Feb. 2023 News


Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and February 2023 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this. 

Feb. 1

Top Headlines

Murdered reporter Jeff German (Las Vegas Journal-Review Photo by Harrison Keely via Getty Images).


Trump Probes


U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance


Pro-Trump Election Deniers, Domestic Terrorists


More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues


Ukraine War


More On U.S. Economy, Inflation, Jobs


Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters


More On Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy


U.S. House GOP Probes, Election Deniers, Scandals


U.S. Abortion, Rape Laws, Politics


U.S. Media, Religion, Education

Ralph Nader stands in front of a Chevrolet Corvair in The American Museum of Tort Law, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Winsted, Conn. (AP Photo by Jessica Hill.)


Top Stories


Murdered reporter Jeff German (Las Vegas Journal-Review Photo by Harrison Keely via Getty Images).

Murdered reporter Jeff German (Las Vegas Journal-Review Photo by Harrison Keely via Getty Images). 

washington post logoWashington Post- Las Vegas Review-Journal, Investigative Report: Alleged $500 million Ponzi scheme preyed on Mormons. It ended with FBI gunfire, Lizzie Johnson, Feb. 1, 2023. The Post teamed up with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to continue the work of slain investigative reporter Jeff German.

FBI logoThe FBI arrived at the only house on this stretch of Ruffian Road at 1:25 p.m., parking out front of the $1.6 million property, hedged by empty lots of scrub and dust.

The three agents approached the camera-equipped doorbell at the home’s perimeter, pressing it once. Then they pushed past an unlocked gate, cut through the courtyard and rapped against the glass French doors of Matthew Beasley’s home.

Las Vegas investigative reporter Jeff German was slain outside his home on Sept. 2; a Clark County official he had investigated is charged in his death. To continue German’s work, The Washington Post teamed up with his newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, to complete one of the stories he’d planned to pursue before his killing.

A folder on German’s desk contained court documents he’d started to gather about an alleged Ponzi scheme that left hundreds of victims – many of them Mormon – in its wake. Post reporter Lizzie Johnson began investigating, working with Review-Journal photographer Rachel Aston.

The Las Vegas attorney, then 49, had been anticipating this visit for months, he would tell an FBI hostage negotiator. He’d already drafted letters to his wife and four children, explaining what he could and describing how much he loved them.

On this Thursday in March, Beasley knew his time was up. He placed the letters — along with a note addressed to the FBI and a zip drive of computer files — upstairs on the desk in his office. Then, alone in the house, he went to the front door. He paused, the left side of his body obscured by the door frame.

One of the agents — identified only as “J.M.” in a detailed criminal complaint filed March 4 in the U.S. District Court of Nevada — opened his suit jacket and flashed his badge.

Beasley stepped fully into the doorway. He held a loaded pistol against his head.

“Easy, easy,” yelled J.M.

“Drop the gun,” shouted a second agent.

Authorities had long suspected Beasley of running a massive Ponzi scheme with his business partner, Jeffrey Judd, that mainly targeted Mormons, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often called. The investment was pitched as a nearly risk-free opportunity to earn annual returns of 50 percent by lending money to slip-and-fall victims awaiting checks after the settlement of their lawsuits.


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ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: At the Supreme Court, Ethics Questions Over a Spouse’s Business Ties, Steve Eder, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife recruits lawyers to top firms, some with business before the court. But her ties have raised ethics questions.

After Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, gave up her career as a law firm partner to become a high-end legal recruiter in an effort to alleviate potential conflicts of interest. Mrs. Roberts later recalled in an interview that her husband’s job made it “awkward to be practicing law in the firm.”

Now, a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

In his letter last month, Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, argued that the justices should be required to disclose more information about their spouses’ work. He did not cite specific Supreme Court decisions, but said he was worried that a financial relationship with law firms arguing before the court could affect justices’ impartiality or at least give the appearance of doing so.

“I do believe that litigants in U.S. courts, and especially the Supreme Court, deserve to know if their judges’ households are receiving six-figure payments from the law firms,” Mr. Price wrote.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, Patricia McCabe, said that all the justices were “attentive to ethical constraints” and complied with financial disclosure laws. The chief justice and his wife had also consulted the code of conduct for federal judges, Ms. McCabe said, including a 2009 advisory opinion that a judge “need not recuse merely because” his or her spouse had worked as a recruiter for a law firm with issues before the court.

Mrs. Roberts previously said that she handled conflicts on a case-by-case basis, avoiding matters with any connection to her husband’s job and refraining from working with lawyers who had active Supreme Court cases.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, did not address how the committee would respond to Mr. Price, but said in a statement that his letter raised “troubling issues that once again demonstrate the need” for ethics reforms to “begin the process of restoring faith in the Supreme Court.”

Public confidence in the court recently fell to a historic low, polls showed, and Democrats in Congress have called for greater transparency, including stronger disclosure and recusal standards. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Mr. Price and Mrs. Roberts both had worked as legal recruiters for Major, Lindsey & Africa, a global firm based in Maryland. According to the letter, Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.

He lost the case, but the litigation produced documents that he sent to Congress and the Justice Department, including spreadsheets showing commissions attributed to Mrs. Roberts early in her headhunting career, from 2007 to 2014. Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition in the case, said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.

“I keep my placements confidential,” she said in the deposition.

Mrs. Roberts, now the managing partner of the Washington office of Macrae Inc., had spent two decades at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, where she became a partner in the global technology group and also focused on talent development. In 2007, she changed careers and soon ascended the ranks of her new industry. Partners at leading law firms in Washington on average make well over $1 million a year, and at the high end, they can be paid over $7 million. Recruiting firms take a large cut from those placements, often equivalent to a quarter of the new hires’ first-year salaries.

The spreadsheets list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.


Disgraced Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is shown displaying the Disgraced Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is shown displaying the “White Power” sign with his left hand while voting early in January House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). (Photo by Getty Images Chief News Photographer Win McNamee, winner of a 2022 Pulitizer Prize.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. George Santos says he’s stepping down from committees amid fabrications about his biography, Meryl Kornfield and John Wagner, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) told House Republicans on Tuesday that he will step down temporarily from his committee assignments amid multiple investigations into his campaign finances after he lied about key aspects of his biography.

Santos, who has admitted to fabricating details about his education, work, religion and heritage since his election in November, said in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans that he would remove himself from his assignments on the House Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Santos [shown displaying the “White Power” sign with his left hand while voting early in January for told the meeting he will step down because kevin mccarthy“he’s a distraction,” according to a Republican lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. The conversation comes one day after Santos met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Roger Williams (R-Tex.) said he understood that the withdrawal is temporary until Santos is cleared of ongoing investigations. The 34-year-old freshman Republican has faced increased scrutiny, including a federal probe into his campaign finances and local investigation into his resume fabrications, since the revelation of his misrepresentations of his experience, personal life and education.

“It took me by surprise but it was probably the right decision,” Williams said.

“Without the ethics investigation being complete, I think it’s the right decision,” said Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.), who had also called on Santos to resign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six Colorado River states agreed on water cuts. California did not, Joshua Partlow, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). California did not sign on to a joint proposal for cuts — an impasse that suggests the wrangling over how to conserve the dwindling water supply that serves 40 million people will continue in coming months.

For the second time in six months, states that depend on the Colorado River to sustain their farms and cities appear to have failed to reach an agreement on restricting water usage, setting up the prospect that the federal government will make unilateral cuts later this year.
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Six of the seven Colorado River basin states sketched out a joint proposal for how they could meet the federal government’s demand to make unprecedented cuts to water usage as more than two decades of drought in the West have pushed crucial reservoirs to dangerously low levels.

But the largest water user, California, did not join them — an impasse that suggests the wrangling over how to conserve the dwindling water supply that serves 40 million people will continue in coming months. The Interior Department had asked states to contribute by Tuesday plans for how to voluntarily reduce water usage by 2 to 4 million acre feet — or up to one-third of the river’s annual average flow.

“Obviously, it’s not going swimmingly,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the former general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a water provider that is a major player in the talks. “It’s pretty tough right now.”

The proposal by the six states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming — seeks to protect the major reservoirs in Lake Powell and Lake Mead from falling below critical levels, such as when the dams would no longer be able to generate electricity or at “dead pool,” when water would effectively be blocked from flowing out of these lakes. Before above-average snows in recent weeks, the Bureau of Reclamation was projecting that Lake Powell could start to reach such thresholds by this summer.

During the past two decades of drought, and particularly in recent years, the river’s flow has declined but states continue to consume more than the river provides, based on a framework established a century ago.

pope francis headshot palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, With a million people, an ecstatic Kinshasa hears Pope Francis’s Mass, Chico Harlan, Feb. 1, 2023. Francis’s morning Mass, his first public event in a six-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, was a glimpse into the extraordinary hustle that is necessary in one of Africa’s fastest-growing and most mismanaged cities.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — The schools were closed, and most work was called off, meaning all the chaotic roads in this megacity led only to one place on Wednesday: a domestic airport, with a temporary stage and then a vast field, where hundreds of thousands were arriving, some before sunrise.

“I’m here just to catch a glimpse of him,” said Erick Kwele, 53, a civil servant, though from where he stood in the field, Pope Francis (shown above in a file photo) would be no larger than a fingernail.

Francis’s morning Mass, his first public event in a six-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and then South Sudan, was a glimpse into the extraordinary hustle that is necessary — even on days of celebration — in one of Africa’s fastest-growing and most mismanaged cities.

That hustle, which Kinshasans see as a kind of civic spirit, is required for daily survival. But it was also part of the show Wednesday. Authorities put the crowd at more than 1 million.

The people of eastern Congo long for the pope’s message of peace

Even before Francis arrived, the field was a spectacle of enormity and energy: so many young people, so much bass-heavy music, dancing children and roaring choirs. Some said they’d set their alarms for 3 or 4 a.m. just to negotiate traffic and secure a spot for the 9:30 ceremony. Still others said they’d come from the city’s sprawling outskirts, using the omnipresent yellow vans — inevitably dented and overloaded, sagging with weight, people hanging off the sides. Kwele said that in his neighborhood, some of the poorest people had traveled to the Mass for miles on foot.

“People will do anything they can to get beyond their difficulties,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. searches Biden’s Rehoboth, Del., home as part of classified documents probe, John Wagner, Tyler Pager, Matt Viser and Perry Stein, Feb. 1, 2023. Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, said the search was ‘planned’ and is being conducted with the president’s ‘full support and cooperation.’

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department was conducting a search Wednesday of President Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., as part of its ongoing investigation of his retention of classified documents, said Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer.

In a statement, Bauer said the search was “planned” and is being conducted with Biden’s “full support and cooperation.”

“Under [the Justice Department’s] standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate,” Bauer said. “The search today is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate. We will have further information at the conclusion of today’s search.”

Biden’s lawyers said last month that they had discovered no classified documents at Biden’s Rehoboth Beach home after conducting a search.

Wednesday’s search is part of a fast-moving investigation that the Justice Department launched in November after Biden’s personal attorneys found documents with classified markings in a Washington think tank office that he used after serving as vice president. More classified material was found in subsequent searches of Biden’s Wilmington, Del., home.

robert hurAfter a recommendation from John R. Lausch, a U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump administration holdover, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur, right, as a special counsel to oversee the investigation.

The Justice Department confirmed that Wednesday was Hur’s first day as special counsel. The department updated its website Wednesday morning to note that Hur is the special counsel leading the day-to-day operations of the Biden investigation.


Trump Probes Proceed

 djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Well-Worn Legal Playbook Starts to Look Frayed, Maggie Haberman, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s familiar tactics of defiance and delays appear less successful than ever amid a swirl of investigations and court proceedings.

The expanding legal threats facing former President Donald J. Trump are testing as never before his decades-old playbook for fending off prosecutors, regulators and other accusers and foes, with his trademark mix of defiance, counterattacks, bluffs and delays encountering a series of setbacks.

In other legal maneuvering and in seeking to shape public opinion about cases involving him, Mr. Trump has experienced regular reversals in court in recent months even as he begins his campaign for another term in the White House.

“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida wrote this month in fining the former president and one of his lawyers nearly $1 million for filing a frivolous civil suit against Hillary Clinton and F.B.I. officials. “He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer.”

That fine appeared to lead Mr. Trump to quickly drop a similar suit he had filed against Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, who is pressing ahead with a $250 million suit claiming widespread financial fraud by the former president, his oldest children and his company.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence on Monday to a grand jury about his role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign — the latest in a series of investigations and legal proceedings that are grinding on despite Mr. Trump’s efforts to block or undercut them.

The Justice Department is investigating his handling of classified documents and his role in the efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election, and he is facing a potential indictment from the prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., in connection with his efforts to remain in power after his election loss.

Two suits against Mr. Trump brought by E. Jean Carroll, a New York-based writer who has accused him of raping her in the 1990s in a department store dressing room, are moving ahead despite his threats to sue her.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump has yet another legal threat to worry about, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 1, 2023. Former president Donald Trump jennifer rubin new headshotmight have thought he dodged a bullet in New York City. Last February, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg seemed to decide not to move forward with a case against Trump for allegedly fraudulent practices at his business (to the dismay of two career prosecutors leading the investigation, who quit).

But Trump’s legal problems in the city are far from over, as he learned on Monday. Bragg’s probe remains a serious threat to him, with potentially far-reaching implications.

The New York Times reports that Bragg’s office “began presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges.” There is no indication as to whether Bragg decided to pick up on the much larger set of inquiries his predecessor launched into allegations that Trump inflated the value of assets to secure favorable loans and other benefits.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y. attorney general seeks sanctions against Trump and his legal team, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Attorneys working under New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday asked a judge overseeing the office’s $250 million fraud lawsuit to place sanctions on Trump parties and their attorneys for “falsely” denying facts in recent court filings and rehashing “frivolous” arguments.

James’s team filed a major civil enforcement action against former president Donald Trump, three of his adult children, the family business and other executives there in September, alleging a deliberate fraud aimed at deceiving lenders and insurance brokers, giving the impression that Trump’s wealth was worth more than it really was. The Trump parties also allegedly undervalued his assets to reduce tax liabilities.

arthur engoran judgeIn a letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, right, on Tuesday, Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel at the attorney general’s office, said the Trump parties repeatedly denied reality in their set of official court filings last week and did not learn from past admonishments made by Engoron over the repeated use of “frivolous” arguments.

“A cursory review of the [filings] reveals that a number of the denials are demonstrably false and actually contradict sworn statements by the Defendants in other proceedings,” Wallace wrote.

Lawyers for the attorney general’s office pointed to sworn testimony in other recent proceedings, including a deposition in another lawsuit from Trump himself, that contradicts some of what the Trump attorneys claimed in their written formal responses to the lawsuit. Trump lawyers, according to the letter, quibbled over the attorney general’s references to the “structure of the Trump Organization,” which is an improper argument, the office said.

Trump attorneys also rejected that he was president of the company during a stretch of time that included his U.S. presidency, which Trump’s own testimony in an unrelated civil case contradicted, the letter said. The attorney general’s request also noted that Eric Trump, who along with his siblings Donald Jr. and Ivanka served as an executive at the company, denied through the filing that Seven Springs, a Westchester, N.Y., family property, was purchased in 1995 for $7.5 million even though he acknowledged it previously.

Engoron scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning to address the attorney general’s requests. The judge recently admonished the Trump side for other uses of meritless arguments and considered sanctions but did not impose any. “It does not appear that this point was taken, alina habbahowever, and [the attorney general’s office] would ask the Court to renew the issue,” Wallace’s letter said.

Alina Habba, left, one of Trump’s attorneys, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Attorneys for Trump were hit with sanctions recently in another matter. A federal judge in Florida imposed sanctions on Trump’s legal representatives, hitting them with a $1 million fine for a presentation of frivolous and baseless claims in a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.

After the sanctions, Trump lawyers withdrew lawsuits against James in Florida and New York.

Related Recent Headlines


U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military poised to secure new access to key Philippine bases, Ellen Nakashima and Rebecca Tan, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The expansion is part of a broader push in the Indo-Pacific to buttress U.S. force posture, reinforce alliances and deter China.

The U.S. military is poised to secure expanded access to key bases in the Philippines on the heels of a significant revamp of U.S. force posture in Japan — developments that reflect the allies’ concern with an increasingly fraught security environment in the region and a desire to deepen alliances with the United States, according to U.S. and Philippine officials.
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While negotiations are still ongoing, an announcement is expected as soon as this week when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets in Manila with his counterpart and then with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

U.S., Japan set to announce shake-up of Marine Corps units to deter China

The expansion involves access to Philippine military bases, likely including two on the northern island of Luzon — which, analysts said, could give U.S. forces a strategic position from which to mount operations in the event of a conflict in Taiwan or the South China Sea. They will also facilitate cooperation on a range of security concerns, including more rapid responses to natural disasters and climate-related events.

Politico, Trump big money machine prepares for battle with DeSantis, other rivals, Alex Isenstadt, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The super PAC backing Trump, MAGA Inc., is getting material ready for an ad offensive against other Republican 2024 hopefuls.

politico CustomThe operatives running former President Donald Trump’s cash-flush super PAC met quietly in December to sketch out their lines of attack against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other potential GOP rivals — the latest indication that the slow-burning 2024 primary is beginning to intensify.

During the meeting, which was held in an Alexandria, Va. office and led by Trump lieutenants Taylor Budowich and Tony Fabrizio, the group pored over confidential polling, went over legal and communications strategies and laid out a six-month plan for the race. That plan included an opposition research initiative targeting DeSantis and other possible candidates.

The early planning foreshadows a coming battle between Trump and his would-be rivals. Trump, who bent the party to his will as president, is intensely focused on batting down anyone who challenge him. That’s especially true of DeSantis, whom the former president, over the weekend, derided as “disloyal,” while also attacking his early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump also appeared to tweak Nikki Haley, who is exploring a run after having served as his U.N. ambassador, by noting that she had previously said she wouldn’t run against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, House GOP moves to oust Ilhan Omar from Foreign Affairs Committee, Marianna Sotomayor, Feb. 1, 2023. House ilhan omar oRepublicans are readying to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee as early as Thursday, fulfilling a pledge years in the making.

republican elephant logoAfter GOP leaders were able to secure enough support for the resolution that also condemns Omar, right, for past antisemitic remarks late Tuesday, the House Rules Committee quickly approved a rule that sets the parameters for debate on the House floor ahead of a final vote. The rule will be voted on Wednesday, teeing up final approval for Thursday since it is now expected Democratic leaders will formally establish which lawmakers will make up the Foreign Affairs Committee this term in the next 24 hours.”

Republican leaders have worked for weeks to ensure that there were enough votes to pass a resolution removing Omar from the committee through their razor-thin majority margin, which stands at three as Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) remains U.S. House logoaway from Washington recuperating from a traumatic fall. Opposition to the effort emerged last month as four lawmakers signaled that they wouldn’t support the measure, citing concerns that it would continue a precedent set by former speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Relevant Recent Headlines


Pro-Trump Election Deniers, Domestic Terrorists


 Judge Luttig: No Historical Precedent to Support VP Pence Counting Alternative Slates of Electors: Former Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig tells the January 6 Committee that John Eastman's memo arguing that Vice President Pence had the authority to count alternative slates of electors from seven states was incorrect.

Judge Luttig: No Historical Precedent to Support VP Pence Counting Alternative Slates of Electors: Former Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig tells the January 6 Committee that John Eastman’s memo arguing that Vice President Pence had the authority to count alternative slates of electors from seven states was incorrect. “There was no historical precedent, from the beginning of the founding…that would support the possibility,” the judge says on June 16, 2022, with C-SPAN video here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Luttig: He never ascended to the Supreme Court, but some think he has played a far more consequential role, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Michael Luttig, the retired judge who advised Mike Pence on Jan. 4, 2021, and testified before the Jan. 6 committee, envisions “the beginning of the end of Donald Trump.”

Late one night in the spring of 1994, a 40-year-old federal judge, shown at right in a 2005 photo, was startled awake by loud pounding at the front door of his home in michael luttig 2005Vienna, Va.

The sound was so jarring, so insistent, so out of character for his quiet Washington suburb that it unnerved J. Michael Luttig, a product of Northeast Texas who had put down deep roots in Beltway power circles.

Luttig told his wife, Elizabeth, to call the police. “Keep the line open,” he added.

Baffled, anxious, annoyed, Luttig opened the door just a crack. There stood a stocky man with thick black eyebrows.

Antonin Scalia. Associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia HR 1300Scalia, left, had driven through the night at the request of Luttig’s mother, who wanted him to be the one to break the news: Luttig’s 63-year-old father, John, had been killed in a carjacking outside his Tyler, Tex., home barely an hour earlier. And so the judicial legend showed up to sit with his former clerk as he placed one grim phone call after another, Luttig recalled in a recent interview, sharing the story publicly for the first time.

It had to be Scalia on this most awful night of their lives. Bobbie Luttig, who was seriously injured in the attack, knew how her son looked up to him. For a generation of conservative law students, Scalia was a paragon of a judicial philosophy centered on reverence for the original text of the Constitution. Luttig had clerked for him at the federal district court in Washington and later held one of the posts Scalia had occupied on his own path to the bench, in the Office of Legal Counsel, an obscure but influential cadre of brainy attorneys who provide legal guidance to the president.

Theirs had evolved into something more than a mentor-mentee relationship, more than a friendship. They were integral parts of a movement, the keepers of the conservative banner in Washington’s clubby legal circles, where bright, young aspirants could be tapped by their elders and set on a path toward the most important legal jobs in the nation. Reared in the Ford and Reagan administrations, ascendant in George H.W. Bush’s, Luttig became the protege and eulogist of one chief justice, Warren Burger; a groomsman for another, John Roberts. (In a recent interview, Luttig repeatedly turned to phrases like “one of my best friends in life” to describe some of the most prominent judges, lawyers, business leaders and journalists in America.)

By the time Scalia stood in his doorway, the young law students were looking up to Luttig, too. His obsessively precise written opinions for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond had marked Luttig as one of the leading conservative intellectuals in the legal system — the most conservative judge on the most conservative court in America.

More than a quarter-century later, it was Luttig (pronounced LEW-tig) who would get a late-night call to come the aid of his tribe: Mike Pence, in his final days as vice president, would seek out Luttig’s legal advice on the night of Jan. 4, 2021, as Donald Trump pressured him to help overturn the results of the 2020 election. But Pence and his allies would need more from Luttig than his private counsel.

They needed his imprimatur.

What began as a late-night phone call has turned into the quest of a lifetime for Luttig, the pinnacle of a long and storied career, highlighted last summer by his stirring appearance before the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol and by the committee’s final report released in late December, which mentions his name more than 25 times.

Retired conservative Judge J. Michael Luttig testified on June 16 that President Trump and his allies pose a “clear and present danger” to American democracy.

But Luttig wasn’t just condemning Trump and Trumpism. He was trying to bring a nation to its senses.

“We Americans no longer agree on what is right or wrong, what is to be valued and what is not, what is acceptable behavior and not, and what is and is not tolerable discourse in civilized society,” he said. “America is adrift.”

Months removed from that star turn, Luttig’s worries have begun to ebb ever so slightly. He now envisions a nation one day disentangled from Trump’s influence, even as the former president launches a new campaign. It’s a future Luttig is trying to shape in court cases, in legislative chambers where he’s helped craft election law changes and in professorial public appearances where he explains in painstaking detail how American democracy, though imperiled, can still be preserved.

Luttig can think of only one reason he would have been wrested out of quiet semiretirement for this mission. It was, he’s concluded, nothing less than “divine intervention.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republican Party brings election fraud allegations back into the fold, Philip Bump, right, Feb. 1, 2023. Donald Trump philip bumpwasn’t the first Republican to suggest that American elections were riddled with fraud. Part of the reason his gambit was so successful, in fact, was that Republican voters had long viewed unfavorable election results with suspicion. In 2007, for example, President George W. Bush’s Justice Department announced that a five-year investigation had turned up no evidence of systematic voter fraud in American elections, a probe meant to respond to the hum of allegations from Bush’s base.

republican elephant logoThere are a lot of reasons these rumors burbled. One, it’s safe to assume, was that Americans were increasingly living in partisan isolation — they didn’t know anyone who supposedly voted for the opposition. This overlaps with the urban/rural political divide, given how often the rumors of fraud centered on supposed Democratic nefariousness in cities.

But the rumors were also intentionally fostered by Republican actors because they were useful. Get people to think that fraud is rampant, and they’ll support legislative responses to fraud. And those legislative responses almost necessarily involved making it more cumbersome for Democrats to vote. This is not a difficult chain of logic to follow.

rnc logoSo, despite the obvious damage caused by Trump’s escalated claims about voter fraud — literal damage to the Capitol, political damage to Republican candidates linked to him — the Republican Party stands ready to try to repurpose that energy to its benefit. The Washington Post obtained a report prepared by the Republican National Committee that recommends not that the party uproot false and baseless claims of fraud but, instead, that it use them to win elections.

Politico, Secret hold restricts DOJ’s bid to access phone of Trump ally Rep. Scott Perry, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The decision by a panel of federal appellate judges temporarily blocks a lower-court ruling, escalating the battle over communications related to DOJ’s probe of 2020 election challenges.

scott perryA federal appeals court panel has put a secret hold on the Justice Department’s effort to access the phone of Rep. Scott Perry, right, as part of a broader probe of efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to subvert the 2020 election.

In a sealed order issued earlier this month, the three-judge panel temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling that granted prosecutors access to Perry’s communications. The Dec. 28 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell was the product of a secret, monthslong legal battle by prosecutors who have been fighting the Pennsylvania Republican’s attorneys on the matter since August.

The existence of the legal fight — a setback for DOJ reported here for the first time — is itself intended to be shielded from public scrutiny, part of the strict secrecy that governs ongoing grand jury matters. The long-running clash was described to POLITICO by two people familiar with the proceedings, who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity.

The fight has intensified in recent weeks and drawn the House, newly led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, into the fray. On Friday, the chamber moved to intervene in the back-and-forth over letting DOJ access the phone of Perry, the House Freedom Caucus chair, reflecting the case’s potential to result in precedent-setting rulings about the extent to which lawmakers can be shielded from scrutiny in criminal investigations.

The House’s decision to intervene in legal cases is governed by the “Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group,” a five-member panel that includes McCarthy, his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries, and other members of House leadership. The panel voted unanimously to support the House’s intervention in the matter, seeking to protect the chamber’s prerogatives, according to one of the two people familiar with the proceedings.

After this story was first published Monday, McCarthy spokesperson Mark Bednar acknowledged the House has stepped into the legal fight about Perry’s communications. “The Speaker has long said that the House should protect the prerogatives of Article I. This action indicates new leadership is making it a priority to protect House equities,” Bednar said.

FBI agents seized Perry’s phone with a court-approved warrant in August but still lack a necessary second level of judicial permission to begin combing through the records. Perry has claimed his communications are barred from outside review because of constitutional protections afforded to members of Congress that were designed to let lawmakers better fulfill their official responsibilities.

Perry first challenged DOJ’s authority to access his communications in a public lawsuit in August, filed shortly after his phone was seized. He maintained that the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause prohibited the government from accessing messages he might have sent in connection with his work as a member of Congress. Perry would soon drop the lawsuit, and the status of prosecutors’ efforts to access his records remained unclear.

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Trump Watch: Claims By, Against, Allies

Politico, Trump big money machine prepares for battle with DeSantis, other rivals, Alex Isenstadt, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.).  The super PAC backing Trump, MAGA Inc., is getting material ready for an ad offensive against other Republican 2024 hopefuls.

The operatives running former President Donald Trump’s cash-flush super PAC met quietly in December to sketch out their lines of attack against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other potential GOP rivals — the latest indication that the slow-burning 2024 primary is beginning to intensify.

During the meeting, which was held in an Alexandria, Va. office and led by Trump lieutenants Taylor Budowich and Tony Fabrizio, the group pored over confidential polling, went over legal and communications strategies and laid out a six-month plan for the race. That plan included an opposition research initiative targeting DeSantis and other possible candidates.

The early planning foreshadows a coming battle between Trump and his would-be rivals. Trump, who bent the party to his will as president, is intensely focused on batting down anyone who challenge him. That’s especially true of DeSantis, whom the former president, over the weekend, derided as “disloyal,” while also attacking his early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump also appeared to tweak Nikki Haley, who is exploring a run after having served as his U.N. ambassador, by noting that she had previously said she wouldn’t run against him.


U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

washington post logoWashington Post, Man accused of kidnapping, torturing woman dies after standoff, official says, Meryl Kornfield and Timothy Bella, Feb. 1, 2023. An Oregon man accused of violently kidnapping a woman and torturing her for days before fleeing into a forested area of the state died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after an hours-long standoff with police on Tuesday, according to a police spokesman.

benjamin foster las vegasBenjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, right, died at a hospital shortly after he was taken into custody at a property where he was staying in Grants Pass, Ore., Lt. Jeff Hattersley of the Grants Pass Police Department told KTVL in Medford, Ore. Police said in a news release earlier Tuesday that Foster was “in custody.”

Authorities surrounded a home in Grants Pass where they believed Foster was staying after he was spotted walking a dog on Tuesday morning, police wrote on Facebook. Officers of four law enforcement agencies were in the area, and a SWAT team was set up as part of an effort to get Foster to surrender, Hattersley told KTVL. The police spokesman told local media on Tuesday evening that the situation had been “resolved” but did not immediately say that Foster was in custody.

The standoff concluded a week-long search that began after police discovered a woman, whose name was not released, bound and severely beaten in her home on Jan. 24 in what the police chief described as “an evil act.” Police said they received “credible information” linking Foster to the attack, the Daily Courier reported. The woman remains hospitalized in critical condition, according to police

ny times logoNew York Times, For Giffords, Progress on Gun Safety Is Like Her Recovery: ‘Inch by Inch,’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A 2011 mass shooting left Gabrielle Giffords, then a congresswoman, partly paralyzed and unable to speak fluently. She has since built a powerful advocacy group.

gabrielle giffords oTwelve years after a bullet ripped through the left side of her brain, Gabrielle Giffords, right, speaks mainly in stock phrases and short bursts, conveying meaning with her eyes or a boxer’s swing of her left arm, the one that is still fully mobile. “Enough is enough!” she might say. Or: “Be passionate! Be courageous!”

But in an interview at the headquarters of the gun safety group that bears her name, amid a string of mass shootings in California, there was something more that Ms. Giffords wanted to say. Asked what Americans should know about her, she closed her eyes and rocked slowly back and forth, as if to summon words from deep within. She shushed a colleague who tried to speak for her. And then she delivered a speech unlike any she had given as a congresswoman from Arizona, before the 2011 mass shooting that nearly killed her.

“I’m getting better,” she said haltingly, laboring over each word. “Slowly, I’m getting better. Long, hard haul, but I’m getting better. Our lives can change so quickly. Mine did when I was shot. I’ve never given up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back. I’m relearning so many things — how to walk, how to talk — and I’m fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt; setbacks are hard. But I tell myself: Move ahead.”

Ms. Giffords, 52, who goes by Gabby, is arguably America’s most famous gun violence survivor. She had come to the group’s headquarters in Washington for an update and a strategy session. The timing of her visit underscored two competing truths: The gun safety movement she helps lead is stronger than ever. But the nation’s gun violence epidemic is worsening.

ny times logoNew York Times, Visual Investigation: 71 Commands in 13 Minutes: Officers Gave Tyre Nichols Impossible Orders, Robin Stein, Alexander Cardia and Natalie Reneau, Jan. 29, 2023. A Times analysis found that officers gave dozens of contradictory and unachievable orders to Mr. Nichols. The punishment was severe — and eventually fatal.

memphis police logoPolice officers unleashed a barrage of commands that were confusing, conflicting and sometimes even impossible to obey, a Times analysis of footage from Tyre Nichols’s fatal traffic stop found. When Mr. Nichols could not comply — and even when he managed to — the officers responded with escalating force.

The review of the available footage found that officers shouted at least 71 commands during the approximately 13-minute period before they reported over the radio that Mr. Nichols was officially in custody. The orders were issued at two locations, one near Mr. Nichols’s vehicle and the other in the area he had fled to and where he would be severely beaten. The orders were often simultaneous and contradictory. Officers commanded Mr. Nichols to show his hands even as they were holding his hands. They told him to get on the ground even when he was on the ground. And they ordered him to reposition himself even when they had control of his body.

Experts say the actions of the Memphis police officers were an egregious example of a longstanding problem in policing in which officers physically punish civilians for perceived disrespect or disobedience — sometimes called “contempt of cop.” The practice was notoriously prevalent decades ago.

“It was far more rampant in the ’80s, when I started doing police work, than it was in the ’90s or 2000s,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina. “Even before body cams, cops were getting more professional and wouldn’t make it personal, like it seemed to be in this case. This is just — it’s so far out of the norm.”

To mitigate the potential for escalation and confusion during police encounters, today’s police training typically calls for a single officer at the scene to issue clear and specific commands. It also requires police officers to respond professionally and proportionately to any perceived act of defiance.

But The Times’s review shows that the officers did the exact opposite, over and over.

The available footage does not show any sign that the officers present intervened to stop the aggressive use of force. If anything, it shows the contrary.

At one point, footage captured an officer saying “I hope they stomp his ass” after Mr. Nichols’s attempt to flee the scene.

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Global News, Migration, Human Rights Issues

washington post logoWashington Post, Israelis, Palestinians see U.S. gesture as feeble, even farcical, amid rise in violence, William Booth and Shira Rubin, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). On one topic, Israelis and Palestinians appear to agree: Both are deeply skeptical, even scornful, of renewed calls made by the Biden administration this week for a two-state solution here. Many called the gesture — at this moment of violence and radicalism — feeble, even farcical.

On his first trip to the region after the return of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promoted the long-held dream of two states side by side — one Israeli, one Palestinian — as the best guarantor of peace.

In a joint news conference with Netanyahu on Monday, after days of escalating bloodshed, Blinken said that maintaining the “vision” of a two-state solution was “the only way forward.”

Israeli settlers attack Palestinians across West Bank as escalation looms

Netanyahu was polite but didn’t engage on the concept of “two states,” alluding only briefly to finding “a workable solution with our Palestinian neighbors,” before he pivoted to Iran.

washington post logoWashington Post, High-level visit highlights U.S. balancing act on Israel, Palestinians, Missy Ryan, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). When Secretary of State Antony Blinken lands in Israel this week, he will step into a hotbed of violence and political strife, signs of the chronic challenges that have kept the Middle East among America’s most urgent global concerns despite the Biden administration’s attempt to re-engineer its foreign policy.

The diplomat’s visit to Israel and the West Bank will mark the highest-profile U.S. engagement to date with the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose far-right coalition, critics say, has taken steps to weaken Israel’s democratic system and further inflame the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, generating global condemnation.

Brian Katulis, vice president of policy at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank, said the Biden administration initially sought to avoid deep involvement with a part of the world that dominated U.S. foreign policy for the two decades following the 9/11 attacks at great financial and human cost to Americans.

“But if you don’t do the region, it does you,” Katulis said. “So they’re now trying to find a pathway to keep it on the rails while remaining hesitant to invest relative to challenges like Russia and China.”

Blinken’s two-day stay coincides with a major flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence, following an Israeli raid that killed 10 people in the West Bank and a shooting in which seven people were killed by a Palestinian in an East Jerusalem synagogue, setting off a cascade of bloodshed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why is a U.S. general predicting war with China by 2025? Christian Shepherd and Pei-Lin Wu, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Open conflict between China and the United States could be just two years away, according to an unusually blunt memo by a top U.S. general that is just the latest in a number of alarming predictions that the world’s two leading military powers are at risk of direct collision, most likely over the fate of Taiwan.

michael minihanThe warning came from a top Air Force commander, Gen. Michael A. Minihan, right, who cited Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s securing of a third term and the January 2024 presidential elections in Taiwan, the self-governing democracy of 23 million that Beijing claims as its territory, as reasons to accelerate troop preparation.

Readying for a war is a general’s job — and Minihan’s view is not that of the government, a U.S. defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue — but his gut-feeling assessment is a stark reminder of the stakes involved in attempts to prevent bilateral relations slipping from frosty hostilities to a hot conflict.

U.S. general warns troops that war with China is possible in two years

Why is the U.S. military so worried about China?

For some in the United States, urgency in countering China’s military threat is often tied to the ambition of Xi. After doing away with an earlier dictum that China should “bide its time and hide its strength,” he has stoked nationalism and adopted an assertive diplomatic stance.

Regarding Taiwan, the most sensitive issue in the bilateral relationship, Xi has said that the problem cannot be passed down from generation to generation, leading some analysts to argue that he considers unification his task to complete.

While “peaceful reunification” remains the Communist Party’s preferred solution to disagreements with Taipei, it will never abandon the right to use of force if necessary, Xi said at a recent meeting of top party officials. By keeping that option open, he added, China wants to deter “Taiwan independence forces” and “foreign interference” — meaning the United States.

Beijing’s view is that the United States is entirely to blame for diplomatic and military tensions. An official white paper about China’s Taiwan strategy, released after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking U.S. politician to visit the island democracy since 1997, accused Washington of “using Taiwan to contain China.”

Under Xi’s urging, China’s military has made rapid headway toward its goal of becoming a world-class fighting force on par with United States by 2050. Its troops have no real combat experience — the last war China fought was a brief but bloody conflict with Vietnam in 1979 — but the official defense budget has grown from $114.3 billion in 2014 to $230 billion in 2022. The real figure is probably higher.

Even so, it remains a fraction of American spending, which was set at $816.7 billion for fiscal 2023.

Being able to take Taiwan by force is the primary objective of Chinese military modernization, and the People’s Liberation Army has ramped up shows of force in recent months. In response to the Pelosi visit in August, China rehearsed a blockade of Taiwan by firing missiles and sending battleships and warplanes into strategically important locations on all sides of the main island.

Chinese fighter jets regularly venture close to Taiwanese airspace. Flight paths that cross an unofficial boundary running down the middle of the Taiwan Strait, unheard of before 2021, had become routine by the end of 2022.

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Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: U.S. cautions Ukraine on aid as public support slips, Olivier Knox with research by Caroline Anders, Feb. 1, 2023. Top officials from the Departments of Defense and State as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development just wrapped up a visit to Ukraine, delivering a warning of sorts about American aid at a time when Republicans are driving a drop in public support for Kyiv.

During their trip last week, leaders from the offices of inspector general from all three entities delivered a message that might be translated as: Be prepared to account for everything we give you. And keep fighting corruption.

Tracking American military and economic assistance and helping Ukraine expunge rot from its government aren’t new initiatives. Both have gone on for at least a decade. But let’s just say the Republican takeover of the House hasn’t exactly diminished the urgency of knowing what went where.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says no to F-16 jets for Kyiv; Russia likely eyeing Donetsk advance, U.K. says, Erin Cunningham, Bryan Pietsch and Leo Sands, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden said the United States will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, rejecting renewed calls by Kyiv officials for these advanced weapons to turn the tide of the conflict and boost Ukraine’s command of its own airspace. Buoyed by long-sought commitments last week from the United States and Germany to send tanks, a Ukrainian official described fighter jets as Kyiv’s “next big hurdle.”

British intelligence officials warned that Moscow is probably preparing to open up a fresh offensive front in Ukraine’s east, with small-scale gains a realistic possibility. “Russian commanders are likely aiming to develop a new axis of advance into Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblask,” British officials said in an update. The escalation would also serve to divert Ukrainian forces from defending the heavily contested Bakhmut sector, the Defense Ministry update added.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • President Biden simply responded “no” when he was asked by a reporter if the United States would send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Speaking on CNN afterward, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby pointed to last week’s commitment to send tanks and said “there is a lot of capability that is being sent and will be sent.” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters last week that fighter jets are “the next big hurdle” on Kyiv’s list of desired weapons.
  • France has not ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine but would do so only under certain criteria, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, including a condition that would bar Kyiv from using the aircraft to attack Russian territory. He made the remarks at a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “There are no taboos” in discussing fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine, Rutte said, “but it would be a very big next step,” the Associated Press reported. Ukraine has not yet formally requested the aircraft.
  • The Pentagon announced Monday the first shipment of Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine. More than 60 Bradleys departed from North Charleston, S.C., last week, the U.S. Transportation Command said in a statement. The M2 Bradley is an American-made infantry fighting vehicle — meaning it is intended to move and support foot soldiers. The first version was introduced to the U.S. Army in the 1980s.
  • France and Australia will jointly supply Ukraine with thousands of 155-millimeter artillery shells, the two nations’ defense ministers said Monday, calling the ammunition an “urgent need” as Ukrainian forces battle Russian troops in the east. The first shells, produced by a French manufacturer in cooperation with Australian companies, will be sent in the coming weeks.
  • Ukrainian forces may have fired banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory, according to a report Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. Its authors urged the Ukrainian government — which is a signatory to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibiting the weapon — to investigate. Russian forces were previously accused of using seven types of antipersonnel mines in the invasion last year.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian strikes hit the cities of Kherson and Ochakiv in southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said in an update early Tuesday local time. Civilians were among the victims, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said, warning that “the threat of … missile strikes throughout Ukraine remains high.”
  • Other Russian strikes on settlements near the Russian border in the Kharkiv region have killed civilians and destroyed buildings, the Ukrainian military said. Oleh Synyehubov, the regional governor, said Monday on Telegram that a Russian missile strike badly damaged a residential building in Kharkiv, adding that at least one person died and three others were injured in the attack. He later said that a 62-year-old man was killed in another shelling attack in the city’s Chuhuiv district.

3. Global impact

  • The war in Ukraine could “accelerate” the global energy transition as countries turn to domestically produced sources, including renewables, the oil and gas giant BP said in its 2023 Energy Outlook on Monday. The shortages caused by the war underscored three elements associated with the energy transition: secure, affordable and lower carbon, BP said.
  • Poland plans to increase its defense spending to 4 percent of its GDP, a boost that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called “unprecedented” on Monday in remarks to reporters, Deutsche Welle reported. The nation currently spends about 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, according to the International Trade Administration.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to visit Moscow in the spring, Tass news agency reported. It is not clear whether Xi has accepted the invitation, which was extended as Russian diplomats increase their efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing. The Kremlin reportedly praised China for “playing an increasingly important role as a friendly nation in the current circumstances” and pointed to the two nations’ shared interest in challenging U.S. global influence.

washington post logoWashington Post, War in Ukraine: Along front-line river, this deadly road shows toll of Russia’s war, Siobhán O’Grady and Anastacia Galouchka, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). After a Russian retreat, the Dnieper River is the new front line, and destroyed towns on a road running along the water through three Ukrainian regions are still under fire.

Only the water keeps them apart.

Russian soldiers — pushed into retreat by a counteroffensive late last year — control the east bank of the mighty Dnieper River. Ukrainians control the west.

As Ukraine awaits new tanks from the United States and Europe, and fighting rages over strategic towns in the east, a war of attrition is underway in this southern battleground. The river limits territorial advances, permitting — for now at least — only destruction from a distance.

On the route traveling east and north from villages on the Gulf of the Dnieper to the battered but never-occupied city of Nikopol, the width of the river ranges from several miles to fewer than 1,000 feet, putting the Russians close enough to strike with mortars and shells or sniper fire. They hit some villages dozens of times a day. Ukrainian forces are firing back.

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More On U.S. Debts, Economy, Inflation, Jobs

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Americans Even Notice an Improving Economy? Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Imagine that your paul krugmanpicture of the U.S. economy came entirely from headlines and cable news chyrons. Would you know that real gross domestic product has risen 6.7 percent under President Biden, that America gained 4.5 million jobs in 2022 and that inflation over the past six months, which was indeed very high last winter, was less than 2 percent at an annual rate?

This isn’t a hypothetical question. Most people don’t read long-form, data-driven essays on the economic outlook. Their sense of the economy is more likely to be shaped by snippets they read or hear.

And there is a yawning gulf between public perceptions and economic reality. Recent economic data has been positive all around. Yet a plurality of adults believes that we’re in a recession. In an AP-NORC survey, three-quarters of Americans described the economy as “poor,” with only 25 percent saying it was “good.”

You might be tempted to say, never mind the data, people know what’s happening to the economy from personal experience. But there’s a big disconnect on that front, too.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: To understand why Republicans are divided on the debt ceiling, consider Dr. Seuss, Nate Cohn, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The Tea Party is over. Cultural issues seem to animate G.O.P. voters.

One of my favorite polling nuggets from the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency wasn’t about Afghanistan or inflation or classified documents.

It was about Dr. Seuss.

In early March 2021, a Morning Consult/Politico poll found that more Republicans said they had heard “a lot” about the news that the Seuss estate had decided to stop selling six books it deemed had offensive imagery than about the $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus package enacted into the law that very week.

The result was a vivid marker of how much the Republican Party had changed over the Trump era. Just a dozen years earlier, a much smaller stimulus package sparked the Tea Party movement that helped propel Republicans to a landslide victory in the 2010 midterm election. But in 2021 the right was so consumed by the purported cancellation of Dr. Seuss that it could barely muster any outrage about big government spending.

Whether issues like “On Beyond Zebra!” still arouse Republicans more than the national debt takes on renewed importance this year, as Washington seems to be hurtling toward another debt ceiling crisis. The answer will shape whether Republicans can unify around a debt ceiling fight, as they did a decade ago, or whether a fractious party will struggle to play a convincing game of chicken — with uncertain consequences.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Pandemic Used-Car Boom Is Coming to an Abrupt End, Neal E. Boudette, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Dealerships are seeing sales and prices drop as consumers tighten their belts, putting pressure on companies like Carvana that grew fast in recent years.

About a year ago, the used-car business was a rollicking party. The coronavirus pandemic and a global semiconductor shortage forced automakers to stop or slow production of new cars and trucks, pushing consumers to used-car lots. Prices for pre-owned vehicles surged.

Now, the used-car business is suffering a brutal hangover. Americans, especially people on tight budgets, are buying fewer cars as interest rates rise and fears of a recession grow. And improved auto production has eased the shortage of new vehicles.

As a result, sales and prices of used cars are falling and the auto dealers that specialize in them are hurting.

“After a huge run up in 2021, last year was a reality check,” Chris Frey, senior manager of economic and industry insights at Cox Automotive, a market research firm. “The used market now faces a challenging year as demand weakens.”

Palmer Report, Opinion and Advocacy: Looks like House Republicans are already preparing to cave on the debt ceiling, James Sullivan, Jan. 29, 2023. While the media is largely moving on from the non-existent classified documents scandal the GOP has been fomenting, bill palmer report logo headerthey’re going to their other favorite subject – that the Republicans are going to do a whole bunch of evil things and the Democrats will either a) let them do it or b) be powerless to stop it.

republican elephant logoWhile the GOP is planning to do a whole bunch of evil things, and the Democrats will inevitably face a lot of heat depending on how much they’re able to do about it, what we need to do is stop getting sucked into this narrative that the GOP will just get away with it all – since that does nothing more than help the GOP by giving them leverage they don’t have.

The debt ceiling – which won’t become an issue until June, if at all, is one of these concerns, as the GOP has threatened to use it as an excuse to implement ridiculous tax cuts for their donors in exchange for cutting social security. The problem for Republicans is that it’s rapidly becoming unpopular and their House leadership is eyeing an extension on the debt limit through Sept 30 to avoid the risk of a default.

It’s clear that even with a majority the GOP can’t make good on their threats if the pushback is significant- and this agreement should be all the incentive we need to keep standing up to their incompetence and corruption.

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U.S. Abortion, Rape Laws, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, GW students add ‘morning-after’ pill vending machine to campus, Susan Svrluga, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). George Washington University students made easy access to emergency contraceptives a priority.

Many college health centers make emergency contraception pills available to students. But even when that’s the case, they may be too expensive for students or unavailable when they really need them — often at night or over the weekend.

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More On U.S. House GOP Radicals, Scandals


Rep. George Santos speaks with reporters as he departs Capitol Hill.Francis Chung/Politico/AP 

Rep. George Santos speaks with reporters as he departs Capitol Hill (Photo by Francis Chung via Politico and Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Who would work for Rep. Santos? Capitol Hill is watching closely, Joe Heim and Meagan Flynn, Jan. 29, 2023 (print ed.). No staff hirings on Capitol Hill are being more closely watched than those of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has been buried in controversy since his election.

Hiring season is winding down on Capitol Hill. The flurry of forwarded résumés is fading, staff positions in House and Senate offices are nearly filled, and the mostly serious business of governing is taking hold.
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The biennial job carousel, a parlor game that plays out in the Capitol’s bustling hallways, hyperdrive text chains and chatty cafeteria lines, is always a closely watched exercise by staffers. Who’s up, who’s down? Who’s in, who’s out?

But perhaps no staff hirings this year are being more closely watched than those of Rep. George Santos, the New York Republican who since his election in November has been buried in an avalanche of revelations that point to him not being the person he once claimed to be. He did not, for instance, graduate from Baruch College (or play volleyball for its team). Nor did he work for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. And his grandparents did not flee Jewish persecution in Ukraine.

There are also questions about where his money came from, how he funded his campaign, and his work for a Florida company that the SEC is suing and has alleged is a “classic Ponzi scheme.”

Even as he has had to answer — or not answer — those myriad questions, Santos has been assembling a staff for his Washington and district offices, the No. 1 priority for first-term representatives. That means interviewing job candidates, vetting résumés, running background checks and finding people willing to work for a member who appears allergic to truth-telling.

Taking a job for Santos could prove dicey for staffers. In conversations with more than a dozen former and current Republican and Democratic lawmakers and staff members, many wondered if those who go to work for Santos, particularly higher-level staffers, would ever be able to find another congressional office that would hire them.

See the evolution of lies in George Santos’s campaign biography

So far, there is public information available for just five positions that Santos has filled, including chief of staff and communications director, according to LegiStorm, which tracks and posts congressional hiring. The initial makeup of Santos’s staff seems to lack the deep Capitol Hill experience that new members typically seek to help them get off to an effective start and quickly adjust to the rhythms and demands of Congress.

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Energy, Climate, Environment, Weather, Disasters


washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration set to endorse major Alaskan oil drilling project, Timothy Puko, Feb. 1, 2023. Environmental assessment to say ConocoPhillips’s Willow well site can go forward, but could shrink in size.

Biden administration officials are preparing a key environmental assessment to say the Interior Department can grant partial approval to a major oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope, known as Willow, setting the stage for one of the administration’s most consequential climate decisions.
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The release of that report, due this week, will trigger a final decision from the Interior Department in a years-long showdown between the federal government and ConocoPhillips about its legal right to drill one of the largest oil and gas developments on federal territory. The company controls oil leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and the report’s findings may force the Biden administration to approve the project next month over intense pressure from climate activists, who say it flies in the face of the president’s pledges to reduce the country’s contribution to global warming.

The report — a legally required part of the permit process — is being drafted to lay out a preferred alternative that allows three well pads, down from the originally requested five, according to two people briefed on the process. That would match a preliminary proposal the agency put out this summer, and is in line with what company officials have publicly said they need to make the project worth the company’s investment.

washington post logoWashington Post, The environmental cost of beef vs. chicken? Tuna vs. salmon? Compare dozens of foods here, Niko Kommenda, Naema Ahmed, Scott Dance and Simon Ducroquet, Feb. 1, 2023. See which food is better for the planet, based on multiple metrics.

Knowing what to eat to minimize impact on the planet can feel like an impossible task: Eat locally? Skip meat? Opt for organic, free range, humanely raised?

But each of those choices, however Earth-friendly they may sound, come with environmental impact. And they can reverberate in unexpected ways, according to a recent study, affecting not just the climate but water and wildlife habitats around the globe.

Consider the environmental footprints of some common dietary staples, including meat, fish, dairy and eggs and crops.

washington post logoWashington Post, These everyday items endanger the environment. Here’s how to handle them, Melanie D.G. Kaplan, Feb. 1, 2023. Hazardous products often lurk in basements and clutter up cabinets, often because people simply don’t know how to get rid of them.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Plans to End Public Health Emergency for Covid in May, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Jan. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The move is a sign that federal officials believe the pandemic has moved into a new, less dire phase. It will bring about a host of policy changes.

The Biden administration plans to let the coronavirus public health emergency expire in May, the White House said on Monday, a sign that federal officials believe the pandemic has moved into a new, less dire phase.

The move carries both symbolic weight and real-world consequences. Millions of Americans have received free Covid tests and treatments during the pandemic, and not all of that will continue to be free once the emergency is over. The White House wants to keep the emergency in place for several more months so hospitals, health care providers and health officials can prepare for a host of changes when it ends, officials said.

An average of more than 500 people in the United States are still dying from Covid-19 each day, about twice the number of deaths per day during a bad flu season. But at the three-year mark, the coronavirus is no longer upending everyday life to the extent it once did, partly because much of the population has at least some protection against the virus from vaccinations and prior infections.

Still, the White House said on Monday that the nation needed an orderly transition out of the public health emergency. The administration said it also intended to allow a separate declaration of a national emergency to expire on the same day, May 11.

“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Covid Tsunami Recedes, Bringing Relief, Grief and Anxiety, Chris Buckley and Amy Chang Chien, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Officials say an onslaught of infections has slowed, and many people seem eager to move on. But fresh flare-ups could bring more illness and deaths.

When China abruptly abandoned “zero Covid,” accelerating an onslaught of infections and deaths, many feared a prolonged tide rippling from cities into villages. Now, two months later, the worst seems to have passed, and the government is eager to shift attention to economic recovery.

Doctors who were mobilized across China to treat a rush of Covid patients say in phone interviews that the number of patients they are now seeing has fallen. Towns and villages that had hunkered down under the surge of infections and funerals are stirring to life. Health officials have declared that Covid cases “already peaked in late December 2022.”

“Now the pandemic is already being forgotten from people’s minds,” Gao Xiaobin, a doctor on the outskirts of a small city in Anhui Province in eastern China, said by telephone. “Nobody is wearing masks anywhere. That’s all gone.”

The true toll of the outbreak is hard to delineate, with infections and deaths shrouded by censorship and poor data collection. Officially, China has reported nearly 79,000 confirmed Covid-related deaths that occurred in hospitals since Dec. 8. But researchers say that is a drastic undercount because it excludes deaths outside hospitals.

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U.S. Media, Sports, Religion, High Tech, Education


Ralph Nader stands in front of a Chevrolet Corvair in The American Museum of Tort Law, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Winsted, Conn. (AP Photo by Jessica Hill.)

Ralph Nader stands in front of a Chevrolet Corvair in The American Museum of Tort Law, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Winsted, Conn. (AP Photo by Jessica Hill.)

Poynter Institute, Why Ralph Nader is launching a print newspaper, Greg Burns, Jan. 31, 2023. Beginning with his hometown in northwest Connecticut, the 88-year-old consumer advocate is determined to do something about the news desert crisis. This article was originally published on Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative website and is republished here with permission. Note to Readers: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a former reporter for the Hartford Courant from 1970 to 1984, has joined the editorial advisory board of the new Winsted-based newspaper.

Ralph Nader is starting a newspaper. Yes, that Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, former presidential candidate and scourge of corporate interests.

At age 88, Nader is still going strong and, beginning with his hometown in northwest Connecticut, he’s determined to do something about the “news desert” crisis in local journalism.

The Winsted Citizen is launching its inaugural edition this week, and, in some ways, it is following a familiar playbook. It is forming a 501(c)3 nonprofit, enabling it to collect tax-deductible donations in addition to subscription and advertising revenue. Nader expects each pillar of the business model to contribute about one-third of revenues once the paper gets going — a business plan not out of the ordinary among startup local news publications.

Also, like other media entrepreneurs, Nader is drawing on the pool of journalists who left traditional news outlets as job prospects fizzled. His well-connected editor and publisher, Andy Thibault, who served for decades as an editor at local publications in Connecticut, has lined up a roster of eager contributors for the Nader-backed venture. Together, Thibault and his colleagues have rallied support and laid plans for ambitious local stories befitting a highly experienced newsroom.

That’s about where the conventional part of The Winsted Citizen game plan comes to an end. No surprise to anyone familiar with Nader’s storied past, a Nader newspaper is going to do things differently, and with plenty of attitude.

For starters, the new paper will be a “paper” paper, printed and delivered by mail and carrier to subscribers, and available for single-copy sales at local advertisers. If Nader has his way, the website will be a sideshow to the printed main event, as he believes digital publications fail to engage readers because they’re too cluttered and abbreviated. Plus, he said, the “real decisionmakers” get their news in print.

After initially announcing that The Winsted Citizen would begin with a single, inaugural edition and then continue as a weekly publication only if local support materialized, a Plan B has emerged. The Citizen will publish at least 11 editions over the course of 2023, on an approximately monthly basis, which represents a compromise. This way, it won’t be one-and-done — a worst-case scenario from Thibault’s point of view — while at the same time it will be keeping expectations realistic for staffers who already know they won’t get rich from the project even if it succeeds.

Nader puts up $15K for the first edition

Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong have written huge checks to fund their newspaper holdings. Stewart Bainum Jr., a hotel magnate and civic leader, has pledged to raise or contribute $50 million over four years to fund the Baltimore Banner, an online local news startup in Maryland. Nader, meantime, said he has chipped in $15,000 to get the first issue of The Winsted Citizen out the door.

Once he’s launched it, Nader said, the community will come through. He’s counting on it, and he’s dismissive of those who claim a newly minted print newspaper in a small, economically challenged town can’t possibly succeed without a Daddy Warbucks donor.

“Anyone who says a community anywhere in the U.S. cannot support a newspaper is unimaginative,” Nader said in an interview. “Let’s face it, most weeklies are dull and routine. They do very little investigation. There is a total lack of imagination.”

Without a content-rich local newspaper, Nader said, communities decline. “There is less voter turnout, less people turning out for town meetings. If you don’t have a newspaper, you don’t have the community connections that are almost too numerous to mention coming out of every edition. A few websites or blogs don’t cut it.”

Nader grew up in a Winsted served by a six-days-a-week paper packed with foreign, national and local news, he said. The local evening newspaper that Nader delivered as a young paperboy shut down years ago, and other Winsted-based community-news outlets also folded over the years. As of now, Nader states unequivocally, the town of 7,100 is a news desert where citizens are deprived of access to local coverage.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Definitely.”

That assertion has drawn objections from other local publications in Connecticut, which generally welcome Nader’s effort to expand news coverage while contesting the idea that local journalists have ignored his hometown.

On a recent visit to Winsted, the local Stop & Shop supermarket was stocked with seven print newspapers. That included current print editions of the Waterbury, Connecticut-based Republican-American and the Lakeville Journal of nearby Lakeville, Connecticut, as well as The Hartford Courant, USA Today and the robust daily newspapers of New York City, which is about a two-hour drive away. The Torrington Register-Citizen regularly covers Winsted as well.

In an early interview about launching The Citizen, Nader asserted that Winsted residents had no way to track the town budget without personally attending public meetings, because there was nowhere to read about it. In fact, the Republican-American reporter covering Winsted and surrounding towns wrote a string of budget-related stories, and the Torrington paper also kept tabs on Winsted’s local government.

Winsted is a pretty good news town. Over the past decade, its finance director was convicted of embezzling public funds, the state took over its chronically underfunded school system and a lack of maintenance led to dangerous problems with aging infrastructure, including a well-traveled bridge. None of those stories went unreported.

As in other traditional New England mill towns, the economic base has eroded but civic pride and personality endure.

Winsted is home to the American Mural Project, an arts organization that houses what it describes as the world’s largest indoor collaborative artwork. It’s also the site of the Nader-backed American Museum of Tort Law, which celebrates the transformative power of lawsuits and displays a vintage Chevrolet Corvair, a car Nader famously pronounced “unsafe at any speed” in the 1960s.

Reuniting a community

Jennifer Almquist, a contributor to The Winsted Citizen and resident of a nearby town, said the newspaper’s launch has helped to rally a community still beaten down by the pandemic.

“To try and re-establish the community after three years of COVID is on everyone’s mind,” said Almquist, a photographer and former art gallery owner. “We lost our community, in my view.”

 Greg Burns served as Editorial Board member, columnist and business editor at the Chicago Tribune and as a reporter for BusinessWeek magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times.

National Press Club Press Release, Club Urges India’s Government to Rescind Ban on BBC Documentary, Bill McCarren (Club Executive Director), Jan. 31, 2023. (JIP Editor Andrew Kreig serves on the Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee.)

The Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the decision by the government of India to censor the airing of a BBC news documentary probing the role national press club logoPrime Minister Narendra Modi may have played in the 2002 Gujarat riots:

“India should be proud that it is the largest democracy in the world, but it cannot hold on to that identity if it continues to erode press freedom, persecute journalists, and suppress news that holds a mirror up to its shortcomings. Since Modi came to power, we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his government — time and time again — has suppressed the right of its citizens to a free and independent news media.”

bbc news logo2“We strongly urge the government of India to rescind its ban on the BBC documentary and to allow the citizens of India to decide for themselves whether they agree or disagree with its findings. The BBC is one of the most respected news sources in the world and is known for its high editorial standards. We also demand in the strongest terms the government stop its persecution of journalists and suppression of press freedom in India.”

india flag mapAfter the BBC aired a two-part documentary entitled “India: The Modi Question” on Jan. 17, the Indian government used its emergency powers to ban it from being aired in the country. Modi’s government also forced Twitter and YouTube to block the documentary in India under an unjust 2021 information technology law, which the National Press Club has previously criticized.

The BBC documentary examines Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was chief minister of the western Indian state. During the riots, thousands of predominantly Muslim Indians were killed, many were raped, and Muslim establishments were set on fire. The Indian Supreme Court exonerated Modi in 2012 of wrongdoing, but the documentary notes the British Foreign Office produced an unpublished report claiming Modi was “directly responsible” for enabling the impunity of violence that led to the killings.

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the U.S. and worldwide.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged, global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with the skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire a more representative democracy. The NPCJI is the nonprofit affiliate of the National Press Club.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist charged in child porn case, Salvador Rizzo, Feb. 1, 2023. Federal prosecutors in Virginia have charged a former national security journalist for ABC News with a child pornography offense.

James Gordon Meek, a producer who covered terrorism and major crimes for the network, was charged with one count of transporting child pornography. The FBI said in a court filing unsealed Tuesday that agents searched Meek’s apartment in Arlington last year and found explicit images and videos of minors on his electronic devices.

Meek would face a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted. Meek’s attorney and ABC representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a court filing Wednesday, Meek’s attorney, Eugene Gorokhov, said he could offer evidence to show Meek was not a danger to the community, and may be eligible for bond while his trial is pending.

Meek’s last report for ABC News was published April 2022, days before the FBI searched his apartment. He resigned the same month, according to the network.

A forensic review of an iPhone found in Meek’s apartment showed that the phone’s user and another person on the messaging application Kik exchanged videos of minors being sexually abused, the FBI said in the filing. An external hard drive found in Meek’s kitchen also contained images of minors being sexually abused, the FBI said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid attacks from DeSantis, AP African American studies course is updated, Nick Anderson and Lori Rozsa, Feb. 1, 2023. The College Board denies that it watered down the course after criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

After long debate on how to construct a class focused on the Black experience, the College Board on Wednesday finalized a plan for its new Advanced Placement course in African American studies that seeks to immerse students in Black history and culture — without shying from fraught topics of race and racism — in a way that until now has mostly been available only on college campuses.

The College Board denied any suggestion that it watered down the course after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) attacked an earlier draft as progressive “indoctrination.” But the 234-page document now omits mention of certain left-leaning figures who appeared in a previous version. Gone, for instance, are Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a scholar and writer on civil rights and critical race theory, and Angela Davis, a political activist and academic known for her membership in the Communist and Black Panther parties.

The document also listed some potentially controversial topics that students might explore through independent projects. Examples include affirmative action, reparations, Black Lives Matter, and queer life and expression in Black communities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tom Brady says he is retiring from the NFL ‘for good,’ Mark Maske, Feb. 1, 2023. Tom Brady, the legendary quarterback who established himself over more than two decades as the NFL’s most prolific winner and arguably its greatest player, announced Wednesday that he is retiring.

This time, he said, he will not change his mind.

“I’ll get to the point right away: I’m retiring, for good,” Brady said in a 53-second video posted to social media. “I know the process was a pretty big deal last time. So when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first. So I won’t be long-winded. You only get one super-emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year.”

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