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  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling for Punxsutawney Phil to be retired to a reputable sanctuary and to be replaced with an animatronic groundhog that would use artificial intelligence to predict the weather. “Gentle, vulnerable groundhogs are not barometers,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is offering the club a win-win situation: Breathe life into a tired tradition and finally do right by a long-suffering animal.” The following is the full letter that Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, sent to Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club: 'Times change. Traditions evolve. It’s long overdue for Phil to be retired. 'As a prey species, groundhogs actively avoid humans. Being in close proximity to the public causes these animals great stress. When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what’s happening. Being relegated to a library “habitat” for the other days of the year doesn’t allow him or the other groundhog there to dig, burrow, or forage. It’s no kind of life for these animals. 'Using technologically advanced electromechanical devices such as animatronics instead of live animals is more popular than ever. We even have the technology to create an animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence (AI) that could actually predict the weather. An AI Phil would renew interest in Punxsutawney, generating a great deal of buzz, much like Sony’s robot dog “aibo,” which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands. By creating an AI Phil, you could keep Punxsutawney at the center of Groundhog Day but in a much more progressive way. Talk about taking your town’s annual tradition in a fresh and innovative direction! 'Today’s young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn’t even worthy of a text message. This is a generation whose members book rides on their smart phones and will never walk into a bank to deposit a check. Ignoring the nation’s fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day. “We’d be happy to make recommendations for a sanctuary that would welcome Phil and the other Punxsutawney groundhog. Instead of working at cross-purposes, let’s collaborate to create a sunny future. I look forward to hearing from you.”
  • Efforts by the White House and Senate Republican leaders to quickly bring President Donald Trump's impeachment trial to an end this week were facing uncertainty on Tuesday, as the Senate Majority Leader indicated to GOP Senators that he does not currently have enough votes to stop witnesses like former Trump aide John Bolton from being called to testify. That message on witnesses was delivered at a closed door meeting of GOP Senators, which convened immediately after the President's lawyers had ended their opening arguments, ridiculing the idea that stories in a new book by Bolton should find their way into the impeachment trial. 'Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true - even if true - would rise to the level of abuse of power or an impeachable offense,' argued the President's personal attorney Jay Sekulow, who confronted the Bolton story head on in arguments. 'You cannot impeach a President on an unsourced allegation,' as Sekulow told Senators the Bolton book was 'inadmissible' as evidence. But the warnings about Bolton from the Trump legal team did not immediately dissuade all GOP Senators, as just four could join with Democrats to ask for his testimony, which would short circuit efforts to end this trial later in the week. 'I’ve said that I think that Mr. Bolton probably has some things that would be helpful for us,' said Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK). 'We’ll figure out how we might be able to learn that.' Murkowski, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) were three GOP Senators considered to be possible votes to hear from Bolton, the former national security adviser for President Trump, whose new book reportedly raises questions about how Mr. Trump dealt with Ukraine, and the request for that government to start investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. On conservative talk radio Tuesday night, there were also concerns aired that other Republicans considering testimony from witnesses included Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and others. One of those Republicans against witnesses - Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - warned that if Bolton is called, then Republicans would move to bring in a number of other witnesses as well. 'If you go down the road of witnesses, it's not going to be one - it's going to be many,' Graham told reporters in the Capitol. Democrats were left waiting on the sidelines, wondering what would happen with the GOP, not fully convinced that dissension in the ranks on Tuesday would translate into a defeat for the Senate Majority Leader at the end of the week. With the opening arguments for the President's side now finished, the Senate will start up to 16 hours of questions by Senators on Wednesday, which is expected to go for two days. That would bring the Senate to a showdown over witnesses on Friday. 'It seems to me the sooner we can get to a vote on conviction or acquittal, the better,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who said he is ready to vote, without any new witnesses. Coming back from a campaign rally in New Jersey on Tuesday night, the President made clear his frustration with the process. “The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!” the President wrote on Twitter.
  • A 15-year-old boy is accused of swiping a money bag that had thousands of dollars in concession and merchandise sales from a Golden Gloves boxing event in Tulsa this past weekend. Aaron Sloan from the Engine Room boxing gym says that money is used to pay for boxers to go to the Golden Gloves national tournament. The Sheriff's Office says they found more than $3,000 in the teen's room. “I'm not a hundred percent sure how much was in there. We were estimating it based off t-shirt sales and concession sales, but we got a good chunk of it back, so we're thankful for that,” Sloan says. Someone identified the teen after seeing him on surveillance video from the event.   
  • State troopers were called to a crash Tuesday morning on Highway 151 near the Keystone Dam. Troopers say 25-year-old Paige Clow was driving northbound when another driver crossed the center line and hit her car. The other driver wasn’t injured. Investigators are still looking into what caused the crash.

Washington Insider

  • Efforts by the White House and Senate Republican leaders to quickly bring President Donald Trump's impeachment trial to an end this week were facing uncertainty on Tuesday, as the Senate Majority Leader indicated to GOP Senators that he does not currently have enough votes to stop witnesses like former Trump aide John Bolton from being called to testify. That message on witnesses was delivered at a closed door meeting of GOP Senators, which convened immediately after the President's lawyers had ended their opening arguments, ridiculing the idea that stories in a new book by Bolton should find their way into the impeachment trial. 'Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true - even if true - would rise to the level of abuse of power or an impeachable offense,' argued the President's personal attorney Jay Sekulow, who confronted the Bolton story head on in arguments. 'You cannot impeach a President on an unsourced allegation,' as Sekulow told Senators the Bolton book was 'inadmissible' as evidence. But the warnings about Bolton from the Trump legal team did not immediately dissuade all GOP Senators, as just four could join with Democrats to ask for his testimony, which would short circuit efforts to end this trial later in the week. 'I’ve said that I think that Mr. Bolton probably has some things that would be helpful for us,' said Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK). 'We’ll figure out how we might be able to learn that.' Murkowski, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) were three GOP Senators considered to be possible votes to hear from Bolton, the former national security adviser for President Trump, whose new book reportedly raises questions about how Mr. Trump dealt with Ukraine, and the request for that government to start investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. On conservative talk radio Tuesday night, there were also concerns aired that other Republicans considering testimony from witnesses included Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and others. One of those Republicans against witnesses - Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - warned that if Bolton is called, then Republicans would move to bring in a number of other witnesses as well. 'If you go down the road of witnesses, it's not going to be one - it's going to be many,' Graham told reporters in the Capitol. Democrats were left waiting on the sidelines, wondering what would happen with the GOP, not fully convinced that dissension in the ranks on Tuesday would translate into a defeat for the Senate Majority Leader at the end of the week. With the opening arguments for the President's side now finished, the Senate will start up to 16 hours of questions by Senators on Wednesday, which is expected to go for two days. That would bring the Senate to a showdown over witnesses on Friday. 'It seems to me the sooner we can get to a vote on conviction or acquittal, the better,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who said he is ready to vote, without any new witnesses. Coming back from a campaign rally in New Jersey on Tuesday night, the President made clear his frustration with the process. “The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!” the President wrote on Twitter.
  • With Republican Senators facing uncertainty over whether to call witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump's legal team wrapped up its opening arguments in the President's impeachment trial on Tuesday by calling on the Senate to reject the case from House Democrats. 'It is time for this end end here now,' said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. 'We urge the Senate to reject these articles of impeachment.' After almost completely ignoring the question of whether Bolton could tell a story about the President's actions regarding Ukraine, the Trump legal team took on Bolton directly on Tuesday afternoon. 'Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true - even if true - would rise to the level of abuse of power or an impeachable offense,' said the President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. 'You cannot impeach a President on an unsourced allegation,' Sekulow concluded, as he said the President's defense was 'compelling.' Originally, the White House legal team seemed to be ready to go until close to dinner - but instead used less than two hours of arguments in their third and final day before the Senate. Bubbling underneath the surface of the final summary by the White House legal team was the question of whether GOP Senators would agree to call Bolton - and others as witnesses. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said there would not be a scenario where just one witness would be called by the Senate in this impeachment trial. 'If people want witnesses, we're going to get a lot of witnesses,' Graham told reporters before Tuesday's impeachment session began, as he said the GOP would be interested in calling Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, the whistleblower and more. Democrats felt like the White House wrap up was lacking. 'It's clear that they are still reeling from the revelations of John Bolton's book,” said lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
  • As lawyers for President Donald Trump pressed arguments Monday about questions related to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter's involvement with an energy company in Ukraine, some GOP lawmakers openly said the information should play a role in the current race for the White House, where Biden could well run against the President this November. 'I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa Caucus voters,' said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), as GOP Senators openly mused about how the proceedings might impact other Democrats running for President. 'Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?' Ernst said to reporters at the Capitol. 'Iowa Caucuses are this next Monday.' Naming the four Democratic Senators running for President, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) claimed all four were listening intently to the Biden charges, and maybe thinking about what it would mean politically. “I've never seen them all so attentive,” Barrasso told reporters. 'I think at a minimum, the most important witness for the Senate to hear from is Hunter Biden,' said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), as Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said it was the 'crux' of the impeachment trial. Democrats said the evidence was painfully clear that while Republicans said the President was not trying to go after a political opponent by asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens - the GOP was actually now using that same information to do everything possible to slow Biden as the 2020 race gets underway in earnest next week. 'Watching the expected Burisma-Biden barrage from Team Trump today, you got the feeling someone said 'If we have to go through this crappy impeachment thing, let’s at least get our money’s worth,'' said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for President Barack Obama's two campaigns for the White House. 'Incredible,' tweeted Michael McFaul, President Obama's former Ambassador to Russia. 'Admitting openly that Trump and team are using this impeachment trial to take down Biden in Iowa.' 'Mucking up Joe distracts from Trump's illicit recruitment of a foreign government to help win re-election,' said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). 'Don't get it twisted.' 'We have strong evidence that President Trump withheld military aid to force Ukraine to smear Vice President Biden,' said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). The comments from Ernst, Cruz, and other GOP Senators came after the first extended presentation by the President's legal team concerning Hunter Biden's work for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which Republicans have said presented corruption issues which drew a natural interest from President Trump. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi made the arguments on Biden for the Trump defense team, as she labeled Hunter Biden's board membership with Burisma, “nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst” on the Senate floor. 'The President had an obligation to investigate corruption,' Cruz told reporters on Monday evening, as he criticized Democrats for ignoring the issue. 'It would have been wrong for President Trump to have NOT been worried about the Bidens' business dealings in Ukraine,' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted. While Graham has consistently complained to reporters about a lack of interest in the Hunter Biden story, Bondi's presentation on the Senate floor repeatedly noted news stories about Biden, and an interest in the matter. “The media didn't stop asking questions,” Bondi said, quoting stories from ABC, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and more.
  • A day after reports that former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton had submitted a book manuscript to the White House for review in late December which included passages that might contradict the assertions of President Donald Trump with regards to the Ukraine investigation, some GOP Senators on Monday quickly opened the door to approving testimony by Bolton in the President's impeachment trial. 'I think it's increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,' Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters on Capitol Hill. 'The reports about John Bolton's book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues,' said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The rapidly unfolding developments came as the White House continued to try to ward off the idea of opening the President's trial to witnesses, which had seemed to be less and less of a possibility - until the Bolton story broke on Sunday night. Democrats, who have been calling for testimony by Bolton, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and others who refused to appear before the House impeachment investigation, urged voters to swamp GOP offices with calls demanding witnesses. “Keep. Calling.” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). “This is stunning,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer in a news conference at the Capitol. “How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness and request his documents?” Schumer told reporters. Many GOP Senators had said little about the Bolton news, and that continued as they arrived back at the Capitol for the resumption of the President's impeachment trial. “To me, the facts of the case remain the same,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) at a GOP news conference which was scheduled, cancelled, and then scheduled again with a smaller cast of Republicans. “It really doesn't change anything in terms of the process,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) at the same event. But there were hints of turmoil inside GOP ranks, as Sen. Kelly Loeffler R-GA blasted Romney on Twitter, accusing him of trying to 'appease the left' by considering testimony from Bolton, which Loeffler said would be used to 'slander' President Trump. “The circus is over,” Loeffler tweeted. “There seems to be a giant cover up among so many leading people in the White House,” Schumer added.
  • With the White House legal team ready to resume the defense of President Donald Trump on Monday in his Senate impeachment trial, GOP Senators joined the President in targeting the lead House prosecutor in the case, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as the President on Sunday called Schiff 'corrupt' and 'probably a very sick man.' 'He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!' the President tweeted. The President's tweet was just a coda to a weekend filled with attacks on Schiff by GOP lawmakers in Congress, as in unison they praised the start of the President's impeachment defense. 'It completely undermined the case of the Democrats and truly undermined the credibility of Adam Schiff,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), as GOP Senators rushed to the microphones on Saturday afternoon to denounce the California Democrat. 'Adam Schiff has been involved in this from the beginning,' said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), as Republicans tried to portray Schiff as the evil genius behind the various investigations which have dogged this President. 'I think Adam Schiff got kneecapped,' said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in an interview on Fox News, using a phrase sometimes associated with a mob punishment. Democrats said it was nothing but Republicans and the President trying to focus on anything other than the evidence in the impeachment trial. 'You are not a king, nor a mafia Don,' said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). 'We aren’t afraid of you. But we can tell you are afraid of us.' Asked on NBC's 'Meet the Press' if he took the tweet as a threat, Schiff said that was likely the President's intent. The President's lawyers will continue their arguments starting at 1 pm ET on Monday before the U.S. Senate - if no witnesses are called by Senators, then the trial could be over by the end of the week.