Michelle Obama makes her first 2022 midterms pitch
“We stand united in our conviction to organize and turn out voters and make our democracy work for all of us,” the former first lady said. Plus: What to know about tomorrow’s big US-Russia talks.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Sunday morning. Calling all UNO players: Have you heard about the new All Wild game where every card is wild? The chaos that these cards will generate at family gatherings will be severe.
Trending toward’s Omicron’s peak: Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, predicted this morning on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos that the current omicron surge will peak in the next few weeks. “Once we get into February, I really do expect much, much lower case numbers.”
Chicago’s teachers won’t like this: “What the Chicago Teachers Union did was an illegal walkout,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on NBC’s Meet The Press this morning ahead of what could be a week where students continue to not be in school. “They abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.” The teachers union has been in a standoff with Chicago Public Schools over inadequate COVID-19 safety measures since last week.
The top argument for changing the Senate rules to pass voting rights: “Sens. [Joe] Manchin [of West Virginia] and [Kyrsten] Sinema [of Arizona] were willing to make adjustments to Senate rule to enable us to cover the nation’s debt,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said to MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart this morning. “My argument would be voting is just as important.” This point will be hammered home in the next few weeks as Democrats attempt to persuade Sinemanchin to reconsider their opposition to the party’s proposed rules change. Watch the clip.
He said what he said: Rep. Jim Clyburn, the number-three House Democrat was asked if comparing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack to Pearl Harbor or 9/11 is appropriate as he and Vice President Kamala Harris said last week. “[Our oath of office] says, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. A recognition of the fact that there will be times in our development when we have to deal with the enemy from within,” the congressman from South Carolina said. “So, I would ask those people who say that's an unfair comparison, why is it then that that construct is sitting there in the oath that all of us take? That is the recognition that there will be times, or could be, when we will have domestic terrorists among us.”
The Lead: Michelle Obama
Former First Lady Michelle Obama called on Americans to keep pushing for voting rights and participate in this year’s momentous midterm elections in a letter titled “Fight For Our Vote” that was published today as an ad in The New York Times.
“We stand united in our conviction to organize and turn out voters in the 2022 midterm elections, and make our democracy work for all of us,” Obama wrote in the letter. “Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip away their power — and they’ve done it by organizing, by protesting, and most importantly, by overcoming the barriers in front of them in order to vote. And now, we’ve got to do the same.”
The letter was signed by 30 other advocacy groups including the NAACP, LeBron James’s More Than A Vote, Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action, Voto Latino Foundation, NextGen America and Rock The Vote. Rachel Janfaza at CNN was first to report the letter.
Obama letter’s featured an action plan to recruit and train at least 100,000 volunteers and register more than a million new voters within the next year, led by her voting rights organization When We All Vote and in partnership with a coalition of advocacy groups.
The former first lady said the groups would also mobilize thousands of lawyers to protect and educate American voters. The lawyers will also encourage at least 10,000 Americans to lobby their senators to vote for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — two key pieces of legislation that have both passed the House but stalled in the Senate due to rules that currently require support from 10 Senate Republicans. “We must give Congress no choice but to act decisively to protect the right to vote and make the ballot box more accessible for everyone,” Obama wrote.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver separate speeches on voting rights in Georgia on Tuesday.
Democratic leaders remember Harry Reid
The other Obama, former President Barack, delivered a touching eulogy at the memorial service for former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Obama noted Sen. Reid was uncomfortable receiving compliments. “As he looks down on us today,” Harry is going to have to suck it up,” Obama said as the crowd laughed. The former president recalled their work together on passing Obama’s signature health care law in 2009, Reid’s encouragement for him to run for president and his generosity to family and friends. “He was always unfailingly himself,” Obama said. “It may not be exceptional but in Washington, it is an exceedingly rare quality.”
President Biden followed Obama with his own reflections of his relationship with Reid, which dated back to when Biden first entered the Senate and Reid asked him to campaign for him. He said Reid gave him “a sense of confidence. I counted on him.” Biden said he and Reid shared many similarities: a loving family, wives who were smarter and better looking than them and they both liked to talk a lot. Reid listened as well as he spoke, which is what made him such an effective Democratic leader. “He was all Searchlight, no spotlight,” Biden said, referring to Reid’s hometown.
Chuck Schumer, the current Senate Democratic Leader who called Reid a mentor, shared a story about Reid slipping him money to buy better shoes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recalled being on the receiving end of Reid’s penchant for hanging up the phone when he felt the conversation was done. Every time I hear a dial tone, I think of Harry,” Biden later said to laughs.
Big talks with Russia on tap for Monday
The White House will hold talks with Russia on Monday in a continued attempt to deescalate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression towards its eastern neighbor Ukraine. We provide foreign and military assistance to Ukraine and support the country’s sovereignty so a Russian invasion would dovetail against American interests.
“This is bigger even than Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this morning on This Week. “This goes to some basic principles of international relations that are what guarantee peace and security. The principle that one nation can’t simply change the borders of another by force.”
Russia submitted a draft document on legal security guarantees to the Biden administration last month. But a senior administration official said on Saturday during a briefing with reporters that Russia would have to address its previous wrongdoings — invading and occupying their neighbors twice, interfering with our elections, using chemical weapons to conduct assassinations and violating nuclear treaties — for any serious conversation on the document to take place.
The official said there are some proposals in the document to which America will never agree, including who other countries can be allies with. But there are areas where the administration is willing to make progress if Russia agrees to the reciprocal commitments. The official also said the United States wouldn’t make any commitments to Russia on security interests without full consultation with our European partners and allies.
The White House reiterated its preference for diplomatic de-escalation. But the senior administration official said America and its allies would impose severe financial sanctions and policies that target Russia’s key industries, an enhanced military posture on allied territory and increased security assistance to Ukraine. President Biden relayed all of this to Putin as recently as last month. “We will know a lot more in a week or so about which path we may be on,” the official said.
Senate GOP’s top John is in
Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota announced his campaign for reelection after weeks of will-he-won’t-he? speculation.
“Each time I’ve asked South Dakotans for the opportunity to represent them in Congress, I’ve done so because of a fundamental desire to do whatever I could to make their lives — and our way of life — safer, stronger and more prosperous,” Thune said in his announcement.
Thune is the number-two Senate Republican after Mitch McConnell and the one of Three Johns in line to succeed McConnell as the Senate GOP’s leader if he ever decides to step down. (Bassaro of Wyoming and Cornyn of Texas are the other two.)
South Dakota is a deep-red state. So whether Thune ran again or not, Republicans would hold the seat. But his announcement gives McConnell’s leadership team stability and the Republican Party overall a major boost going into this year’s midterms. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, another Republican who was contemplating retirement, announced his reelection campaign this morning as this newsletter was going to press.
Of the 34 Senate seats up for reelection this year, Cook Political Report currently counts six as currently toss-ups (three Democrat-controlled, three Republican-controlled). The outcomes of these elections will determine if Democrats keep (or expand) their slim majority or if Republicans reclaim the Senate, which would regrettably restore McConnell, the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in US history, to the top spot.
Trump’s social bans were good for him — and the apps that kicked him off
In an interesting read, Michael C. Bender and Georgia Wells at The Wall Street Journal report that one year after Donald Trump was permanently blocked on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, his supporters have galvanized around what they perceive as censorship. (Reminder: The First Amendment protects your right to free speech from government regulation, not policy enforcement by private companies.)
“Sidelining Mr. Trump from social media has left much of the political spotlight to President Biden, whose approval rating has dropped sharply during the past year,” Bender and Wells write. A Trump adviser told the reporters, “I don’t know a single person in Trump world who regrets that this has happened — not a single one.” Meanwhile, some of the companies that have banned Trump continue to sell advertising to him, his opponents and allies.
Bender is the author of Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, a New York Times bestseller published in July 2021.
Welcome to Supercreator, your daily guide to the politicians and power brokers shaping how you work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today in Politics
President Biden is at Camp David with First Lady Jill Biden and has no public events scheduled. Vice President Harris is in DC and has no public events scheduled.
In The Know
A CDC study estimated the prevalence of new diabetes diagnoses in children under age 18 who had the COVID or were known to be infected with the coronavirus.
A heightened risk of diabetes has already been seen among adults who recovered from Covid, according to some studies.
Researchers in Europe have reported an increase in the number of children being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes since the pandemic started.
“Throughout the past two years, we have consistently based our response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the advice of our own medical experts,” the company said in the announcement.
On Friday, I reported Walmart cut its paid leave in half from two weeks to one week.
“This represents an important, under-estimated risk of climate change,” first author Joshua Studholme, a physicist in Yale University’s earth and planetary sciences department and a contributing author on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report published earlier this year, said. “This research predicts that the 21st century’s tropical cyclones will likely occur over a wider range of latitudes than has been the case on Earth for the last 3 million years.”
— A surgical treatment commonly used to reduce epileptic seizures in adults is also effective and safe for children. [Patti Verbanas / Rutgers University]
Up to 40 percent of people who suffer from epileptic seizures do not respond to medication. But studies show that a responsive neurostimulation system, an implant in the brain that monitors brain waves, similar to what a pacemaker does for the heart, detects seizures and unusual electrical activity that can lead to seizures. RNS then delivers small pulses of stimulation to help the brainwaves return to normal.
Read All About It
Tim Higgins on Apple iMessage and the teen dread of the green text bubble:
From the beginning, Apple got creative in its protection of iMessage’s exclusivity. It didn’t ban the exchange of traditional text messages with Android users but instead branded those messages with a different color; when an Android user is part of a group chat, the iPhone users see green bubbles rather than blue. It also withheld certain features. There is no dot-dot-dot icon to demonstrate that a non-iPhone user is typing, for example, and an iMessage heart or thumbs-up annotation has long conveyed to Android users as text instead of images.
Apple later took other steps that enhanced the popularity of its messaging service with teens. It added popular features such as animated cartoon-like faces that create mirrors of a user’s face, to compete with messaging services from social media companies. Apple’s own survey of iPhone holders made public during the Epic Games litigation found that customers were particularly fond of replacing words with emojis and screen effects such as animated balloons and confetti. Avid teen users said in interviews with The Wall Street Journal that they also liked how they could create group chats with other Apple users that add and subtract participants without having to start a new chain.
The cultivation of iMessage is consistent with Apple’s broader strategy to tie its hardware, software and services together in a self-reinforcing world—dubbed the walled garden—that encourages people to pay the premium for its relatively expensive gadgets and remain loyal to its brand. That strategy has drawn scrutiny from critics and lawmakers as part of a larger examination of how all tech giants operate. Their core question: Do Apple and other tech companies create products that consumers simply find indispensable, or are they building near-monopolies that unfairly stifle competition?
Brian Kelly, hired days earlier as the school’s football coach, exists on the other end of the wealth divide. He left Notre Dame to sign the most valuable contract in the history of college football: 10 years, a guaranteed annual salary of at least $9 million, and with bonuses it could be worth more than $100 million.
That’s not unique to LSU and Baton Rouge. These days every major college program has a corporate, win-now mentality while engaging in arms races for the biggest stadium, poshest locker room, richest coach. The head coach is the face of the program and, often, an international brand. A little more than two decades after LSU made Saban a millionaire, 21 coaches make at least $5 million. Alabama pays Saban almost twice that.
In a state where one in five residents lives below the poverty line, on a campus where the football team’s player workforce is unpaid, in a city where the predominantly Black state house district that includes Tiger Stadium has a median household income of $24,865 a year, the White man who will coach there will be paid no less than $24,657 a day.
Ineye Komonibo on why we actually don’t need a new Aaliyah album:
News of another addition to Aaliyah’s lauded body of work has been received with mixed reactions, mostly ranging from sadness to genuine disgust. On one end, the hole that Aaliyah’s death left in music and pop culture has never been filled; to this day, artists are still doing their damndest to recreate her sound, aesthetic, and overall vibe to varying degrees of success. (There is and will only ever be one Aaliyah.) So yeah, more original music from the late legend could prove to be beneficial for a culture still missing her so deeply. However, there are far more cons to Unstoppable than there are pros, starting with the fact that the release of the project likely was not approved by the Haughton estate. For years, Aaliyah’s family has been trying to reach an agreement with Hankerson and Blackground Records 2.0 about what to do with her music, and that conflict has yet to be resolved. After initially learning that the label was putting her full catalogue on streaming platforms, the estate shared a public statement hinting that the move was an attempt to “leech off of Aaliyah’s life's work.”
Stephanie Clifford on how Jessica Simpson almost lost her name:
The Simpsons weren’t worried that another party might outbid them. Whatever the world had thought of Jessica’s business sense, or Tina’s, for that matter, the duo had made a shrewd move when they signed their initial operating deal with Sequential—inserting a clause that didn’t allow the company to sell the brand from under them without their consent. Sure, another bidder could make an offer, but without the Simpsons’ blessing, it would be pointless.
Cynthia Miller-Idriss on the women who represent the new normal of right-wing extremism:
Whether their militancy was spontaneous or planned, women’s rising engagement in hateful and antidemocratic movements is facilitated by new kinds of online interaction with extremist content. No longer relegated to domestic tasks, today women use social media channels and other online platforms as leaders in their own right, working to recruit and radicalize other women — and men — into white supremacist extremism, conspiracy beliefs and more.
Jaya Saxena on if the “future of food” is the future we want:
If delivery being available to everyone, everywhere, is the future, then restaurants are left to figure out how to not be left in the dust. And of course, the platforms that created this world want to be in on that action. Some of that is by encouraging restaurants to operate virtual restaurants, and some of that is having apps, not chefs or seasonality, guide menu planning (“You don’t pare down forever but just pare it down to what makes more sense,” [Grubhub’s senior director of sales, Kenny] Klein said the company has told restaurants).
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