NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F


In the only scheduled debate between the candidates, which was co-sponsored by and WISC-TV, Protasiewicz also said the large amount of money she received from abortion rights groups wouldn’t inform how she decides cases on abortion.

Liberals have largely framed the race as a referendum on abortion rights in Wisconsin, a topic that has galvanized Democrats since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June. Protasiewicz has derided the decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, and her campaign has aired several ads highlighting her abortion rights views. Democrats have filed a case challenging the state’s near-complete abortion ban, which the winning candidate will likely help determine on the court now controlled 4-3 by conservatives.

Kelly, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, has pitched himself as the candidate who would best preserve the rule of law, saying he would follow statutes and the state Constitution while Protasiewicz would legislate from the bench.

But Protasiewicz went after Kelly for receiving an endorsement from Wisconsin Right to Life, a group that says it endorses those “who have pledged to champion pro-life values and stand with Wisconsin Right to Life’s legislative strategy.”

In the latest legal fight against state restrictions since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, five women are suing the state of Texas after being denied abortions despite facing extremely dangerous medical complications.

“That’s absolutely not true once again,” Kelly said in response to Protasiewicz’s accusation that he pledged to uphold the anti-abortion group’s values. “So, this seems to be a pattern for you, Janet, just telling lies.”

Kelly said he only told the group that he would follow the law. Kelly has been quiet on the abortion issue in this campaign, but in a since-deleted 2012 blog post he described abortion as “a policy deadly to children.” He’s also provided legal counsel to Wisconsin Right to Life.

The candidates will face off on April 4 to replace retiring conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack. Protasiewicz has outraised and outspent Kelly in the election. But conservative groups have propped Kelly up with millions in hopes he protects the policies liberals are trying to overturn.

Protasiewicz defended her past sentences as a criminal court judge after conservatives aired many ads spotlighting cases in which she gave defendants no prison time or prison sentences they say were below the average.

“It’s interesting that a handful of cases have been cherry-picked and selected and twisted,” Protasiewicz said, adding that she “would not have been in homicide and sexual assault court for three years if the parties, the people, the community and the rest of my colleagues thought I wasn’t handing down sufficient sentences to take care of the community.”

Kelly said there wasn’t enough time in the campaign to probe every one of her cases. He said people making those ads picked out representative cases, calling the reasoning behind her decisions problematic.

Kelly said Protasiewicz didn’t hand down a sentence to somebody convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protasiewicz said her opponent was simplifying her reasoning, adding that the sentencing process is far more nuanced than he suggested.

—Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and his fellow Democrats worked Tuesday to keep the spotlight on abortion ahead of next month’s state Supreme Court election, resurrecting a bill that would repeal the state’s 1849 ban on the practice.

Democrats introduced the bill in June days before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Republicans who control the Legislature refused to take up the bill, and the overturning of Roe put Wisconsin’s abortion ban back in play.

Evers and other Democrats have been trying to keep the ban at the forefront of political discussion in the state in the hopes of persuading women to back the party’s candidates.

Democrats and abortion rights advocates have pinned their hopes on Kaul’s lawsuit, which appears destined to land before the state Supreme Court. If liberal-leaning candidate Janet Protasiewicz wins the April 4 election against conservative-leaning Dan Kelly, liberal justices would gain a one-vote majority and could overturn the ban. Protasiewicz has signaled repeatedly on the campaign trail that she supports abortion rights.

Evers called on Republicans to at least debate the bill that would repeal the abortion ban.

“We’ll keep fighting like hell every day until Republicans heed the will of the people, until every Wisconsinite has the right to make their own health care decisions, until we guarantee our kids and grandkids won’t grow up in a world where they have fewer rights than we did,” Evers said at a news conference.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released a statement calling the news conference “a spectacle, with Governor Evers’ hypocrisy on full display.”

“Last week, Legislative Republicans introduced a bill that’s a reasonable middle ground to the divisive and opposing viewpoints on abortion (that would create rape and incest exceptions to Wisconsin’s ban and clarify that abortions that protect the health of the mother would be allowed). Governor Evers immediately said he would veto it,” Vos said. “Legislative Republicans have continued to say we’re willing to discuss and find consensus. Instead, Governor Evers issues an ultimatum of no negotiating.”

—Wisconsin AP

The head of Ascension Wisconsin is leaving his position amid a major leadership shakeup at the hospital system, after some of its Milwaukee hospitals came under fire for staffing shortages that doctors and others said were threatening patient care.

Bernie Sherry, a senior vice president of Ascension Health who has overseen the Wisconsin market since 2016, will be out of his role “later this spring,” according to a memo sent Tuesday to Ascension Wisconsin staff. A search is underway for his replacement.

Other Ascension Wisconsin leaders leaving their positions this week include: Monica Hilt, chief operating officer; Marcia Lysaght, chief nursing officer; Beth O’Laire, market chief human resources executive; and Caryn Kaufman, the director of communications.

In recent months, Ascension Wisconsin has cut services at some Milwaukee hospitals and struggled to keep staffing at proper levels, prompting protests from hospital workers, scrutiny from Milwaukee Common Council members and demands for answers from U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

An Ascension Wisconsin spokesperson did not answer questions about the specific reasons for the departures or the terms on which hospital leadership is leaving.

Sherry was one of Ascension Wisconsin’s highest-paid executives. He received about $2 million in compensation in 2019, including about $850,000 in bonuses and incentive compensation, according to nonprofit tax filings.

The shakeup comes as Ascension has come under fire from health care professionals, patients and regulators for staffing and patient care concerns at Milwaukee-area hospitals.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee Magazine separately have reported on staffing shortages at Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee that have resulted in disruptions to patient care, long wait times in the emergency department, delayed surgeries and staff concerns about patient safety.

The Journal Sentinel’s reporting found that nurses at Columbia St. Mary’s were often assigned more patients than they considered realistic, or even safe. Without more help, nurses were at times slow to answer patients’ calls for help. Overstretched nurses spent less time with individual patients and worried they might miss something that could result in a medical emergency. The hospital was cited twice last year by state regulators for not having enough nurses or other staff on units.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentienl

FBI agents worked about 16,000 more hours during the pay period of the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, than they did during the pay period of the 2020 riots that hit Washington, D.C.

That’s according to documents obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project through the Freedom of Information Act.

Payroll records for FBI agents in the Washington, D.C., field office show they worked a total of 86,262 hours in the Jan 4, 2021, to Jan. 17, 2021, pay period, during which the Capitol riot occurred involving those opposing Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election in which Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump. Trump alleged irregularities and did not immediately concede the race.

By contrast, during the May 25, 2020, to June 7, 2020, pay period, when the Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots were occurring in the District of Columbia, payroll records show that FBI agents worked a combined total of 70,367 hours.

—The Daily Signal

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has finally broken his silence on his much anticipated potential 2024 presidential run, giving an interview from the governor’s mansion in which he said that he has what it takes to be president and “I can beat Biden.”

DeSantis sat down with Piers Morgan in a wide-ranging interview, saying “stay tuned” when asked about the potential 2024 bid for the GOP nomination. Former President Donald Trump is currently the front-runner for that spot, as he endeavors to earn his second term.

“It was clear that the governor has had enough of Trump’s constant baiting and felt ready to take him on in what could end up being a ferocious battle for the White House,” Morgan said, writing about the interview for the New York Post.

“DeSantis slammed Trump over his character failings,” Morgan continued, “chaotic leadership style, and for his handling of the COVID pandemic — especially in keeping controversial health chief Dr. Anthony Fauci in his post helping to run the White House Coronavirus Taskforce.”

—The Post Millennial

Democrats’ attacks on people of faith as well as their erasing God “from just about every facet of our public lives,” is one of the main reasons former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says she chose to leave the Democratic Party, asserting that many of their policymakers “think that they [themselves] are God” as they attempt to “control us in every possible way.”

Gabbard, who formally announced her departure from the Democrat Party in October, joined Fox News’ Kayleigh McEnany, who served as former President Donald Trump’s press secretary, in lamenting how God was continually being “run out” of today’s society.

“It’s ironic to me that God, someone you can trust, is being run out of society,” McEnany said. [And] we know he was an integral part of our founding, mentioned in many of our founding documents.”

—Breitbart News

According to a Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey, 58% of likely voters believe the U.S. is on the wrong track, up two points from a week ago.

In the survey, for the week ending March 16, 36% of likely U.S. voters say the country is proceeding in the right direction, down three points from a week ago.

A year ago at this time, 29% said the U.S. was heading in the right direction, while 65% said it was on the wrong track.

National news is filled with reports of bank failures, high inflation, mass shootings, and border crossings. U.S. relations with Russia and China are at low points.

The national telephone survey of 1,660 likely voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from March 12-16. The margin of sampling error for the survey is plus/minus 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.


A Virginia teacher who was shot and wounded by her 6-year-old student said it has changed her life and she has vivid memories and nightmares about that day.

“I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me,” first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner said during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie about the student. “It’s changed me. It’s changed my life.”

She said she’s still in shock and can’t make sense of it, in a portion of the interview that aired Tuesday morning on “Today.”

“I’m not sure when the shock will ever go away because of just how surreal it was and the vivid memories I have of that day. I think about it daily. Sometimes I have nightmares,” she said.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Jan. 6 shooting, Zwerner said in a portion of the interview that she’s had a challenging recovery. She’s had four surgeries and has some days when she “can’t get up out of bed.” Other days she can go about her day.

“For going through what I’ve gone through, I try to stay positive. You know, try to have a positive outlook on what’s happened and where my future’s heading,” Zwerner said.

Zwerner was hospitalized for nearly two weeks after being shot in the chest and left hand as she taught her class at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. The shooting rattled the military shipbuilding community and sent shock waves around the country, with many wondering how a child so young could get access to a gun and shoot his teacher.

In the moments after she was shot, Zwerner said the other first-graders in her class were screaming.

She knew she needed help. The fire alarm had gone off, heightening her awareness that she’d been shot.

She had trouble breathing. Her vision failed.

“I went to the office and I just passed out,” Zwerner said. “I thought I had died.”

Zwerner didn’t know it at the time, but her lung had collapsed. Doctors said the bullet could have killed her. She likely survived because she had put up her hands.

Zwerner intends to sue the district, according to a legal notice filed by her attorney.

—Associated Press

Tickets to see Beyoncé in the U.S. are so expensive that some American fans are flying to Europe instead.

The number of American fans seeing concerts abroad was steadily increasing before the pandemic, but Ticketmaster’s recent controversies have highlighted the difficulties of the ticketing process domestically. With dynamic pricing jacking up the cost of concert tickets in the U.S. and young people increasingly spending money on experiences, seeing Beyoncé in Europe gives some fans more bang for their buck.

Mercedes Arielle, a content creator, is no stranger to the strategy. In 2018, she saw Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the “On the Run II Tour” in Paris, securing floor seats for $92 apiece. In her hometown, Dallas, the going rate for the same tickets was $900 higher.

This year, having witnessed the botched Taylor Swift “Eras Tour” rollout, Arielle said she had no desire to rely on Ticketmaster and the U.S. system.

Arielle paid less for her international flight, her hotel stay and a Beyoncé ticket in Stockholm than her hometown friends paid to see the same show in Dallas. Her VIP tickets to the Stockholm show were $366. Even her hotel is “essentially free” because of points and miles.

“Beyoncé is gonna sweat on me,” she said. “That’s how close I am.”

Frustration at Ticketmaster, which has been embroiled in controversy after the November sale for Swift’s “Eras Tour,” has reached a fever pitch in recent months.

Ticketmaster’s use of dynamic pricing, which adjusts prices based on demand, has been particularly contentious among U.S. concertgoers.

A spokesperson for Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

–NBC News

Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout had dreamed of this moment, along with millions of fans throughout Japan and the United States: the two biggest stars on the planet, longtime teammates, facing each other at 60 feet, 6 inches, the world title at stake.

Of course, the count went full.

And then Ohtani got Trout to swing under a slider on the outside corner, sealing Japan’s 3-2 win Tuesday night and its first World Baseball Classic title since 2009.

“This is the best moment in my life,” Ohtani said through a translator.

Ohtani, the two-way star who has captivated fans across two continents, was voted MVP of the WBC after batting .435 with one homer, four doubles, eight RBIs and 10 walks while going 2-0 with a save and a 1.86 ERA on the mound, striking out 11 in 9 2/3 innings.

“I think every baseball fan wanted to see that. I’ve been answering questions about it for the last month-and a-half,” said Trout, Ohtani’s Los Angeles Angels teammate since 2018.

“Did you think it was going to end in any other way?”

Watching the eighth and ninth innings unfold, Japan first baseman Kazuma Okamoto was in disbelief.

“I thought it was like a Manga,” he said through an interpreter, referring to a Japanese comic book.

U.S. manager Mark DeRosa savored the matchup — except for the ending.

“I just would have liked to have seen Mike hit a 500-foot homer,” he said.

—Associated Press


The facts of life haven’t changed, but sex education is entirely different now from what you likely learned in school.

Sex ed in middle school now includes graphic lessons on anal sex, oral sex and masturbation, with stick figures to illustrate body positions. Supplemental reading in middle school libraries includes “Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff,” a book explaining foreplay and how to rub the clitoris to produce pleasure.

Massachusetts’ curriculum tells seventh graders how to use cling wrap as a dental dam around their teeth for safe oral sex.

A majority of states now require sex education be labeled as “comprehensive,” thanks to aggressive lobbying by activists. Planned Parenthood, the largest producer of sex ed curriculum for public schools, argues that children are entitled to know how to “experience different forms of sexual pleasure.”

Eugene, Oregon, high schoolers were recently assigned to write a sexual fantasy featuring massage oil, flavored syrup, a candle, music, feathers or a boa. How about teaching them math and English instead?

Sex ed is the most controversial issue in many school board elections. Contests are nominally nonpartisan, but generally, Republicans are demanding parental controls. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is becoming the poster child for adolescent promiscuity.

Expect this to be a defining issue in next year’s national elections.

In Iowa last week, former President Donald Trump warned the crowd that schools “are focused on sexualizing our children.”

Advocates for CSE argue that “how-to” information about sex keeps children safer. Don’t believe it. A review of 60 studies of sex education in U.S. schools, published in the scholarly journal Issues in Law and Medicine, found that comprehensive sex education more often resulted in more harm, including more unplanned pregnancies and STDs.

The backlash against extreme sex ed is exploding. Proponents insist they just want to provide information. Nonsense. When lessons include more than biology, someone’s values are being imposed.

Parents, it’s time to take control of what our kids are being taught.

—Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D, is a former Lt. Governor of New York State and author of Beating Obamacare

According to a 2019 article in The Wall Street Journal, in the 1980s half of all 16-year-olds were driving. But by 2020 it was just 25 percent.


Driving tests began getting stricter and more challenging in many states in the mid-1990s — though passing my test in a 1976 “Starship-Enterprise-sized” station wagon was no easy feat.

The cost of cars has risen and today’s teens are able to get around easily enough using ride-sharing services.

But the biggest reason is simply that many teens have zero desire to drive on their own — because the hunger to get out of the house and socialize is no longer a big incentive.

A study by Common Sense Media finds that teens are spending an average of 8 hours a day on social media apps.

They may think their online habits are enabling them to socialize with “friends,” but several studies, including a 2021 Journal of Adolescence study, see a clear correlation between the explosion in social media in 2012 and increasing isolation, depression and anxiety in teens.

Instead of becoming excited at age 16 that they can learn to drive a car and come and go freely, too many kids are content to sit alone in their rooms endlessly texting each other or consuming TikTok.

It’s too bad. Kids today don’t know how much fun, freedom and real social interaction they’re missing without cars.

Cruising the park in a 1972 VW Beetle with my friends is one of the best memories I have of my teen years.

I know the social media challenge is complex, but here’s a good start:

Hey, kids, the weather is breaking. Get your license, turn off our phones and go for a cruise in the park!

—Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1972 the U.S. Senate approved the Equal Rights Amendment—which stated, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”—but it failed to be ratified by the requisite majority of 38 states before the deadline.

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