March 7, 2021

On the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the name given to the events on March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama, which included a civil rights march led by the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and the violent response from state police — former President Barack Obama's foundation revealed the text that will appear on the exterior of his planned presidential library in Chicago.

The words will come from a speech Obama, the United States' first Black president, gave in Selma on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 2015.

The passage that has been selected reads: "You are America. Unconstrained by habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow ... America is not the project of any one person. Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word 'We.' 'We The People.' 'We Shall Overcome.' 'Yes We Can.' That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours."

Watch the introductory clip below. Tim O'Donnell

7:58 a.m.

It seems recent reports about Sylvester Stallone joining former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club may not have been rock solid.

The Rocky star has shot down reports that he recently became a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, writing on Instagram, "I would like to say to everyone that this never happened. This is just not true. It NEVER ever happened."

It had previously been reported by Page Six that Stallone was at Trump's club last month after he bought an estate nearby, with a source claiming to the outlet, "Sly just became a member of Mar-a-Lago." That quickly drew backlash on the left, with George Takei simply tweeting, "Seriously?"

It sounds like Stallone really was at Mar-a-Lago recently, as his representative told The Hollywood Reporter he was there for a fundraising dinner, and "from that event it was mistakenly assumed that he was there as a member."

But the representative added that Rocky himself is "officially not a member of the Mar-a-Lago Club," as he "did not join the organization" or "pay initiation dues." He is, however, a member of the Breakers Club in Palm Beach. So there you have it. Stallone while denying the reports wrote on Instagram that he means "no disrespect to anyone," adding — in a phase that could probably use a comma — "so keep punching folks." Brendan Morrow

7:57 a.m.

While India, parts of South America, and other areas of the world are experiencing another wave of COVID-19, the U.S. appears to be treading water with new cases and continuing a downward trend in deaths. According to The Washington Post's tracker, the seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths was 765 on Tuesday, a slight uptick from the weekend but a rate last seen Oct. 20. A running count by economist Patrick Chovanec put Tuesday's seven-day average at 748, the lowest rate since Oct. 17.

While deaths have declined 2 percent in the past week, hospitalizations rose 2.6 percent and new cases were up 11 percent, the Post reports. And some parts of the U.S., notably Michigan, are faring much worse, with per capital cases up 18 percent to a new high and deaths rising 32 percent.

Overall, 563,449 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. And 122.3 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 75.3 million people — or 23 percent of the U.S. population — fully vaccinated. Peter Weber

6:20 a.m.

President Biden isn't exactly coated in political Teflon, but he's "well regarded by voters" and "even Donald Trump, the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of electoral politics, has had troubles landing a punch," Sam Stein writes at Tuesday's Politico Nightly. "His latest nickname for the president — 'Saintly Joe Biden' — was debuted to donors over the weekend. It was meant as derisive … we think."

But the bigger concern for the Republican Party, and a future Trump restoration campaign, is the lack of any real "grassroots movement emerging to confront the White House," Stein reports, noting that the Tea Party was already in full swing at this point in Barack Obama's presidency. "Biden’s perceived benignness — the difficulty in actually getting people to despise the guy" — is one reason, he argues, but the other big factor is Trump himself.

Proto-Tea Partier former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and other Republicans told Politico that "a movement like the Tea Party emerges when people galvanize around ideas. When they galvanize around an individual, they're really just waiting for that individual to act or guide them. Put another way: While the Tea Party exploited a GOP leadership vacuum in 2009, there is a need for a vacuum in 2021." And "that may very well be the gift that Trump has given Biden," Stein said. "As the former president sits in Mar-a-Lago, plotting his next move, he has brought stasis to the Republican Party." Read more at Politico. Peter Weber

5:27 a.m.

"In the last few months, we've gotten all sorts of vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Montero — but for at least a little while, it looks like there's gonna be one less," Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. "The FDA has temporarily halted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while they look into six cases of rare blood clots in people who got that vaccine." And sure, "you don't want the vaccine for one disease to give you another disease," he said, but "you're more likely to get struck by lightning 10 times" than get blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Noah listed dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, including, yes, blood clots.

The odds of getting blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson shot is "less than one in a million," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. "To put that in perspective, it's slightly better odds than you have of getting to visit Willy Wonka's Fantabulous Chocolate Factory — which, for the record, kills or maims four out of the five children who set foot inside." He also caught up on the latest Matt Gaetz troubles — the only "feel-good story on the news horizon," he deadpanned — and tried to dissuade Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson from running for president.

The FDA and CDC are only "recommending a 'pause'" in Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, though "anyone who's ever been dumped was like 'Oh boy, we know what pause means,'" Jimmy Fallon joked on The Tonight Show. "Johnson & Johnson is owned by the same family who owns the New York Jets, so don't think of this as a pause, think of it more like a 50-year rebuild. And today if you had a Johnson & Johnson appointment in New York, they gave out Pfizer instead. Yeah, it's like going to a restaurant and hearing, 'We're out of Coke, is Dom Pérignon okay?'"

"I blame the second Johnson — he never graduated high school," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "But now the White House is scrambling to restore confidence in vaccines. Public trust is already a major obstacle to achieving herd immunity, so what does this setback mean?" Well, "six out of 7 million means getting the vaccine is safer than not getting the vaccine," he said. "You got it? Then get it."

Well, Lin-Manuel Miranda is still going to get his shot, The Late Show sang.

Late Night's Seth Meyers regretted not making that same Hamilton joke. Peter Weber

3:20 a.m.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the gap between federal taxes owed and paid "could approach and possibly exceed $1 trillion per year," more than double the official estimate of $441 billion. IRS research shows that $175 billion of those underpayments come from the wealthiest Americans, Rettig said, and other factors include the rise in untaxed cryptocurrencies, income from foreign sources, and illegal income.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called the $1 trillion tax gap "a jaw-dropping figure" and asked Rettig how the IRS could fit that. Rettig suggested better reporting of income from third parties, more electronic tax return filing, more regulation of tax return preparers, and a larger enforcement budget. After years of budget cuts, the IRS is "outgunned" by tax cheats and dodgers, he said, endorsing a proposal to take agency funding out of the discretionary stream subject to congressional whimsy and politics. President Biden has proposed raising the IRS budget by 10.4 percent, mostly to boost enforcement.

Rettig also said that while it will be a challenge and require extra hiring, the IRS expects to be ready to start making monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child by July 1, as set out in Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law. The IRS is "not historically" a benefits agency, he said, but it "will be working hard to deliver this program quickly and efficiently." The IRS was also responsible for sending out three rounds of COVID-19 stimulus checks over the past year. The Week Staff

2:03 a.m.

Officially, Jessie Hamilton was a cook at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Louisiana State University, but she was also a therapist, a cheerleader, and a friend.

Starting in 1982, Hamilton worked at the Phi Gamma Delta (also known as Fiji) house for 14 years. She made about 100 brothers delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but was also available to lend an ear, offering advice on everything from relationships to coursework.

"I was always there to talk things through with them," she told The Washington Post. "They'd come in the kitchen and sit on top of the counter and tell me their problems." Fiji brother Andrew Fusaiotti graduated in the late 1980s, but can still remember his talks with Hamilton. "She was truly like a mother to us," he told the Post. "She treated us like we were her own kids. She was always looking out for us."

A sharecropper's daughter, Hamilton started working at 14, and has had at least two jobs at a time ever since. She's kept in touch with several of the brothers, and they decided for her 74th birthday this month, they were going to give her the gift of retirement. Fusaiotti found out from Hamilton's children that she needed $45,000 to pay off her mortgage, so he started a fundraiser. More than 90 brothers from across the country donated a total of $51,764.

On April 3, a dozen vaccinated brothers surprised Hamilton outside of her Baton Rouge home, and after singing "Happy Birthday," they gave her two checks — one to pay off the mortgage, with the rest to spend on whatever Hamilton wants. "If I hadn't been sitting, I would have fell down," she told the Post. Hamilton has put in notice at her two jobs, and plans to spend part of her retirement visiting with the Fiji brothers. "They were my kids," she said. "They still are." Catherine Garcia

1:56 a.m.

If Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Florida's Seminole County, has been helping federal investigators determine whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for sex with cash and gifts — as reported Tuesday night by The New York Times and The Washington Post — that's probably bad news for Gaetz. But the feds have also been trying to get testimony from the former 17-year-old, who appears to tie together several of the Gaetz threads, Politico reports.

The woman, who Politico isn't identifying because she may be the victim of a sex crime, not only had a sexual relationship with Greenberg and possibly Gaetz between May and November 2017, according to federal authorities. She also went on a September 2018 trip to the Bahamas with Gaetz, hand surgeon and Gaetz donor Jason Pirozzolo, GOP state legislator Halsey Beshears, and four other young women, Politico reports. Greenberg was not invited on that trip, three people told Politico, "because of a conflict with Pirozzolo's girlfriend."

The unidentified woman had turned 18 a few months before the Bahamas trip, and nobody in their party engaged in prostitution, one of the other women told Politico. But, she and others sources added, three of the women on Beshears' private jets looked so young, U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned them when they landed in Florida. Gaetz, who flew commercial to the Bahamas, has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex.

The woman could testify if that's true — her age at the time is a crucial detail in the federal investigation — along with giving the feds other information on the Bahamas trip. Three Gaetz friends told Politico the congressman has said he waited until the woman was 18 to have sex with her. If Gaetz and his friends traded drugs or cash for sex, that could be a crime in itself, regardless of whether the sex was with underage girls, Politico says.

Federal investigators executed a search warrant this winter and seized Gaetz's phone and the phone of a former girlfriend, Politico reports. Beshears abruptly resigned as Florida's top business regulator in January, Pirozzolo has told clients his office is closed "due to a family emergency," and before reportedly flipping on Gaetz, Greenberg in July 2020 tried to get him to ask then-President Donald Trump for a pardon, Politico reports. Peter Weber

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