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Meme of Senator Bernie Sanders Goes Viral Worldwide

K pop star Psy and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a viral meme.
K pop star Psy and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a viral meme.

Those who are not students of U.S. politics might be asking why the latest social media craze features an older gentleman in a dark puffer coat sitting in a folding chair and wearing large woolen mittens with a zig-zag pattern.

Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from the small and often very cold New England state of Vermont, was seated at the presidential inauguration of his former rival, Joe Biden, dressed for warmth rather than fashion.

And the world can’t seem to stop getting enough of the image. Tweets and posts have received millions of likes and shares.

At 79, the senator, who is often referred to as Bernie when people talk about him - was more popular with younger voters during the Democratic primary than younger candidates. Now, after his appearance at the inauguration, he is everywhere.

The photo of him sitting with legs and arms crossed comfortably has been superimposed into images from around the world – showing him with the K-pop boy band BTS; dancing with South Korean K-pop star Psy; or as overlord Wizard of Oz. Other images show Sanders sitting outside a mosque in Aleppo, Syria, or watching a half-naked Putin take a polar plunge. There is also a superimposed image of Sanders on the moon.

The photo was snapped by Washington-based photojournalist Brendan Smialowski during the Jan. 20 inauguration unlike any other. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol, only hundreds were allowed to attend the event, and their seating was scattered apart to deter airborne virus contamination.

Senator Sanders sat alone, looking characteristically grumpy behind his surgical mask, observing the scene.

But after days of his image being shared around the world in various settings, the senator appeared to be delighted and amused in an interview with CNN.

“Not only are we having fun, what we’re doing here in Vermont is we’re going to be selling around the country sweatshirts and T-shirts, and all of the money that’s going to be raised…will be going to programs like Meals on Wheels that feed low-income senior citizens,” Sanders said.

“It turns out actually to be a good thing, not only a fun thing,” he said.

To engage younger constituents in government, the senator’s office is sponsoring its 11th State of the Union essay contest, in which Vermont high school students are invited to write about issues important to them. A diverse group of past winners has written about voter suppression and Islamophobia.

“Over the past 10 years, more than 4,600 students throughout Vermont have written essays about critically important issues, including climate change, access to mental health care, criminal justice reform, and much, much more,” according to his website.

The annual State of the Union address by the president of the United States to a joint session of Congress is typically a report card on how the country is doing and what plans the leadership has for the future.

Biden, as is the case for presidents starting a first term in office, will not give an official “State of the Union” address. Presidents traditionally are in office for a year before they give their first “State of the Union.”

But Biden will speak to the joint session of Congress in a few weeks.

No doubt, Senator Sanders will be there. And everywhere.

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Proposed settlement offered over financial aid allegations

FILE - The Yale University campus is in New Haven, Connecticut, on Dec. 4, 2023. A group of colleges and universities - including Yale - have agreed to settle allegations of deceptive deceptive financial aid tactics, according to a report published in The Hill.
FILE - The Yale University campus is in New Haven, Connecticut, on Dec. 4, 2023. A group of colleges and universities - including Yale - have agreed to settle allegations of deceptive deceptive financial aid tactics, according to a report published in The Hill.

A group of U.S. colleges and universities have agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging deceptive financial aid tactics, according to a report published in The Hill.

The schools would pay $284 million to plaintiffs who were enrolled full-time and received financial aid between 2003 and 2024.

The schools have denied the allegations. (April 2024)

Universities in Middle East building research relationships with China  

FILE - University students display the flag of the Communist Party of China to mark the party's 100th anniversary during an opening ceremony of the new semester in Wuhan in China's central Hubei, September 10, 2021.
FILE - University students display the flag of the Communist Party of China to mark the party's 100th anniversary during an opening ceremony of the new semester in Wuhan in China's central Hubei, September 10, 2021.

As China bolsters research relationships with universities in the Middle East, the United States has taken notice – especially when that research involves artificial intelligence.

Reporting for University World News, Yojana Sharma has the story. (March 2024)

Tips for staying safe while studying in the US

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 photo, Sgt. Jason Cowger, with Johns Hopkins University's Campus Safety and Security department, walks on the university's campus in Baltimore.
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 photo, Sgt. Jason Cowger, with Johns Hopkins University's Campus Safety and Security department, walks on the university's campus in Baltimore.

Recent news events have raised safety concerns among some international students studying in the United States.

Adarsh Khandelwal, writing in the India Times, has tips for staying safe from the moment you arrive until the day you complete your studies. (March 2024)

Some colleges are making digital literacy classes mandatory

FILE - A teacher librarian at a Connecticut high school, left, works with a student in a Digital Student class, Dec. 20, 2017. The required class teaches media literacy skills and has the students scrutinize sources for their on-line information.
FILE - A teacher librarian at a Connecticut high school, left, works with a student in a Digital Student class, Dec. 20, 2017. The required class teaches media literacy skills and has the students scrutinize sources for their on-line information.

A 2019 study by Stanford found that most college students can’t tell the difference between real and fake news articles. Amid rampant online disinformation, and the threat of AI-generated images, some schools are making students learn “digital literacy” to graduate.

Lauren Coffeey reports for Inside Higher Ed. (March 2024)

With federal student aid delays, students aren’t sure what college will cost 

File - Students make their way through the Sather Gate near Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley, campus March 29, 2022, in Berkeley, Calif.
File - Students make their way through the Sather Gate near Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley, campus March 29, 2022, in Berkeley, Calif.

The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student aid form (FAFSA) experienced serious glitches and delays this year.

Now, many students have been admitted to college, but don’t know how much money they’ll need to attend.

Read the story from Susan Svrluga and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post. (March 2024)

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