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February 19, 2016
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In 2006, Harper Lee wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey about her lifelong love of books — a letter that was then published in Oprah's magazine, O. "Do you remember when you learned to read, or like me, can you not even remember a time when you didn't know how?" Lee writes in the letter. She goes on to passionately detail a childhood spent swapping books with friends:

Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.

And, Oprah, can you imagine curling up in bed to read a computer? Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal. [Letters of Note]

Book lovers will find themselves nodding along. Read Lee's full letter at Letters of Note. Jeva Lange

9:33 p.m. ET
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Pope Francis said Sunday that gay people and others who have been marginalized by the Church deserve an apology.

"I believe that the Church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor," he said. "It has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons." The pontiff made his remarks aboard the papal plane on his way back to the Vatican from Armenia, after he was asked by a reporter if he agreed with comments made by one of his advisers, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who following the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando said the Church owes an apology to gays for being marginalized.

"The Church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say 'the Church,' I mean we Christians because the Church is holy; we are the sinners," Francis said. "We Christians must say we are sorry." Catherine Garcia

8:55 p.m. ET

Police say a rally held by the Traditionalist Worker Party in Sacramento, California, turned violent Sunday afternoon when clashes broke out between members of the white supremacist group and counter-protesters.

At least seven people were taken to the hospital, including two with critical stab wounds, Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Chris Harvey said. The TWP had a permit for the rally, which Harvey described as "chaotic," and members were outnumbered by hundreds of counter-protesters. Witnesses say some people were hit by pieces of concrete and sticks, and many were hiding their faces with masks and scarves, CNN reports. No one has been arrested.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the TWP was founded in January 2015 as part of a right-wing extremist "umbrella group that aims to indoctrinate high school and college students into white nationalism." Catherine Garcia

12:48 p.m. ET

A crowd of onlookers and a brass band on Sunday applauded the official opening of new, expanded locks in the Panama Canal, which from today can accommodate larger shipping freighters than ever.

A 984-foot container ship from China made the inaugural trip through the new facilities, the first of many such mega ships that will now transport up to 14,000 containers at a time through the canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Previously, the largest ships the canal could handle carried just 5,000 containers.

"This is a grand accomplishment for the people of Panama," said U.S. ambassador to Panama John Feeley of the occasion. "This expansion will reconfigure, permanently, the map of the global shipping industry." The expansion took $5.4 billion, 10 years, and 40,000 workers to complete. Bonnie Kristian

12:18 p.m. ET
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Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders said Friday that he would be willing to vote for his competitor, Hillary Clinton, come November, but in a CNN interview Sunday he reiterated that he is not yet ready to formally endorse her.

Clinton will have to "stand up" and "be bolder" than she has been to ensure his voters — who are numerous enough to sink the Clinton campaign in the general election if they chose not to support her — will come around to the presumptive nominee, Sanders said. "Those people voted for me, I believe, because they said it is time to have a president who has the guts to stand up to big money interests," he explained, citing issues including health care, education, and fracking as topics on which he wants to see progress from Clinton.

Sanders also reiterated his strident opposition to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, but maintained that "a lot of that responsibility about winning the American people over to her side is going to rest with Secretary Clinton." Bonnie Kristian

11:51 a.m. ET
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The Supreme Court is due to render judgment Monday on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a major abortion case involving a Texas law which holds independent abortion clinics to state standards for "ambulatory surgical centers" (small facilities that host a limited range of surgeries) and requires the clinics' doctors to have admitting privileges at a full hospital no more than 30 miles away.

Supporters of the law say it is a necessary regulatory protection for women seeking abortions, while opponents note that in practice it has caused most Texan abortion clinics, which failed to meet these standards, to close. This, they say — and the Supreme Court will evaluate — places an "undue burden" on women per the standards of SCOTUS's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Now, right before the ruling is expected to appear, a state employee has accused the Texas Department of Health Services of intentionally suppressing data relevant to the case and "instructing staff members to mislead people who ask for it." The information in question is the official annual data on abortions performed in Texas in 2014, the first full year the law under review was in effect.

The department has released a provisional data set which does not include the detail the final report will contain. "The data is not final," said spokeswoman Carrie Williams. "If the data were final, we would release it. We hope to have it finalized soon." Bonnie Kristian

11:33 a.m. ET
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Iceland elected its first new president in 20 years on Saturday, picking for the mostly ceremonial office a historian named Guðni Jóhannesson.

A professor at the University of Iceland, Jóhannesson campaigned on an anti-establishment platform, including a proposal to allow citizens to initiate referendums for the whole country of 323,000 to weigh in on proposed legislation. He has never been a member of a political party and only decided to run for office a few months ago.

The previous president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, served five consecutive four-year terms, but suffered a drop in popularity after the revelation that he, like former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. Iceland's parliament, the Alþingi (or Althing), is the oldest extant democratic assembly in the world. Bonnie Kristian

10:58 a.m. ET
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Alexander Hamilton is among the most famous American statesmen to never be president, but the hit Broadway musical based on his life will perhaps help Hillary Clinton do what Hamilton did not.

The Clinton campaign has rented the whole 1,300-seat Richard Rogers Theatre for a special fundraising performance of Hamilton on Tuesday, July 12. Individual tickets start at $2,700 — the same as the maximum individual donation permitted for a given federal candidate per election cycle — though big spenders can pay $100,000 to sit with Clinton herself and get an invite to the Democratic National Convention, which may also host Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The money raised — expected to top $3.5 million — will be split between the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee per a joint fundraising agreement. Bonnie Kristian

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