If the Girl Scouts ever decide to create a badge for Dedication, it should have Ronnie Backenstoe’s picture on it.
Backenstoe, 98, joined the Girl Scouts in 1932 at age 10, and has been involved ever since. The Wernersville, Pennsylvania, resident has been selling cookies for the last 88 years, both as a member and a leader, and is still active with a local troop. The girls recently visited Backenstoe at her retirement community, where they set up shop and sold cookies to residents.
Things are different now than they were in 1932, when there were just three types of cookies and each box cost 15 cents. Troop leader Barbara Allen Perelli told WFMZ the girls love Backenstoe, and she always makes them laugh. “Her stamina, her energy, her mind — she’s non-stop,” Perelli said.
Backenstoe gets great joy from selling cookies alongside her fellow troop members, and said being a Girl Scout shaped who she is today. “I think it was just part of living, and that’s really what Girl Scouting is — it teaches you how to live,” Backenstoe told WFMZ. Catherine Garcia
Late Night Tackles 2020 Democrats
Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah take stock of the post-New Hampshire Democratic race, Yang’s big idea
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg coming in a close second, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday’s Late Show. “During his speech, Mayor Pete gave Bernie a bit of a backhanded compliment,” though “it is true: Pete did actually admire Bernie in high school. He even wrote an essay about him that won what’s called the Profile in Courage Essay Contest. Profiles in Courage, of course, was written by JFK, who also wrote a high school essay about looking up to Bernie Sanders.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) came in a strong third, and “New Hampshire also had some winners who won less than the actual winners,” Colbert said. He impersonated Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s dog placing her election party order and reimagined Joe Biden’s panicked staff quotes as a Civil War letter home. “Last night was also the end of the Fury Road for some candidates,” including Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) — “this was shocking to all the voters who had no idea he dropped into the presidential race” — former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Andrew Yang, Colbert said. “Yang’s now out of a job. You know what he could use? $1,000 a month.”
“For some reason,” President Trump was also asked to weigh in on the Democratic race Wednesday, and he said Sanders seems to be the frontrunner in part because “people like his message,” Colbert said. He played “Bernie’s message” — let’s defeat Trump — and laughed: “He’s right: A lot of people do like his message.”
The Daily Show’s Ronny Chiang was “a little sad” Yang dropped out, but he still went to check how Yang’s $1,000-a-month pilot program worked with a “lucky” family he tested it on.
“Last night may have been the best night for Bernie Sanders since he won that free cruise on Noah’s Ark, but New Hampshire’s biggest surprise was Amy Klobuchar,” Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. Biden, on the other hand, left New Hampshire before the polls even closed, flying to South Carolina, where he leaned into his support among African Americans. “That’s right, Joe Biden’s campaign has basically become a Medea movie: If black people don’t turn up, it’s toast,” Noah said. He saw Biden’s point, though, and compared lily-white Iowa and New Hampshire shaping the Democratic race to a buffet where white people pick the menu. Watch below. Peter Weber
the coronavirus crisis
China’s Communist Party ousts senior official at center of coronavirus outbreak
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
China’s Communist Party on Thursday fired several senior officials in Hubei province, the center of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The Central Committee said Jiang Chaoliang, Hubei’s party secretary since 2016, has been removed from his post, and will be replaced by Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong. Ying is an ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The coronavirus outbreak originated in the Hubei city of Wuhan, and the Communist Party also fired the Wuhan party boss, Ma Guoqiang.
Chinese citizens have complained about how long it took for the government to acknowledge the outbreak, saying this slow response allowed the virus to spread. There are now 48,206 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hubei, and the death toll stands at 1,310. Catherine Garcia
Law And Order
Elizabeth Warren flags Trump’s ‘descent into authoritarianism,’ wants Barr out, other candidates to speak up
CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Wednesday night about her disappointing fourth-place finish in New Hampshire’s Tuesday primary, and after discussing her path forward for a minute, Warren said she knows “everybody wants to talk about the horse race, but the thing that is really getting to me right now is what’s going on over at the Justice Department,” specifically President Trump’s “inappropriate influence” and Attorney General William Barr’s unprecedented interference in Trump crony Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendations.
“Right in front of our eyes, we are watching a descent into authoritarianism,” Warren said. “What Barr has done should mean that we are demanding a resignation, and if that guy won’t resign, then the House should start impeachment proceedings against him.” Cooper asked if that would be politically wise. Maybe not, but there are also “political considerations to … sitting on your hands,” Warren said. “We can’t just sit by and watch this happen, and I have to say, I’m surprised the other presidential candidates aren’t out there talking about it.”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted that Republicans, when asked about Barr’s meddling, shrugged and said Stone’s sentencing is in the judge’s hands. “Why is it such a big deal to you?” he asked. “This is a huge deal, because this is about the president, and then his attorney general, interfering with the operation of justice, making it about something personal,” Warren said. “This is about the rule of law in the United States. … We are watching in front of us a president who now feels like he can do anything. And that means we are watching a descent into authoritarianism.”
Hayes asked if Warren’s proposed Justice Department task force to retroactively look at criminal corruption inside the Trump administration isn’t similar to what Warren is criticizing now? “No, that’s exactly backwards,” she said. The task force would be politically independent, and besides, “the alternative is that Donald Trump is effectively saying by his actions, ‘Hey look, do whatever it is that Donald Trump tells you to do, including breaking the law, and Donald Trump will then bail out the person, make sure that there is no punishment, or that the punishment is light.’ We have to re-establish rule of law. Part of that will be independent investigation,” and in the meantime, Congress can use its power of the purse to rein in Trump’s corruption. Watch below. Peter Weber
It wasn’t all bad
104-year-old World War II vet receives more than 70,000 valentines from well-wishers across the globe
This will be William White’s 104th Valentine’s Day, and it’s shaping up to be the best one yet.
White, 104, is a World War II veteran who lives in an assisted living facility in Stockton, California. A retired major, he received a Purple Heart after being injured at Iwo Jima. One of White’s neighbors wanted to honor his service, and put up a request on social media, asking people to send White valentines. The goal was to hit 100, but with a few days to go before Valentine’s Day, White has received more than 70,000 cards.
“It’s just too fantastic,” White told Reuters. Cards have come in from all 50 states, as well as foreign countries. Because there are so many letters, White’s family and several volunteers are taking turns opening the cards and reading the messages to him. In one touching note, a woman named Jane said her late grandfather also fought in World War II, and would be turning 100 this year. “I miss him so much,” she wrote. “By sending you this card, I feel as though I am sending my grandfather a card.”
White told Reuters he never really celebrated Valentine’s Day before, and this experience has left him “sort of speechless.” Catherine Garcia
West Virginia governor says he’s not racist for calling high school basketball team ‘thugs’
February 12, 2020
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) is denying that comments he made about a high school basketball team and its coaches are racist.
When Justice isn’t running the state of West Virginia, he’s a coach for the girls basketball team at Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg. On Tuesday, they played against Woodrow Wilson High School, but the game ended early when one of the Woodrow Wilson coaches got into an altercation with a person in the stands.
Afterward, an irritated Justice told The Beckley Register-Herald: “I hate to say it any other way, but honest to God’s truth is the same thing happened over at Woodrow two different times out of the Woodrow players. They’re a bunch of thugs. The whole team left the bench, the coach is in a fight, they walked off the floor, they called the game. … They don’t know how to behave, and at the end of the day, you got what you got.”
Woodrow Wilson’s coaches are black, and there are also black players on the team. By calling them “thugs,” this was a “thinly veiled racial slur,” West Virginia state Del. Mike Pushkin (D) tweeted. On Wednesday, Justice said in a statement there was nothing wrong with calling the teenage girls and their coaches thugs, because the definition “is clear — it means violence, bullying, and disorderly conduct. And we, as West Virginians, should have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. Anyone that would accuse me of making a racial slur is totally absurd.” Catherine Garcia
Marie Yovanovitch says State Department leaders lack ‘moral clarity’
February 12, 2020
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch sounded the alarm on Wednesday night, telling an audience at Georgetown University that the State Department is “in trouble,” with leaders who lack “policy vision” and “moral clarity.”
Yovanovitch was ousted from her post last May, following a smear campaign orchestrated by President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. During the impeachment inquiry, Yovanovitch testified that she felt undermined and threatened by people who wanted her out of their way. She was removed from Kyiv at the same time Giuliani was digging for dirt in Ukraine on Trump’s political rivals.
Yovanovitch, who retired from the State Department last month, told the crowd that when it comes to foreign policy, the U.S. needs to be “principled, consistent, and trustworthy. To be blunt, an amoral, keep-them-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear, and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul. At some point, the once-unthinkable will become the inevitable — that our allies who have as much right to act in their own self-interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners whose interests might not align well with ours.”
These were Yovanovitch’s first public remarks since leaving the State Department. She was at Georgetown to accept an award from the School of Foreign Service, and received a standing ovation from the audience. Catherine Garcia
Bipartisan group of senators to meet Ukrainian president this week
February 12, 2020
Ludovic Marin/Getty Images
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) announced on Wednesday they are heading to Kyiv for a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The U.S.-Ukraine relationship is as important now as ever,” the senators said in a statement. “The future of Ukraine matters to the United States and we must make sure Ukraine knows that we view them as a strategic ally.” The meeting is scheduled for Friday.
Zelensky became a household name in the United States last year during President Trump’s impeachment inquiry. During a July 25 phone call, Trump asked Zelensky to launch investigations into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. This conversation triggered the impeachment probe, which also focused on Trump’s decision to freeze nearly $400 million in approved military aid to Ukraine. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December, and acquitted by the Senate last week.
This won’t be Johnson and Murphy’s first time interacting with Zelensky. On Sept. 5, the senators met with Zelensky in Kyiv, when the military aid was still frozen. On Sept. 10, Murphy said Ukrainian officials brought up the aid during every meeting, and they did not know why it was being held up. Catherine Garcia