First Thing: who will replace Stephen Breyer on the supreme court?

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Erin Schaff/AP</span>
Photograph: Erin Schaff/AP

Joe Biden now has the chance to act on his campaign promise to make sure a Black woman becomes one of the justices


Good morning.

With the news yesterday that Justice Stephen Breyer will retire from the supreme court, Joe Biden now has the opportunity to not only fulfil a campaign promise, but to solidify his legacy.

  • CNN is reporting that Biden and Breyer are set to make a public appearance today to formally announce Breyer’s retirement.

  • At 83, Breyer is the oldest member of the highest court in the country, one of the three liberals outnumbered by six conservatives.

  • Biden had promised to make sure there would be a Black woman on the supreme court if he was elected president.

  • Court watchers have already thrown out a number of possibilities of who Biden could nominate to take Breyer’s place, including several US court of appeals judges and US district court judges, an associate supreme court justice of California and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

US says Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline won’t open if Russia invades Ukraine

A Russian tank.
A Russian tank. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As tensions continue to rise at the Ukraine border, the US has strengthen its stance on the strategically vital gas supply between Russia and Germany, the Nord Stream 2, saying it won’t open if Russia invades Ukraine.

Emily Haber, Germany’s ambassador to Washington, appeared to endorse a hardening of the position, saying on Twitter that “the US and Germany jointly declared last summer: if Russia uses energy as a weapon or if there is another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia will have to pay a high price”.

Tennessee school board bans Pulitzer prize-winning Holocaust novel

US comic book artist Art Spiegelman.
US comic book artist Art Spiegelman. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

The graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, uses hand-drawn illustrations of mice and cats to depict how the author’s parents survived Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Ten school board members in McMinn county, Tennessee have cited the eight curse words and an illustration of a naked cartoon mouse in the novel as reason enough to ban it.

Art Spiegelman, the author, said he was baffled by the decision. “I’ve met so many young people who … have learned things from my book,” Spiegelman said. “I also understand that Tennessee is obviously demented. There’s something going on very, very haywire there.”

Spotify removes Neil Young music in feud over Joe Rogan’s false Covid claims

Neil Young and Joe Rogan.
Neil Young and Joe Rogan. Photograph: AP

In an open letter to his manager and record label, Neil Young accused music streaming platform Spotify of allowing the propagation of vaccine misinformation by Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. In 2020, Rogan signed a $100m deal that gave the streaming giant exclusive rights to his show.

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” Young wrote. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

In other news …

Xiomara Castro de Zelaya.
Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. Photograph: Johny Magallanes/AFP/Getty Images
  • The first female president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, is set to be sworn in today, making history as she faces daunting challenges before her.

  • Tesla sees record profits in what it called a “breakthrough year”, with demand for the electric car soaring despite supply chain struggles.

  • Amy Schneider’s 40-win Jeopardy streak has been broken by a new champion, but Schneider, the game’s second-longest running champion, remains a history-maker as a transgender woman becoming a visible symbol of achievement for often-marginalized people.

  • Officials have cleared a homeless encampment ahead of the Super Bowl near the California stadium where the game is set to take place in a few weeks, inciting accusations of trying to disappear the poor.

Stat of the day: reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans in San Francisco rose by 567% in the last year

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders anti-hate rally in San Francisco.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders anti-hate rally in San Francisco. Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA

Preliminary data from the San Francisco police department showed that reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased dramatically, from 2020 t0 2021, as across the US, reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans have jumped during the pandemic. Police warn that the figures in San Francisco are probably an undercount because hate crime incidents are underreported.

Don’t miss this: anti-vaxxers making bank on Substack

Substack logo.
Substack logo. Photograph: Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty Images

Vaccine skeptics are making at least $2.5m a year publishing newsletters on Substack for their hundreds of thousands of followers, according to new research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Climate check: too hot to handle

A pedestrian uses an umbrella to get some relief from the sun in Phoenix, Arizona.
A pedestrian uses an umbrella to get some relief from the sun in Phoenix, Arizona. Photograph: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Phoenix, the capital of Arizona and home of 1.4 million people, is America’s hottest city and is nearly unlivable for some in the summer. Almost 200 people died from extreme heat in 2020 – the hottest, driest and deadliest summer on record with 53 days topping 110F (43C) – with people experiencing homelessness and addictions dying disproportionately.

Want more environmental stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our new newsletter Down to Earth to get original and essential reporting on the climate crisis every week

Last Thing: West Elm Caleb

Dating app phenomenon.
Dating app phenomenon. Photograph: Tim Robberts/Getty Images

Author and writer Nancy Jo Sales explores the latest dating app phenomenon of “West Elm Caleb” – and how West Elm Caleb is merely a consequence of the misogyny and womanizing that comes with dating apps giving unvetted straight men unfettered access to women.

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