TODAY’S NEWS BRIEFS – Monday, February 6, 2023

Briefs are posted weekday mornings, M-F

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Republicans have signaled they want to cut taxes and improve education outcomes during this legislative session. But the executive and legislative branches of Wisconsin’s government have different ideological ideas of what those things look like.

Evers will deliver his biennial budget address on Feb. 15. The Joint Finance Committee will spend the next several months holding hearings with state agencies.

On Jan. 24 Evers previewed his budget, outlining more than $1 billion in new spending. Republicans were quick to say Evers’ plans were too expensive to support and pledged to create their own budget as they have done in the past.

The biggest chunk of state funding, $800 million, would allow schools to spend $350 more per student in the 2023-24 school year and $650 more the following year.

During an interview with the Journal Sentinel on Dec. 22, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the state already gave a “massive amount” of federal money to address state educational problems and it had “almost no impact.”

Evers now supports a Republican plan calling for using up to 20% of state sales tax to pay for local governments. Wisconsin had $6.98 billion in sales tax revenues in fiscal year 2022. Twenty percent of that would be $1.4 billion.

Shared revenue is tax dollars the state provides to cities, villages, towns and counties to help pay for local expenses. The amount has not been increased in years. Vos called the system “basically broken,” during an interview with the Journal Sentinel.

Evers plans to again propose legalizing marijuana for users 21 and older. Legalization is estimated to generate $166 million in revenue that Evers has said he wants to use to help fund schools.

The proposal will likely be quickly removed from the budget. Republican leaders have just begun to talk about a medical marijuana proposal they could support. Vos said Evers’ plan to introduce recreational marijuana could slow any momentum for a possible medical marijuana bill.

Evers announced a plan last summer to tap into the state’s budget surplus to provide more than $600 million in tax relief, including a 10% income tax cut aimed at the middle class. At the time, he was in a tight re-election race, but Evers has stuck with the plan and will introduce it with the budget.

Meanwhile, Republicans have brought forward a $5 billion tax proposal, that would move Wisconsin’s current progressive income tax rates that range from 3.54% to 7.65% to a flat 3.25% rate by 2026. Evers, who has said he opposes substantial tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest residents, is likely to veto the proposal.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions.

President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday. He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.

China responded that it reserved the right to “take further actions” and criticized the U.S. for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”

In its statement Sunday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.”

The presence of the balloon in the skies above the U.S. this week dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions.

On Saturday, Ashlyn Preaux, 33, went out to get her mail in Forestbrook, South Carolina, and noticed her neighbors looking up — and there it was, the balloon in the cloudless blue sky. Then she saw fighter jets circling and the balloon get hit.

“I did not anticipate waking up to be in a ‘Top Gun’ movie today,” she said.

—Associated Press

President Joe Biden thought he was off the hook after the U.S. Military finally shot down the Chinese spy balloon on Saturday, after knowing about its presence for days allowing it to travel across the entered country.

The president tried to take the blame off of his delayed response and put it on the Pentagon, claiming that on Wednesday he ordered them to shoot the balloon down, however, it was the Pentagon who decided it was best to wait.

Yet, U.S. officials were reportedly notified of the Chinese spy balloon on January 28. Eight days before action was taken. Biden ultimately decided not to alert the public so that it would not postpone Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China.

Reports say that Blinken would have still gone to China had the public not found out about the surveillance balloon.

However, officials aren’t going to let him walk away that easily.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Greene (R-NC) called out Biden for showing how weak he is to both Americans and other countries.

“The fact remains that President Biden when faced with the opportunity to protect the homeland from our adversaries, chose yet again to demonstrate weakness on the global stage,” Greene said in a statement. “From the Southern border to Afghanistan and, now, Chinese surveillance directly above our homes and sensitive military installations, this President shows he is not interested in protecting American interests.”

Greene continued to say that it is inexcusable that the president took action against the Chinese only after it was made public.

Other countries know they can walk all over Biden. In fact, they are probably laughing right now at all of the foolishness Biden has done since taking office.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) reiterated that, saying the president is “weak,” and that “a circus clown knows how to handle a balloon better” than the president did.

It was not only Republicans who called out Biden for his botched response to the surveillance balloon. Several Democrats also called for consequences following the event.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont), chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, is “demanding answers” from the Biden Administration, adding that his committee will hold a hearing about the spy balloon.

—Sarah Arnold, Townhall

The “unprecedented” flight of a Chinese spy balloon across the entire continental United States, high above strategic U.S. military installations, may have some intelligence value for China, but the main value lies in the “message” China sent, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Sunday.

“I think what’s embedded here is a clear message,” Rubio, the ranking member of the Senate intelligence committee told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s not a coincidence that this happens leading up to the State of the Union address, leading up to Blinken’s visit to China.

“The Chinese knew that this was going to be spotted. They knew that we were going to have to react to it. They flew it over military installations and sensitive sites across — right across the middle. I mean, look at the flight path of this thing. It’s a diagonal shot right through the middle of the continental United States.

“And the message embedded in this to the world is, we can fly a balloon over airspace of the United States of America, and you won’t be able to do anything about it to stop us. They calculated this carefully with a message embedded in it.

“And I think that’s the part we can’t forget here. It’s not just the balloon. It’s the message to try to send the world that America — we can do whatever we want, and America can’t stop us.”

—CNS News

Local officials in North and South Carolina issued warnings to locals not to touch a suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down by U.S. jets over the Atlantic Ocean.

If debris from the balloon washes ashore, people should contact local authorities. Warnings were issued by local municipalities over the weekend after the balloon went down on Saturday afternoon.

“Please be advised we are aware of the destruction of the balloon that was over the ocean near our City,” said the North Myrtle Beach Police Department in a statement. “Pieces of this balloon are being collected by the U.S. military however it is possible some of those pieces may wash ashore. Any stray pieces are expected in the NC area but could wash ashore in [North Myrtle Beach].”

“If a piece is located please contact your local law enforcement agency for collection,” according to the statement. “Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed. Such items are part of a federal investigation and tampering with them could interfere with that investigation.”

—The Epoch Times

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is receiving $400 million for employee pay raises, $61 million more to hire employees, and expanded collective bargaining rights, which could lead to future pay increases, according to reports.

OpenTheBooks and Reason reported that the TSA will receive $400 million as part of the 4,000-plus-page, $1.7 trillion omnibus bill passed with the aid of 18 Republicans in the Senate and signed into law in December.

The pay raises come on the heels of a recent report that noted numerous problems with the TSA, according to “These raises are not a result of service improvements,” wrote Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of the federal spending watchdog site. “On the contrary, a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office has noted problems with discrimination in the screening process and issues with notifying passengers of the complaint process.”

Reason was even more blunt about the failings of the intrusive yet porous screening methods of the agency.

“The raises might rightfully infuriate Americans who have to keep paying the tab for (and keep getting fondled by) a federal agency that, more than 20 years after it was created to combat airplane-related terrorism, has still never foiled a single attack and routinely fails to stop weapons and other illegal substances from being smuggled aboard commercial aircraft,” the libertarian outlet fumed. “The federal government is more than $30 trillion in debt and borrowed nearly 50 cents of every dollar spent last month, so fattening the paychecks of the rent-a-cops who patrol the nation’s airports probably shouldn’t be a top priority — but the same thing could be said for a host of other items in the omnibus bill.”

A TSA spokesperson told Just The News that the funding will address the pay disparity between TSA employees and other federal workers.

Transportation Security Officers (TSO) “have generally been paid up to 30% less than their federal counterparts — while continuing to serve on the frontlines of national security as highly trained professionals,” the spokesperson said.

—Just the News

Children are more than 100 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than adults, even as the virus ranks as the eighth most likely cause of death for children, according to a new study.

Overall, children ages 0-19 die from COVID at a rate of 1 per 100,000, with that rate dropping significantly to an average of .5 per 100,000 for children ages 1 to 14 from August 2021 through July 2022, according to a study published last week by JAMA Network.

COVID constituted 2% of all deaths in children, while unintentional injuries accounted for 18.4% of child deaths and 6.8% were from suicide. This means that children are over nine times more likely to die in an accident and over three times more likely to die from suicide than they are from COVID.

During this same time period, adults died from COVID at a rate of 109 per 100,000, making children more than a hundred times less likely to die from COVID than adults.

According to data released Sunday by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, COVID has led to 337.36 deaths per 100,000 people in the United States. While the methodology is different from that in the JAMA study, it still suggests that COVID is significantly less deadly for children than for the overall population.

Children’s far lower risk from the virus is further reinforced by Center for Disease Control and Prevention data released Wednesday showing that children account for less than 0.15% of all COVID deaths.

Meanwhile, research from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, run by a British medical charity, found that mask-wearing “probably makes little to no difference” in preventing the spread of COVID or influenza.

Despite this, schools in some states, such as Michigan and Massachusetts, reinstated mask mandates as recently as last month in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

—Just the News

With the widespread adoption of secure patient portals and the social changes brought on by the COVID pandemic, it may not come as a surprise that people are now emailing their doctors at unprecedented levels.

Many patients say the increased communication has been largely positive, helping to bridge long wait periods between in-person appointments and making medical professionals more accessible, but some doctors say it has placed added pressure on their already strained schedules. That’s why some hospitals and medical practices say they now charge for select patient emails—a new practice that could change the way you interact with your doctor.

In recent years, doctors have faced a surge in digital communication from their patients. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic recently told The New York Times that they’ve seen a twofold increase in patient email volume since 2019.

With already packed schedules, some doctors say keeping up with the influx of messaging is untenable. In response, certain hospitals and other medical practices have begun charging a fee for emails or messages sent through secure medical portals such as MyChart.

If you have health insurance, your coverage plan is most likely to bear the brunt of the changes. The New York Times reports that Medicaid patients are not currently charged, while Medicare beneficiaries with no supplemental health plan can expect a co-pay between three and eight dollars per detailed exchange.

The Cleveland Clinic told the newspaper that its maximum charges would top out at $50 per exchange for those without insurance, or those with high deductibles on private insurance plans.

“This is a barrier that denies access and will result in hesitancy or fear to communicate and potentially harm patients with lower quality of care and outcomes at a much higher cost,” Cynthia Fisher, the founder of a Massachusetts healthcare advocacy non-profit, told the Associated Press, via Insider.

—Best Life

Three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not uncommon to see people wearing masks in public. I try not to judge people when I see someone wearing a mask; after all, the person may have a legitimate need to wear a mask.

But what I’ve noticed is that there seem to be a lot of healthy younger people — teenagers and people in their early 20s — who wear masks often, and I have a difficult time understanding it.

I’ve had a theory about this phenomenon for some time. I think some people like to keep masking because it makes them feel anonymous. I’m convinced that some people want to literally hide behind a mask.

A recent study doesn’t quite prove my hypothesis per se, but it comes awfully close.

“Researchers from Seoul National University in South Korea wanted to see if self-perceived attractiveness played a role in people’s mask-wearing intentions,” reports the Daily Mail. The researchers conducted three studies of Americans to determine how perceptions of attractiveness affect mask-wearing.

One of the studies involved having participants imagine going to an interview for a job they were really interested in.

They were asked to answer the following questions: “Do you think the interviewers will perceive you as more attractive with a face mask?” and “If wearing a face mask is optional in this interview session, would you wear a face mask during the company interview?”

People who scored themselves as very attractive were less likely to answer yes. They were also less likely to endorse the belief that mask-wearing enhances their appearance, which further dampened their mask-wearing intention in job interviews.

On the flip side, people who thought that an interviewer or potential boss would think someone in a mask would come across as more trustworthy, competent, or attractive were more likely to wear a mask in public settings.

—Chris Queen, PJ Media

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R.), who is expected to soon announce that she is running for president, said in a November 2021 interview she did with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that politicians “above a certain age” should have to undergo “some sort of cognitive test.”

“He keeps giving signals that he’s not with it,” Haley said of President Joe Biden.

“So, it’s not people hating on Biden, it’s Biden really showing the country that he’s not totally in charge. And that makes everyone nervous,” she said.

“We seriously need to have a conversation that if you’re going to have anyone above a certain age in a position of power, whether it’s the House, whether it’s the Senate, whether it’s vice president, whether it’s president, you should have some sort of cognitive test,” Haley told Brody.

“Just like you have to show your tax returns, you should have some sort of health screening so that people have faith in what you’re doing,” she said.

“And, right now, let’s face it, we’ve got a lot of people in leadership positions that are old, and that’s not being disrespectful. That’s a fact,” she said.

—CNS News

Just in case you needed any more proof that the press deserves to be called the “activist media,” the Associated Press issued new guidance in November 2022 to journalists related to how they frame issues surrounding abortion. The AP’s style guide was updated to direct journalists to put the term “crisis pregnancy center” in quotation marks and to refer to them as “anti-abortion” centers.

The Daily Signal reported: The AP added this entry between Nov. 20 and Nov. 27, 2022, according to The Daily Signal’s search of the Wayback Machine. The guide describes the centers as “set up to divert or discourage women from having abortions” and warns writers against “potentially misleading terms” like “pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy counseling centers.”

“If using the term anti-abortion center, explain later that these often are known as ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ (with quotation marks) and that their aim is to dissuade people from getting an abortion,” the style guide entry states.

Thomas Glessner, president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, told the news outlet that journalists adhering to these guidelines are “disgraceful” and argued that “if they actually cared about integrity, they would know that pregnancy centers seek to help women who are facing unplanned pregnancies with material and emotional support.”

The Associated Press’ stylebook is the most commonly used among journalists and news outlets. Its guidance tends to be followed across the board, with some exceptions.


A dead, partially frozen shark washed up on an icy beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts over the weekend.

A local photographer stumbled across the carcass as she took a stroll along a beach, aptly called Cold Storage Beach, in Dennis, around 2:30 p.m.

The photographer, Amie Medeiros, took a picture of the shark laying on its side on the icy sand and shared it on Instagram.

She said the frozen animal was “not what I was expecting to find on my frozen winter adventure,” in the comments.

The big fish, believed to be a porbeagle shark, may have died from an injury to its side. Mederios’ photographs show it has gashes above its fins.

Ice covered parts of the carcass as well as the majority of the beach as temperatures dipped below freezing in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

See photo above.

—NY Post

February 6 marks the anniversary of President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s birthday.

We’re grateful beyond measure for his service to our country, the shining City on a Hill, and his steadfast devotion to American Liberty.

In honor of his birthday, we remember “The Speech” — his 1964 address that vaulted him to national prominence: “The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing. … You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right, there is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

“It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, ‘We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government.’ This idea — that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power — is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

He concluded, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.”

—The Patriot Post

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1935 the “Monopoly” board game went on sale for the 1st time.

And in 1951 radio commentator Paul Harvey was arrested for trying to sneak into Argonne National Laboratory, a nuclear test site located 20 miles west of Chicago.

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