Saturday, January 30, 2021

Texas lawmaker introduces legislation calling for the state’s secession from the United States and the establishment of an independent Republic of Texas

ABC News reports:

On Tuesday, Texas Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) filed House Bill 1359, otherwise known as the Texas Independence Referendum Act. If passed, it would allow Texans to vote on whether the Texas Legislature should create a joint interim committee to develop a plan for achieving Texas independence. 

If the legislation is approved by the Texas House and Senate and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, voters in the state would be presented with the following question:

Should the legislature of the State of Texas submit a plan for leaving the United States of America and establishing an independent republic.

The bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Kyle Biedermann, argues that House Bill (HB) 1359, dubbed “The Texan Independence Referendum Act,” would give Texans a choice on whether or not to secede:

This act simply lets Texans vote. This decision is too big to be monopolized solely by the power brokers in our Capitol. We need to let Texans’ voices be heard! Voters of all political persuasions in Texas can agree on one thing, Washington, D.C., is and has been broken. Our federal government continuously fails our working families, seniors, taxpayers, veterans and small business owners. For decades, the promises of America and our individual liberties have been eroding. It is now time that the people of Texas are allowed the right to decide their own future. This is not a left or right political issue. Let Texans vote!

Biedermann notesTexas is seen as the bastion of freedom and a leader of free enterprise, which has built a robust economy, financial solvency and capacity for massive energy production worthy of the world stage. These are all indications that the Republic of Texas would not just survive but thrive as an independent nation. Now is the time for Texas to lead. 

Bottom line: Texas lawmaker Kyle Biedermann has introduced legislation calling for the state’s secession from the United States and the establishment of an independent Republic of Texas (Patheos, January 28, 2021).

Friday, January 29, 2021

Why Scientists Are Very Worried About the Variant from Brazil (NPR)


New coronavirus variants seem to be cropping up everywhere. There's one from the U.K., which is more contagious and already circulating in the United States. There's one from South Africa, which is forcing Moderna and Pfizer to reformulate their COVID-19 vaccines and create ‘booster’ shots, just to make sure the vaccines maintain their efficacies.

“But for some scientists, the most worrying variant might be the newest one. A variant called P.1, which emerged in early December in Manaus, Brazil, and by mid-January had already caused a massive resurgence in cases across the city of 2 million people.

“On Monday [Jan. 25], officials detected the first confirmed case of P.1 in the U.S., specifically in Minnesota. The state Department of Health picked up the case by randomly sequencing 50 nasal swabs from positive patients each week. The person infected with P.1. had previously traveled to Brazil.
“‘If you were to ask me right now, what's most concerning of all the things that I've heard so far, it's the fact that they are reporting a sudden increase in cases in Manaus, Brazil,’ virus expert Jeremy Luban at the University of Massachusetts told NPR two weeks ago before the variant arrived in the United States. ‘Manaus already had 75% of people infected [in the spring of last year].’
“The concern with P.1 is twofold: Scientists don't understand why the variant has spread so explosively in Brazil, and the variant carries a particularly dangerous set of mutations. While the variant from the U.K. took about three months to dominate the outbreak in England, P.1 took only about a month to dominate the outbreak in Manaus.

“In addition, Manaus had already been hit extremely hard by the virus in April. One study estimated that the population should have reached herd immunity and the virus shouldn't be able to spread easily in the community. So why would the city see an even bigger surge 10 months later? Could P.1 be evading the antibodies made against the previous version of the virus, making reinfections easier? Could it just be significantly more contagious? Could both be true?

“‘While we don't know exactly why this variant has been so apparently successful in Brazil, none of the explanations on the table are good,’ epidemiologist Bill Hanage at Harvard University wrote on Twitter.
“Reinfections are a serious concern for several reasons. First off, like the variant from South Africa, P.1 carries a cluster of mutations along the surface of the virus where antibodies — especially the potent antibodies — like to bind. ‘They are kind of the major targets of the immune system,’ said virus expert Penny Moore at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. ‘So when we see a whole lot of mutations in [those surfaces], it raises the possibility that the mutations might be conferring immune escape.’ That is, the mutations are helping the virus evade antibodies or escape recognition by them. In essence, the mutations are providing the virus with a type of invisibility cloak.
“To test out this hypothesis, Moore and her colleagues took blood serum from 44 people infected with the previous version of the virus and checked to see if the antibodies in that serum still worked against the new variant from South Africa. Or did the antibodies lose their sensitivity?

“‘Indeed that's what we saw,’ she said. ‘In fact, it was really quite a dramatic drop-off in sensitivity. We saw that in half of the serum, the antibodies were significantly less effective against the new variant [from South Africa].’ So far, scientists haven't tested out P.1 in similar neutralization experiments, but P.1 has two mutations that scientists have already shown reduce antibody binding.
“And thus, now we have a game of ‘cat and mouse,’ said virus expert Ravi Gupta, between the virus and the vaccine. The virus finds ways around the vaccine (and our immune system), said Gupta, and so the manufacturers have to reformulate the vaccines (or else we run the risk of getting infected twice). ‘We've been here before with the flu. We're having to live with influenza and figure out a way of staying ahead of the virus by making vaccines on a yearly basis,’ said Gupta at the University of Cambridge. ‘So, I can imagine that we'll be doing something similar with [the] coronavirus. Eventually we'll need to design different vaccines that are targeting different parts of the virus — ones that the virus finds harder to change.’
“This process is going to cost the world a great deal of money — and take time, Gupta added, ‘I don't think there's going to be a single solution that just comes along in 2021 that says, 'That's it, we're done. The coronavirus is going to cause a long-term disruption’” Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR).
Why Scientists Are Very Worried About the Variant from Brazil (NPR).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken


The New York Times reports: “Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the oath of office to Antony J. Blinken on Wednesday, his first full day leading the State Department.”

“Today feels like homecoming. It’s a new day for America and the world. We'll strengthen this indispensable institution, lead with the power of our example, and put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet today's challenges. I’m excited about all that’s ahead” -Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Impeachment or the 14th Amendment: Can Trump be barred from future office? by Jan Wolfe


(Reuters) - Some U.S. lawmakers have said President Donald Trump should be disqualified from holding political office again following his impeachment on Wednesday for inciting a mob that stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Now that the House has impeached Trump, the Senate will hold a trial on whether to remove him and possibly bar him from future office. Legal experts said disqualification could be accomplished through the impeachment proceedings or the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Here is how the disqualification effort could play out.


The U.S. Constitution says there are two ways to punish an impeached official: removal from office or “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” The House approved a single article of impeachment accusing Trump of inciting insurrection when he delivered an incendiary speech to supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged the Capitol.

Trump is likely to argue at trial that his remarks were free speech protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and that, while he told supporters to “fight,” he did not intend it as a literal call to violence. Removing an official requires a “conviction” by a two-thirds Senate majority under the Constitution. Under precedent, only a simple majority is needed for disqualification. Historically, that vote only happens after a conviction. Three federal officials in U.S. history have been disqualified through impeachment proceedings. All three were federal judges.

Most recently, in 2010 the Senate removed and disqualified from future office a Louisiana judge found to have engaged in corruption. There is some debate over the scope of the disqualification clause and whether it applies to the presidency, said Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University.

Analyzing historical documents, some law experts say the founders did not intend the presidency to be considered an “office” under the disqualification clause, while others argue that the term applies.


This is uncharted legal territory, and there is no clear answer, scholars said. Paul Campos, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Colorado, said he believed a vote to disqualify Trump can be held even if there are not enough votes for conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the Senate has wide latitude to determine how it conducts a trial, he said.

But Kalt said he thought disqualification would require conviction first. To do otherwise would be the equivalent of punishing the president for an offense he did not commit, Kalt said. All three judges who were disqualified from office were first convicted.


Section 3 of the 14th Amendment provides an alternative path for disqualification. The provision states that no person shall hold office if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States. It was enacted following the Civil War to bar Confederates from holding public office.

Under congressional precedent, only a simple majority of both chambers is needed to invoke this penalty. Congress can later remove the disqualification, but only if two-thirds of both houses vote in favor of doing so.

In 1919, Congress used the 14th Amendment to block an elected official, Victor Berger, from assuming his seat in the House because he had actively opposed U.S. intervention in World War I. The text of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment does not explain how it should be invoked.

Another section the 14th Amendment, Section 5, empowers Congress to enforce the entire amendment through “appropriate legislation.” Some scholars have interpreted this language to mean that a majority of both chambers of Congress could enact a law applying a ban to a particular president, like Trump.

“The 14th Amendment route is very unclear as to what it would take to get it rolling,” said Kalt. “I think it would require some combination of legislation and litigation.”


It is certainly possible, said Kalt. A Supreme Court case from 1993 makes clear that the court is wary of second-guessing how the Senate handles impeachment. In that case, involving an accused judge, the court said whether the Senate had properly tried an impeachment was a political question and could not be litigated.

If Trump is disqualified, the current Supreme Court might want to clarify whether the move was lawful, Kalt said. Trump appointed three of the Supreme Court’s nine members: Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and most recently Amy Coney Barrett. The court now has a six-judge conservative majority. “If you are going to say someone can’t run, you want to get that litigated and settled sooner rather than later,” Kalt said.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Why You Should Double-Mask to Prevent Covid-19 and How to Do It


“As more contagious coronavirus variants emerge, health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, say it’s probably a good idea to start doubling up on your face masks.

“The new variants are thought to have an easier time binding to our cells, so the more layers we have covering our noses and mouths, the less likely we’ll be exposed to viral particles that can infect our cells and make us sick. Two masks may help create a stronger shield between you and the virus (or, at the very least, they couldn’t hurt).

“Here’s everything you should know about double-masking ― including how to go about it ― so you can prevent COVID-19 as best as you can:

Pick two masks that have enough layers and air filtration.

“‘The more layers, the more barriers you can put between yourself and the virus, the better off you’re going to be,’ said Thomas Duszynski, the director of epidemiology education at Indiana University’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

“N95 face masks are the gold standard in terms of protection. If you can get ahold of an N95 and double it up with a surgical mask, you’re going to have an efficient shield against viral particles. But N95 masks continue to be in limited supply, so they’ll be difficult to score for the time being. The issue then is how to spice up your cloth or surgical face masks, said Onyema Ogbuagu, a Yale Medicine infectious disease doctor and principal investigator of Yale’s Pfizer COVID-19 trial.


“The two properties of a mask you want to look for are the filtering capacity and the breathability, according to Ogbuagu. You want masks that can both filter the air we breathe in and limit how many respiratory secretions we shoot out.


“KN95 masks are thought to be pretty good alternatives to N95 masks in non-clinical settings. They might not be quite as rigorous as N95s — there’s really no beating them — but KN95 masks still offer a lot of protection for you and others when sealed around your nose and mouth. (Here’s a list of the KN95s that have received emergency use authorization.) Surgical masks are great for protecting you and others against large respiratory droplets, but due to their loose fit, they’re not foolproof at keeping out all of the smaller, aerosolized particles. (Tip: if your surgical mask is loose, try tying knots in the ear loops to keep it taut.)

Put your air-filtration mask on first, then cover it up with another one. Make sure you choose breathable fabrics with no valves, otherwise you’ll defeat the purpose.

“The mask with the greatest filtering capabilities should go on first, like the N95, KN95 or a well-fitted surgical mask. Make sure that mask is tightly sealed against your face. You don’t want gaps in the mask along the sides of your face where contaminated air can sneak in. Data suggests certain cloth masks might not be as protective as we once hoped, so it might be time to officially ditch the bandanas and neck gaiters and have your second layer be a multilayer cloth mask or another surgical mask.

“In general, the more layers your masks have, the better off you — and the people around you — will be. Studies have found that masks with multiple layers can block 50% to 70% of small droplets. When it comes to cloth masks, evidence suggests three layers of tightly woven fabric are the way to go.


“‘The more layers you have covering your nose and mouth means less virus you’re able to disseminate into the population. And then the more layers you have between you and the environment, the fewer viral particles are going to get into your system,” said Duszynski, who recommends double-masking when going indoors where other people will be.

“Ogbuagu said you definitely want the masks, worn together, to be comfortable. Keep in mind: Certain materials can make it tough to breathe, and there is such a thing as over-masking, which can actually wind up doing more harm than good.


“‘You can pack on 10 layers, but what you do is you lose breathability, they’re uncomfortable and you’ve overdone the filtering capacity that you want,’ Ogbuagu said. Certain fabrics (like vinyl) also make it harder to breathe. And if you can’t breathe, you likely won’t wear it. Duszynski also advised against masks with a valve or vent. Not only do these masks have an opening the virus can travel through, but the vent concentrates the amount of virus coming out, which can put others at risk. Even with a second mask on top, Duszynski said, steer clear of masks with vents or valves.


“When in doubt, go for masks that fit snugly against the side of your face and completely cover your nose and mouth. ‘The science is really clear on this,’ Duszynski said. Double-masking is just another way you can not only guard yourself but help protect somebody else.


Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Besting Ruth, Beating Hate: How Hank Aaron Made Baseball History by Jen Christensen


Hank Aaron made sports history on April 8, 1974. On that day he broke Babe Ruth's total home run record -- something few thought could ever be done -- but swinging that bat came with a great personal risk. CNN takes a behind the scenes look at how this sports legend was made.

by Jen Christensen, CNN

Editor's note: The following story contains epithets that may be offensive to some readers.

A version of this piece first appeared on CNN in 2014.

Almost half a century ago, Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron did what most thought was impossible. On April 8, 1974, the Atlanta Brave hit home run number 715.

It broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. It was an incredible athletic accomplishment made even more incredible because it happened in the shadow of hate and death threats. Those threats came from people who did not want an African-American to claim such an important record.

Aaron finished his career with a record 755 homers, a stat so impressive it has been bested by only one player, Barry Bonds, who finished his career with 762 – though that record has come under a cloud of steroid-use allegations.

A report from Braves scout Billy Southworth from the Richard A. Cecil Collection, Rose Library, Emory University.

When Major League Baseball scouts first took a look at the teenage sensation in 1952, they saw potential but could not know the legend he'd become.

Those scouting reports show a player with natural talent but also little coaching or experience. He grew up in the 1930s and ‘40s deep in the heart of the segregated South – an African-American man without access to organized baseball teams, fields or equipment.

The nearly million letters sent to Aaron as he chased the home run record also show an ugly side of American culture in the early 1970s. The letters drip with hate and threaten his life just for playing baseball.

The letters and other documents from this time are a part of the Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library collection in Atlanta, which is known for its extensive Black history materials. The letters are a testament to what Aaron overcame to become one of the greatest players of the game.

The scouting reports

The May 26, 1952, report from Braves scout Dewey Griggs describes Aaron as physically "well put up." Another report from July from scout and baseball Hall of Famer Billy Southworth describes Aaron's "slender build."

Listed as 5'11", 170 pounds on one report, he was even skinnier when he lived in Mobile, Alabama. It was so noticeable that a Dodgers scout told Aaron he'd never play professionally.

Griggs and Southworth disagreed. Perhaps they knew skinniness could be fixed. It happens when a young man's diet is limited to what his family grew in their garden. After all, Aaron was only 18, and there was still time to fill out.

By all reports, Aaron's childhood was marked by his obsession with baseball. He even got kicked out of high school when he cut too many classes to listen to Dodgers games on the pool hall radio.

When Aaron's hero Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to integrate Major League Baseball, came to Mobile in 1948, Aaron cut class to hear the Dodger speak at a drugstore. Later that day, he told his father that's what he wanted to do with his life. Robinson "gave us our dreams," Aaron wrote in his autobiography.

There was no school team, so he'd play fast pitch softball at school and pickup baseball games with neighborhood kids. They carved a makeshift diamond in an abandoned lot, their baseball made from rags.

A letter from Syd Pollock, the owner of the Indianapolis Clowns to Braves executive John Mullen concerning the terms of Hank Aaron's contract. From the Richard A. Cecil Collection, Rose Library, Emory University.

He remembers though, even then, he had to separate his playing from the racial hate that swirled around him.

"When I was growing up in Mobile, Alabama on a little dirt street, I remember my mother about 6 or 7 o'clock in the afternoon. You could hardly see and I'd be trying to throw a baseball and she'd say 'Come here, come here!' And I'd say, 'For what?' She said, 'Get under the bed,' " Aaron said in a rare interview with CNN in 2014.

The family would hide under the bed for several minutes and then "the KKK would march by, burn a cross and go on about their business and then she (my mother) would say, 'You can come out now.' Can you imagine what this would do to the average person? Here I am, a little boy, not doing anything, just catching a baseball with a friend of mine and my mother telling me, 'Go under the bed.'"

In the scouting report, Southworth notes Aaron's strength is his "all around ability," but "his experience has been confined to sandlot and three months this year with the Indianapolis Clowns."

Nevertheless, Southworth closes his report with "I recommend bonus."

In the space for player's strength, Griggs writes, "I feel that he has the ability." And in the letter Griggs wrote to the Braves front office, he closes his letter about 18-year-old Aaron with, "This boy could be the answer."

A letter from scout Dewey Griggs to Braves executive John Mullen detailing what he observed of how Hank Aaron played during a double header in May 1952, from the Richard A. Cecil Collection, Rose Library, Emory University.

When the Braves bought Aaron's contract from the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952, they promised him $350 a month and paid the Clowns $10,000. The Buffalo Criterion newspaper reported this was "one of the highest prices paid for an American League star in many years."

Aaron's signing bonus? A cardboard suitcase.

The ticket to his future

With his new gig, Aaron embarked on what would be his first airplane ride in June 1952 to meet the Braves Class C farm team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The ticket cost $47.96. He writes the flight terrified him: "I was a nervous wreck, bouncing around in the sky over a part of the country I'd hardly ever heard about, much less been to, headed for a white town to play ball with white boys."

The ticket for the flight the Braves booked to bring Hank Aaron to play for the Braves Class C farm team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. From the Richard A. Cecil Collection, Rose Library, Emory University.

Eau Claire wasn't a "hateful place for a black person – nothing like the South – but "we didn't blend in," Aaron wrote in his autobiography. When he went out, people stared. Nonetheless, the Northern League named him Rookie of the Year. He batted .336.

Aaron's race became more of a challenge when the Braves promoted him to Class A ball the next season. He and Horace Garner and Felix Mantilla broke the color line in the Sally League, the Deep South's league. With the Class A team based in Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron writes the mayor warned him he'd hear racist shouts from fans that he should "suffer quietly."

Fans threw rocks. They wore mops on their heads to mock the black players. They threw black cats onto the field. The FBI investigated death threats. The players knew to ignore the hate, but "we couldn't help but feel the weight of what we were doing," Aaron wrote in his autobiography.

The stadiums had segregated seating. Brown v. Board ended "separate but equal" on paper in 1954 -- the year Aaron got promoted to the big league. But, like with other facilities, the "whites only" signs didn't come down immediately. It wasn't until 1961 that the Braves took down the "whites only" signs, according to Aaron. The segregation also extended to the team.

While the white Braves got to eat in restaurants in the South, the black players took their meals on the bus. They were also housed separately in towns that kept public accommodations segregated. Some Florida newspapers wouldn't even print the pictures of the black players. But by the end of his Sally League season, Aaron said in his autobiography "little by little -- one by one -- the fans accepted us. Not all of them, but enough to make a difference … and we were part of the reason why."

His hitting also got him noticed. In 1953, the South Atlantic League named him Most Valuable Player. He won the batting title with a .362 average and led the league in hits at 208 and 115 runs. He had more total votes than the next three vote-getters combined. He started his Major League career that following year.

Aaron had record success. He was named an MVP (1957), a Gold Glove (1958, '59, '60) and picked for countless All Star teams. Over the 23 years he played, Aaron achieved an incredible .305 lifetime batting average. Yet some fans couldn't see past their hate. That was never clearer than when he got close to breaking Babe Ruth's home run record.

Racist hate mail

The Braves front office kept a handful of the 990,000 letters Aaron received in the early 1970s. He received so many that the U.S. Post Office gave him a plaque for receiving more mail than any other American (not including politicians).

Hank Aaron received hate mail by the bag full. From the Richard A. Cecil Collection, Rose Library, Emory University.

One angry letter sent to management suggests the Braves low attendance records were because of race. Sent in August 1972, it says, "If you will get rid of some of them NIGGERS and put in WHITE ball players who can use judgment we could win the pennant and fill that park."

Aaron originally told reporters he didn't want the team to move from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Atlanta in 1966. The city was home to Martin Luther King Jr. and a cluster of top-notch African-American Universities, but he felt many Atlanta residents were stuck in a racist past. At the opening game in Atlanta, Aaron said the biggest cheer came after the scoreboard flashed a message that said "April 12, 1861: First Shots Fired on Fort Sumter … April 12, 1966: The South Rises Again." His wife often heard fans call her husband "nigger" from the stands.

Knowing this context, Aaron writes that as "a black player, I would be on trial in Atlanta, and I needed a decisive way to win over the white people before they thought of a reason to hate me."

He decided home runs would win them over. That year, he led the National League with 44. By 1972, reporters started asking about breaking Babe Ruth's home run record.

Ruth was considered the guy who saved baseball. The Sultan of Swat’s numerous home runs were such a marvel (in 1920 his 54 home runs beat the home run total of all but one team that year) and he was such a colorful character that fans flocked to the stadiums to see this power player’s swing. Up until then the fans had been staying away, disgusted by the Black Sox scandal, when players for the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. Ruth restored people’s faith in the game.

As Aaron got within reach, a popular bumper sticker popped up around Atlanta that read "Aaron is Ruth-less." Hate mail poured into the Braves office.

Aaron said he didn't read most of it but kept it as a reminder. It made him hit better, he wrote. "Dammit all, I had to break the record," he writes in his autobiography. "I had to do it for Jackie (Robinson), and my people and myself and for everybody who ever called me a nigger."

The FBI also investigated several death threats and kidnapping plots against his children. An armed guard started accompanying Aaron. Somehow he was able to stay focused.

"I've always felt like once I put the uniform on and once I got out onto the playing field, I could separate the two from say an evil letter I got the day before or event 20 minutes before," he told CNN. "God gave me the separation, gave me the ability to separate the two of them."

The hate left its mark, though. Even long after he retired, Aaron still scanned crowds for threats. And it does leave him wondering if he could have hit more. "That is one thing I often think about," Aaron told CNN. He said the FBI wouldn't let him open his mail for at least two or three years. Because of the threats, he said he missed his kids' graduations, and they had to have police escorts at school.

This is another piece of hate mail Hank Aaron received as he got close to breaking Babe Ruth's home run record, many of the letters included death threats, the FBI investigated several of these threats. Aaron and his family were so threatened they were protected by armed guards. From the Richard A. Cecil Collection, Rose Library, Emory University.

When the press wrote about his hate letters, positive letters started pouring in. Fans at away games started giving Aaron standing ovations. And finally, a couple home runs shy of the record, at his last home game of 1973, Braves fans stood and cheered for five minutes.

With the first swing of his 1974 season, Aaron tied Babe Ruth's record at 714. Vice President Gerald Ford made a speech.

Back at the Atlanta home opener, nearly 54,000 fans greeted him. Sammy Davis Jr. was in the stands as was Jimmy Carter, then Georgia's governor and America's future president.

He hit his record-breaking home run during his second time at bat. The Braves had been playing the team that brought Aaron his hero, the Dodgers. Aaron's entire team greeted him at home plate. So did his mother. "I tell you to this day, I don't know how she managed to do it… but she got to home plate quicker than I got to home base," Aaron said.

A small celebration stopped the game, and all Aaron said was "I just thank God it's all over."

President Richard Nixon called, and thousands of positive telegrams arrived. "Having integrated sports in the Deep South, Aaron already was a hero to me as I sat in the stands that day," President Carter said in marking the 40th anniversary of when Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. "As the first black superstar playing on the first big league baseball team in the Deep South, he had been both demeaned and idolized in Atlanta."

Carter believes Aaron's success in baseball played a huge role in advancing the cause of civil rights. "He became the first black man for whom white fans in the South cheered," said Carter. "A humble man who did not seek the limelight, he just wanted to play baseball, which he did exquisitely."

That night, Aaron got down on his knees and prayed. "I probably felt closer to God at that moment than at any other time in my life," he would later write.

Aaron retired in 1976 and became a Hall of Famer in 1982. He went on to work in the Braves front office as the vice president of player development and then became the senior vice president and assistant to the president. In his retirement he and his family started the Chasing the Dream Foundation, that gives children mentoring and financial support to follow their dreams.

Reflecting on his accomplishments despite all the obstacles, Aaron said it was his motto that got him through: "Always keep swinging."

Terence Moore contributed to this report.


Monday, January 25, 2021




The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment, for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Further, section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States from “hold[ing] an office ... under the United States.’ In his conduct while President of the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, provide, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed — Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States, in that:

On January 6, 2021, pursuant to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the Senate met at the United States Capitol for a Joint Session of Congress to count the votes of the Electoral College. In the months preceding the Joint Session, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials. Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. There, he reiterated false claims that “we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.” He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.

President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.

In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.


“Madigan gets to personally keep union pac dollars. Union members played for suckers” by Fred Klonsky


“In 2019 when former Speaker Michael Madigan was spending a million dollars to defend himself and his office from charges of sexual harassment, I wrote that he was using his Friends of Michael Madigan PAC to pay for lawyers and a cash settlement to political consultant and victim of the harassment, Alain Hampton.

“Even though Madigan was head of the Illinois Democratic Party, his personal PAC was much larger than the Illinois Democratic Party PAC. Union dollars went to fund his personal PAC. ‘Our unions’ political action committees also give hundreds of thousands of dollars to the political action committee that Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan personally controls.

“‘In the last quarter the CTU PAC gave The Friends of Michael Madigan $8,000. The Illinois Federation of Teachers’ COPE gave The Friends of Michael Madigan $210,000. The Illinois Education Association’s IPACE gave The Friends of Michael Madigan $57,000. They gave the Democratic Party of Illinois (of which Madigan is the chairman) nothing.

“Friends of Michael Madigan has a balance of $13,472,855 as of December 31st, 2020. Now that Madigan has been forced out of his Speaker’s office, what happens to the money?

“According to a story by reporter Derrick Blakely at the Center of Illinois Politics over a million dollars of that his to spend as he wishes. According to Blakely, in the old days, retiring politicians could keep all the money in their personal PACs. The law changed in 1999. They could only keep what they had raised prior to January 1st of that year. For Madigan that is a million and a half dollars.

“‘The resulting law prohibits retiring legislators from pocketing the money in their personal campaign fund, unless that fund was active prior to 1999. If so, they can take with them the balance in the account as of June 30, 1998. Few legislators still active were House members in 1998. But Michael J. Madigan, who’s served in the House since 1978, certainly was.’

“‘What Madigan had available in the account in June 1998 was $1,488,892.85,’ said (University of Illinois-Springfield Prof. Kent) Redfield. ‘He could absolutely legally take it for personal use. He’d only have to pay taxes on it and report it as income.’ Quite a retirement sweetener, in addition to Madigan’s hefty pension after a 50-year statehouse career.

“As for the rest of the money raised after 1999? ‘There’s a lot of ambiguity in terms of what Madigan could or could not do with the $12 million left in case he paid himself the $1.48 million,’ said Redfield.

“For example, he could keep the Committee and pay himself a million dollars a year in salary. ‘I think for all his shortcomings and that for all our disagreements at times, the former Speaker is a loyal Democrat. At the end of the day, he will figure out some way to use those resources to help the Democratic Party,’ said (State Representative and Party Whip, Will) Guzzardi.

“I’m not so sure. But in any case, when union teachers like me wrote checks for union PACs to support pro-education candidates, the union PACs were acting like pass-throughs to Michael Madigan. I’d say we were played.”

Madigan gets to personally keep our union PAC dollars. Union members played for suckers. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Faithful Dog Named Boncuk


“The dog — called Boncuk, which means bead — followed the ambulance that carried Cemal Senturk to the hospital in Trabzon on Wednesday, January 14, the Turkish news agency DHA reported. Senturk's family took her home, but Boncuk returned to the Medical Park Trabzon Karadeniz Hospital every day, DHA reported.

“Muhammet Akdeniz, a security guard at the hospital, told DHA: ‘She comes every day around 9 a.m. and waits until nightfall. She doesn't go in. When the door opens, she pokes her head inside,’ he said, according to The Associated Press. DHA reported that hospital staff fed Boncuk while she waited outside.

“Senturk and Boncuk were reunited on Wednesday — six days after Senturk was admitted to hospital — when he was briefly brought outside in his wheelchair, the AP reported. DHA shared video footage of the dog waiting outside the hospital, and being reunited with Senturk. It shows her being visibly excited and following his wheelchair and Senturk petting her.

“They were fully reunited later on Wednesday, when Senturk was discharged and went home. Senturk told DHA: ‘She's very used to me. And I miss her, too, constantly’” (Insider).

Friday, January 22, 2021

Remembering Hank Aaron, one of the greatest MLB players ever

"The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans" -Heather Cox Richardson


“…[T]he Senate is currently unable to organize itself because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insisting that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The filibuster is peculiar to the Senate, and is a procedure designed to draw out the session to prevent a vote on a measure. It is an old system, but it is not exactly hallowed: it was a bit of a mistake.

“The Constitution provides for the Senate to pass most measures by a simple majority. It also permits each house of Congress to write its own rules. According to historian Brian Bixby, the House discovered early on that it needed a procedure to stop debate and get on with a vote. The Senate, a much smaller body, did not.

“In the 1830s, senators in the minority discovered they could prevent votes on issues they disliked simply by talking the issue to death. In 1917, when both President Woodrow Wilson and the American people turned against the filibuster after senators used it to stop Wilson from preparing for war, the Senate reluctantly adopted a procedure to end a filibuster using a process called ‘cloture,’ but that process is slow and it takes a majority of three-fifths of all members. Today, that is 60 votes.

“From 1917 to 1964, senators filibustered primarily to stop civil rights legislation. The process was grueling: a senator had to talk for hours, as South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond did in 1957, when he spoke for 24 hours straight to stand against a civil rights act. But the need to speed up Senate business meant that in the 1960s and 1970s, senators settled on procedural filibusters that enabled an individual senator to kill a measure simply by declaring opposition, rather than through the old-fashioned system of all-night speeches.

“The Senate also declared some measures, such as budget resolutions, immune to filibusters. Effectively, this means that it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to get anything--other than absolutely imperative financial measures-- done.

“In 2013, frustrated by the Republicans’ filibustering of President Obama’s judicial nominees and picks for a number of officials in the Executive Branch, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prohibited filibusters on certain Executive Branch and judicial nominees. In 2017, when Democrats tried to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, as well.

“The filibuster remains in place for legislation.

“The Democrats currently have no plans to try to kill the filibuster altogether—they do not have the votes, as Joe Manchin (D-WV) has openly opposed the idea and others are leery—but they want to keep the threat of killing it to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.

“This impasse means that senators are not organizing the Senate. New senators have not been added to existing committees, which leaves Republicans in the majority in key committees. This is slowing down Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed.

“What’s at stake here is actually quite an interesting question. While the new Senate is split evenly—50 Democrats, 50 Republicans—the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans.

“Essentially, then, the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority.

“We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s actually a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to make the rules of our system fit our changing nation.”

-Heather Cox Richardson