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Biden Administration News: Live Updates

Credit…Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

President Biden on Wednesday will sign a package of executive orders elevating climate change at every level of the federal government, a move that the administration says will put the United States on the path to reducing its share of emissions that are warming the planet.

Taking the first significant steps toward one of Mr. Biden’s most contentious campaign promises, the orders will direct the secretary of the Interior Department “to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters to the extent possible” while beginning a “rigorous review” of all existing fossil fuel leases and permitting practices, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

Federal agencies also will be ordered to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies “and identify new opportunities to spur innovation.” Overhauling the tax breaks — worth billions of dollars to the oil, coal and gas industries — to help pay for Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion climate change plan was also a major campaign promise. Both plans are expected to face strong opposition in Congress.

Wednesday’s executive orders also set broad new foreign policy goals, including specifying that climate change, for the first time, will be a core part of all foreign policy and national security decisions.

Oil and gas industry leaders signaled that many of Mr. Biden’s plans would face steep opposition, while environmental groups called the changes long overdue, particularly after four years in which the Trump administration mocked climate science and eliminated virtually every tool the government had to tackle rising emissions.

“This is the single biggest day for climate action in more than a decade,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

President Biden delivered remarks at the White House on Tuesday regarding the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

At noon today, President Biden will have been in office for a week, and the split-screen between new and old that has defined the first days of his administration continues.

It is an image of a government trying to operate on three tracks at once: enacting a new administration’s agenda, staffing the new administration’s agencies and trying to punish a departed president whose supporters attacked the seat of that government just three weeks ago.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden will deliver remarks about climate change and scientific integrity.

But the Senate has had to spend some time focused on the last administration. On Tuesday senators voted to proceed with its impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump over the objections of Republicans who had argued that it was unconstitutional to try him after he left office. The 55-to-45 vote was a short-term victory for supporters of impeachment, but it was also a strong indication that they were unlikely to find the 17 Republicans needed to convict Mr. Trump. Several Republicans who voted to uphold the constitutional challenge, which would have effectively killed the trial, rushed after the vote to clarify that they remained open-minded about the trial, which next convenes on Feb. 9.

In the same body on the same day, senators confirmed Antony J. Blinken as secretary of state by a vote of 78 to 22 and a committee heard testimony from Gov. Gina M. Raimondo of Rhode Island, Mr. Biden’s nominee for commerce secretary. Vice President Kamala Harris also swore in Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, and the president’s cabinet is taking shape. Ms. Harris will swear in Mr. Blinken at a ceremony on Wednesday morning.

And at the White House, Mr. Biden signed executive orders to end federal contracts with private prisons and to combat housing discrimination; spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia; and announced that his administration had reached a deal with Pfizer and Moderna to buy an additional 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses. That means the United States should have enough doses to vaccinate most Americans by the end of the summer, though obtaining enough and getting them into people’s arms are two very different tasks.

John Kerry, President Biden’s global envoy for climate change, is a principal member of the National Security Council.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

John Kerry, the new American envoy for climate change, has spent the last few days repeatedly telling world leaders that the United States is ready to help the world “raise ambition” to address global warming. Doing so, however, could mean big changes for America’s role in the world.

Foreign policy experts say that the Biden administration’s efforts must extend far beyond rejoining the Paris agreement, the global pact by nearly 200 governments aimed at slowing climate change. Taking on climate change will require a reassessment of issues as broad as the United States’ priorities in the Arctic and helping fragile countries deal with the fallout of climate risks.

“It changes defense posture, it changes foreign policy posture,” said John D. Podesta, a former Obama administration official. “It begins to drive a lot of decision making in foreign policy, diplomacy and development policy.”

The first acknowledgment of that shift is expected on Wednesday, with the White House directing intelligence agencies to produce a National Intelligence Estimate on climate security, and telling the secretary of defense to do a climate risk analysis of the Pentagon’s facilities and installations.

“Addressing climate change can, and will be, a central pillar of the Biden administration’s foreign policy,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who served as a deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush and now leads the Geopolitics of Energy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. “It means infusing the issue of climate and environment into our trade policies, our foreign aid programs, our bilateral discussions and even our military readiness.”

A portion of the ExxonMobil Baytown Complex in Baytown, Texas, on Feb. 17, 2020. The previous July, an explosion and fire at the Baytown Olefins Plant left dozens injured.
Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

As President Biden prepares on Wednesday to open an ambitious effort to confront climate change, powerful and surprising forces are arrayed at his back.

Automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future; large oil and gas companies have said some curbs on greenhouse pollution lifted by former President Donald J. Trump should be reimposed; shareholders are demanding corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future, and a youth movement is driving the Democratic Party to go big to confront the issue.

But what may well stand in the president’s way is political intransigence from senators in both parties. An evenly divided Senate has given enormous power to any single senator, and one in particular, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who will lead the Senate Energy Committee and who came to the Senate as a defender of his state’s coal industry.

Mr. Biden has already staffed his government with more people concerned with climate change than any other president before him. On his first day in office, he rejoined the Paris agreement on climate change.

But during the campaign, he tried to walk a delicate line on fracking for natural gas, saying he would stop it on public lands but not on private property, where most of it takes place.

A suite of executive actions planned for Wednesday does include a halt to new oil and gas leases on federal lands and in federal waters, a move that is certain to rile industry. But that would not stop fossil fuel drilling. As of 2019, more than 26 million acres of United States land were already leased to oil and gas companies, and last year the Trump administration, in a rush to exploit natural resources hidden beneath publicly owned lands and waters, leased tens of thousands more.

If the administration honors those contracts, millions of publicly owned acres could be opened to fossil fuel extraction in the coming decade.

The real action will come when Mr. Biden moves forward with plans to reinstate and strengthen Obama-era regulations, repealed by the Trump administration, on the three largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse emissions: vehicles, power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas drilling wells.

It may take up to two years to put the new rules in place, and even then, without new legislation from Congress, a future administration could once again simply undo them.

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President Biden’s top coronavirus advisers will hold a public briefing on the White House’s response to the pandemic.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden’s top coronavirus advisers — including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are holding their first public briefing on Wednesday, as the president has pledged to be more transparent about the administration’s response.

Dr. Fauci, the infectious disease specialist who is now Mr. Biden’s chief Covid-19 medical adviser, and Dr. Walensky were also joined by Jeffrey Zients, the entrepreneur and former Obama administration official who is coordinating the coronavirus response, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who is heading a task force devoted to advancing racial equity in the effort to combat a disease that has disproportionately affected people of color.

The briefing comes as Mr. Biden is under intense pressure to speed up the pace of coronavirus vaccinations. A C.D.C. advisory committee is also meeting on Wednesday to discuss vaccine safety, as well as a new vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca.

On Tuesday, the president announced that his administration was nearing a deal to purchase an additional 200 million vaccine doses from the companies that already have emergency authorization, Moderna and Pfizer. The president said that would be enough for 300 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of the summer. But with new and more infectious variants spreading, some experts say that will not be fast enough to curb the pandemic.

The replenishing over the summer — when the government was likely to run out of supply — was anticipated under contracts signed by the Trump administration, which gave the government options to continue increasing its commitments in increments of 100 million doses.

Mr. Biden also said that the administration would begin releasing 10 million vaccine doses each week to the states, up from 8.6 million. The 16 percent increase was expected as manufacturing capacity increases, but Mr. Biden also said he would give governors something they have been clamoring for: certainty about how much vaccine they will get. He said states will now have three weeks advance notice of their vaccine supplies.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 19.9 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and that about 3.5 million people had been fully vaccinated. More than a million people a day, on average, have received a shot to help protect them against Covid-19 in the U.S. over the last week.

As the vaccine rollout accelerates, the number of daily new cases in the United States, which has the worst outbreak in the world, has been on the decline in recent weeks. U.S. deaths, though, remain high, numbering more than 3,000 per day on average in recent days.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has decades of diplomatic experience, is President Biden’s pick for ambassador to the United Nations.
Credit…Pool photo by Michael Reynolds

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is facing senators on Wednesday for her confirmation hearing, during which she called for re-engaging with the global body as a strategy to counter the rise of China.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran foreign service officer, said that China made significant diplomatic gains on the global stage during the Trump administration, which retreated from international alliances under an “America First” policy, and that she will reverse that trend and work to promote American values at the multilateral body if confirmed.

“We know China is working across the U.N. system to drive an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution — American values,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said. “Their success depends on our continued withdrawal. That will not happen on my watch.”

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination to the post was praised by veteran diplomats, who said her decades of experience as a foreign service officer would help rebuild America’s standing at the United Nations.

She talked about how her 35 years of diplomatic service, which ended in 2017 after former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson pushed her out of the department, will help guide her approach to the role.

“Throughout my career, from Jamaica to Nigeria, Pakistan to Switzerland, I’ve learned that effective diplomacy means more than shaking hands and staging photo ops,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said. “It means developing real, robust relationships. It means finding common ground and managing points of differentiation. It means doing genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy.”

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield entered the foreign service in 1982 and held a range of senior positions in the State Department. She served as U.S. ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012 before moving on to become the director general of the foreign service for about a year. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the top U.S. diplomat for African affairs.

President Biden’s plan would allow the Hernandez family to apply for legal status.
Credit…Jessica Pons for The New York Times

Maria Elena Hernandez recently retrieved a flowery box tucked in her closet and dusted it off. For more than a decade, she has used it to store tax returns, lease agreements and other documents that she has collected to prove her family’s long years of residence in the United States.

“We have been waiting for the day when we can apply for legal status,” said Ms. Hernandez, 55, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who arrived in this country with three small children in 2000. “In this box is, hopefully, all the evidence we’ll need.”

She had just learned of President Biden’s plan to offer a pathway to U.S. citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented people, announced as part of a sweeping proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

The bill would allow undocumented immigrants who were in the United States before Jan. 1, 2021, to apply for temporary legal status after passing background checks and paying taxes. As newly minted “lawful prospective immigrants,” they would be authorized to work, join the military and travel without fear of deportation. After five years, they could apply for green cards.

The president’s proposal would be perhaps the most ambitious immigration redesign passed since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which legalized three million people.

Converting more than three times that many people into full citizens could open the door to one of the most significant demographic shifts in modern U.S. history, lifting millions out of the shadows and potentially into higher-paying jobs, providing them with welfare benefits, government IDs and Social Security eligibility and eventually creating millions of new voters.

“This is the boldest immigration agenda any administration has put forward in generations,” said Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. “But given that the Democrats have razor-thin majorities in Congress, the administration needs to have its expectations tempered.” Legalizing just one group at first — say, farmworkers — might be “more realistic,” he said.

In a sign of the hurdles ahead, another one of Mr. Biden’s early immigration initiatives, a 100-day freeze on deportations, was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Tuesday after a lawsuit by the Texas attorney general, an advocate of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Immigration reform has stalled in Congress time and again, primarily over what is widely known as amnesty. Despite beefed-up border enforcement and employer sanctions, Mr. Reagan’s immigration overhaul failed to curb the growth of the undocumented population.

While Congress has wrestled with how to change the immigration system, immigrants have continued to live, work and raise families in the United States.

The family of Denise Palagan, 27, came to the United States from the Philippines in 2002 after her father, a financial analyst, obtained an H-1B visa.

“The Biden plan would fulfill our hope of keeping the family together,” said Ms. Palagan, who has two younger sisters, one of them born in the United States.

After the inauguration, Ms. Hernandez was at her dining room table thinking about the imminent birth of her second grandchild, who will be an American citizen. She and her husband planned to drive to Utah to meet the baby, and she worried about making a trip across state lines without legal status, lest law enforcement stop them.

When she learned that the president had unveiled a blueprint for legalization, she said, she was stunned at first. Then she went to retrieve the box of documents.

Jennifer Granholm, President Biden’s nominee for energy secretary, is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Jennifer M. Granholm, who faces a confirmation hearing Wednesday as President Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Energy, is widely expected to play a central role in the administration’s efforts to confront climate change.

But that raises a question: How much can an energy secretary realistically do to help reduce America’s planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions?

Only about one-fifth of the Energy Department’s $35 billion annual budget is devoted to energy programs. The rest goes toward maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, cleaning up environmental messes from the Cold War and conducting scientific research in areas like high-energy physics.

But the one-fifth slice of the department controls some powerful levers that could help advance clean-energy technologies, including a network of 17 national laboratories that conduct cutting-edge research, tens of billions of dollars in unused federal loan guarantees, and regulatory authority to encourage energy-efficient appliances and new transmission lines.

Representative Majorie Taylor Greene, a Republican who was elected in November, has promoted QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a first-term Georgia Republican, repeatedly endorsed executing top Democratic politicians on social media before she was elected to Congress, including telling a follower who asked if they could hang former President Barack Obama that the “stage is being set.”

A review of Ms. Greene’s social media accounts, first reported by CNN, found that she repeatedly liked posts on Facebook that discussed the prospect of violence against Democratic lawmakers and employees of the federal government. Ms. Greene liked a Facebook comment in January 2019 that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and liked another about executing FBI agents.

After a Facebook follower asked Ms. Greene “Now do we get to hang them,” referring to Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee, Ms. Greene responded: “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

In a lengthy statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday before CNN published its report, Ms. Greene did not disavow the posts, but accused CNN of “coming after” her for political reasons and noted that several people had managed her social media accounts.

“Over the years, I’ve had teams of people manage my pages,” Ms. Greene wrote. “Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views.”

Ms. Greene has previously been scrutinized for promoting conspiracy theories, including QAnon, the pro-Trump fringe group that falsely claims the existence of a satanic pedophile cult run by top Democrats, and for wrongly suggesting that the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was staged.

She has repeatedly suggested that Ms. Pelosi should be tried for treason for her refusal to support former President Donald J. Trump’s immigration policies, emphasizing that treason is a crime punishable by death.

In the days before pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Ms. Greene referred to the day as Republicans’ “1776 moment.” After the riot, she pledged that Mr. Trump would “remain in office” and that attempts to remove him from the White House constituted “an attack on every American who voted for him,” even though he lost the election.

Ms. Greene’s inflammatory rhetoric has drawn rebukes from some members of her own party. But since she joined Congress, House Republican leaders have declined to condemn her. Before she was elected, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, disavowed her comments as “offensive and bigoted,” and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, went so far as to back Ms. Greene’s primary opponent.

After Ms. Greene arrived on Capitol Hill in November, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, claimed that Ms. Greene had distanced herself from QAnon.

“So the only thing I would ask for you in the press — these are new members,” Mr. McCarthy said. “Give them an opportunity before you claim what you believe they have done and what they will do.”

A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy told Axios that Ms. Greene’s newly surfaced Facebook posts were “deeply disturbing” and that he planned to “have a conversation” with Ms. Greene about them.

For many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, it was not a large leap from a collection of conspiracy theories to “Stop the Steal.”

There was the “Pizzagate” claim of 2016 that Democrats were running a child sex ring in the back of a popular Washington pizza parlor. And the debunked allegation that a low-level Democratic National Committee aide was murdered for leaking Hillary Clinton’s emails. And the theory that mass shootings, including the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School were false flag operations by liberals to promote gun control.

President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of election fraud, which animated the riot, have reassembled a cast of conspiratorial theorizers that go way back, all of whom spread false theories about mass shootings and went on to embrace Mr. Trump’s baseless fraud claims.

“If you look at these Sandy Hook folks, it’s not like they slipped on a banana peel and believe in Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. This is an expression of a whole worldview, or an expression of personality traits,” Joe Uscinski, an assistant professor at the University of Miami and an author of the book “American Conspiracy Theories,” said in an interview. “You’re not going to change someone’s mind. And even if you did, it wouldn’t matter because you’re going to end up in a game of Whac-a-Mole.”

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, led the House impeachment managers as they delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate.
Credit…Melina Mara/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images

Dive into the background of the nine impeachment managers Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to present the case to the Senate in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump next month, and a common thread emerges: deep experience in the law.

Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland will serve as lead impeachment manager. A graduate of Harvard Law School and a former constitutional law professor at American University, he has become known among House Democrats as a go-to expert on constitutional law. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado was a civil rights lawyer before she was elected to the House in 1996. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island was a public defender in the District of Columbia before he joined the House. Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, a Harvard-educated lawyer, worked in private practice before his days in Congress.

Representative Eric Swalwell of California has helped review evidence against Mr. Trump during the first impeachment and will lean on his experience as a former prosecutor in his role as an impeachment manager. Representative Ted Lieu of California, who drafted the impeachment article along with Mr. Cicilline and Mr. Raskin, has a law degree from Georgetown University.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands previously served as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx and as a political appointee to the Justice Department. Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado is a graduate of the University of Colorado Law School and served on the university’s Board of Regents. Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania has a law degree from Widener University and had a private law practice before becoming a university professor and joining the House.

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Opinion | How to Reform the Senate Filibuster

In the beginning, from 1789 to 1806, debate in the Senate could be ended at any time by majority vote. In 1806, the Senate abolished that rule, leaving no way to cut off debate. This decision gave birth to the filibuster to delay or block legislative action. This involved a senator holding the floor continuously, as Mr. Smith did (not easy), or to act in carefully choreographed relays with like-minded colleagues (also not easy) and prevent a vote on the merits.

Still, a few successful filibusters were maintained, most notoriously to block anti-lynching and other civil rights legislation, but only when opposition was so passionate that senators were willing to endure the physical and logistical rigors of seizing the Senate floor and refusing to let go. In 1917, opponents of the United States’ entry into World War I were able to sustain such a speaking filibuster, blocking widely supported legislation that would have enabled merchant vessels to arm themselves. An angry Senate reacted by adopting formal rules that allowed an end to debate by a vote by two-thirds of the senators present on the floor.

Opinion Debate
What should the Biden administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress prioritize?

  • Michelle Goldberg, Opinion columnist, argues that the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine goals must be far more ambitious — two million vaccinations per day — to show “that it’s being as bold as this terrifying, miserable moment demands.”
  • Bret Stephens, Opinion columnist, argues that “a dissidents-first foreign policy” supporting pro-democracy activists repressed by their governments “would immediately revive America’s moral leadership after its squandering under Trump.”
  • Paul Krugman, Opinion columnist, writes that the Democrats’ plan for payments to families with children, despite inevitable Republican opposition, “would immediately improve millions of Americans’ lives, it would make us stronger in the future, and it would have only modest budget costs.”
  • Lanhee Chen and James Capretta, conservative policy wonks, write that “President Biden will change the health care conversation in Washington, but he needs to compromise with Republicans if he wants to make significant progress.”
  • Jean Guerrero writes that if Biden wants to address injustice in immigration policy, he must go beyond reversing Trump’s policies and “repair the harm that was done when he was vice president, which left communities fractured and financially devastated.”

From 1917 to 1975, with tweaks in 1949 and 1959, the Senate operated under the two-thirds rule, but the real constraints on filibustering were three self-limiting aspects of the 1917 rule. First, a motion to end debate (known as cloture) froze the Senate, forcing the body to vote on the motion before proceeding with any other business. Second, maintaining a speaking filibuster required a senator to hold the floor, individually or in relays. Third, supporters of the filibuster needed more than one-third of the Senate as allies to be present on the Senate floor to head off a surprise cloture vote. Once again, if opposition was passionate enough, successful filibusters were maintained, especially of civil rights legislation, but the difficulties of mounting a filibuster placed a lid on the number of times one could be successfully sustained.

Beginning in 1975, though, the original speaking filibuster was transformed into the modern version. First, Southern senators agreed to confine the filibuster to a short period in the morning session, allowing the Senate to move on to other business in the afternoon. Then they agreed to a reduction of the cloture number to a fixed 60 votes, from two-thirds present and voting, or 67 votes if the entire Senate was present.

All of a sudden, the self-limiting factors that had kept the filibuster in check since 1806 disappeared. There was no longer an institutional cost since the Senate could conduct business as usual during most of the day. A filibustering senator no longer had to hold the floor speaking for long periods of time. And most important, supporters of the filibuster no longer had to worry about being in the Senate chamber because it was the job of opponents to marshal the fixed 60 votes to end debate. Supporters of the filibuster could stay home in bed.

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The Oscars Are a Mess. Let’s Make Them Messier.

I don’t mean to revisit stale arguments about the aesthetic merits of television, to pine for the lost pleasures of moviegoing, or to lament lost golden ages, but simply to state the facts. Feature films, now and henceforth, compete for attention with myriad other forms of visual narrative, many of them delivered via the same devices — and by the same corporations — that bring us the movies. But those corporate entities aren’t what they used to be. Some of the old studio nameplates that still exist (Disney, Warner Bros.) have been folded into multiplatform agglomerations (Disney+, HBO Max) that treat movies as one type of content among many.

These outfits and the other surviving studios must compete with — and according to rules largely created by — companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple, all of which bring the monopolistic DNA of the tech world into the old-school oligopoly of Hollywood. And Hollywood is rapidly losing its geographical and imaginative pride of place as the global center of cultural gravity splits and shifts. Whatever the art of cinema may be, it and its audience are radically decentralized. Movie love may be stronger and more widespread than ever, but it can’t be captured in a night spent swooning over a handful of films and a roomful of stars.

Why pretend otherwise? Why act as if the center could somehow hold, as if the right mix of same-old and not-quite-new faces and stories could do justice to a protean art form and a disunited public? It’s time to tear up the blueprints and start again.

What does that mean, in practice? For one thing, it means continuing to expand academy membership in the interests of geographical, generational and cultural diversity. The more voters, the better. For another, I think it means treating the “Parasite” victory not as an outlier but as a harbinger. That movie, a twisty, impeccably directed, brilliantly acted thriller laced with stinging, humanistic social criticism, fulfilled the Oscar ideal better than any mainstream Hollywood production since, I don’t know, “Silence of the Lambs”? “The Apartment”? “Casablanca”? And there are more where it came from, by which I don’t just mean South Korea or Bong’s dazzling imagination. The academy should abolish the best international feature ghetto, with its arcane rules of entry and its dubious reliance on the tastes of government functionaries, and make best picture an explicitly international category.

Or else — and in addition — find new ways of designating excellence. Get smaller and bigger at the same time, by giving space and attention to the odd, the experimental and the handmade as well as the gaudy and the grand. Undo the stultifying hierarchy of genres that routinely excludes comedy, horror, action and art. This could involve a simple change in attitude or taste, but it might require a formal change of rules. What if there were genre- or budget-level categories (best comic-book film; best million-dollar movie), and those films were also eligible for best picture? What if the Oscars took inspiration from bracketology and list-obsessed media to open up voters’ thinking? Millions of movie fans cast fake ballots every year. What if there were a way to make those ballots real?

I don’t know if any of those ideas would work, or if they’re good ideas. The point, in any case, is to stop holding movies up to a vague, sentimental standard of what they once were and try to understand them as they actually are. The Oscars take themselves too seriously, and as a result they don’t take movies seriously enough, don’t fully acknowledge their power, variety and capacity for change. We should worry less about continuity and tradition, about preserving old folkways and narrow canons, and more about illuminating and exploring a history that is still unfamiliar to many movie lovers, and still very much up for grabs even as it is part of a widely shared inheritance.

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The Filibuster Fight – The New York Times

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If you examine the history of the filibuster — a Senate rule requiring a supermajority vote on many bills, rather than a straight majority — you will quickly notice something: It has benefited the political right much more than the left.

  • In the 1840s (before the term “filibuster” existed), Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina used the technique to protect slavery.

  • Over the next century, Southern Democrats repeatedly used the filibuster to prevent Black Americans from voting and to defeat anti-lynching bills.

  • From the 1950s through the 1990s, Senate Republicans, working with some conservative Democrats, blocked the passage of laws that would have helped labor unions organize workers.

  • Over the past two decades, the filibuster has enabled Republicans to defeat a long list of progressive bills, on climate change, oil subsidies, campaign finance, Wall Street regulation, corporate offshoring, gun control, immigration, gender pay equality and Medicare expansion.

The early days of Joe Biden’s presidency, with the Democrats narrowly controlling the Senate, have intensified a debate over whether the party should eliminate the filibuster. If Senate Democrats did, they could try to pass many bills — say, on climate change, voting rights, Medicare expansion and tax increases on the rich — with 51 votes, rather than 60.

As part of the debate, many observers have pointed out that both parties have used the filibuster, and both could suffer from its demise. Democrats, for example, filibustered some of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, as well as abortion restrictions and an estate-tax cut. A Senate without the current filibuster really would cause problems for Democrats at times.

On balance, however, there is no question about which party benefits more from the filibuster. Republicans do, and it’s not close.

This makes sense, too. Consider the words conservative and progressive. A conservative tends to prefer the status quo, while a progressive often favors change. “The filibuster is a tool to preserve the status quo and makes it harder to make change,” Adam Jentleson, a former Democratic Senate aide and the author of “Kill Switch,” a new book on the filibuster, told me. (I’m reading the book now and recommend it.)

Jentleson documents that the country’s founders did not intend for most legislation to require a supermajority and that the filibuster emerged only in the 1800s. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison both wrote passionate defenses of simple majority rule. They protected minority rights by creating a government — with a president, two legislative chambers and a judiciary — in which making a law even with simple majorities was onerous.

“What at first sight may seem a remedy,” Hamilton wrote, referring to supermajority rule, “is, in reality, a poison.” If a majority could not govern, he explained, it would lead to “tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.”

The filibuster isn’t going anywhere yet. Some past Democratic supporters of the filibuster — like Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Biden himself — have said they might consider eliminating it if Republicans continued to reject compromise. Others — like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — say they remain opposed.

But the issue won’t be decided in the abstract, as the Republican strategist Liam Donovan has noted. When the Senate is next considering a specific bill that has the support of a majority but not a supermajority, that will be the crucial moment.

Related: Jamelle Bouie, a Times Opinion columnist, has made cases for scrapping the filibuster. In The Washington Post, Carl Levin, a former senator, and Richard Arenberg have made the case for keeping it. And Molly Reynolds of the Brookings Institution has described how it might be reformed.

Trilobites: The Spinosaurus, a dinosaur with some water-loving features, roamed the earth 99 million years ago. Today, researchers are wondering: Was this creature more subaquatic killer or giant wading bird?

From Opinion: The writer Stuart Thompson spent weeks inside a QAnon chat room, and here’s what he heard. And Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. has an Op-Ed on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Lives Lived: After a bicycle accident left her paralyzed in 2003, the feminist scholar Christina Crosby wrote a memoir, “A Body, Undone,” which explored pain and refused to draw tidy lessons about overcoming hardship. She died at 67.

The list price at selective private colleges approaches a mind-blowing $80,000 a year, and it’s not far behind for out-of-state students at some public colleges in the U.S. But as Ron Lieber, a personal-finance columnist for The Times, notes, “list prices are increasingly irrelevant for most families.”

Middle-class and low-income students typically receive large scholarships — and can receive larger ones if they have excellent grades in high school. Even affluent students can receive a lot of financial aid with top grades.

Ron has just published a book that tries to explain the maddeningly complex subject of college finances, called “The Price You Pay for College.” In it, he makes a fascinating point: Many parents talk in great detail with their children about the ways in which sports can earn them college acceptances and scholarships.

Yet athletics are not the best route to a scholarship for most students, Ron writes. Academics are. “Each spring, I hear from otherwise well-informed parents of high school seniors who had no idea that this so-called merit aid existed, let alone how to predict where good grades might yield the lowest price or the best value,” Ron told me. “I wanted to make sure that families knew all about it, much sooner.”

You can read an excerpt here.

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New Yorkers Can’t Find Parking. For Bikes.

Weather: Chance of flurries or showers early, and again this evening. Mostly cloudy, with a high around 40.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Feb. 11 (Lunar New Year’s Eve).


The Times’s Winnie Hu and Daniel E. Slotnik write:

The pandemic set off an extraordinary surge in biking as people sought to avoid public transit and embrace new ways to exercise.

But the spike has run headlong into a familiar problem on New York City’s congested streets: no parking.

Cyclists have rolled up to apartment buildings, stores and restaurants only to find nowhere to leave their bikes. Many have improvised a solution by locking their bikes to street signs — breaking a city law that is rarely enforced — or trees, gates and fences.

The lack of parking, cyclists and advocates complain, has helped fuel a jump in bike thefts.

New York has roughly 56,000 bike parking spots on its streets, sidewalks and plazas. Most are in bike racks, though there are 83 corrals — car parking spots converted to hold bikes — and 20 shelters that shield bikes from precipitation.

The 56,000 does not include the sharing program Citi Bike, which has 38,000 spaces in about 1,100 docking stations.

Some apartment building owners are looking for ways to accommodate tenants asking for better storage options.

Even as New York has created the largest urban bike network in the nation, with 1,375 miles of bike lanes and a thriving bike-share program, it has lagged well behind other cities in making bike parking spots widely available, transportation experts and advocates say.

By comparison, London has three times as much bike parking, with more than 150,000 spaces on its streets and at least 20,000 additional spaces at Underground and rail stations. There are also more than 1,500 spaces in curbside cycle hangars, where residents leave their bikes inside a small metal container with a curved top.

In New York, cycling was booming even before the pandemic, with 490,000 daily bike trips in 2017, up from 150,000 in 2000, according to a 2019 city report. Nearly 1.6 million New Yorkers are bike riders, the report said.

Still, for years many cyclists have bemoaned the city’s entrenched car culture, which prioritizes drivers over bike riders and pedestrians. They have pushed for more protected bike lanes and other infrastructure.

Their concerns were amplified in 2019, when 28 cyclists were killed on the streets — the highest number in two decades. Mayor Bill de Blasio soon announced a $58.4 million bike safety plan; it has been slowed down because of the pandemic.

Twenty-five cyclists were killed in 2020, even with fewer cars on the roads, according to city data.

The coronavirus has taken a staggering toll on the transit workers who have shuttled doctors, nurses and emergency responders during the pandemic in New York City.

Now, as Covid-19 memorials pop up across the country, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is creating its own, honoring its more than 135 employees who have died of the disease.

The agency, which operates the city’s subway, buses and two commuter rail lines, is running a video installation at 107 subway stations. It features photographs of many of the workers, interspersed with translations of “Travels Far,” a poem written for the memorial by Tracy K. Smith, a former United States poet laureate.

The video will be shown on digital screens at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. through Feb. 7, and it can also be viewed on the M.T.A.’s website.

“The launch of today’s memorial is aimed at personalizing the legacies of those who died during the pandemic,” Patrick J. Foye, the M.T.A. chairman, said in a statement on Monday, the first day of the project. “It is a moving tribute to the members of our heroic workforce who lost their lives and we will continue to make sure those who perished are not forgotten.”

The last stanza of Ms. Smith’s poem, which was translated into Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish for the installation, reads:

Through stations
and years, through
the veined chambers
of a stranger’s heart —
what you gave
travels far.

It’s Wednesday — pay tribute.


Dear Diary:

Everywhere you look you see,
“Save the Gluten!” “Gluten Free!”
From delis plain to highfalutin,
“Gluten Free!” “Save the Gluten!”

What’s he in for, long imprisoned,
Mocked, insulted, scorned,
derisioned,
Alone in jail, that life of staff,
They separate the wheat from chaff.

It goes against the grain for me,
I too believe, “Get Gluten Free!”
Why tout the fact he’s not in fruit,
Nor rice, nor corn, the point is moot.
He’s not a tyrant, nor a brute,
Just a stalk of ill repute.

Save the Gluten, if you do,
You can have your cake …

— Lou Craft


New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. Sign up here to get it by email. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

What would you like to see more (or less) of? Email us: nytoday@nytimes.com.

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Groups Put French State on Legal Notice Over Police Racism

PARIS — Six nongovernmental organizations put the French state on notice on Wednesday to force it to address “systemic discriminatory practices by the police,” a rare collective legal action that will take the government onto uncharted grounds.

The organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, accused the French government of neglecting its duty to end discriminatory police identity checks — a practice they said was “widespread, deeply rooted in the policing.”

They also called on the authorities to bring in “structural reforms and to take concrete measures to stop these practices,” a statement read.

It is the first time such a collective action is targeting the French state in relation to policing since its introduction as a legal device in the country in 2014.

In keeping with French procedures, the nongovernmental groups, representing dozens of plaintiffs, first sent a formal notice asking the prime minister, and the interior and justice ministers, to address the issue of discriminatory practices by the police within four months. If the government does not take satisfactory action by then, the organizations may file a class-action lawsuit.

Changes requested by the organizations include amending the French code of criminal procedure to explicitly prohibit discriminatory identity checks, introducing specific rules for checking minors and creating a comprehensive database on identity checks.

It is difficult to get a precise measure of racial profiling by the police because ethnic statistics are tightly regulated in France. But a 2017 investigation by the state civil liberties guardian found that “young men perceived to be Black or Arab” were 20 times as likely to be subjected to police identity checks than the rest of the population.

Several studies from nongovernmental organizations, including a Human Rights Watch report released last June, also pointed to systemic discrimination by the police. In 2016, France’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that police identity checks of several young men because of their “real or supposed origin” constituted “a serious misconduct involving the responsibility of the state.”

Police officials and unions have long ignored these reports, and various French governments have balked at pushing for police overhauls. Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, has insisted that instances of police racism were the work of “individuals” rather than a systemic issue.

But even members of the police force have started to sound the alarm.

“It’s a fact — there is racism in the police,” said Noam Anouar, an officer turned whistle-blower who in 2017 revealed racist messages sent by his superiors. He accused the police authorities of regularly finding ways to retrospectively justify practices that could be considered discriminatory.

“The administration has legalized illegality,” Mr. Anouar said.

By driving the government into a judicial corner, the organizations’ collective action aims to end these practices.

Slim Ben Achour, one of the lawyers representing the groups, said the move “confronts the state with its responsibilities,” about what he called its passiveness in addressing the issue.

Mr. Ben Achour said the move had been inspired by several class actions in the United States, such as Floyd v. City of New York, which in 2013 resulted in a significant decrease in stop-and-frisk police practices.

But unlike the lawsuits in the United States that have targeted local police forces, Wednesday’s move involves France’s national police force and could lead to changes that affect a wide range of officers.

“We have the opportunity to change the lives of people all over the country,” Mr. Ben Achour said.

The issue of police racism, which has recently surfaced in other parts of Europe too, has particularly resonated in France, which has large African and Arab populations from its former colonies that it has failed to fully integrate. After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, tens of thousands of people gathered in Paris to protest police violence.

The police beating last December of a Black music producer, Michel Zecler, also forced a reckoning within the French government. After officers beat Mr. Zecler, Mr. Macron said in a letter to a police union that there was “an urgent need” to overhaul the security forces and called for a conference to review the working conditions of the police force and its relations with the French public.

The conference — which brings together representatives of the police forces, elected officials and citizens — started on Monday and is expected to last until the end of May.

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Austin, Texas, Hostage Situation Ends With 2 Dead

Two people were found dead in a medical office in Austin, Texas, late Tuesday after a hostage standoff that lasted more than five hours, according to the police and local news reports.

It was not immediately clear how many people had been held hostage or who had taken them captive.

The police were first notified on Tuesday afternoon that a man with a gun was inside the medical office in central Austin, the TV news station KSAT reported. SWAT team members were seen and heard on a nearby street negotiating with a gunman on Tuesday evening, according to reporters on the scene.

Moments after the police said they were sending in a robot, Jody Barr, a journalist with the TV channel KXAN, wrote on Twitter that he had heard “loud explosions” and what sounded like gunshots at the building.

“Silence since,” he added.

The Austin Police Department later said on Twitter that the “SWAT situation” had ended. They said two people had been pronounced dead at the site.

The police did not immediately respond late Tuesday to phone calls or an email seeking comment. They said on Twitter that their homicide unit would provide more information on Wednesday morning.

Several news outlets identified the medical office as a branch of the Childrens Medical Group. Its website appeared on Tuesday to have been disabled, and a call to the branch office Wednesday morning went unanswered.

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Police Officer Is Shot While Chasing Armed Man in the Bronx

A New York City police officer who is part of a unit that works to get guns off the streets was shot Tuesday night in the lower back by a man whom the officer had been chasing in the Bronx, the police said.

The 31-year-old plainclothes officer was wearing a bulletproof vest, but was struck once below his vest, Dermot F. Shea, the police commissioner, said during a news conference at Jacobi Medical Center early Wednesday morning. The officer, a member of the Gun Violence Suppression Division, was in stable condition at the hospital.

The commissioner said that the officer was expected to survive, but was in significant pain.

Mr. Shea said the violent encounter unfolded quickly. The officer was driving on Lafayette Avenue toward White Plains Road about 10:30 p.m. when he spotted a man whom he attempted to stop, Mr. Shea said. And “within minutes, within seconds, they were in a gunfight,” he said.

The commissioner said that the armed man fired four shots and that the officer fired once during the confrontation.

The suspect, a 24-year-old man with several prior arrests in New York and New Jersey, was taken into custody, police officials said. A gun was recovered under a car after the shooting, which took place in the Soundview section of the Bronx, the authorities said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the officer, a six-and-a-half-year veteran of the New York Police Department, in the hospital. “Everyone, tonight we saw extraordinary bravery,” Mr. de Blasio said at the news conference early Wednesday. “It takes a very special person to go out on the streets at night and take a gun off a criminal.”

The mayor said many of the officer’s relatives have served in the Police Department.

“He’s someone who goes out and puts his life on the line to protect other people in the most powerful way, by depriving criminals of their firearms,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Anyone who wants an example of how hard the N.Y.P.D. works, how committed our officers are, you see it this evening in the Bronx.”

Police officers in riot gear canvassed the area, which is near the Bruckner Expressway.

This is the third shooting of New York City police officers in three months. In November, two officers sustained injuries that were not life-threatening when they were shot in Queens. The gunman was killed.

The following month, on Christmas Eve, a police officer in Brooklyn was shot after responding to a call about domestic violence. The officer was saved by the bulletproof vest he was wearing, officials said.

An unrelenting crime wave has plagued New Yorkers since the pandemic arrived in New York. Citywide, shootings have doubled in 2020 over the previous year, climbing to 1,531, and murders rose 44 percent to 462, a trend that has shown few signs of slowing down in recent weeks, according to police statistics.

Police officials have blamed much of the last year’s gun violence on a deadly combination of a thriving black market in firearms and escalating street feuds, made worse by the pandemic and its attendant economic decline.

Police officials say the department has had trouble curbing gang feuds, in part because its resources have been strained by budget cuts and, last summer, by large-scale protests against police brutality.

Patrick J. Lynch, the longtime president of the city’s largest police union, voiced his frustration at the news conference over the spate of attacks on police.

“It seems like people are getting numb to the fact that cops are getting shot,” Mr. Lynch said.

The Rev. Oswald Denis, a Bronx pastor who has been protesting the increase in violence since gun killings began spiking early last summer, said he first rushed to the scene and found dozens of armed officers canvassing the surrounding areas looking for clues. After he surveyed the scene, which he described as “chaotic,” he headed to Jacobi Medical Center to pray for the officer who was wounded.

“From what I understand, he lost a lot of blood and by the grace of God he will survive,” he said. “I am here. We are a huge family and we stand together, not just with the N.Y.P.D. but with victims. We are for victims against violence as a whole.”

Adam Farence contributed reporting.

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Capitol Riot Investigation Scrutinizes Role of Proud Boys

Investigators involved in the Capitol attack have also focused their attention on the chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio. Mr. Tarrio, who lives in Miami, was scheduled to attend the march in Washington but was thrown out of the city by a judge the day before it happened. When he was arrested on Jan. 4 in connection with the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner that had been torn from a historic Black church during a different round of violent protests last month, police officers found he was carrying two high-capacity rifle magazines emblazoned with the Proud Boys’ chicken logo.

Prosecutors have noted in documents attached to Mr. Biggs’s case that Mr. Tarrio first began encouraging the Proud Boys to go to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” march in late December, when he posted a message on the social media app Parler announcing that members of the group would “turn out in record numbers.”

In the run-up to the rally, Mr. Tarrio also used Parler to urge his members to avoid wearing their traditional black-and-yellow polo shirts but instead to go “incognito” and move about the city in “smaller teams,” prosecutors say.

In an interview with The New York Times one week after the siege, Mr. Tarrio, who took over the Proud Boys from its founder Gavin McInnes, said that the attack on the Capitol was misguided and that anyone who broke windows or took part in the nearly 140 assaults on police officers should be prosecuted.

He tried to minimize the role that the Proud Boys played in the attack — even though, among the 150 people charged so far, prosecutors have brought charges against Nicholas Ochs, the leader of the group’s Hawaii chapter, and Nicholas DeCarlo, one of its top media figures. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy from Rochester, N.Y., was in the first wave of rioters to breach the Capitol, prosecutors say, and stands accused of shattering a window with a plastic police riot shield.

“Obviously, they didn’t help our cause,” Mr. Tarrio said.

Investigators are continuing to sift through online posts and messages by Mr. Tarrio and Mr. Biggs in an effort to determine if they showed any attempt at coordination or planning, the federal law enforcement official said.

On the day of the attack, Mr. Tarrio took to Parler, calling members of the Proud Boys who took part in it “revolutionaries” and urging them not to leave. “For now, I’m enjoying the show,” he wrote, adding, “Do what must be done.”