NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Friday, April 14, 2023

Information is power.

Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F


A Wisconsin judge ordered a man convicted of killing six people when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee to pay tens of thousands of dollars more in restitution Thursday, saying she wants to make sure he doesn’t profit from any potential movie or book deal.

Darrell Brooks Jr. was convicted in October of 76 charges, including six homicide counts and 61 counts of reckless endangerment, for driving through the parade in downtown Waukesha in 2021. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow sentenced him to six consecutive life sentences without parole and ordered him to pay about $171,400 in restitution in November.

Brooks drove his red Ford Escape through the parade after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed, including 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, who was marching with his baseball team, and three members of a group known as the Dancing Grannies. Scores of others were injured.

Brooks told the court that he suffered from mental illness and didn’t plan to drive into the parade route.

Dorow increased that restitution amount to $476,200 on Thursday at the request of District Attorney Susan Opper, who said she wanted to replenish taxpayer dollars that went to support Brooks’ victims. She also voiced concern that Brooks could profit by selling his story to movie makers, publishing companies or media outlets.

Brooks’ attorney, Michael Covey, argued that Opper was simply piling on Brooks. He told the judge that Brooks is extremely poor, he’ll never be able to pay anybody anything with the minuscule wages he’ll make working menial jobs in prison, and the odds that anyone would pay him for his story are “miniscule.”

“(Increasing Brooks’ restitution) is just more additional punishment, adding extra zeroes to the judgment of conviction,” Covey said.

But Dorow said Brooks would owe even more restitution than Opper was seeking if the victims hadn’t been able to draw from well-wishers’ donations.

The judge said that garnishing Brooks’ prison wages would serve as a constant reminder of the pain he caused — and that there’s a real possibility someone could pay him for his story. She ordered that any money from such deals be placed in escrow as per state law.

—Wisconsin AP

The man accused of firebombing a prominent Wisconsin anti-abortion group’s office has pleaded not guilty.

Investigators believe Hridindu Roychowdhury, of Madison, threw two Molotov cocktails into the Madison office of Wisconsin Family Action last May. He entered a not guilty plea Tuesday to one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive. He also waived his right to appear in court for an arraignment once he is returned to Wisconsin.

One of the firebombs thrown into the anti-abortion group’s office failed to ignite; the other set a bookcase on fire. No one was in the office at the time. The message “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was found spray-painted on the building.

Police arrested Roychowdhury in a Boston airport last month after investigators matched his DNA to samples from the crime scene. He had a one-way ticket to Guatemala, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Myra Longfield, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Madison, said Thursday that Roychowdhury is being held in federal custody but has not yet been returned to Wisconsin. A date has not been set for his initial appearance in court.

—Wisconsin AP

The announcement this week that Chicago will host the 2024 Democratic National Convention has communities across southeast Wisconsin hopeful they’ll see an economic boost from dueling party conventions next summer.

Last August, the Republican National Committee announced they will hold their Republican National Convention will be held in Milwaukee in July 2024. Democrats will now hold their convention a month later and 90 miles to the south.

Milwaukee is already expected to see an estimated 50,000 visitors and $200 million in economic impact from the RNC, which will be held July 15-18, 2024 at Fiserv Forum. Claire Koenig, communications director for Visit Milwaukee, said the city’s tourism bureau was thrilled to hear that Chicago will be the host site for the DNC.

“Because of those political conventions, that means there’s going to be a lot of spotlights on the region,” Koenig said.

The DNC will be held at the United Center on Aug. 19-24, 2024. Koenig thinks Milwaukee could see some visitors on the weekends before and after that convention. Some convention goers could also take a “bleisure” trip to the city with their families, a term used to define a trip that combines business and leisure.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he’s excited about the choice.

With the Republicans selecting Milwaukee and Democrats choosing Chicago, it is clear the Midwest is front-and-center this Presidential election cycle,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’m happy for Chicago, and I will certainly extend an invitation to Democratic convention goers to come on up to Milwaukee.”

Kenosha County is just 60 miles from Chicago, while Racine County is about 80 miles away. Cari Greving, the tourism director for Racine County, also said she was excited when she heard the announcement on Tuesday.

“We’re literally the meat in the sandwich now,” Grieving said. “Racine is smack dab in the middle of that (RNC and DNC), so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to get benefits from both events.”

Even with the added exposure to the region, Bill Elliot, the president of the Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association, said it’s unlikely that any DNC visitors stay in hotels in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s lodging properties are not likely to see any direct overnight stays from the 2024 DNC, and that’s really due to the inventory of hotels that are available in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs,” he said.

But for the RNC, Elliot said it’s likely that hotels as far as Kenosha, Madison and Sheboygan are used for that event.

“For hotels it’s not just selling those nights, but it’s showing that we can handle these great conventions, these big conventions,” Elliot said.

—WI Public Radio

A pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies is criticizing some Major League Baseball teams for extending alcohol sales with games running around 30 minutes shorter due to the sport’s new pitch clock.

Matt Strahm said Thursday on the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast that teams should be moving the cutoff for beer sales up to the sixth inning, rather than stretching to the eighth or later, since fans will have less time to sober up and drive home.

At least five teams — the Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers — have extended alcohol sales past the traditional seventh-inning cutoff. The Baltimore Orioles had already allowed sales into the eighth.

Other teams haven’t ruled out changes.

“The reason we stopped it in the seventh before was to give our fans time to sober up and drive home safe, correct?” Strahm said. “So now with a faster pace game, and me just being a man of common sense, if the game is going to finish quicker, would we not move the beer sales back to the sixth inning to give our fans time to sober up and drive home?

Strahm suggested team owners should re-evaluate whether the extension of beer sales looks out for the safety of fans, or whether it’s a “way to make their dollars back.”

Through the first 1 1/2 weeks of the season, the average MLB game time has been down 31 minutes because of the rule changes, particularly the new pitch clock.

That means fans are spending less time — and perhaps less money — at stadiums.

—Associated Press

Parts of South Florida began cleaning up Thursday after the unprecedented storm that trapped Valentine and other motorists dumped upward of 2 feet (60 centimeters) of rain in a matter of hours, caused widespread flooding, closed a key airport and turned thoroughfares into rivers. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

Residents still waded through knee-high water or used canoes and kayaks to navigate the streets Thursday in Fort Lauderdale’s Edgewood neighborhood, where window screen installer Dennis Vasquez towed some of his neighbor’s belongings on an inflatable mattress to a car on dry land. He himself lost all of his possessions when water rose chest-high in his house Wednesday night.

“Everything, it’s gone,” he said in Spanish. “But I will replace it.”

Airlines were forced to cancel or change flights to and from the airport. Southwest canceled about 50 departures through Friday morning, and the number could grow, a spokeswoman said. The airline is letting customers rebook on flights to and from Miami and Palm Beach at no additional charge, she said.

More than 650 flights were canceled at Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, according to FlightAware.

Broward County schools initially canceled classes Thursday, including after-school and extracurricular activities, after water flooded hallways and classrooms at some schools. Officials announced in the evening that schools would remain closed Friday.

Tow truck driver Keith Hickman said he saw abandoned cars “floating like boats” in the streets of Fort Lauderdale.

“There were hundreds of cars up and down here,” he said. “It was unbelievable. I have never seen cars bumper-boating each other and floating. And a truck would come by and the wake would push the cars into the other cars and they were just floating. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In the Sistrunk neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, 74-year-old Bobbie Ponder hiked up her dress to push her bicycle the last block to Ray’s Market to get a money order for her internet bill, only find it flooded and closed. Bags of potato chips and Cheetos floated in a foot of water as workers tried to clean up.

Ponder, who lives in a third-floor apartment, said she didn’t think the flooding would be that bad until she tried to ride her bike. She was trying to keep the flooding in perspective, comparing it against tornadoes that recently hit other states, killing dozens of people.

“We are blessed — a lot of them died,” she said.

—Associated Press

A Massachusetts Air National Guard member was arrested Thursday in connection with the disclosure of highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other top national security issues, an alarming breach that has raised fresh questions about America’s ability to safeguard its most sensitive secrets.

The guardsman, an IT specialist identified as 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, was taken into custody without incident after FBI officers converged on his Massachusetts home. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is to be charged with removing or transmitting classified national defense information, a crime under the Espionage Act.

Garland did not reveal a possible motive, but accounts of those in the online private chat group where the documents were disclosed have depicted Teixeira as motivated more by bravado than ideology.

—Associated Press

A recent survey found most of the older generations think that the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) made to their Social Security benefits won’t keep pace with inflation and rising costs.

At the start of this year, Social Security beneficiaries received an 8.7 percent increase in their monthly checks, the largest one since an 11.2 percent increase in 1981. The 8.7 percent jump boosted the average monthly benefit by about $146.

The Social Security cost of living increase is meant to ensure benefits keep pace with inflation. In general, the cost-of-living adjustment is based on consumer price index numbers, so as costs rise, so does COLA.

According to a Feb. 14 survey (pdf) from The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), 54 percent of respondents aren’t convinced that benefits will keep up with rising costs this year.

Presently, the 8.7 percent COLA for 2023 is outpacing current inflation with a 5.8 percent increase over the past 12 months for the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, or CPI-W. The Social Security Administration uses the CPI-W to calculate the annual COLA adjustment.

According to policy analysts at TSCL, the CPI-W may not accurately reflect costs faced by retirees. Living expenses rise faster in certain areas and might not be included in the formula that determines the Social Security benefits COLA.

—The Epoch Times

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will return to the Senate following a protracted absence due to a fall, amid reports that the GOP is actively preparing for his retirement.

McConnell announced his planned return in a tweet on Thursday, saying “I am looking forward to returning to the Senate on Monday. We’ve got important business to tackle and big fights to win for Kentuckians and the American people.”

In early March, McConnell was hospitalized after he tripped and fell at the Waldorf Astoria in Washington, D.C. McConnell, 81, has served in the Senate since 1985 and has led Republicans in the chamber since 2007.

He soundly survived a leadership challenge earlier this year from Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, with whom he had held public disagreements over the quality of the GOP’s senatorial candidates during the 2022 midterms.

—Just the News

Democratic California Rep. Katie Porter’s ex-husband has denied her campaign’s claim that he recanted his domestic abuse allegations against her.

Porter is seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2024. Porter’s campaign had told Fox News that Matt Hoffman had recanted his allegations against the lawmaker, a claim he denied.

“I do not recant the allegations,” he said. Hoffman and Porter filed domestic violence restraining orders against one another following a 2013 incident. Hoffman had claimed that Porter dumped boiling potatoes on his head and smashed a glass, resulting in him suffering cuts from its shards.

He has further insisted that Porter called authorities hours after the incident and made false claims about him. Fox obtained documents indicating that Hoffman “regretted” making such claims, but he said that he did not “recall stating I regretted making the allegations but, again, it’s been a long time.”

—Just the News

President Joe Biden addressed the Irish Parliament where he informed them that he would rather have his children playing rugby than football.

Biden’s son, Hunter, was with him in the chamber of the Irish Parliament during the speech.

“I didn’t play rugby except when I was out of school—out of law school—and I didn’t play it very well,” Biden told the Irish Parliament. “We played in a rugby club.

“But I did play American football and a few other sports,” said Biden.

“But I realize: You know, you guys are all nuts,” he said.

“You know, but the interesting thing is: I would rather have my children playing rugby now for health reasons than I would have them playing football,” said Biden. “Fewer people get hurt playing rugby, and you have no equipment, you have 280-pound guys like we do, and you just don’t hit each other in the head very often.”

—CNS News

Stormy Daniels tells Page Six that sleeping with Donald Trump is the biggest mistake she’s ever made. And she fears that there may not even be a silver lining — because someone even “worse” could be elected because of the scandal.

The famed porn actress, writer, and director is set to receive PornHub’s lifetime achievement award later this month, we have learned.

And in an exclusive interview with Page Six about the honor, Daniels said that — when she reflects on her long career — her alleged 2006 tryst with the future president stands out as her biggest regret.

Asked what she’d do differently if she could have her time again, she told us unequivocally, “Not go to that hotel room.”

(She has alleged that she had sex with Trump at a resort in Lake Tahoe, California. Trump — who pleaded not guilty earlier this month on charges related to alleged hush-money payments to Daniels — has consistently denied the claim).

And when we asked if it would all be worthwhile if the scandal prevented Trump from being re-elected in 2024, she told us, “It depends on who would get elected instead. It could be even worse.”

“And then I’ve made the most terrible mistake,” she laughed.

—NY Post

America is on a fitness kick. Gyms are overcrowded, 5K races and marathons are selling out in record time and the fitness app market is expected to reach 30 billion by the end of the decade. Despite such elevated levels of health consciousness, the one aerobic exercise that rarely gets due credit is walking.

The reality is that walking provides many of the same mental and physical health benefits as other aerobic exercises – but with less effort and strain on one’s body.

Walking is considered an important form of exercise for many reasons, but its primary benefit is that it’s good for the heart. Its cardiovascular advantages include better circulation, which lowers blood pressure and one’s heart rate, and improved cardiac output – the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body.

Two recent studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), also show that walking between 2,000 to 10,000 steps each day reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer, and decreases the likelihood of a premature death by at least 10%.

The added beauty of such benefits is that they aren’t hard to come by. “Walking is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, making it a great option for people with knee, ankle, or hip problems,” says Austin “Ozzie” Gontang, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and the director of the San Diego Marathon Clinic. Gontang adds that because walking requires no special equipment, gym membership or training, it’s “accessible to all and easy to incorporate into your daily routine.”

Beyond getting one’s heart rate up and the cardiovascular benefits that come from walking, the practice has also been shown to boost one’s metabolism, improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of stroke, strengthen bones and increase one’s energy levels. “Because walking helps strengthen muscles in your lower body, it can also improve knee and hip arthritis pain,” says Michael Fredericson, MD, director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation division of Stanford University.

The JAMA research also shows that walking about 10,000 steps a day reduces the risk of dementia by a staggering 50%.



The Clintons are clearly traitors willing to endanger their nation for profit, and it would be fully just to prosecute them as such. Yet as president when he had the chance, Trump decided not to pursue it. According to Trump Attorney General Bill Barr’s recently published memoir, “Trump brought up the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and surprised Barr by saying that he had wanted the matter to be dropped after the 2016 election,” according to a review of Barr’s memoir in the fall 2022 Claremont Review of Books.

“‘Even if she were guilty,’ he told Barr, “for the election winner to seek prosecution of the loser would make the country look like a ‘banana republic.’”

Ever since riding down his golden escalator, Trump has been ceaselessly vilified as a tinpot dictator, an evil supervillain, an authoritarian, the second coming of Adolf Hitler. But Democrats cannot change the facts, which include that Trump had fully legitimate justification to prosecute his horribly corrupt political opponent and refused to do so. They can make no such argument for themselves.

So if it is indeed the stuff of banana republics and ending democracies to jail one’s political opponents, let’s all be clear about which political party is dragging the nation down that route. And let all in authority who care about equal justice under the law begin fiercely applying Democrats’ standards to them until they stop perverting justice to destroy our country.

The no-holds-barred legal shutdown and prosecution of leftist insurrectionists filling state capitols in support of a transgender child murderer would be one such proportionate response.

—Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist

The trove of recently leaked intelligence documents related to the Ukraine war should prompt Americans to start asking tough questions about our involvement in that conflict, which one of the documents, a Feb. 23 overview of fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region, describes as a “grinding campaign of attrition” that has reached a “stalemate.”

U.S. taxpayers have poured nearly $80 billion into this war over the past 14 months. At what point are we allowed to ask whether a “stalemate” in a “grinding campaign of attrition” is a good deal for Americans?

Above all, Americans should demand the bipartisan Washington consensus that supports indefinitely funding the war explain what our strategy is, define what the American interest is in it, and detail how they plan to achieve something beyond an interminable war of attrition that risks pulling us into direct conflict with nuclear-armed Russia. At the very least, the American people deserve more than inane platitudes from Antony Blinken about “Ukrainian victory” and “standing united with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” as if total Russian defeat and withdrawal is a realistic outcome.

The classified documents lend some urgency to these questions because they reveal, among other things, a severe shortage of air defense weapons in Ukraine — so severe it could mean the difference between an ongoing stalemate or a Russian victory in the coming weeks or months. Without adequate air defenses, Russian warplanes will be able to bomb Ukrainian positions at will, which in turn might make Ukraine’s planned spring offensive impossible. No wonder, then, that earlier this month the Biden administration pledged $2.6 billion to rush air defense systems to Ukraine.

U.S. weapons stockpiles are now badly depleted, and our defense industrial base is taxed to the point that we have been unable to deliver some $20 billion in promised military supplies to Taiwan. This of course raises the question of China, which the Biden administration, along with Republican leaders in Congress, refuse to talk about candidly in the context of the Ukraine war.

What is the plan if (and really, when) Beijing decides to invade Taiwan? No one seems to have an answer.

Meanwhile, economic uncertainty prevails here at home, with inflation continuing to hit American families hard, U.S. banks failing, and talk of an impending recession setting markets on edge.

Setting aside the larger question of how this war will end, there’s the narrower question of what, exactly, the American taxpayer has been purchasing with all this largesse.

And why isn’t there any transparency about the aid and cash we’ve sent?

From where the situation stands now, it seems like the U.S. taxpayer has unwittingly bought nothing more than a bloody stalemate in Ukraine.

Absent a hard push from Washington for peace negotiations — the one thing our leaders seem unwilling even to consider — we’re left with bad options all around: escalation and inevitable U.S. involvement on the one hand, or total abandonment of Ukraine on the other.

The only real question, at this point, is how many more tens of billions will American taxpayers have to spend to find out how this ends?

—John Daniel Davidson is a senior editor at The Federalist.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1860, the first Pony Express delivery arrived at its San Francisco destination eleven days after departing St. Joseph, Missouri—a delivery time that many said was impossible—establishing a speedy transcontinental service for newspapers, mail, and small packages. The legendary service employed 120 riders, 184 relay stations, 400 horses, and several hundred personnel at its peak, to carry the mail approximately 1,900 miles across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada range.

Vital for the new state of California, the Pony Express service drastically reduced the travel time for messages between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, was one of their best riders. Cody, just 16-years-old, once rode 322 miles in less than 22 hours using 21 different horses, after a relay rider had been killed. Seven months later, California’s newspapers received word of Lincoln’s election only seven days and 17 hours after the East Coast papers, an unrivaled feat at the time.

Upon employment, each driver was presented with a special edition Bible upon which they were to swear that during their engagement, they would “under no circumstances” use profane language, drink intoxicating liquors, quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm—and in every respect conduct himself honestly and faithfully to his duties to win the confidence of his employers.

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