CHIEF JUSTICE NEWBY SAYS NC CONSTITUTION DOESN'T MENTION FAIR MAPS: Attorneys for plaintiffs in the case were discussing a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to strike down voting maps in that state because the maps were alleged to have violated Pennsylvania’s constitutional requirement of “free and equal” elections. Newby pointed out that the North Carolina Constitution doesn’t say that. “We have ‘free.’ We don't have ‘fair.’ They have ‘free and fair, correct?” Newby asked, apparently misquoting the Pennsylvania constitution. Attorney Allison Riggs, who is representing plaintiff Common Cause in the redistricting case, says that even though the state constitution doesn’t explicitly require fair elections, case law clearly does. “I’ve certainly studied the history,” she said, “and there is not a suggestion anywhere that the failure to put ‘fair’ in the constitution means that there's a presupposition that elections will be run unfairly.” Newby is on weak ground (and he knows it), but I'm confident the majority on the NC Supreme Court won't buy this nonsense.
WAKE SCHOOL LIBRARIANS STAND UP FOR LGBTQ BOOKS: “This board needs to decide what story will be told about WCPSS when our students’ identities were challenged and access to books in our libraries were jeopardized,” Chris Tuttell, the librarian at South Garner High School, told the board. “Did we speak up in favor of tolerance, empathy and compassion or did we remain silent? “Our students are watching and listening and they deserve a board that shows them our beliefs aren’t just words but actions.” A group of parents and community activists filed nine criminal complaints in December with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office accusing the school system of distributing obscene and pornographic material. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman says she won’t file charges because she doesn’t believe the complaints rise to the level of being a criminal matter. Some of the books targeted include “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” “Lawn Boy” and “Melissa,” formerly called “George.” Those books previously have come under fire in North Carolina from Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and nationally for their sexual content. Stupid parent: "If my child wants to play with guns, fine, but these books are evil!"
EUROPEAN LEADERS TRY TO DEFUSE UKRAINE CRISIS: The French president and the German chancellor will head to Moscow and Kyiv in the coming weeks, adding to diplomatic efforts to try to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from launching an invasion of Ukraine and find a way out of the growing tensions. France's Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to visit Moscow on Monday and Kyiv on Tuesday, while Germany's Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv on Feb. 14 and Moscow on Feb. 15. The high-level visits come as China has backed Russia's demand that NATO be precluded from expanding to Ukraine, and after the U.S. accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action. The U.S. has not provided detailed information backing up the claims, which Moscow has vehemently denied. While France is a major player in NATO and is moving troops to Romania as part of the alliance’s preparation for possible Russian action, Macron has also been actively pushing for dialogue with Putin and has spoken to him several times in recent weeks. The two will hold a one-on-one meeting Monday, Macron's office said Friday. Macron is following a French tradition of striking a separate path from the United States in geopolitics, as well as trying to make his own mark on this crisis and defend Europe’s interests. Fine by me, whatever works.
PUTIN AND XI ARE GETTING CHUMMY, MAY HAMPER THE ABOVE EFFORT: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met Friday on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics Friday, a show of solidarity and shared grievance calibrated to challenge the U.S.-led world order amid a tense diplomatic standoff on Ukraine. Their sweeping joint statement to mark the occasion was a unified blast at the United States — and some of the major impasses between Russia and the West playing out with Moscow’s forces massed near Ukraine’s border. They expressed opposition to NATO enlargement and called out “actors representing but the minority on the international scale” who “continue to advocate unilateral approaches to addressing international issues.” President Biden’s absence from the spectacle, having ordered a diplomatic boycott in protest of Beijing’s human rights abuses, underscored the not-so-subtle subtext of Friday’s Olympic event: the renewed division of the world, at the moment at least, into two major camps, China and Russia versus the United States and allies. Xi, who has not met another foreign leader in person in almost two years amid the pandemic, said China and Russia “firmly support each other in safeguarding their core interests,” according to a summary of the meeting by China’s state news agency Xinhua. Adding deeds to the words, Putin announced a deal to supply China with more gas via a new pipeline. It's not the same gas he might hold back from Europe, but it would ease the burden of (and reduce effectiveness of) sanctions.
FORGET SUTURES, MIT HAS DEVELOPED DUCT TAPE FOR SEALING AND HEALING ORGANS AND TISSUE: Like duct tape, the new patch is sticky on one side and smooth on the other. In its current formulation, the adhesive is targeted to seal defects in the gastrointestinal tract, which the engineers describe as the body’s own biological ductwork. In numerous experiments, the team has shown the patch can be quickly stuck to large tears and punctures in the colon, stomach, and intestines of various animal models. The adhesive binds strongly to tissues within several seconds and holds for over a month. It is also flexible, able to expand and contract with a functioning organ as it heals. Once an injury is fully healed, the patch gradually degrades without causing inflammation or sticking to surrounding tissues. The team envisions the surgical sticky patch could one day be stocked in operating rooms and used as a fast and safe alternative or reinforcement to hand-sewn sutures to repair leaks and tears in the gut and other biological tissues. “We think this surgical tape is a good base technology to be made into an actual, off-the-shelf product,” says Hyunwoo Yuk, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Surgeons could use it as they use duct tape in the nonsurgical world. It doesn’t need any preparation or prior step. Just take it out, open, and use.”