NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Friday, April 7, 2023

Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F


With the state’s Supreme Court poised for its first shift to a liberal majority in 15 years, a liberal law firm plans to challenge the state’s legislative maps, based on the assertion that gerrymandering violates the state’s constitution.

Law Forward, based in Madison, plans to bring the challenge by the end of the summer or early fall, executive director Nicole Safar said Thursday.

“What I can say is that we are starting the work to put together a case now and that is a process,” Safar said. “We’re going to be talking to voters, are going to be doing the hard work of putting together a case like this over the next few months.”

Political districts typically are redrawn once every 10 years, following the completion of the U.S. census. The legislative districts must have equal populations, but where the lines go can confer advantages on one political party over another.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

After losing two of the most consequential elections in two decades largely on the lack of abortion access in Wisconsin, top Republicans said this week the party shouldn’t change its position on the issue but instead should find ways to build more effective campaigns.

The party’s top leaders cited ineffective campaigning and messaging on the issue in former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly’s double-digit loss to liberal candidate Janet Protasiewicz in a race for a seat that ultimately flipped control of the state Supreme Court to liberals for the first time in 15 years.

“I don’t think we have to sacrifice our principles in order to talk to independent voters,” Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel following Tuesday’s election. “I’m pro-life. I’m proud to be a part of the pro-life party. But I think we need to have a message and explain ourselves better than we have.”

Protasiewicz and her allies raised and spent millions for her campaign that focused heavily on her support of abortion access, which was eliminated in 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, putting back into effect a 19th century-era law that bans abortions in Wisconsin in every situation except when the mother will die without one.

Wisconsin’s abortion law makes it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure unless a woman will die, but is silent on the possibility of serious health consequences.

Protasiewicz all but assured she would side with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul in a lawsuit they filed to repeal the state’s abortion ban — a move the pair promoted ahead of their November reelection victories.

In the wake of another loss, top Republicans this week acknowledged the role abortion played in the race but largely attributed the latest statewide loss for their party to logistical and strategic issues during the campaign, claiming, in part, that Democrats were able to reach more independent voters with advertising.

Jefferson said Republicans let attacks from pro-Protasiewicz groups “go unanswered” and failed to beat Democrats on the airwaves in what was the most expensive judicial race in the nation’s history. He suggested that the GOP could have pushed back on Democratic attacks on Kelly’s own views on abortion.

“On the issue, we did not hit back. We did not point out the fact that they don’t support any restrictions on abortion,” Jefferson said.

Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, who represents the 6th Congressional District, told the Journal Sentinel that churches and the pro-life community “have to do a better job of educating the public” about what abortion is, saying: “Given what you see ultrasounds, I would hope particularly the young people would be more pro-life.”

Grothman said voters’ yes votes on ballot referenda Tuesday broadening requirements for cash bail and backing work requirements for those seeking welfare benefits indicated that “the public is overwhelmingly with Republicans.”

When asked on Newsmax Wednesday about the impact of the state Supreme Court race on the pro-life movement in Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson didn’t address abortion and instead said the new liberal majority on the court will “rule by judicial fiat” and undo “Republican gains” in the state.

He noted the millions in outside dollars directed to help Protasiewicz and said Republicans “need a different model for running elections here” — a model that doesn’t rely on advertising but rather leans on “a robust ground game.” And he claimed Democrats have an easier path to turning out their voters, saying they only have to “mine votes” from Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s Democratic hubs.

“We obviously fell short,” said Johnson, who declined an interview request from the Journal Sentinel. “Kelly did not have the resources he needed. … (Democrats) understood how important this thing was and, unfortunately, conservatives in Wisconsin just didn’t come out in the numbers that we needed them to.”

—Milwaukee Journal

The charges against former President Donald Trump are giving a major boost to his bid to return to the White House, according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“They’re forcing Republicans to choose between corruption and Trump,” he told The Epoch Times, noting that even Trump’s Republican critics, such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush haven’t been impressed with the case.

“Trump is stronger today than he was a month ago,” said Gingrich, a contributor to The Epoch Times.

Trump has raised $8 million in the four days after a New York grand jury in a deep blue county indicted him on allegations relating to his alleged role in a hush money payment to adult entertainment star Stormy Daniels. A Yahoo! News-YouGov poll taken immediately after the indictment found 57 percent of respondents supporting Trump over his leading potential rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had 31 percent of the hypothetical votes. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on April 3, 48 percent of Republican respondents backed Trump as their party’s presidential nominee, up from 44 percent in a March 14-20 poll.

The unprecedented indictment has united all major Republican 2024 hopefuls to rally behind Trump, and Gingrich—who says the case from Bragg is no more than a “publicity stunt”—said the prosecution has made it “very hard for anybody to attack him, because it sounds like you’re siding with the corrupt establishment.”

Trump, Gingrich said, will likely become the Republican nominee and “Biden’s policy failures are going to make it more likely that Trump will win the election.”

“He’ll be the first American President to lose an election and come back and win a second time after Grover Cleveland,” who won the presidency in 1884 and then again in 1892, Gingrich said.

Gingrich quoted from a speech from a Cleveland ally, Democrat Edward S. Bragg from Wisconsin, who said that people love and respect Cleveland “not only for himself, for his character, for his integrity and judgment and iron will, but they love him most of all for the enemies he has made.”

“That could pretty easily be applied to Donald Trump,” Gingrich said.

“It has to worry you, to watch some of the stuff going on here,” he said. “Because you now have people on the left who are willing to abuse the law, do things that clearly have nothing to do with justice.”

“It tells you how much they hate and fear Donald Trump,” he said. “We’ve been through seven years now of those constant attacks by the corrupt establishment against Donald Trump, and they’re going to continue as long as he stays in public life.”

—The Epoch Times

Eight Filipinos were nailed to crosses to reenact Jesus Christ’s suffering in a gory Good Friday tradition that draws thousands of devotees and tourists to the Philippines despite being rejected by the Catholic church.

The real-life crucifixions in the farming village of San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga province north of Manila resumed after a three-year pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. About a dozen villagers registered but only eight men participated, including 62-year-old sign painter Ruben Enaje, who was nailed to a wooden cross for the 34th time in San Pedro Cutud.

In a news conference shortly after his brief crucifixion, Enaje said he prayed for the eradication of the COVID-19 virus and the end of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has contributed to gas and food prices soaring worldwide.

“It’s just these two countries involved in that war, Russia and Ukraine, but all of us are being affected,” said Enaje, who appeared to be well and showed his two bandaged hands to journalists.

The father of four said he wanted to end his extraordinary penitence because of his age but would decide with finality before Lent next year. While the pain from the nailing was not as intense as anticipated, he said he always felt edgy before each crucifixion.

“To be honest, I always feel nervous because I could end up dead on the cross,” he told The Associated Press before Friday’s nailing.

“When I’m laid down on the cross, my body begins to feel cold,” he said. “When my hands are tied, I just close my eyes and tell myself, ‘I can do this. I can do this.’”

Surviving nearly unscathed when he fell from a three-story building in 1985 prompted Enaje to undergo the ordeal as thanksgiving for what he considered a miracle. He extended the ritual after loved ones recovered from serious illnesses, one after another, turning him into a village celebrity as the “Christ” in the Lenten reenactment of the Way of the Cross.

Ahead of their crucifixion on a dusty hill, Enaje and the other devotees, wearing thorny crowns of twigs, carried heavy wooden crosses on their backs for more than a kilometer (more than half a mile) in the scorching heat. Village actors dressed as Roman centurions later hammered 4-inch (10-centimeter) stainless steel nails through his palms and feet, then set him aloft on a cross under the sun for about 10 minutes.

Church leaders in the Philippines have frowned on the crucifixions and self-flagellations, saying Filipinos can show their deep faith and religious devotion without hurting themselves and by doing charity work instead, such as donating blood.

—Associated Press

Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed legislation into law that makes Florida the 26th state to allow Americans to carry firearms on their person for self-defense without a permit as one of the fastest moving affirmations of the Second Amendment continues to sweep the country.

All eyes are now turning to Nebraska and South Carolina, two states expected to take up such legislation in coming months. Gun rights activists say the summer 2020 riots and the subsequent rise in violent crime in many blue cities gave a jolt to a constitutional carry movement they long wanted to see gain steam.

“The bottom line is Americans watched years, certainly a year of riots and arson and looting. And they decided that they needed to be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Not everybody wants to do that. But they recognize the right to do so,” retired Army Lt. Col. Willes Lee, a top official in the National Rifle Association, told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Thursday.

The rapid succession of states to adopt permitless or constitutional carry laws — as well as major lawsuits seeking to protect gun rights from blue state and Biden administration regulations and bans — are expected to be major points of conversation at next week’s NRA spring meeting in Indianapolis.

—Just the News

Police departments across the country are facing a “vicious cycle” of retirements, resignations, and fewer hires, according to policing experts, leaving the communities they protect with understaffed departments and potentially underqualified officers.

A survey released on April 1 from the Police Executive Research Forum of 182 law enforcement agencies indicated that while police departments are recruiting more officers compared to a 2020 decrease, departments have seen 47% more resignations and 19% more retirements in 2022 compared to 2019.

“There’s a vicious cycle of it getting worse,” John Jay professor and former police officer Peter Moskos said.

Law enforcement experts expressed concern that due to increased challenges in recruiting fresh candidates and spiking rates of retirements and resignations, departments cannot hire and train enough officers to make up for the departing officers. The staffing crunch may leave departments with fewer candidates, less qualified candidates, and fewer officers on call to respond to emergencies.

“If you don’t have enough cops, at some point, you’re going to have an active shooter situation where police response is critical, and getting there a minute later could cost you 20 or 50 lives,” PERF executive director Chuck Wexler said.

Multiple experts attribute the recruiting challenge – that fewer people are willing to be police officers in 2023 – to increased external scrutiny and reputational harm to the overall profession. Some note that the lack of job flexibility, demanding hours, and the need to work on holidays (especially for junior officers) contribute to the crisis.

“Media coverage has led many young people to view police differently than their parents’ generation may have,” International Association of Chiefs of Police president John Letteney said. “And a lot of officers think their job has gotten more difficult since high profile use of force incidents.”

—ABC News

The explosion of home runs in Major League Baseball can be traced, in small part, to climate change, according to a study published Friday.

In a peer-reviewed paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Dartmouth College researchers said they can connect at least 500 additional home runs from 2010 to 2019 to Earth’s human-made warming.

The research was based on their simple premise that “air density is inversely proportional to temperature,” according to the paper, and that with all “else being equal, warmer air is less dense and a batted ball will carry farther.”

—NBC News

Another April Fools’ Day, another batch of stars opting to psych out fans with fake pregnancy announcements.

Model Heidi Klum, 49, reposted a photo on April 1 shared by her “America’s Got Talent” co-judges Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara that depicted Vergara pretending to kiss Klum’s belly. “I’m going to be an aunt,” Vergara captioned the image, while Mandel congratulated Klum.

But hours later, Klum shared another photo, this time of herself feigning kissing Mandel’s belly as he showed off a prosthetic baby bump.

Similarly, Disney Channel alum Sabrina Carpenter opted to fake out an audience while on tour in Salt Lake City. Carpenter, 23, inserts an improvised line at the end of each performance of her song “Nonsense.” On Saturday, she sang: “I’m pregnant / Happy April Fools’ Day.”

Both stars have since faced backlash online from fans who feel the jokes are insensitive to those dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss. They have not publicly responded to critics.

“People think it’s funny when you’ve gotten pregnant so easily,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Loree Johnson. “There’s a sense of ease that you can decide when you want to have a kid … I think that becomes fodder for comedic material and people are like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s hilarious,’ when it really might not be to people who are struggling. It just becomes material to make light of a situation they know nothing about.”


Starbucks customers have taken to social media to share their experiences with the coffee chain’s new slate of olive oil-infused drinks, and apparently, for some, the picture is not so pretty.

On March 16, a post titled “Olive oil drinks…” was added to the subreddit r/starbucks by a Redditor who claims to be a current Starbucks barista. In it, they share an experience their coworkers allegedly had after trying the new roster of Oleato drinks.

For those unfamiliar, these new coffee drinks are infused with Partanna cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil and debuted on Feb. 21 in limited markets.

“Have you tried them? I’m wondering how many people are going to have happen to them what a few happened to our team,” wrote Redditor u/MoodyStarGirl. “Half the team tried it yesterday and a few ended up… Needing to use the restroom, if ya know what I mean.. I’m honestly scared to try it because I already have stomach/bowel problems.”

Starbucks also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the comments section of the Reddit post, many others chimed in, with some sharing their own impressions and experiences with the drinks, which include lattes, shaken espressos, golden foam cold brews, cortados, a martini and more.

“Caffeine is a stimulant for your bowels and oil a relaxant,” wrote one Redditor. “So yeah wonderful idea by Starbucks.”

—NBC News


I find few things more joyous than witnessing the abortion of evil agendas before they even really have the chance to develop. Rabid leftists, gleefully bursting at the seams with visions of perversion and death, only to wind up completely deflated when they learn a little something about the American system of government — checks and balances still stubbornly in place, frustrating their nihilistic and Orwellian ambitions.

First? They’re (once again) begging for President Trump to be baselessly crucified. They’ve lit their torches and their synchronized chants to ‘free Barabbas’ are growing louder… they think they’ve got him this time! And, once again, they’ll have to extinguish the flames and return to incoherent grunting when they learn there is such a thing as an appellate court. (I predict Trump will be convicted by a jury of twelve inferiors who likely voted for Bragg should the venue remain unchanged.)

But, Wisconsin Democrats and their unthinking flock are likely to be dealt another upset — so long as concerned citizens do their part and apply positive pressure on their legislative representatives.

I follow a good number of pro-abortion and leftist groups on social media, and on Tuesday, I came across a NARAL post congratulating Janet Protasiewicz as the newest justice to occupy a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. I scrolled through the comments, finding the expected elation from the gaggle of dunces puffed up by their shortsighted and uninformed minds — yet, there was a single exception, as only one person understood there was more to the story. Her note read:

Well, hold your horses. The race for state Senate looks like it may go to Republican Dan Knodl, who would give the Republicans a super majority. He said they will immediately move to have her impeached. This is a horrible outcome.

Turns out, Knodl did win his race, and Republicans now do have the super majority in the state’s upper chamber. Article VII, Section I of Wisconsin’s state constitution reads:

The court for the trial of impeachments shall be composed of the senate. The assembly shall have the power of impeaching all civil officers of this state for corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors; but a majority of all the members elected shall concur in an impeachment.

Now, we all know too many Republicans possess a disappointing and aggravating character flaw — they’re so bold and patriotic when they’re the political minority, but as soon as they get that majority, it’s all quiet on the western front, and like clockwork, Republicans are starting to back down. According to a local Fox News outlet, Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said of a Protasiewicz impeachment:

‘For impeachment to succeed, there has to be a serious crime, a misdemeanor, something like that, and it shouldn’t be used as a tool to overturn elections…. It just has to be something very serious that an elected official or a public official does, and being someone who doesn’t agree with you politically is not a reason to impeach someone.’

Now, Protasiewicz has made some questionable comments which could easily be interpreted as “corrupt conduct” as they appear to exhibit a willingness to flout ethics in favor of judicial activism, but there’s another major problem here: these are no longer simple political differences between Democrat and Republican, or conservative and liberal. At this point, the other side is promoting child sacrifice — in a multitude of ways. They’ve got altars for reproductive “justice”, altars for “visibility” or “inclusion”, and altars for Big Brother and communist ideology.

Politics is a zero-sum struggle, and the left knows that. We don’t “win” by taking the moral high ground with political insurgents who target children, we win by beating them at their own game; just as long as it’s not immoral. And, there’s nothing immoral about wielding political power to banish child sacrificers into political oblivion. In fact it’s exactly what our representatives should be doing, and it’s the job of the citizenry to ensure they do.

—Olivia Murray on American Thinker

What is Good Friday, and why do we call Good Friday “good” when it is such a dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?

On Good Friday, we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). Easter follows it, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).

Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

For the gospel’s good news to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is essential to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then, the gospel of Jesus’ grace brings us relief and salvation.

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26).

Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the death blow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

Good Friday marked the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.

—The website Christianity

There are some who suggest that we are wrong to use the cross as a symbol for Christ and Christianity. Without the advantage of 2,000 years of Church teaching and the historical record of Roman cruelty and crucifixion, they suggest that Christ actually died “on a tree.” They base this on a few statements of Peter (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 1 Pet 2:24), while neglecting all of the descriptions in the Gospels, particularly the description in John: “He went out bearing his own cross, to the place of the skull” (Jn 19:17).

For Catholics, the cross is a focal point of the faith. We sign ourselves with the cross when beginning any prayerful endeavor, we wear crucifixes with Jesus’s body affixed, and we pray the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, especially during Lent to remind us of what Jesus went through on behalf of ALL mankind.

The cross was Jesus’s path to glory and, therefore, our path to glory as well. Saint (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta reportedly once said: “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” The Eucharist is directly connected to the crucified Jesus and his cross. We need to remember that every time we attend mass or participate in Eucharistic adoration and bear our own crosses every day, as Jesus commanded (Mt 10:38, 16:24, Mk 8:34, Lk 9:23, 14:27). These daily crosses unite us to Jesus and his suffering. For this reason, we keep crucifixes in our homes, wear them on our bodies, pray with them in our minds, and use images of them in many ways.

Other than the Eucharist, the crucifix is the ultimate symbol of Jesus’s love for each of us and all of us.

—Tom Klocek, Patriot Post

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1933 “Prohibition” against drinking beer was ended in the US, and the return of the malty beverage is celebrated on this day as, Brew Year’s Day.

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