Trump's immunity "evisceration," a resurgence in syphilis, and Super Bowl ads aiming for comfort
TODAY'S BIG QUESTION
Why did a federal court shoot down Trump's immunity excuse?
Donald Trump does not enjoy the "complete and total" immunity he has often claimed is his right as a former president, a panel of appellate court judges ruled Tuesday. The decision is a significant blow to Trump's effort to avoid criminal prosecution for allegedly subverting the results of his 2020 election loss.
Last year, Special Counsel Smith attempted unsuccessfully to expedite the process by requesting the Supreme Court rule on Trump's immunity claims immediately. Trump is widely seen as wanting to push back the trial, ideally past the presidential elections in November. After that, should he win, he could simply absolve himself entirely.
While Tuesday's appellate ruling is a major legal setback for Trump's immunity argument, it is hardly the end of the road.
What did the commentators say? Trump's immunity argument was always a legal "long-shot," but by "eviscerating his assertion" in their ruling, the three-judge appellate panel "portrayed his position as not only wrong on the law but also repellent," said The New York Times. That the panel directly addressed Smith's specific allegations against Trump was "especially notable" because the same court had previously "avoided weighing in on Trump's Jan. 6 actions," CNN said.
While Trump's claims of total immunity are "obviously wrong," this ruling "has gone overboard in the other direction," countered The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Speaking with Fox News, conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley said Trump's claim was "sweeping and unprecedented" and in that context, it was "not surprising that this panel rejected it."
What next? Insisting that Trump "respectfully disagrees with the D.C. Circuit's decision," campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Trump would appeal the ruling. Trump has several options — and little time. The appellate court gave Trump's legal team until Feb. 12 to petition the Supreme Court to pause the criminal case while they consider taking up his appeal. This would essentially "stop the clock" while Trump's attorneys craft a more focused response to this ruling, said CNN.
The panel's ruling is such that the case is essentially only paused if Trump appeals directly to SCOTUS, not the full D.C. Circuit. In his goal to delay his trial, "one tactic has been blunted," The Washington Post said.
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Super Bowl commercials are playing it safe
These are polarized times. The Super Bowl is one of the few events that can bring us all together, and advertisers want to keep it that way. That's why Super Bowl commercials are "playing it safe this year," Variety said. While the big game has long been seen as a venue "where risk-taking is welcome," most of the ads instead "will aim to comfort or amuse" the expected 110 million viewers.
One reason for the caution: "It's getting harder for commercials to score with consumers," said Linda and O.C. Ferrell of Auburn University at The Conversation. Many traditional advertisers, like the Big Four automakers, are skipping the game in favor of "more tightly targeted advertising campaigns." Why? "Gen Z, in particular, is not impressed by Super Bowl ads," which cost a cool $7 million for a 30-second spot.
The Taylor Swift effect One dynamic affecting marketing decisions? Taylor Swift, of course. Axios said the pop superstar, who is dating Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce, "helped drive an unprecedented ratings bump for the NFL from the sidelines." Her popularity with young women helped bring them to the game, so "beauty and health food brands are buying up" Super Bowl ad spots. None are mentioning Swift specifically, Digiday said, but for brands like Dove and NYX Cosmetics, it's "difficult to ignore" the influence of her "newfound association with the sport."
Something you won't see? A lot of crypto ads. CNN expects a big shift away from the tech companies featured in recent years. Instead, "largely traditional advertisers" will dominate — yes, the Budweiser Clydesdales will be there.
'Stands alone' for marketers Those ads will be worth the money, The San Diego Union-Tribune said. Live sports are "one of the few areas that can attract a lot of viewers," said one ad exec. But another strategist offered caution: "It must also be part of a business plan, not a one-off ad that hopes to be the business plan itself." It's best not to blow a whole year's marketing budget on a Super Bowl moonshot, in other words.
The Super Bowl is one of the only events with a mass television audience, The New York Times said, even as the NBA and NHL have "struggled to retain and increase viewership." This means the big game is a good bet for big brands. "The Super Bowl stands alone as a mass-marketing opportunity on television."
Statistic of the day
14,264:The number of times U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used solitary confinement in the past five years, according to a new report from Harvard Law School. This figure, a violation of ICE’s own policies, surpasses the criteria for torture used by the United Nations and is also likely an undercount. Harvard Law School
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Politics used to be the art of the possible. Now it's the art of the impossible."
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaking to Semafor about the role polarization played in the recent failure of a bipartisan border bill
Syphilis cases are on the rise in the US
The U.S. is seeing a resurgence in syphilis, a disease once almost completely eliminated in the country.
Why is it spiking? The bacterial infection reached the highest rate of new infections since 1950 in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of cases increased among every age group, and the uptick included cases of congenital syphilis. South Dakota was the state with the highest rate of infections, and Native Americans and Alaska Natives were the ethnic groups with the highest rate of infections. "The syphilis epidemic touches nearly every community, but some racial and ethnic groups bear the brunt because of longstanding social inequities," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the CDC, said in The New York Times.
Syphilis can be dangerous if left untreated and can cause damage to the heart and brain, blindness, deafness and paralysis. If contracted during pregnancy, the disease could cause a miscarriage or stillbirth or lead to disabilities and developmental delays in surviving infants. While most common in gay and bisexual men, the condition is also rising in heterosexual men and women. Experts believe that the increase in drug addiction across the country is playing a substantive role in the increase in cases.
What is being done? Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) organized a national task force for syphilis. "Addressing the resurgence of syphilis and congenital syphilis requires a concerted effort," said ADM Rachel L. Levine, the assistant secretary for health and chair of the National Syphilis and Congenital Syphilis Syndemic Federal Task Force.
The mounting number of syphilis cases has spawned another problem: a medicine shortage. The best medication to treat the disease is penicillin G benzathine, which is sold as Bicillin L-A in the U.S. by pharmaceutical company Pfizer. There has been a shortage of the drug since April 2023. "Wishing hard won't prevent sexually transmitted infections," Mermin said to the Times. "We need sustained public health efforts."
Good day 🐢
… for Aldabra giant tortoises.The reptiles are breeding in Madagascar for the first time in 600 years after being eradicated from the area by 15th-century hunters. A dozen of the 700-pound herbivores were brought there from the Seychelles in 2018. The reintroduction has been a success, with the original group birthing 154 babies.
Bad day 💨
… forThai weed enthusiasts.Thailand is considering banning recreational cannabis use after decriminalization "prompted hundreds of cannabis shops to sprout around the country," said Agence France Presse. The new bill will amend the existing one to limit the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes only, Health Minister Chonlanan Srikaew said. "The use for fun is considered wrong."
A young polar bear snoozes on a small iceberg in Norway, in an image that won the UK's Nima Sarikhani the People's Choice Award in the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Nima Sarikhani
Camping is not just for summer. During the winter, when the temperatures have dropped, the leaves have fallen and the snow is glistening, you get a different appreciation for the great outdoors. Bonus: There are much fewer people (and bugs!) around.
Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah Known for its overlooks, Dead Horse Point State Park is even more gorgeous in the winter, when fresh snow covers the vibrant red rocks. The park has seven miles of hiking trails that offer canyon and Colorado River views, so plan for a sunrise or sunset, when the rocks take on an ethereal glow. One advantage of camping overnight is being able to participate in special ranger-led activities.
Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia Hungry Mother State Park is one big playground for the entire family. The park's centerpiece is its 108-acre lake, which seems to sparkle more in the winter. There are also more than 17 miles of trails open year-round, and kids are encouraged to explore every inch of them through the Junior Naturalist program. You can rough it by staying at the clean, quiet Camp Burson Campground or book a cabin.
Lake Carmi State Park in Vermont Lake Carmi State Park is a multipurpose winner with ice enthusiasts. When the lake freezes over, you can ice-fish or -skate. But if snow is more your thing, there are plenty of trails for snowshoeing. Lake Carmi State Park has the biggest campground in Vermont, and during the winter, off-season access is hike-in only.
'All sides would benefit from regime change — in Israel' Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post Ending the Israel-Hamas war requires "regime change" and not just in Gaza, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. Obviously, "Hamas cannot continue to control Gaza from where it terrorizes both Israel and Palestinians." The Palestinian Authority also needs to "find credible leadership." But to resolve the conflict, Israel must undergo its own transformation by repudiating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government. They've "lost the confidence of the country" by undermining democracy and mismanaging the war. 'Trump's immunity defeat isn't the setback it seems to be' Michael Conway at CNN The appeals court rejection of former President Donald Trump's immunity claim allows the case against him over his "role in the Jan. 6 insurrection to move forward," says Michael Conway at CNN. But it's not a "clear-cut victory for efforts to try Trump before Election Day." The 28 days it took the court to rule and the appeals Trump has left probably ensure his "strategy of delaying the outcome" of his trial until after November will work. 'Republicans are lying about their own border bill' Linda Chavez in The Bulwark Republicans are so desperate to criticize the tough border security bill they themselves negotiated that they're resorting to making things up, says Linda Chavez in The Bulwark. Their "biggest lies" include the claim President Joe Biden can halt illegal immigration without a new law — he can't — and that the bill would create a "mass amnesty" — it won't. Republicans just want to kill the bill to "keep the issue alive for the 2024 election."
About 39% of Americans, including 74% of Republicans, would be OK with Donald Trump being a dictator for a day if he were to be reelected, according to a new UMass-Amherst poll of 1,064 respondents. However, many majorities across racial and gender groups were against the idea, including 67% of women and 82% of Black people.
WORD OF THE DAY
A viral TikTok aesthetic trend of wearing bows, pastel colors, lace and chiffon to embrace femininity. The trend helps some feel "really empowered" after "not being taken seriously" for being girly while growing up, a woman said to BBC.
Evening Review was written and edited by Theara Coleman, Nadia Croes, Catherine Garcia, Harold Maass, Scott Hocker, Justin Klawans, Kelsee Majette, Joel Mathis, Summer Meza, Devika Rao, Rafi Schwartz, Anahi Valenzuela and Peter Weber, with illustrations by Stephen Kelly and Julia Wytrazek.
Image credits, from top: Illustration by Stephen Kelly / Getty Images; Getty Images; Christoph Burgstedt / Science Photo Library / Getty Images; Christopher Kimmel / Aurora Photos / Getty Images