally from Central America.

One mother would only point to the sign made of red plastic cups in a ballpark fence.

Protesters on both sides of the debate converged on a nearby elementary school earlier Thursday during a visit by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And the White House has weighed in, saying President Donald Trump has made a crackdown on illegal immigration a priority “because of tragedies like this.”

The Montgomery County school system has been besieged by hundreds of racist and xenophobic calls. In response, schools beefed up police presence in an attempt to reassure the anxious community.

“Now we’re starting to receive calls that are threatening, saying they’re going to shoot up the illegals in our school,” said Derek Turner, a school system spokesman. He noted that the calls marked “a whole new level of vitriol that we haven’t seen before.”

The latest flashpoint in the immigration debate started out as a sexual assault case. Last Friday, 18-year-old Henry Sanchez and 17-year-old Jose Montano were charged with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense.

Police said the girl was walking in a hallway when one of them asked her to have sex and she refused. Montano forced her into a boy’s bathroom stall and they raped her, police said.

Sanchez, who is from Guatemala, came to the U.S. illegally in August and was encountered by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas, federal immigration officials said. He was eventually released to live with his father.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials wouldn’t comment on Montano, who is a minor but is charged criminally as an adult.

Federal law requires public schools to admit students even if they are in the country illegally.

“As a mother of two daughters and grandmother of four young girls, my heart aches for the young woman and her family at the center of these terrible circumstances,” DeVos said in a statement before her visit to the elementary school. “We all have a common responsibility to ensure every student has access to a safe and nurturing learning environment.”

DeVos was there with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for National Reading Month.

The county of Montgomery is Maryland’s largest, with a population of 1 million people. It’s considered politically progressive and voted overwhelming for Hillary Clinton during the past presidential election.

More than half its residents identify themselves as black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Pacific islander, or an ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white, according to the 2010 census.

Rosa Segura was one of the demonstrators at Carderock Springs Elementary School. The Takoma Park woman said she came to stand up for immigrants at a time when the Trump administration is cracking down on them.

“Whatever the case may be, they cannot stand up for themselves, so I thought it was important for me to come out here today as a person with more privilege than some of these students may have to make sure their voices are heard,” Segura said.

Trump has signed a pair of executive orders aimed at illegal immigration, and his Homeland Security Department has made clear that just about any immigrant in the country illegally is a priority for deportation. Included in one of those orders was a directive to publicly disclose, on a weekly basis, crimes attributed to immigrants and details about jails that aren’t cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The Homeland Security Department has also announced plans to establish an office dedicated to helping victims of immigrant crimes. Critics of the president’s effort have argued that he is unjustifiably vilifying immigrants.

Other protesters at the elementary school voiced their displeasure with a bill in the Maryland Legislature that would prevent authorities from stopping or detaining people solely to ask about their immigration status. It also would block corrections officials from holding arrestees in jail at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Supporters call it the Maryland Trust Act, designed to boost trust between immigrants and police. Critics say it would help protect people who have been deported after committing crimes and returned to the state.

The Republican governor promised to veto it earlier this week.

“The Maryland House of Delegates tonight passed an outrageously irresponsible bill that will make Maryland a sanctuary state and endanger our citizens,” Hogan said in a statement Monday night.

Eleni Dorian, a mother of two girls in Montgomery County schools, supports the governor’s veto and worries there are too many immigrants coming into the country. She said the bill would “open the floodgates” in a state that she believes already has lax immigration policies.

“Our schools would be overwhelmed,” Dorian said.

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Associated Press writers Alicia Caldwell in Washington and Matthew Barakat in Alexandria, Virginia, contributed to this report.

4 found dead in Sacramento; 1 arrested in San Francisco

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Police detained a suspect in San Francisco just hours after finding four bodies, including two children, in a home 80 miles away in Sacramento.

The unidentified suspect, who was quickly singled out by investigators, was likely known by the victims, Sacramento police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said.

“Preliminarily this does not appear to be a random act,” Heinlein said Thursday.

The four victims were discovered when police broke into the Sacramento home after a relative reported that something might be wrong.

Police did not immediately identify the victims or provide their genders or ages, and say they have not yet determined a motive for the killings.

Kelly Fong Rivas, deputy chief of staff for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, said police told officials that two of the victims were children but did not provide other details.

A neighbor, Rita Munoz, told the Sacramento Bee that a couple with kids 11 and 14 years old live in the house.

The mayor called the crime horrifying and extremely tragic in a statement praising police for quickly making an arrest.

The single-story beige home with sculpted shrubbery has a basketball hoop in a driveway that police blocked off with yellow crime scene tape.

It’s located in a tree-lined residential neighborhood of neatly maintained homes near a church.

It was unclear when the victims were killed, Heinlein said. Police also weren’t saying how they were killed.

There were no reports of shots fired or other problems until the relative called police to report that he was concerned, Heinlein said.

A few neighbors looked on curiously as homicide detectives and crime scene investigators made their way in and out of the home south of the state Capitol.

Don Sherrill, whose home shares a back fence with the victims’ house, said he and his wife, Joanne Sherrill, often heard children playing in the backyard or using an inflatable pool.

“The young kids really enjoyed the backyard and swimming in the summer time,” Joanne Sherrill told the Bee.

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AP photographer Rich Pedroncelli and AP writer Paul Elias contributed to this report. Elias contributed from San Francisco.

California fuel standards to get critical review

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A state review has found California is on track to meet its tougher car-emission standards and urges regulators to draft more ambitious environmental targets for the future.

California’s Air Resources Board is expected to discuss the standards at a hearing in Riverside on Friday.

The report is a midterm review of California’s car emission standards for the years 2022 to 2025 and mirrors findings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration that the targets are appropriate.

The standards are also followed by a dozen of mostly Northeastern states, including New York and Massachusetts.

Environmental and consumer advocates say the review is critical following President Donald Trump’s decision to re-examine rules governing gas mileage and establish one fuel mileage requirement for automakers across the U.S.

“It should not have been a source of conflict, but President Trump has made it a source of conflict,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America.

Trump announced last week that the administration will re-examine rules affirmed in the waning days of the Obama administration to control greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

Environmental groups predict Trump will weaken the standards, which now require the fleet of new cars and trucks to average 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving conditions by 2025.

The auto industry is concerned these standards will be tough to meet because people are buying more trucks and SUVs instead of fuel-efficient cars.

California started setting its own stricter pollution standards more than four decades ago to clean up the state’s smoggy skies under a “waiver” from Congress.

Today, California and federal standards are currently mostly the same. However, if Trump relaxes the standards, California and the other states likely would keep the 36 mpg rule in place, potentially creating two standards. Since about 40 percent of the nation’s vehicles are in states that follow California rules, automakers probably would conform to them rather than build two different vehicles for the U.S. market.

Environmental advocates say they worry the administration could seek to revoke California’s waiver to create one uniform standard.

Also on Friday, the board will review a plan by Volkswagen to promote zero-emission vehicles as part of a settlement for its emissions cheating scandal. No vote is expected on that plan.

On Thursday, the board approved strict new guidelines on monitoring and repairing methane leaks at oil and gas facilities.

Detailed regulations will be instituted by state agencies, but the new rules will include quarterly monitoring for leaks and required equipment for vapor gathering.

The board says their guidelines will enhance rules for emergency-response approved by gas regulators after the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak in Los Angeles last year.

‘Hidden Figures’ author Shetterly receives literary prize

CLEVELAND (AP) — An author whose book was the basis for the Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures” has won an award for writing literature that promotes diversity and confronts racism.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s book and the namesake movie are about the contributions of a team of black women mathematicians to the NASA space program.

Best-selling novelist Isabel Allende has received a lifetime achievement award. Allende’s novels include “The House of the Spirits.”

Shetterly and Allende were among five winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards announced Thursday. Also cited were Tyehimba Jess for his poetry collection “Olio,” Peter Ho Davies for his novel “The Fortunes” and Katan Mahajan for his novel “The Association of Small Bombs,” a National Book Award finalist last fall.

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards were established in 1935 and are presented by the Cleveland Foundation.

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