Earth Day

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Photo courtesy of NASA.

By Terrance Turner

April 22, 2021

Today is Earth Day, an annual holiday that demonstrates support for environmental protection. Activist John McConnell first proposed the event in 1969. A year later, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson conceived the idea of a “teach-in” about the environment on college campuses to the national media. According to earthday.org, he persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair.  They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins. Nelson chose the date of April 22.

He came from Wisconsin, which has cold winters, and he wanted to find a date late enough in the year that a teach-in wouldn’t be snowed in, but early enough that students wouldn’t be cramming fro final exams,” Hayes remembered in an interview with Time magazine. “And he wanted it to be in the middle of the week so people wouldn’t be away on weekend trips.” So Nelson chose April 22. “Earth Day was such a spectacular success, it started appearing on calendars,” Hayes said. In fact, the first Earth Day (on April 22, 1970) inspired 20 million demonstrators to the streets, participating in coast-to-coast rallies in cities and towns.Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against environmental destruction and the industrial pollution that had fueled it.

According to its website, “Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders.” Earth Day united millions in pursuit of a cleaner, more sustainable planet. It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency that year, followed by the passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The impact of Earth Day on America can be felt to this day.

Today, President Joe Biden pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He made the announcement today — Earth Day — during a virtual summit with about 40 world leaders. The two-day summit is about the United States’ return to the Paris Climate Agreement, according to the New York Times.

As the summit got underway, Biden set an ambitious new goal: bring emissions down 50-52% from a record high in 2005. His administration also said it would double its climate-related financing for developing countries by 2024 and push the private sector to fund sustainable infrastructure, mitigation initiatives and other investments. 

“These steps will set America on a path of a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050,” Biden said. He portrayed these efforts as part of a economic and ethical obligation. “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative,” Mr. Biden said. “A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”

The pledge met with varying results. “In rapid succession, Japan, Canada, Britain and the European Union committed to steeper cuts. But China, India and Russia made no new emissions promises, and even Mr. Biden’s commitment to cut U.S. greenhouse gases 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade will be extraordinarily difficult to meet, economically and politically,” the Times reported.

But Biden is undeterred. He insisted that now is the time to begin addressing the global issue of climate change. “Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade, this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis,” Biden said, quoted by USA Today. Biden’s climate czar John Kerry acknowledged the loftiness of the goal, but was also bullish. He called the aim “ambitious but appropriate and achievable” and added, “Is it doable? Yes. Will we probably exceed it? I expect yes.”

That will be a steep climb. A new report from the University of Maryland outlined steps that would need to be taken for the Biden administration to meet its goal. A fact sheet from the study says that by 2030, half of the electricity in America would need to come from renewable sources like such as wind, solar or hydropower. Most, if not all, of the coal-powered plants in the country would need to be shut down. Generation from gas-fired power plants must be a third lower than today.

To meet Biden’s goal, according to the report, transportation must be overhauled, too. “In 2030, over 65% of new cars and SUV sales will be electric (pure EV or PHEV). and 10% of new truck sales will be electric,” the fact sheet says. It adds that cleaning up transportation contributes 1/4 of the needed reductions.

All new buildings need to be 100% electric. Almost all new appliance sales will need to be electric, as part of a longer-term transition away from natural gas. Cement emissions will be 20% lower than they were in 2018. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions have to be reduced by almost half. Methane (CH4) leaks from oil and gas systems must be cut by 60%.

Already, the administration is getting to work. On Thursday, the C.I.A. announced it was adding a new category covering the environment to its World Factbook. The agency’s unclassified guide will now provide the latest country data on climate, air pollutants, infectious diseases, food security, waste and other environmental topics.

Today, the White House nominated Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA, is a government agency that seeks to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. It houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation’s climate reserach, according to Axios. Spinrad is a professor of oceanography who served as the NOAA’s chief climate scientist under the Obama administration.

Police Officer Resigns After Killing Daunte Wright

Daunte Wright with his 2-year-old son Daunte Jr.. Photo from the Wright family.

By Terrance Turner

April 13, 2021

The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black man this weekend has resigned. Kim Potter shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. Today she submitted her resignation, effective immediately. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon has also resigned.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the shooting happened around 2 pm Sunday at N. 63rd and Orchard avenues. Officers stopped Wright because his car had an expired tag. NBC News says Wright “also ran afoul of a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging air fresheners and other items from their rearview mirrors.”

When officers checked his name, they learned he had a warrant. According to Hennepin County District Court records, a warrant was issued on April 2 after Wright failed to appear in court. He was facing misdemeanor charges of carrying a pistol without a permit and of fleeing police. He was served a court summons, but a TikTok video by comedian Walter Masterson reveals a glaring error: “Daunte Wright had a warrant out for his arrest because the notice for the Zoom hearing was sent to the wrong address,” Masterson said.

That wasn’t the only mistake that police would make. Body camera footage shows three officers approach a white sedan. One officer opens the door, and Wright gets out of the car.
Wright is later shown with his hands behind his back. Another officer approaches while Wright is cuffed and touches his arm. Wright jerks away and tries to get back in the driver’s seat. A struggle ensues. Officer Potter can be heard saying, “I’ll tase you! Taser! Taser. Taser!” But the object pointed at Wright appears to be a gun.

“Holy s–t,” I just shot him,” Potter exclaims on the audio footage. Wright’s car sped off and crashed into another vehicle. Wright died at the scene.

“We train with our handguns on our dominant side and our taser on our weak side,” now-former Chief Gannon said to reporters after the shooting. (Meaning: a right-handed officer wears the firearm on his/her right side.) “As I watched the video and listened to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.” (The Hennepin County medical examiner says Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest.)

Somehow, Kim Potter confused her handgun with her Taser — a baffling mistake given her decades of experience. According to Axios, Potter had been with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years. She was initially placed on administrative leave after the shooting. But now she’s leaving the force for good. In a letter to city officials, Potter wrote: “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”

Gannon has also submitted a resignation letter. But his explanation of Potter’s behavior doesn’t make sense to Daunte Wright’s grieving father. “I lost my son, he’s never coming back,” Daunte Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview on “Good Morning America.” this morning. “I can’t accept that — a mistake, that doesn’t even sound right,” he added. “This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”

“He had a 2-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him. He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much,” Daunte’s mother Katie Wright said. “He just had his whole life taken away from him. We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby.”

Protests broke out last night in and around Minneapolis; a patrol officer says that about 40 people were arrested last night. Wright’s shooting has heightened already-high tensions in the city; the shooting took place just about 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed last year. The trial of his murderer, former officer Derek Chauvin, is happening now. And today, at a press conference that featured both the Floyd and Wright families, a heartbreaking revelation about the connection between them:

UPDATE (April 15, 2021): Kim Potter was charged yesterday with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright. According to CBS Minnesota, Potter was arrested and then freed on $100,000 bond. She made her first court appearance today on manslaughter charges.

A manslaughter charge is defined by Minnesota law as “when someone acts with negligence, creating an unreasonable risk that causes death or great bodily harm.” If convicted, Potter faces up to 10 years in prison.

Julian Edelman Announces Retirement

Photo from the Boston Globe.

By Terrance Turner

April 12, 2021

After 12 tumultuous seasons, Julian Edelman is calling it a career.

The Patriots wide receiver, 34, announced his retirement today, after the New England Patriots released him due to a failed physical. In a video posted on social media, Edelman made it official. Dressed in a black suit, he takes a seat right in the middle of the field in Gillette Stadium, then looks around as cheering crowds and exuberant announcers are heard in the background. He then looks into the camera and delivers the news.

“Nothing in my career has ever come easy and no surprise, this isn’t gonna be easy either,” Edelman said. “Now, I’ve always said I’m gonna go until the wheels come off — and they finally have fallen off. Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of my retirement from football.”

Edelman has been affected by a nagging injury for the past couple seasons. He had knee surgery in October, then tried to hop right back on the field in December — even though the Patriots were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It wasn’t the first time that he’s tried to play through pain.

Born in the Bay Area, Edelman played football at Woodside High School, even though he weighed only about 100 pounds (per the San Francisco Chronicle). In an interview with the Boston Globe, his father frank Edelman remembered: “He was four-foot-nothing, just getting killed out there. And all I would say is, we kept our focus going year to year — let’s just be a better player, let’s keep our grades up, and let’s just focus on our task at hand. And then finally, at end of his junior year of high school, he added something like 50-60 pounds, he grew like eight inches . . . and everything began to turn.’’

Indeed. Edelman, who grew to 5’10”, played quarterback and led the Wildcats to a 13-0 record his senior year. He later played QB at Kent State University in Ohio, where he broke offensive records. He was the school’s leading rusher, racking up 13 touchdowns. It was only the start of what would be a record-breaking career.

Edelman was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2009. His first year was a struggle. By his dad’s count, the then-23-year-old Patriot rookie stayed on the field that 2009 season with a medical mishmash that included four hernias and a blown adductor muscle. “He would call me at night and say, ‘Oh, dad, I can’t even move.’ Just groaning,’’ the senior Edelman told the Boston Globe. “And I’d say, ‘Son, you are my hero, I don’t even care. . . . You have done enough.’ ’’

But he wasn’t done yet. Edelman evolved into one of New England’s best and most reliable receivers. His highlight-reel catches helped the Patriots to a dynasty: they won the Super Bowl in 2015, 2017, and 2019. His fourth-quarter touchdown reception put the Patriots ahead 28-24 to win over the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. And it was his dramatic on-the-ground catch (between three defenders!) that helped the Patriots pull off a dramatic comeback against the Falcons in 2017.

In 2019, Edelman had 10 catches for 141 yards in the Patriots 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. His efforts earned him the Super Bowl MVP. He was the first wide receiver to be named MVP since Santonio Holmes in 2009. According to the Jerusalem Post, Edelman is the first Jewish player to become Super Bowl MVP.

Lakers Blow Out Nets in Brooklyn

By Terrance Turner

April 10, 2021

It was a battle of two shorthanded teams. The Brooklyn Nets were without James Harden and DeAndre Jordan; Kevin Durant was limited in action. The Los Angeles Lakers were without LeBron James (high-ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma (calf strain). Yet somehow they managed to overpower the Nets with a series of high-scoring runs. The Lakers won 126-101 in Barclays Center tonight, winning on the road in a blowout in Brooklyn.

Dennis Schroder started the scoring; power forward Markeith Morris added a pair of three-pointers. Then Schroder himself hit a three to put the Lakers 11-2. L.A. wound up going 7-for-8 to push the lead to 18-7. They continued to dominate the undermanned Nets (Harden has missed 18 games; Durant, 15). The Lakers led 33-25 at the end of the first quarter.

The Lakers maintained a lead through part of the second quarter, but the Nets fought back to briefly take the lead. A two-pointer by Kyrie Irving made it 43-35. Blake Griffin picked up an offensive foul when he collided with Lakers’ Dennis Schroder, who was knocked to the ground. Griffin also fell on the play, but Schroder took some time to get back up. He was seen limping afterward (from a possible tailbone injury), but continued to play.

The Nets came from behind in the second quarter, shooting 63%. Kyrie Irving had a highlight-reel shot to make the score 49-41. After avoiding a block by Drummond, Irving tossed an underhead shot off one hand. The ball swooped up from underneath the net, rose into the air, and fell right in.

Durant added a jumper, and after a missed layup by LaMarcus Aldridge he added a putback to tie the game at 52. Then, after a miss by Drummond, Durant surged down the field for the slam. The Nets, after trailing for nearly the whole game, now had a 54-52 lead.

Markeith Morris tied it again at 56 with two minutes left, then hit another shot to help L.A. regain the lead. The Lakers led at halftime, 61-58.

The second half began with what turned out to be a wild third quarter. Durant narrowed the Laker lead even more with a two-pointer, but Drummond hit a three to give L.A. a 64-60 edge. Then he answered a layup by Aldridge with another two points, putting the Lakers up 66-62.

And then, after a foul, Irving confronted Schroder on the court. According to CBS Sports, “Schroder tried to drive to the basket, and Irving was called for a foul. As the Lakers tried to take the ball out of bounds, the two point guards got into it a little bit, and were given double technicals.”

The two had to be physically separated by referees and other players, but the jawing continued, and Irving was disqualified from the game. Then Schroder was ejected, too!!! The referees’ move drew loud boos from fans, but it also lit a fire under the Lakers. They would outscore the Nets 60-39 after the ejections.

Durant came close to closing the gap with a surging layup and then made three free throws, narrowing the lead to four. It was 71-67. But that was as close as the game would get. The Lakers went on a 15-2 run, going up 88-71. A basket by McLemore made it 92-77 as the fourth quarter got underway.

Two consecutive three-pointers by Ben McLemore extended the Lakers lead to 21. Brooklyn cut it back down to 15, with Blake Griffin making both his free throws and then landing a huge block on Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell. But with McLemore on a tear — he scored the Lakers’ first 11 points of the quarter — L.A. pulled away. They went up 105-83 with 8:29 remaining, and with 6:31 left the score was 109-85. With about five minutes left, Nets coach Steve Nash rested both Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, a sign of resignation in what would be a blowout loss. The Lakers won, 126-101.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel called the game “the best win of the season”. Dennis Schroder agreed: “This is the best win of the year, I would say,” he told the media after the game. When reporters asked Ben McLemore what he’s noticed about the Lakers, he answered: “Togetherness … everybody is there for each other. Communication. Chemistry … it’s my second game here, and already building a good chemistry with guys. Great win for us tonight.”

Per Lakers writer Ryan Ward, Frank Vogel also called the Lakers’ performance “a complete team effort”. The statistics prove him right. According to Lakers reporter Brad Turner, the team had eight players (including all five of its starters) score in double digits during its commanding win:

MLB Moves All-Star Game, Opposing Georgia’s Voting Law

Photo courtesy of Omni Hotels.

By Terrance Turner

April 2, 2021

Major League Baseball is moving the MLB All-Star Game and MLB Draft out of Atlanta in response to the restrictive voting law passed in Georgia last week. In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement: “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States,” he continued. “We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week signed a bill that restrits voting by mail, absentee ballots and other aspects of voting in the state. The bill was finalized on March 25, just about 15 miles from the Atlanta Braves’ stadium, according to ESPN. Kemp signed the bill in a closed room, surrounded by white men, in front of a painting depicting a plantation. (It’s the notorious Callaway Plantation in Wilkes County, Georgia, now a museum. In an oral history narrative, Mariah Callaway, born into slavery on the plantation, said that when slaves escaped the master would send hounds “to bite plugs out of their legs“.

Photo released by Brian Kemp.

In addition to the outcry over the obvious issues of the photo, there was also widespread objection to the content of the bill itself. Activists, critics, and even residents all decried what they saw as discriminatory intent behind the legislation. The New York Times did an analysis of the 98-page bill and identified 16 provisions “that hamper the right to vote for some Georgians or strip power from state or local elections officials.” Some of them are outlined below.

“Georgia has cut by more than half the period during which voters may request an absentee ballot, from nearly six months before an election to less than three,” the Times reported. The time period has been cut from 180 days down to 78. In the 2020 election, 1.3 million Georgians (26% of the electorate) voted with absentee ballots — and more blacks did than whites. (65% of absentees voted for Biden.) Additionally, the Georgia law has strict new ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Page 38: In order to confirm the identity of the voter, such form shall require the elector to provide his or her name, date of birth, address as registered, address where the elector wishes the ballot to be mailed, and the number of his or her Georgia driver’s license or identification card issued … If such elector does not have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card … the elector shall affirm this fact in the manner prescribed in the application and the elector shall provide a copy of a form of identification … The form made available by the Secretary of State shall include a space to affix a photocopy or electronic image of such identification.

From text of bill

Before this, voters simply had to sign the application for their ballots. Now, they have to provide the number of their license or other ID card. 200,000 Georgia residents have no driver’s license or ID card, according to CNN.

Across the country, about 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or a passport, according to Wendy Weiser of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. The American Civil Liberties Union adds: “Minority voters disproportionately lack ID. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.”

Drop boxes are highly limited under the new law. In 2020, there were 94 drop boxes across the four counties that constitute most of metro Atlanta: Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett. The new law limits those boxes to, at most, 23, per the Times. They must be placed indoors at government buildings or early voting sites and thus will be unavailable for voters to drop off ballots during evenings or after business hours.

Mobile voting centers (like RVs) are now banned under the new law. Last year, Fulton County (the seat of Atlanta) had two vehicles that brought polling sites to people at churches, parks and libraries in the county (which is 45% Black). The new law bans their use unless Gov. Kemp declares a state of emergency to allow them.

Perhaps most egregiously, the law criminalizes offering refreshments to those waiting in line to vote. Offering food or water to voters in line is now a misdemeanor.

No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.

Page 73 of the Georgia law

This is particularly galling, given the long lines that voters faced last year in the general election. Some were stalled in line from morning to night. On October 10, NowThis writer Ashleigh Carter revealed, “On Monday [October 5], Georgia residents reported waiting in line for up to eleven hours — and in some cases, voting machine malfunctions caused even more delays. On Tuesday afternoon [October 6], The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that voters were given estimated wait times of eight hours in Gwinnett County and five hours in Cobb County.” 

An analysis by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica found a significant disparity in wait times after the 7 pm poll closures. For polling places in which voters were 90% white, the average wait time was 6 minutes. For polling places with voters who were 90% non-white, the average wait time was 51 minutes.

The decision by MLB drew heated reaction on both sides. One voice of approval was NBA star LeBron James:

Georgia activist Stacey Abrams was more measured:

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is to guide the National League All-Star team, applauded MLB for moving the game from Georgia.

“I think in a world now where people want and need to be heard — and in this particular case, people of color — for Major League Baseball to listen and do something about it, to be proactive, it sets a tone,” said Roberts, the son of a Black father and Japanese mother.

On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves expressed disappointment about the decision:

Conservatives lamented the decision as an example of “cancel culture”, criticizing the MLB for “caving” to what they saw as liberal outrage. Today, at a press conference, Gov. Brian Kemp blasted the decision. “Yesterday, Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists,” Mr. Kemp said at a news conference, flanked by the state’s Republican attorney general, G.O.P. members of the legislature and grass-roots activists. “In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hard-working Georgians who were counting on the All-Star Game for a paycheck.”

Republicans, including Mr. Trump, have called for a boycott. “Don’t go back to their products until they relent,” the former president urged in a statement on Saturday night, naming companies including Delta and Coca-Cola. “We can play the game better than them.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham added on Twitter: “Patriots will choose another beverage. Big mistake by @CocaCola. Don’t poke the bear.”

But so far, Delta and Coca-Cola — two of the state’s largest corporations — have held firm. “I want to be crystal clear,” James Quincey, the chief executive of Coca-Cola, said on Wednesday. “The Coca-Cola Company does not support this legislation, as it makes it harder for people to vote, not easier.”

UPDATE (April 6, 2021): The MLB has decided to move the All-Star Game to Coors Field in Denver. The news was delivered by an anonymous source. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday night because MLB hadn’t announced the move yet. The commissioner’s office was expected to declare Tuesday that the Colorado Rockies will host the game. ESPN was first to report the decision.

“We are excited about the possibility of hosting the All Star Game and are awaiting MLB’s decision,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock told KDVR. Coors Field has not hosted the MLB All-Star Game since 1998.

Significantly, Colorado has automatic and same-day voter registration — and allows up to 13 different forms of voter ID whereas Georgia allows only six. It had the second-highest turnout for a state in the 2020 election (behind only Minnesota), and its voting system has been praised by sources including the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Daily Kos reporter Stephen Wolf also lauded Colorado:

Matt Gaetz Sex Scandal

April 1, 2021

By Terrance Turner

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) is under fire (and investigation) for his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl. On March 30, a New York Times story revealed that Mr. Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with the girl and paid for her to travel to him. If true, Gaetz has violated several federal trafficking laws, including the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting a minor across state lines for sex or other “immoral purposes”.

The findings are part of a larger investigation into Mr. Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida. Federal authorities seized Greenberg’s phone and laptop, finding evidence of fake ID cards for him and a teenage girl. (They also found holograms associated with concealed handguns, per the Times.) Mr. Greenberg was indicted last summer on a varity of charges, including sex trafficking. He pled not guilty and was sent to jail last month for violating terms of his bail. His trial is set for June. It is not clear how he and Gaetz know each other.

Significantly, Matt Gaetz was the only House member to vote against a 2017 bill that would’ve given the federal government more power to combat sex trafficking.

Gaetz, 38, strongly denied the allegations. “It is veritably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” he said on Tuesday, March 30. He then went even farther, claiming to be the victim of an extortion plot. He tweeted Tuesday: “Over the past several weeks my family and I have been the victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.” He added that “my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.”

He further defended himself in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “It is a horrible allegation, and it is false,” Gaetz insisted. “Providing for flights and for hotel rooms for people that you’re dating is not a crime.” He added: “I can say that actually, you and I went to dinner about two years ago — your wife was there. And I brought a friend of mine — you’ll remember her — and she was actually threatened by the FBI.”

“I don’t remember the woman you’re speaking of, or the context, at all,” Carlson responded.

Today, the saga reached a shocking new height. CNN is quoting multiple sources who say Gaetz allegedly showed off photos and videos of nude women whom he said he had slept with, including on the House floor. One video showed a naked woman with a hula hoop. “It was a point of pride,” one source said.

Now, the Times has learned that cash payments are involved. The Hill confirms: “Receipts on mobile payments apps reviewed by the Times show money from Gaetz and Greenberg was sent to one of the women, who told friends it was for having sex with both men.” The Times reports:

Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.

From “DOJ Probe Into Gaetz Involves Cash Payments”

Mr. Gaetz got engaged to girlfriend Ginger Luckey, 26, on New Year’s Eve, per the Pensacola News Journal. He proposed to her at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago ranch, according to the Times. Gaetz has been a vocal defender of Trump, storming congressional offices during his first impeachment and opposing certification of the 2020 election. But Trump’s response to the plight of his devoted ally has so far been radio silence.

UPDATE (April 8, 2021): After The Times reported yesterday that Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon from the White House and was rejected, Trump issued a short statement. “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Gaetz remains firm in his denial: “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” he wrote in a column in the Washington Examiner on Monday. “First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he stated. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”

Today, word broke that Greenberg may be cooperating with federal prosecutors. Politico reports that prosecutors and a defense attorney for Greenberg appeared before a judge today to discuss the next steps in a recently expanded criminal case charging Greenberg with sex trafficking of a minor, as well as stalking, bribery and defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program.

“We believe this case is going to be a plea,” federal prosecutor Roger Handberg said at the outset of the brief hearing. Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, agreed. “I expect this case to be resolved with a plea,” the lawyer told reporters after the hearing. He added: “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” 

Gaetz’s discomfort will likely be amplified by a lurid report in The Daily Beast. “In two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money,” write reporters Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger. “In total, the transactions amounted to $900.”

The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___.” But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

“Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo’d Teen”

The Daily Beast obtained Greenberg’s past online transactions (partially) through a source and also obtained credit card data that paints a damning portrait: “Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman that Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors flagged hundreds of those payments as ‘questioned or unaccounted for,’ and in total found more than $300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses. The Daily Beast was able to obtain that credit card data through a public records request.”

Biden Announces “American Jobs Plan”

Photo from the Tribune Review.

By Terrance Turner

March 31, 2021

Today, at a union training center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden introudced the American Jobs Act. The sprawling, ambitious bill will invest about $2 trillion over the next eight years (amounting to about 1 percent of America’s GDP per year) to repair, rebuild, and reinvent infrastructure in the United States. Its goals are multifold, from roads and bridges to caregiving and climate change.

“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said, emphasizing the need for more good paying and union jobs. “Wall Street didn’t build this country; you, the middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

The White House fact sheet on the bill outlines the reasons for its creation: “The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure. After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling. Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet and to quality housing […] The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”

“It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Mr. Biden said, quoted by the New York Times. “It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America. Unlike anything we have seen or done, since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.” In fact, Biden said today, it is “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”

Vox has compiled a list of the bill’s highlights, which I have augmented by selections from the White House Fact Sheet. Here are the toplines of what’s in the American Jobs Plan:

  • “The $621 billion in infrastructure spending is the largest chunk of Biden’s plan, aiming to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets, fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country, and repair 10,000 smaller bridges. Biden’s plan calls for $85 billion to modernize public transit and $80 billion to be put toward Amtrak for repairs and improving train corridors.” – Vox
    • The Department of Transportation states that there’s a “repair backlog” of over $105 billion, including 24,000 buses and 5,000 rail cars.
    • The American Rescue Plan will double federal spending for public transit and work to end the repair backlog.
  • “One in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads are in poor condition, as well as 45,000 bridges,” the White House says. Thus the President’s plan proposes $115 billion to modernize bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in need of repair. As summarized below:
    • “The President’s plan will modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main-streets.”
    • “It will fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.”
    • “It also will repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, providing critical linkages to communities.”
  • Invests $174 billion in the electric vehicle market, building out a network of 500,000 EV chargers on roads by 2030.
    • Plan will support U.S. workers to make batteries and electric vehicles (EVs)
    • Establish grant/incentive programs for local government/private sector to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030
  • The plan also calls for the electrification of 20 percent of the school bus fleet, and using federal procurement to electrify the entire federal fleet, including the US Postal Service,” Vox says.
    • “It also talks about giving consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles, incorporating a plan from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).”

An estimated 6-10 million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines, according to the White House Fact Sheet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Lead exposure can slow learning and cause kidney/brain damage in children. Thus, Biden’s plan:

  • Eliminates all lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems, and puts $56 billion in grants and flexible loans to states, tribes, and territories to upgrade drinking, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
  • Calls on the federal government to contribute $45 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership to ensure safe drinking water.
  • Invests $100 billion to build out the nation’s high-speed broadband infrastructure to 100 percent coverage, including in remote and rural areas. Biden’s plan also commits to working with Congress to reduce the price of broadband, but doesn’t specify exactly how.
  • Invests $213 billion to build and retrofit over 2 million homes and commercial buildings, including community colleges, aging schools, child care facilities, veterans’ hospitals, and federal buildings.
    • Biden’s plan calls for 1 million affordable housing units to be produced or retrofitted, and over 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers to be built or rehabilitated.
    • The plan also calls for the elimination of exclusionary zoning.

“As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually,” the White House said. “The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.” President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $100 billion to build a more resilient electric transmission system.

  • Primary goal: creation of a “targeted investment tax credit” that incentivizes buildout of at least 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.
  • Puts $16 billion toward plugging “orphan” oil and gas wells (which have been abandoned by defunct companies that can’t afford to plug them) and abandoned coal and uranium mines
  • Plan also works towards funding environmental resiliency jobs including restoring forests, wetlands, and watersheds.
  • The plan calls for $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands and waters, one of Biden’s campaign promises. Conservation advocates argued that environmental restoration and resilience jobs like these can put people to work even more quickly than clean energy jobs.
    • “Some of the earliest job wins you’re going to see are going to be in the restoration space,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told Vox. “They don’t require materials or construction, new fabrication of different goods and materials. The only thing that’s needed is money.”
  • Invests $100 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, and extend and expand the production and investment tax credits to accelerate clean energy jobs and projects in wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy.

Per Vox, “The bill also includes some ideas that might stretch the traditional definition of infrastructure:

  • Bolsters unions by calling on Congress to pass the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Biden’s plan similarly asks Congress to tie federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure to prevailing wage laws, and requires that investments in transportation meet existing transit labor protections.
  • Bans “exclusionary zoning” and harmful land-use policies, including minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.
  • Expands long-term care under Medicaid,increasing access to home and community-based services and giving more people the chance to receive care at home. The Biden administration’s plan aims to increase the quality of care-giving jobs and offer home health workers more chances to unionize and increase their wages.
  • As part of a plan to target workforce development in underserved communities, Biden’s plan would put$5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence prevention programs, and invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals.
  •  $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.

“It’s worth repeating that this wide-ranging plan is Biden’s opening bid, not a final product,” Vox noted. “The next few months of negotiations with Congress will ultimately determine how many of these provisions will make it into a final bill — and it will take even more negotiations to get that bill passed.”

Biden said his proposal would be paid for in 15 years by raising taxes on corporations, NPR reports. The corporate tax rate would be raised from 21% to 28%, and Biden’s “Made in America” tax plan would close loopholes that allow businesses to store money in offshore accounts. The president said he’s open to other ideas, but Biden vowed Wednesday that no one making less than $400,000 a year would see their taxes increased — “period.”

Derek Chauvin Convicted for Murder of George Floyd

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By Terrance Turner

March 26, 2021 (Updated April 20, 2021 at 4:06 pm)

BREAKING NEWS: The jury has found Derek Michael Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degre manslaughter for the murder of George Floyd. Mr. Chauvin’s bail has been revoked; he is being taken into custody. He will be sentenced in eight weeks. He faces up to 75 years in prison.

Former officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020, by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes outside a Cup Foods grocery store in Minneapolis. Despite Floyd’s repeated attempts to respire and repeated gasps of “I can’t breathe”, Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck until Floyd died. George Floyd, 46, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

The brutality of the death was recorded by a young Black girl named Darnella Frazier. The footage of the murder spread like wildfire online and through news reports, sparking weeks of protests. Those protests spread throughout the country (including 60,000 protesters in Houston). They also spread overseas, with protests in Paris, in London, in Berlin.

UPDATE (6:32 PM): Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the verdict today. The remarks were carried live by ABC News, which broke into KTRK’s “Eyewitness News”. Both leaders emphasized that the work of justice is not done.

“Today, we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain,” Harris said. “A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”

“Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May,” Biden said. “It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to, the systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul, the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.”

Biden urged viewers to not give up. He emphasized that this verdict is not a sign that work needs to be done. But “this can be a giant step forward,” he said. “This can be a moment of significant change.”

LaMarcus Aldridge Signs With Brooklyn Nets — Then Retires!

By Terrance Turner

March 26, 2021 (Updated April 15, 2021)

Former Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge has signed a one-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets, according to multiple sources including The Athletic. Basketball agent Jeff Schwartz confirmed the trade to ESPN. It is a one-year “veteran’s minimum” deal, according to reporter Shams Charania.

Aldridge (6’11”, 250 lb.) spent nine seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and six more with the San Antonio Spurs. He was averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, according to Yahoo! Sports. Aldridge, 35, hadn’t played since he agreed to part ways with the Spurs on March 10. Today, the seven-time All-Star signed with the Nets.

Courtesy of NBA.com.

This news comes after weeks of wheeling and dealing by the Nets organization. Earlier this month, they signed forward Blake Griffin to a deal. Terms of the deal were not released, but Griffin had stopped playing for the Detroit Pistons in February, seeking a trade. The trade to Brooklyn reunites him with former teammate and friend DeAndre Jordan (both played on the Los Angeles Clippers).

According to the NBA website, Griffin (6’10”, 250 lb) was named Rookie of the Year after his first season of play with the Clippers. He was named an All-Star for five consecutive seasons between 2011-2015. In 2014, Griffin scored 20 points or more a game for 20 consecutive games, according to Bleacher Report. He earned his sixth NBA All-Star selection while averaging a career-best 24.5 points and leading the Pistons to the NBA Playoffs in 2018-19. Griffin joins Grant Hill as the second player in franchise history to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists during his tenure in Detroit.

Blake Griffin signed with the Nets earlier this month. (Google Images)

On Jan. 13, 2021, the Houston Rockets traded star James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a massive blockbuster deal. The Rockets received four first-round picks and four pick swaps, all of which came from the Nets — except for a 2022 Milwaukee pick currently owned by Cleveland. Harden, a nine-time All-Star (2013-2021), led the league in scoring for three consecutive years and powered the Rockets to a franchise-best 65 wins in the 2017-18 season.

With these additions, the Brooklyn Nets now have six All-Stars — Aldridge, Griffin, Harden, Jordan, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant — making them the team to beat.

UPDATE: LaMarcus Aldridge is retiring from the NBA.

In a letter posted to social media, Aldridge, 35, revealed that he has a heart condition that has forced him to retire. “My last game, I played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat,” Aldrige wrote. “Later on that night, my rhythm got even worse, which really worried me even more. “The next morning, I told the team what was going on and they were great getting me to the hospital and getting me checked out. Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve experienced.”

“With that being said, I made the difficult decision to retire from the NBA. For 15 years, I’ve put basketball first, and now, it is time to put my health and family first.” Aldridge thanked his teams (the Portland Trail Blazers, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Brooklyn Nets) and closed his letter with a poignant message. “You never know when something will come to an end, so make sure you enjoy it everyday. I can truly say I did just that.”

Author Beverly Cleary Dies at 104

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By Terrance Turner

March 26, 2021

Beloved children’s books author Beverly Cleary died Thursday at her home in Carmel, California. She was 104.

Born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, she lived on a farm in Yamhill. When she was 6, the family moved to Portland. She was a slow reader at first. “I had chicken pox, smallpox, and tonsillitis in the first grade, and nobody seemed to think that had anything to do with my reading trouble,” she later told the Associated Press. “I just got mad and rebellious.”

She had a breakthrough one rainy Sunday afternoon: “The outside world drizzled, the inside world was heavy with the smell of pot roast and my father’s Sunday after-dinner cigar, and I was so bored I picked up The Dutch Twins to look at the pictures. Suddenly I was reading and enjoying what I read! It was a miracle. I was happy in a way I had not been happy since starting school,” she wrote in her autobiography A Girl from Yamhill.

By the third grade, she enjoyed reading and spent much of her time with books from the public library. A teacher suggested that she write children’s books. The idea appealed to her. According to the Educational Books and Media Association, “In sixth grade Cleary wrote a story for a writing assignment about a little girl who goes to Bookland and talks with some of her favorite literary characters. She remembered in her autobiography that a “feeling of peace came over me as I wrote far beyond the required length of the essay. I had discovered the pleasure of writing.”

After her teacher, Miss Smith, read the story aloud, she exclaimed, “When Beverly grows up, she should write children’s books.” Miss Smith’s praise gave “direction to my life,” Cleary maintained, adding in More Junior Authors that the suggestion “seemed like such a good idea that I made up my mind that someday I would write books–the kind of books I wanted to read.”

In high school, Beverly studied journalism and wrote stories for the school newspaper. She went to Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, California. After graduating, she enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. She graduated in 1938. A year later, she earned a degree of the University of Washington’s school of librarianship, becoming a children’s librarian in Yakima, WA.

In 1940, she married Clarence Cleary, whom she had met at Berkeley. Beverly’s parents disapproved of the couple (they were Presbyterian; he was Catholic). So the couple eloped and moved to San Francisco. While her husband served in the military, Mrs. Cleary sold children’s books and worked as a librarian. She became dissatisfied with the books available to children. So did the kids. One boy pointedly asked her: “Where are the books about kids like us?”

Mrs. Cleary wondered the same thing. “Why weren’t there more stories about children playing? Why couldn’t I find more books that would make me laugh?” she recalled in 1975. There weren’t any. So Beverly Cleary decided to write her own.

Inspired by her own childhood, Cleary began a collection of stories about children on Klickitat Street — an actual street in Portland, Oregon, where she grew up. The result was Henry Huggins (1950), a book about a third-grade boy. Henry adopts a stray dog, whom he names Ribsy because he’s so skinny that his ribs show. The book was a success — Kirkus called the book “enchanting” — and spawned several sequels, including Henry and Beezus (1952), featuring Henry’s friend Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby.

Beatrice’s younger sister Ramona was introduced in Henry Huggins almost as an afterthought. “All of the children appeared to be only children, so I tossed in a little sister and she didn’t go away. She kept showing up in every book,” Cleary remembered in a March 2016 interview.

Indeed, Ramona Quimby showed up in book after book: Henry and Ribsy (1954), Beezus and Ramona (1955), Henry and the Paper Route (1957), and Henry and the Clubhouse (1962). She would soon become one of Cleary’s most beloved characters.

Ramona had a supporting role in Beezus and Ramona — released the same year that Cleary gave birth to twins, Malcolm and Marianne. In the book, four-year-old Ramona annoys Beezus by scribbling all over her library book and disrupting a checkers game with Henry. She later ruins not one but two of Beezus’ birthday cakes. Beezus decides that she does not love her sister. But Beezus later hears her mother and Aunt Beatrice (her namesake) laughing about the trouble they caused each other growing up. After hearing the conversation, Beezus decides that it’s OK to dislike your sister every now and then.

Reviewer Heloise P. Mailloux called the story “a very funny book; its situations are credible, and it has a perceptive handling of family relationships that is unfortunately rare in easily read books.” Ramona also drew praise from reviewers. Writing in Horn Book, Ethel L. Heins called Ramona “one of the most endearing protagonists of children’s fiction,” while Publishers Weekly contributor Heather Vogel Frederick described her as “an indelible figure in the children’s book world since she burst on the scene.”

In Henry and the Paper Route (1957), Henry works doggedly to land a paper route, despite being under the age limit (all paper boys must be 11, and Henry’s ten-and-a-half). He eventually suceeds. But then he must contend with Ramona’s acts of sabotage. (She picks up the papers and throws them on other lawns because she, too, wants to be a “paper boy”.) Henry outsmarts her and continues with his route.

Henry dislikes Ramona, whom he sees as a pest. In Henry and the Clubhouse, however, Ramona follows Henry into a snowstorm when he is delivering papers. He feels sorry for her, so he loads Ramona on his sled and takes her home before going back into the storm to finish his route. Henry is commended for his kindness and responsibility and, at the end of the story, is given five dollars by his dad so he can buy the new sleeping bag he wanted.

As her children grew, Cleary wrote books around their lives and interests. According to the Educational Book Media Association, “she wrote four picture books–The Real Hole, Two Dog Biscuits, Janet’s Thingamajigs, and The Growing-up Feet–about four-year-old twins Janet and Jimmy, who are modeled on her children.” Her son Malcolm was fascinated with motorcycles and had trouble learning to read, so Cleary wrote a book that would hold his interest. The result: The Mouse and the Motorcyle (1965).

Ms. Cleary introduced the new character of Ralph S. Mouse (the S stands for “smart”), a mouse who lives in the Mountain View Inn. He befriends a young boy named Keith, whose parents Mr. and Mrs. Gridley are renting the room. Keith teaches Ralph how to ride his toy motorcycle. That puts Ralph on a series of wild adventures (he’s nearly vacuumed up, gets tossed out a window, and even ends up in a pile of sheets headed for the laundry). But when Keith gets sick, it is Ralph who brings up some aspirin and becomes the story’s hero. Writing in Young Readers Review, Phyllis Cohen commented, “This fantasy is so realistic that it is almost plausible” before concluding, “Even boys who do not care for fantasy may find this fantasy much to their liking.” 

From Morrow Books.

In Ramona the Pest (1968), Ramona Quimby at last became the star of her own story. It was the first book to feature her as the protagonist. In it, she begins kindergarten and tries to escape the “pest” label from her sister Beezus. As the series continued, Ramona slowly matures, and so does the subject matter.

In Ramona the Brave (1975), Mrs. Quimby goes from being a stay-at-home mom to being a part-time bookkeeper. In Ramona and her Father (1977), Ramona goes on a campaign to stop her father from smoking, which he does after losing his job. In Ramona and her Mother (1979), Ramona’s mother goes to work full-time so that Mr. Quimby can go back to school. After hearing their parents fight, Ramona and Beezus become convinced that their parents are headed for divorce. But the next morning, her parents have breakfast at the table, as if nothing has happened. They assure their daughters that they are sometimes short-tempered, but still love each other.

Cleary broke from her typical style with Dear Mr. Henshaw (1983). It centers on Leigh Botts, a sixth-grader distraught by his parents’ divorce. He misses his father, who works as a cross-country trucker. He seeks solace by writing to his favorite author; in the process, he reveals a lot about himself. He misses his father (and his dog Bandit, who travels with Dad); he’s often alone while his mother works part-time and studies nursing; he’s made no new friends. The author suggests he keep a diary, which he does; he eventually wins an honorable mention in a short-story contest.

The book earned praise from reviewers, who noted its sensitivity and depth. Natalie Babbitt of the New York Times Book Review, said that Cleary “has written many very good books over the years. This one is the best. It is a first-rate, poignant story in the forms of letters and a diary–a new construction for a Cleary book–and there is so much in it, all presented so simply, that it’s hard to find a way to do it justice.” According to the EBM Association, Babbitt concluded, “What a lovely, well-crafted, three-dimensional book this is.” Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Medal in 1984, one of the most prestigious prizes for children’s literature.

Cleary continued to write and receive honors throughout the 1980s. Britannica notes that Cleary published the memoirs A Girl from Yamhill (1988) and My Own Two Feet (1995). She concluded the Ramona series — and her career — with Ramona’s World (1999), written 15 years after its predecessor Ramona Forever. In that book, Ramona finds herself nine years old, with a new baby sister and a potential new crush. It was to be Cleary’s last book.

In a March 2016 interview, the author explained why she’d hung up her typewriter, saying that “it’s important for writers to know when to quit.”

Cleary’s husband died in 2004. She is survived by her children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. And her books, read by many (I devoured the Ramona series as a child) will live on forever.

A selection of Cleary’s books. Photo from the Associated Press.