FACES OUT FOR FULL-CAPACITY SOTU… Capitol Attending Physician Announces Face Masks Will Be Optional Ahead Of Biden’s State Of The Union Address
The United States Capitol attending physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan said Sunday that masks will not be required inside the Capitol beginning Monday, just one day before President Joe Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address.
Monahan reportedly made the decision based on the current rate of positive results at the Capitol’s testing center, which has dropped to 2.7%, according to Politico. House members have been required to wear masks on the House floor, and many members have been fined for violating the mandate put in place by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who tends to follow Monahan’s guidance.
“Business processes such as committee hearings and other meetings should revise signage or operating statements to reflect interior space mask wear is optional and not required at this time,” Monahan wrote a Sunday memo.
“Coronavirus circumstances, the COVID19 Community Level, may change to a ‘medium or yellow’ level where select individuals resume interior mask wear and weekly serial testing while a ‘high or orange’ level would prompt resumption of the indoor mask wear requirement for all,” he added.
FLASHBACK… FRIDAY… NYT: New C.D.C. Guidelines Suggest 70 Percent of Americans Can Stop Wearing Masks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday offered a new strategy to help communities across the country live with the coronavirus and get back to some version of normal life.
The new guidelines suggest that 70 percent of Americans can now stop wearing masks, and no longer need to social distance or avoid crowded indoor spaces.
The recommendations no longer rely only on the number of cases in a community to determine the need for restrictions such as mask wearing. Instead, they direct counties to consider three measures to assess risk of the virus: new Covid-related hospital admissions over the previous week and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, as well as new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous week.
Based on these three factors, counties can calculate whether the risk to their residents is low, medium or high, according to the agency, and only areas of high risk should require everyone to wear a mask.
The agency had endorsed universal masking in schools since July, regardless of virus levels in the community, but the new guidelines recommend masking in schools only in counties at high risk.
FRIDAY… Biden Picks Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson As Supreme Court Nominee
President Joe Biden announced Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court nominee Friday.
The president vowed to announce his pick before the end of February after Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire. Biden reiterated his promise to nominate a black woman, and Jackson was long viewed as one of the front-runners.
Jackson is one of Biden’s most high-profile judicial nominees and was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2021. Three senate Republicans voted to confirm her at the time, with the confirmation coming in at a narrow 52-46 vote. She is the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court in the U.S.
GOP RESPONSE TO KETANJI BROWN JACKSON… Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Democrat partisan who will put far-left special interests ahead of defending the liberties of Americans. NBC News: “Jackson fits well with the Democratic Party and the progressive movement’s agenda”
Ketanji Brown Jackson is a registered Democrat. She donated to Obama’s presidential campaign – and even worked for his campaign as a poll monitor. In 2016, her husband donated $1,600 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In her few short years on the bench, Ketanji Brown Jackson has repeatedly ruled against conservative policies. She blocked President Trump’s executive orders to hold failing federal employees accountable – a decision the D.C. Circuit unanimously reversed.
In fact, Jackson has “a striking record of reversals” of her decisions by appellate courts.
Ketanji Brown Jackson also blocked the Trump administration from expanding its “Expedited Removal” program to deport illegal immigrants faster. A liberal immigration group even applauded Jackson for refusing to use the term “alien” or “illegal” immigrant in her opinions.
Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record also includes defending terrorists. She worked as a lawyer for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, including for a Taliban officer who was likely the leader of a terrorist cell.
FASCINATING CURVEBALL… JOHN MCCORMACK: Ketanji Brown Jackson served on board of a Christian school that held the belief that “We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”
The statement of beliefs also held: “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” I have no illusions that KBJ will vote differently than Sotomayor/Kagan, but I guess we all now agree that these beliefs shouldn’t get people canceled?
“Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”
JUDGE SMACKS DOWN VIRGINIA SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR RACIAL PREJUDICE IN ADMISSIONS… Top High School In US Discriminated Against Asian-American Students In Admissions Process, Judge Rules
A federal judge ruled Friday that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the highest ranked public school in America, illegally discriminated against Asian-American students in its application process.
The high school changed its admissions requirements to deliberately reduce the proportion of Asian-American students, Federal Judge Claude Hilton ruled. The school’s student body in 2020-2021 was about 72% Asian-American, 18% white, 3% Hispanic and 1% black, according to court documents. The general population of Fairfax County, where the school is located, is about 20% Asian-American.
The school implemented a new admissions policy following public scrutiny over the lack of black and Hispanic students at the schools, which drew criticism during the summer of 2020, court documents explained. School leadership removed standardized testing requirements and lowered the minimum GPA requirements.
The new admissions system also considered “experience factors” such as applicants’ attendance at a middle school that is underrepresented at Thomas Jefferson, status as an English language learner and eligibility for free or reduced price school lunches, according to legal documents.
The Asian-American student population of the incoming freshman class fell by 19% in 2021-2022 compared to the previous year, according to the judge’s ruling.
The judge said the overhaul of the admissions process was racially motivated and illegal, and invalidated the new system.
TRUMP DOMINATES CPAC STRAW POLL WITH DESANTIS AS STRONG RUNNER-UP…
Trump garnered 59% support in the poll of 2,574 attendees, and DeSantis received 28%. No other candidate received more than 1.5% support. The poll was conducted Sunday through an app created by the polling firm McLaughlin & Associates, which also served as the Trump campaign’s pollster in the 2020 presidential election.
Support for both Trump and DeSantis was up from the 2021 conference, when the two men received 55% and 21% support, respectively. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who finished third with 4% support in 2021, received 1.2% support in this year’s poll.
In a poll without Trump as an option, DeSantis finished first with 61.4%, Pompeo received 6.3% and Donald Trump Jr. received 5.9%.
PEACE TALKS AT BELARUSIAN BORDER… Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Announces Peace Talks With Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to a meeting between a Ukrainian and Russian delegation for peace talks, according to a Sunday post on Zelensky’s Telegram.
After speaking with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Zelensky announced a meeting would occur “without preconditions” on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
“Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters, and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks, and return,” he continued.
PUTIN PUTS HIS NUCLEAR FORCES ON ‘HIGH ALERT’ … POLITICO:
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nuclear forces on high alert Sunday, reminding the world he has the power to use weapons of mass destruction, after complaining about the West’s response to his invasion of Ukraine. […]
“Therefore, I order the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff to transfer the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty.”
JUST AFTER NATO ACTIVATES ‘RESPONSE FORCE’ FOR FIRST TIME EVER… FRIDAY… CNN: NATO Response Force activated for first time
For the first time ever, the NATO Response Force has been activated as a defensive measure in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Tod Wolters activated the multinational force consisting of land, air, sea and special operations forces from the allies that can deploy quickly in support of the NATO alliance.
The activation of the response troops does not mean that any US or NATO troops will go into Ukraine, which is not a member. US President Joe Biden has been clear that US troops are deploying to eastern Europe to help bolster NATO countries nervous about Russia’s aggressive actions, and they will not be fighting in Ukraine.
DOES PUTIN HAVE ‘HUBRIS SYNDROME’? … DAILY MAIL: Is Putin suffering ‘delirium and confusion’ due to Long COVID? Questions arise over Russian leader’s mental state after rumours of cancer and Parkinson’s disease
With the eyes of the world on Vladimir Putin, questions are being asked about the Russian leader’s state of mind after he announced the invasion of Ukraine in ‘rambling, terrifying, apocalyptic’ fashion.
Rumours surrounding the Russian leader’s health have been swirling for years, with repeated reports suggesting that he is suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
On top of that, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on both the President’s physical and mental health can’t be underestimated, and it’s been suggested that brain fog as a result of Long Covid could be impairing his cognitive function.
Although it’s not clear if he’s had the virus, the Sputnik vaccine is not known to be reliable and after isolating in September after members of his inner circle tested positive he disappeared from view for a long period in October.
The US thinktank The Council For Foreign relations has speculated that, after behaviour and statements that are ‘off’ and ‘not right,’ he is suffering brain fog induced by Long Covid.
What’s more, the isolation caused by the pandemic itself could have left the 69-year-old even further detached from reality, with one neuropsychologist claiming the ‘progressive isolation’ could have led to hubris syndrome, which ‘diminished his ability to weigh up risk’.
RUBIO SUSPECTS HEALTH ISSUES… JAKE TAPPER: Interesting from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl, vice chair of Senate Intel Committee, who notes that Putin “has created a system of people not telling him bad news or facts that contradict his preferences. “He also appears to have some neuro/physiological health issues…
“But most telling is this is a man who has long prided himself on emotional control. His recent flashes of anger is very uncharacteristic and show an erosion in impulse control.”
RUSSIANS PROTEST PUTIN’S INVASION… POLITICO: ‘NO TO WAR’: Russian fury bursts open as Putin bombards Ukraine
MOSCOW — On Tuesday, communist parliamentarian Mikhail Matveyev voted in favor of a proposal paving the way for a Russian “peacekeeping” mission in eastern Ukraine.
Only four days later he made a U-turn аnd said “No” — no to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“The war should be stopped immediately. When I voted to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics I voted for peace, not war,” he wrote Saturday on social media, a reference to the ever-so-thin pretext Russian President Vladimir Putin used to launch an all-out war on his neighbor.
Matveyev had voted to recognize the breakaway regions’ independence, he claimed, just to protect the eastern Ukraine Donbass region. “For Russia to act as a shield so that they wouldn’t bomb Donbass,” he said, “not so that Kyiv would be bombed.”
Yet, that’s exactly what has happened. […]
Since last week there have been spontaneous protests in dozens of cities throughout Russia — from the north, to the Urals, to Siberia — attended by thousands of outraged Russians.
Though that constitutes only a fraction of Russia’s 140-million strong population, the turnout is nonetheless significant considering the context — “after a year in which the protests against the jailing of Alexei Navalny were crushed with violence, and the opposition was either jailed or forced out of the country, completely demoralizing any opposition,” said political analyst and former Kremlin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov.
DID THE CIA TRAIN UKRAINE FOR THE LONG HAUL? ‘THE UNITED STATES IS TRAINING AN INSURGENCY’ … FLASHBACK: CIA REPORTEDLY TRAINED UKRANIAN FORCES FOR RUSSIAN INVASION… JAN 13… YAHOO NEWS: CIA-trained Ukrainian paramilitaries may take central role if Russia invades
The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials. […]
While the covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch — now officially known as Ground Department — was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has further augmented it, said a former senior intelligence official in touch with colleagues in government.
By 2015, as part of this expanded anti-Russia effort, CIA Ground Branch paramilitaries also started traveling to the front in eastern Ukraine to advise their counterparts there, according to a half-dozen former officials.
The multiweek, U.S.-based CIA program has included training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like “cover and move,” intelligence and other areas, according to former officials. […]
The training, which has included “tactical stuff,” is “going to start looking pretty offensive if Russians invade Ukraine,” said the former official.
One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly. “The United States is training an insurgency,” said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians.”
ELON MUSK GRANTS UKRAINE SATELLITE INTERNET ACCESS… KAREN TOWNSEND: Elon Musk responds to Ukrainian government official’s plea for internet access
Russia’s invasion into Ukraine hasn’t gone as smoothly as Putin likely predicted. Ukrainians are fighting back and Putin is suffering losses. Typically when an attack is launched on a country, internet service is shut down by cyberattacks from the aggressor. That didn’t happen in this war. Some areas of Ukraine were able to remain online. On Wednesday Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, Cabinet of Ministers, and Parliament website were offline for several hours after a cyberattack. Banks were also affected.
SpaceX will provide more Starlink services to Ukraine to counter disruptions, especially in Kyiv and also across the country. Musk recently provided the same to Tonga after its volcano eruption.
DEM SENATOR CALLS FOR MORE BIG TECH CENSORSHIP TO COUNTER RUSSIA… MARK WARNER: I’m concerned about Russian disinformation spreading online, so today I wrote to the CEOs of major tech companies to ask them to restrict the spread of Russian propaganda.
WHILE PRO-UKRAINE STORIES SPREAD WITHOUT MUCH SCRUTINY… GLENN GREENWALD: War Propaganda About Ukraine Becoming More Militaristic, Authoritarian, and Reckless
Disinformation and utter hoaxes are now being aggressively spread as well. Both Rep. Kinzinger and Rep. Swalwell ratified and spread the story of the so-called “Ghost of Kyiv,” a Ukrainian fighter pilot said to have single-handedly shot down six Russian planes. Tales and memes commemorating his heroism viralized on social media, ultimately ratified by these members of Congress and other prominent voices. The problem? It is a complete hoax and scam, concocted through a combination of deep fake videos based on images from a popular video game. Yet to date, few who have spread this fraud have retracted it, while censorship-happy Big Tech corporations have permitted most of these fraudulent posts to remain without a disinformation label on it. We are absolutely at the point — even as demands escalate for systematic censorship by Big Tech of any so-called “pro-Russian” voices — where disinformation and fake news are considered noble provided they advance a pro-Ukrainian narrative.
Western media outlets have also fully embraced their role as war propagandists. They affirm any story provided it advances pro-Ukrainian propaganda without having the slightest idea whether it is true. A charming and inspiring story about a small group of Ukrainian soldiers guarding an installation in a Black Sea island went wildly viral on Saturday and ultimately was affirmed as truth by multiple major Western news outlets. A Russian warship demanded they surrender and, instead, they responded by replying: “fuck you, Russian warship,” their heroic last words before dying while fighting. Ukraine said “it will posthumously honor a group of Ukrainian border guards who were killed defending a tiny island in the Black Sea during a multi-pronged Russian invasion.” Yet there is no evidence at all that they died; the Russian government claims they surrendered, and the Ukrainian military subsequently acknowledged the same possibility.
NY POST: Ukrainians who told Russian warship to ‘go f–k yourself’ may still be alive, officials say
The 13 Ukrainian border guards who were reportedly massacred while defending a small Black Sea island after telling a Russian warship to “Go f–k yourself” may still be alive, officials said.
“We [have a] strong belief that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island may be alive,” the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGSU) said in a statement Saturday.
“Preliminary information that border guards may be dead came before the defenders lost contact.”
The story of the brave soldiers defiantly refusing to surrender their post on Snake Island made headlines across the globe after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine had both confirmed that they were wiped out two days ago.
NEW CNN BOSS LED ‘MORNING JOE’ & ‘COLBERT’ TEAMS… NYT: Chris Licht, a Creator of ‘Morning Joe’ and ‘Colbert’ Producer, Is Set to Run CNN
Chris Licht, a veteran television producer who helped create “Morning Joe” at MSNBC and later successfully retooled morning and late-night programming at CBS, is set to be the next leader of CNN, according to three people with direct knowledge of the decision.
Mr. Licht, 50, who is currently the executive producer of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” is poised to succeed Jeff Zucker, the CNN president whose nine-year tenure abruptly ended this month when he resigned over an undisclosed romantic relationship with a colleague.
He is expected to join the network once its parent company, WarnerMedia, completes a merger with Discovery Inc., a deal that could close by April. Mr. Licht and David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery, are professional and social friends who have known each other for more than a decade.
EVEN WITH THAT RESUME, LICT IS EXPECTED TO MAKE CNN LESS LEFTY? … AXIOS: Scoop: CNN to dull its liberal edge
Under new chief Chris Licht, CNN will dial down the prime-time partisanship and double down on the network’s news-gathering muscle, top sources tell me.
Why it matters: Ratings are secondary to credibility, in the view of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who’s taking over CNN. […]
MORE… TIME FOR CHRIS WALLACE TO SWEAT?
Taking on a second hallmark of the Zucker regime, the incoming Discovery team has expressed skepticism about the roster size for CNN+, the streaming service Zucker had been stocking with expensive talent. […]
Staff is bracing for CNN+ to shrink before it even launches this spring.
REPORT: CNN COULD AXE ZUCKER’S SPIN TEAM… RED STATE: Report: Big Changes Are Coming to CNN, Including Some Hilarious Reassignments
Per Jon Nicosia, Stelter and his sidekick, Oliver Darcy, are looking at being reassigned. Discovery, which has purchased the liberal network, is reportedly looking to dial back the partisanship of its “reporters” in order to re-establish some credibility and standards.
As Nicosia notes, Stelter and Darcy have operated as bodyguards for Zucker and the network, often absconding from journalistic ethics along the way. The two “reporters” have made an art of misleading by omission while expressing an unhealthy obsession with Fox News.