from the Associated Press

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U.S. and British authorities are continuing an investigation into the weekend standoff at a Texas synagogue that ended with an armed British national dead. The rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel was among four people taken hostage and credits past security training with everyone getting out safely. President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terror. Authorities identified the captor as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram. The FBI said there was no early indication that anyone else was involved but has not provided a possible motive. The agency on Sunday night issued a statement calling the ordeal “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted” and said the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating.

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Police in England say they have arrested two teenagers in their investigation into an armed British national holding four people hostage during a 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue. The Greater Manchester Police did not name the suspects Sunday or whether they faced any charges. They described them as teenagers who were in custody for questioning. Authorities have identified the hostage-taker as a 44-year-old British national, Malik Faisal Akram. He was killed Saturday night after the last hostages ran out of Congregation Beth Israel near Fort Worth. 

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One of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, Charles McGee, who flew fighter combat missions over three wars, has died. A family member says McGee died on Sunday at age 102 at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. The Tuskegee Airmen is the nickname of the first African American unit to fly combat airplanes in World War II. McGee was among more than 900 men who trained in rural Alabama after the Army Air Corps was forced to admit Black pilots. McGee went on to fly combat missions in World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars.

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Birju Maharaj, a legend of classical Indian dance and among the country’s most well-known performing artists, has died. He was 83. His granddaughter said Maharaj had a kidney ailment and had been undergoing dialysis. Known as Maharaj-ji by his many fans, he was considered an icon of the kathak form of Indian classical dance and was a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award. Kathak uses dance and facial expressions as a way to help tell a story, with many dances inspired by ancient Indian epics. Maharaj was known for his animated expressions and light-footed movements, accompanied by the sound of bells he wore around his ankles. 

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China’s economy grew by 8.1% in 2021 but Beijing faces pressure to shore up activity after an abrupt slowdown in the second half. Government data show the economy expanded by 4% over a year earlier in the final three months of 2021. That is down from the previous quarter’s 4.9% and an eye-popping 18.3% in the year’s first three months. Activity languished under pressure from Beijing on the real estate industry, a key growth driver, to cut debt levels that Chinese leaders worry are dangerously high. The Chinese central bank announced an interest rate cut Monday on one type of lending to commercial banks. 

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South Korea's military says North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea in its fourth weapons launch this month. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff didn’t immediately say whether the weapon was ballistic or how far it flew Monday. North Korea's apparent goal of the launches is demonstrating its military might while diplomacy is stalemated with the United States and its international borders are closed due to the pandemic. Some experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is going back to a tried-and-true technique of pressuring Washington and regional neighbors with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations meant to extract concessions.  

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New Zealand and Australia have sent military surveillance flights to assess the damage a huge undersea volcanic eruption caused in Tonga. Communications with the Pacific island nation remain limited since Saturday's eruption. Residents who got messages out to the world described a moonscape left by tsunami waves and volcanic ash fall. The single underwater cable that provides internet and international phone service was likely severed by the eruption. The ash was contaminating drinking water, and New Zealand is planning to fly water and other supplies to Tonga on Tuesday.

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A dangerous winter storm combining high winds and ice is blasting through parts of the U.S. Southeast. The storm knocked out power Sunday to tens of thousands of customers, felled trees and coated roads with treacherous ice. Highway patrols reported hundreds of vehicle accidents. In Florida, a tornado ripped through a trailer park. Three minor injuries were reported. Significant icing caused problems in North Carolina, while Virginia State Police said traffic stood still for hours on Interstate 81 in Roanoke County due to an accident. The storm system could cause hazardous driving conditions across the eastern U.S. into Monday, as it turns toward the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.

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Shares are mixed in Asia after China reported that its economy expanded at an 8.1% annual pace in 2021, though growth slowed to half that level in the last quarter. Shortly before the growth data were announced, the Chinese central bank on Monday announced a rate cut on medium-lending to commercial banks to the lowest level since 2020. On Wall Street Friday, major indexes logged their second losing week in a row. The S&P 500 gained 0.1%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 0.6% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6%. Traders were disappointed to see that retail sales sank 1.9% in December.

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President Joe Biden will meet virtually with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan on Friday. The meeting comes as the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to surge. The White House said Sunday the meeting will take place to highlight the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The allies are looking to deepen ties in the face of China’s growing economic and military clout in the region. Kishida was elected in November and the two leaders will be meeting for the first time.

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Anti-poverty group Oxfam has called for governments to impose a one-time 99% tax on the world’s billionaires and use the money to fund expanded vaccine production for the poor. Oxfam said in a report Monday that the ranks of the super-rich have swelled during the coronavirus pandemic while poor countries have suffered because vaccines have mostly gone to rich nations. Its report is aimed at informing discussions at the World Economic Forum’s online gathering of political and business leaders this week. Oxfam called for rich countries to waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to expand their production.

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A Bronx community is paying its final respects to loved ones, a week after a fire filled a high-rise apartment building with thick, suffocating smoke that killed 17 people, including six children. Earlier in the week, burial services were held for two children at a mosque in Harlem. The mass funeral at the Islamic Cultural Center culminated a week of prayers and mourning within a close-knit community with ties to the west African country of Gambia. All of the dead collapsed and died after being overcome by smoke while trying to descend down the stairwell of the 19-story building. Officials say the fire was sparked by a faulty electrical space heater.

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Alekos Fassianos, one of the most important modern Greek painters, has died at age 86. The state news agency ANA said Fassianos died Sunday at his home after a long illness. He studied painting in Athens and lithography in Paris, where he lived for 35 years and was made a commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and officer of the Legion of Honor. He mostly avoided contemporary styles and was inspired by Greek popular art and Ancient Greek mythology

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Jeff Goldblum infused Milan Fashion Week with some levity as he shimmied down the Prada runway in a dark overcoat that cast a dramatic silhouette.  The latest menswear collection in the two-year-old collaboration between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons as co-creative directors was at once elemental and celebratory, presenting elevated everyday pieces. Goldblum and Kyle MacLachlan opened and closed Sunday's runway show that featured eight other actors, chosen by the designers to represent “real men, recognized figures,” enhancing reality. Both wore long overcoats. Goldblum's was set off dramatically with furry trim, while MacLachlan’s was contrasted with shimmering pants and shirt in light blue. 

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As California enters its fifth year of broad legal marijuana sales, industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is all too commonplace in the struggling pot economy. Legal businesses have long complained that heavy taxes and regulation — paired with thriving illegal sales — make it impossible for licensed shops to turn a profit. To survive, an increasing number of license holders are secretly operating in the underground — working both sides of the marketplace to make ends meet. Leading companies recently warned Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom the legal market could collapse. Newsom says he's open to changes.

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The president of South Korea has reached a preliminary multibillion-dollar deal to sell Seoul’s surface-to-air missiles to Abu Dhabi and pledged deeper cooperation with the United Arab Emirates during a visit to the Gulf Arab state. After South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with the Emirati prime minister in Dubai on Sunday, the countries signed a memorandum of understanding for the UAE’s purchase of a South Korean missile defense system valued at some $3.5 billion. There were no further details on the deal announced during the visit nor immediate comment from the UAE. The nations have strengthened their defense, energy and technology cooperation in recent years. 

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Ukraine says Russia was behind a cyberattack that defaced government websites and it alleged that Russia is engaged in a “hybrid war” against the country. The statement from Ukraine's Ministry of Digital Development came a day after Microsoft said dozens of computer systems at an unspecified number of Ukrainian government agencies have been infected with destructive malware disguised as ransomware. That disclosure suggested the attention-grabbing defacement attack on official websites last week was a diversion. The ministry said “all evidence indicates that Russia is behind the cyber attack. Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war.” The attack comes as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine looms and diplomatic talks to standoff appear stalled.  

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Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he is returning to Ukraine to fight treason charges even though he views them as politically motivated. He says he believes that fighting them is part of his defense of national unity. Poroshenko spoke at a news conference Sunday in Warsaw hours before he is to fly Monday from the Polish capital to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he is to face the allegations in court. A prosecutor has alleged that Poroshenko was involved in the sale of large amounts of coal that helped finance Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15. Poroshenko insists he is innocent and accuses prosecutors under his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of seeking to distract from the country's problems.

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After a month at the top of the box office, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has finally been overtaken by “Scream." Sunday studio estimates say the Paramount Pictures reboot grossed $30.6 million over the weekend. Paramount forecasts that “Scream” will total $35 million over the four-day holiday weekend. That made for a solid revival for the self-aware slasher franchise kickstarted with the 1996 original. Meanwhile, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” slipped to second place but continued to rise in the record books. It grossed $20.8 million in its fifth weekend of release. On Monday, it's predicted to pass “Black Panther” for fourth highest-grossing film domestically ever, with more than $700 million in ticket sales.

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France's parliament has approved a law that will exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, sports arenas and other venues. It's the central measure of French government efforts to protect hospitals amid record numbers of infections driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. Centrist President Emmanuel Macron had hoped to push the bill through faster but it was delayed by resistance from lawmakers on the right and left. The National Assembly approved the final version by a 215-58 vote. The government is hoping the new vaccine pass will help avoid a new lockdown that would hurt the economy. New restrictions could also cloud Macron’s chances of reelection in the April 10 presidential vote.

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By some counts, President Joe Biden can lay claim to a banner first year in office. But the numbers also reveal plenty of setbacks. Most in the United States got their COVID-19 vaccines, but other countries fared better. Economic growth surged but so did inflation. America exited Afghanistan, but the war ended with a chaotic evacuation and a suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. troops. COVID-19 aid and infrastructure bills passed, but pricey legislation to advance Biden’s social and climate proposals was trimmed and then stalled. And one more stat just for fun: Biden tossed out the phrase “not a joke” 32 times in his speeches. 

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President Joe Biden came to office seeing two sicknesses in his country. Neither has abated a year later. The coronavirus is rampaging like never before, though now from a different variant. The other malady he spoke about from the inaugural stage last January was one of disunity. That's only intensified since he implored Americans to “end this uncivil war.” He's found some of his lofty ambitions grounded by the unrelenting pandemic, a tough hand in Congress, a harrowing end to the Afghanistan war and rising fears for the future of democracy itself. But Biden also has scored notable achievements. Among them is an enormous infrastructure plan to renew foundational elements of American life.

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A new election system, narrowly passed by voters in 2020, is set to be used in Alaska races this year. The system would end party primaries and send the top four vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to the general election, where ranked-choice voting would determine a winner. One supporter says the unique model is being closely watched as other states eye similar changes. The system is being challenged in court by critics who say it is unconstitutional and that it would dilute the power of political parties. A state court judge last year upheld the new system. 

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A Virgin Orbit rocket released from a jet flying off the California coast has carried seven small satellites into space. The launch Thursday kicks off a year in which the company plans a total of six missions, including two originating from Britain. Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 took off from Mojave Air & Space Port in the Southern California desert, flew out over the Pacific Ocean and dropped the LauncherOne rocket from under its left wing. The 70-foot-long booster ignited and hurtled toward space. It was Virgin Orbit's third launch carrying satellites for customers. The company had two successful missions last year, following a 2020 test flight that failed.

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Sharply higher costs are yet another challenge thrown at business owners by the global pandemic. The unpredictability of shipping, labor and the coronavirus itself have created an environment where owners are often left guessing about when products might arrive and how much they’ll cost. In response, businesses are raising prices, cutting staff hours, dropping some goods and services and nixing free shipping in a delicate balancing act. But with low visibility into how long the higher inflation will last, some owners are increasingly worried about keeping their doors open in the long run.

Spanish police have arrested the leading smuggler of heroin into the European country in a bust that took a total of 10 people into custody and confiscated 55 kilograms of the drug. Police said Sunday that the ring based in the central province of Toledo bought large quantities of heroin from sources in the Netherlands and then distributed the drug to dealers in parts of central and western Spain. Police investigators refer to the ring leader as the “Spain’s Pablo Escobar” of heroin. They say that he is closely linked to a global drug ring directed by a Turkish citizen from Istanbul.

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The omicron variant of the pandemic is exposing the vulnerabilities of European public health systems. Hospitals in France and Britain are again struggling to staff intensive care units and treat patients as their own employees get infected. Experts say the problem is that few health systems built up enough flexibility to handle a crisis like COVID-19. Repeated infection spikes have kept the rest too preoccupied to implement changes. This has led for calls to rethink how public health is delivered in many countries. A World Health Organization official has warned of a “closing window of opportunity” to prevent hospitals elsewhere in Europe from getting swamped. 

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Biltmore United Methodist Church of Asheville, North Carolina, is for sale. Already financially strapped because of shrinking membership and a struggling preschool, attendance at weekly services have plummeted during the pandemic, with many staying home or switching to other churches. Gone, too, is the revenue from renting out its space. So members voted last May to put the property, a two-building campus perched on a verdant knoll just off Interstate 40, on the market. Biltmore is just one of an untold number of congregations across the country that are struggling to stay afloat financially and minister to their flocks, though many others have better managed to weather the pandemic. 

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Prince Harry has filed a claim for a judicial review against the British government’s decision not to let him personally pay for police protection while in the U.K. The Duke of Sussex’s legal representative said Saturday that Harry wants to bring his children Archie and Lilibet to visit his home country from the U.S. but that is too risky without police protection. The representative said Harry wanted to fund the police protection himself. They said his private security team in the U.S. doesn't have adequate jurisdiction abroad or access to U.K. intelligence information. Harry and his wife Meghan lost publicly funded police protection in the U.K. when they stepped down as senior working royals and moved to California in 2020.

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The Austrian government has presented revised plans for its proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Officials say it will now apply to all residents age 18 and over. Originally it was 14 and over. Officials said Sunday that a phased introduction will give people plenty of opportunity to comply. The government announced nearly two months ago that it would implement a general vaccine mandate early this year to become the first European country to do so. A first draft in early December called for the measure to be introduced in February and foreseeing fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100) for people who flout it. The government aims to have parliament approve the plan on Thursday.

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COVID-19 infections are soaring again at U.S. nursing homes because of the omicron wave, and deaths are climbing too. That's leading to new restrictions on family visits and a renewed push to get more residents and staff members vaccinated and boosted. Nursing homes were the lethal epicenter of the pandemic early on, before the advent of the vaccines allowed many of them to reopen and welcome visitors again. Now the highly contagious variant has dealt them a setback. Nursing homes reported about 32,000 COVID-19 cases among residents in the week ending Jan. 9, a nearly sevenfold increase from about a month ago. A total of 645 COVID-19-related deaths were reported during the same week, a 47% increase from a month earlier.

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Somalia’s government spokesperson has been wounded in a suicide bombing that the al-Shabab extremist group has claimed responsibility for. Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu appeared to be the sole target in the attack near his residence by a busy intersection in Mogadishu. A statement from the prime minister’s office called his wounds non-life-threatening. It has been widely expected that such attacks would increase as tensions rise in Somalia over a national election that has been delayed for almost a year.

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Lebanon's state internet provider says internet services have been disrupted because of diesel shortages. That makes it the latest essential service to suffer from the country’s snowballing economic crisis. The head of state internet provider Ogero tweeted that starting early Sunday a major station in west Beirut will run out of diesel and go offline. By midday a neighborhood in east Beirut was offline. Lebanese live with only few hours of state electricity a day and rely on a network of private generators that also depend on diesel fuel. Lebanon is in the throes of the worst financial and economic crisis in its history that has sunk the once middle-class country into poverty.  

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Serbia has held a referendum on constitutional amendments that the populist government says are needed for the Balkan country to advance in a bid to join the European Union. The ballot focuses on the changes in the election of judges and prosecutors that authorities say are aimed at boosting their independence in the country where the judiciary is widely seen as corrupt and politically controlled. Sunday's referendum has been hailed by the United States, the European Union and some Western countries as a step in right direction. But critics at home say the changes are insufficient.

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Denmark has lifted a number of coronavirus restrictions and allowed the reopening of certain venues despite the spread of the omicron variant in the country. Cinemas, zoos, museums and theaters were among the places that could open their doors Sunday. Limited numbers of spectators also were allowed to attend indoor and outdoor sports events. Visitors are required to wear masks at most of these places and provide proof that they have been vaccinated or have recovered or recently tested negative for COVID-19. The government is planning to relax coronavirus restrictions further in Denmark on Jan. 31.

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The World Health Organization says a U.N.-backed program shipping coronavirus vaccines to many poor countries has now delivered 1 billion doses, but that milestone “is only a reminder of the work that remains” after hoarding and stockpiling in rich countries. The U.N. health agency said Sunday that a shipment of 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Rwanda this weekend included the billionth dose supplied via the COVAX program. WHO has long criticized unequal distribution of vaccines and called for manufacturers and other countries to prioritize COVAX. It said that, as of Thursday, 36 of its 194 member countries had vaccinated less than 10% of their population and 88 had vaccinated less than 40%. 

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The official two-week campaigning period for Portugal’s Jan. 30 general election is kicking off. But there will be none of the large flag-waving rallies usually associated with the buildup to the ballot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ballot comes two years ahead of schedule after parliament rejected the minority Socialist government’s 2022 state budget and the country’s president called a snap election. The center-left Socialists are widely tipped to beat the center-right Social Democrats. The campaign period began on Sunday.

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is negotiating a plea deal in his corruption case. A person involved in the negotiations said Sunday that the agreement is likely to be announced in the coming days. The deal could usher Netanyahu off the Israeli political stage for years. That would pave the way for a leadership race in his Likud party and shake up the Israeli political map. Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. The former premier, now opposition leader, denies wrongdoing.

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Tesla is turning to Mozambique for a key component in its electric car batteries in what analysts believe is a first-of-its-kind deal designed to reduce its dependence on China for graphite. Elon Musk’s company signed an agreement last month with Australia’s Syrah Resources, which operates one of the world’s largest graphite mines in the southern African country. It’s a unique partnership between an electric vehicle manufacturer and a producer of the mineral that is critical for lithium-ion batteries. The value of the deal hasn't been released. Experts say it's part of Tesla’s plan to ramp up its capacity to make its own batteries so it can reduce its dependence on China.

Thousands of miles away from the Tigray war a lawsuit between trustees and clergy over the language of services is tearing apart an Ethiopian church in Ohio. The ethnic tensions in the church reflect how the war in Ethiopia has fueled divides across the more than 3 million members of the Ethiopian diaspora. The situation is splintering families, friends and communities. The war has already killed an estimated tens of thousands of people. And Tigrayans are now starving under a government blockade.

News and Analysis

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Quinnipiac University released its latest survey Thursday inquiring about President Biden’s job approval rating. It stood at just 35%, the lowest measured job approval of his presidency. To put this in perspective, the lowest poll reading Quinnipiac had for Donald Trump was 33%, and the lowest rating he ever received in any poll was 32%.

In June, President Biden proudly announced that if you had been vaccinated, you could enjoy the Fourth of July without worry. This optimism was premature. After nearly 500 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been placed in Americans’ arms, cases have again been surging.

The international climate alarmist industry comprises a number of special interests. There are the activists, fundamentally anti-human and deeply disingenuous, demanding that billions of the global poor suffer and die in order that the planet be “saved.” There are the “experts” in pursuit of bigger budgets and “research” grants. There are the editors of the peer-reviewed journals, transforming “science” into a propaganda exercise. There are the bureaucrats massively expanding their budgets and powers, the politicians seeking to transfer ever more wealth, and the journalists desperate to produce clickbait even as they remain invincible in their ignorance.

The Big Insight: Voter fraud in the U.S. is rare, but when it happens, “ballot harvesting” is a likely culprit.

“You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.” — Mitch McConnell on Nov. 21, 2013, in Senate floor speech to Harry Reid-led Democrats curtailing the filibuster for judicial appointments.

Long considered a Pennsylvania bellwether, suburban Philadelphia’s Bucks County is well-trodden ground for presidential hopefuls and down-ballot statewide candidates.

Omicron will infect us all, or near enough. The new COVID-19 strain, thankfully moderate, is ultra-transmissible and can easily infect the vaccinated. Cloth masks seem not to protect against it. 

P.J. O’Rourke long ago quipped that what really ended the Cold War was Bulgarian blue jeans. One bets he was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the brilliant satirist had a point. The quality of what was being manufactured on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain was much less than sub-standard, and unattractive.

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether it should stay OSHA’s mandate for large employers, which went into effect on January 10th, and will require 84 million Americans to either become vaccinated or submit to masking and weekly COVID testing. Through circuitous legal logic, that mandate would only apply to about half the nation’s teachers, and of those, about half already operate under similar vaccination requirements. Despite the limited direct impacts, the mandates indirect impacts on the nations’ schools could be dramatic.

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Democrats across the country are pushing to continue allowing private money to fund public elections as Republicans try to limit the practice, which they say gave Joe Biden an unfair and perhaps decisive advantage in his victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential contest.

The rise of “action civics,” which prioritizes political activism over basic civic knowledge, is proof that a good civics curriculum is needed more than ever. Fortunately, parents, teachers, students, and citizens wanting to learn or teach civics have a key resource they can look to: the Civic Literacy Curriculum.

Last year, it became public knowledge that the state college system in Pennsylvania, where I live, had dropped to its lowest enrollment in over 30 years. I participated in a November phone survey on this issue, and the questions sounded like a student recruitment office pleading for affirmation.

Each December we spend a lot of time thinking about gifts. We reflect on those we care most about and try to figure out what they would like, or what will make their lives better. With the holiday season now behind us, it’s a good time to remember that one of the most important gifts we can offer our young people is a chance at a better education.

The term “culture war” has been a staple of American politics and public debates for decades, the latest iterations framed by the likes of abortion, marriage equality, and climate change. However, such issues don’t motivate voters as much as people on the extremes tend to believe.

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Democrats have a point when they complain that our elections are rigged against them. They have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests but secured the White House just three times. Those Republican presidents have translated their victories into a decidedly conservative Supreme Court. Although Democrats largely control states where a majority of the population lives this millennium, they have only controlled the Senate about half the time and the House roughly one-third.

Socialism has become popular again in certain U.S. political circles. Openly avowed socialists, such as New York Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, exercise an inordinate amount of influence in the Democratic Party. The leftist journal In These Times featured a headline in January 2021 that read “Congress Has More Socialists Than Ever Before in U.S. History.” In Gallup’s 2020 poll, 45% of respondents said they would vote for a qualified socialist candidate for president. In a more recent Axios/Momentive poll, 51% of respondents between the ages of 18-34 had a positive reaction to the word socialism.

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Above, Lt. Michael Byrd, the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, told NBC News he gave fair warning, but under penalty of perjury he refused to say anything to investigators.

It has been a little more than a month since the United Nations climate meeting at Glasgow, yet global use of fossil fuels has increased rapidly.  

When Sen. Joe Manchin announced on Fox News that he could not support President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation even at its reduced price, he took heat from White House Press Secretary Jan Psaki, followed quickly by criticism from journalists and pundits.

Putin has spent more than a decade building up the Russian military and positioning it to be, at the very least, a military Sword of Damocles over the heads of Europe. His recent proposals for an agreement with the West are nothing short of an attempt at armed extortion. If the U.S. and its NATO allies are to deter Moscow's threats of aggression, they must do more to strengthen their military posture. Washington should make it a priority to ensure that Poland, a NATO ally, has all the U.S.-made military equipment and training it has requested.

The latest provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the U.S. on track to exceed 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021, the first time such a grim milestone would be reached. America clearly has a drug problem that will require a massive effort from all walks of society to bring under control.

America needs healthy competition. In the healthcare arena, competition expands patient choice, controlsâ?¯costâ?¯and stimulates innovation in the delivery of medical care.â?¯Anti-competitive policiesâ?¯resultâ?¯inâ?¯marketâ?¯consolidation—meaningâ?¯lessâ?¯competition—especially amongâ?¯America’sâ?¯hospitals.â?¯â?¯â?¯ 

Some would say it’s the education system’s failings, but the view here is that confusion is a bullish signal of prosperity. Staggering amounts of it enable the kind of sloppy thinking that would be rather impolitic to express during times of relative desperation.

On New Year’s Eve of 2019, revelers gathered around the globe to ring in a new decade. Many jubilantly attended “Roaring Twenties” parties, adorned in elegant evening wear, cloche and Panama hats, and knickerbockers, harkening back to an exciting, culturally vibrant era of economic prosperity. But whatever veiled hopes partygoers had for a booming future soon met jarring realities: a once-in-a-century pandemic, global lockdowns, an economic recession, and widespread civil unrest stemming from an incident of police brutality. The Roaring 2020s were not to be, it seemed.

HARRISBURG – Last month, seven environmental groups wrote a misguided letter to Philadelphia officials bashing legislation that I sponsored as counterintuitive to the city’s decarbonization goals. 

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation. Without healthy competition, big players can … charge whatever they want and treat you however they want.” President Biden’s cogent statement about the benefits of competition would make Adam Smith smile in his grave. What could be more obvious? When one or all of the major players in an industry get to set prices while avoiding the threat of a competitor offering a better deal, the consumer suffers.

Prior to the pandemic, many U.S. non-elite colleges were already facing existential threats. Demographic changes and technological innovation led one Harvard professor in 2017 to conclude that 50% of U.S. colleges would be bankrupt within 15 years. With the arrival of COVID-19, these colleges were pummeled more quickly, with enrollment seeing its largest decline in 50 years. As a tenure-track professor who had spent a career in well-established public colleges in New York and New Jersey, I had taken for granted stable employment and was ignorant of the layoff clauses in my union’s contracts. Not anymore. 

Sen. Jon Tester had been reluctant to tamper with the filibuster rule, but last week said to Politico, “I think if it [the filibuster] wasn’t weaponized, I wouldn’t be talking about it now,” and to his home state Missoula Current newspaper, “I think that what we have now is we’ve got a situation where the filibuster’s been weaponized and used on nearly every bill.”

With Amazon well on its way to overtaking Walmart as the top retailer in the world, it sadly makes sense that the E-commerce giant would be one of the largest purveyors of pseudoscience. Lax oversight of the products sold on Amazon's webpages allows for all sorts of nonsense to be marketed to consumers. Sure, one expects to find an array of homeopathy available, as well as all sorts of questionable books touting cancer cures, like Proof for the Cancer-Fungus Connection, Raw Can Cure Cancer, and The Eggplant Cancer Cure, but there are many more flabbergasting products for sale that are downright dumbfounding.

The surging omicron variant is creating pressure for schools to return to remote learning. But closing schools would be a tragic mistake, creating far more harm in exchange for little to no public health benefit. Even short-term closures can create long term harms for children played out over a generation of lost opportunities.

“Build Back Better” is far more consequential than the earlier COVID relief packages. That’s why Democrats are so angry at those who blocked its passage and so determined to push it forward.

Self-awareness is not a trait normally associated with modern U.S. politicians, or would-be politicians. Sometimes we must listen to these people carefully, however, because they often reveal themselves.

Tim Robbins' excellent "Prisoners of Geography" (2016) begins with a quip on Russia’s geopolitical situation:  

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Until recently, the California Department of Education paid Daniel Lee over $160,000 to serve as the state’s “Superintendent of Equity.” He was responsible for promoting social justice and racial equity within the California public school system. However, public outrage led to his resignation on December 14, 2021.

New Orleans Police Officers seem to be everywhere – even in multiple locations at the same time – while being paid twice. We summarized this story in a column recently at Forbes.

With Russia’s recent aggression towards its neighbor Ukraine, one might think the US would be investing in methods of containment to curb the influence of Russia in the region.

Construction on the Hart Senate Office Building began in January 1975. A June 1972 estimate put construction costs at $48 million. But, when the building was completed in September 1982, it cost $137.7 million — $379 million in 2021 dollars.

The rise of mobile sports betting has sparked a conversation about the effects of gambling on an increasingly-large population. Gambling can be a serious problem, and there are plenty of legitimate ways to spend money to help those struggling with addiction, like investing in mental health treatment and social services. There is even value in studying the causes of addiction – but pigeons?

As congressional Democrats struggle to breathe new life into their stalled legislative agenda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week told “VIP” donors on a leaked private phone call that all party members need to brag about the House-passed version of the Build Back Better bill even as she cautioned her colleagues not to describe the multitrillion-dollar spending measure’s impact as too sweeping.

As the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act slowly gets implemented across the country, businesses are desperately seeking skilled workers to meet the coming demand. Baby Boomers are aging out of the workforce and fewer young people are replacing them, leaving massive gaps in important industries like construction, mechanical services, and trucking – all needed to rebuild and strengthen America’s roads, bridges, water infrastructure, and other large-scale projects.