Good morning, and happy Valentine’s Day! When we see others’ big, romantic holiday gestures, we tend to forget the amount of planning it takes to pull off an idea. One German farmer’s surprise involved months of preparation; after helping a friend grow a corn maze last fall, he was inspired to grow his own corn in the shape of the words “Will you marry me?” – which can be seen from Google Earth.
“It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company.”
– George Washington
A Study in Green
The Department of Education (DOE) has opened investigations into Harvard and Yale as part of a larger review of foreign money in academia. Higher learning groups have complained in the past that regulation around the disclosure of foreign funds – untouched since the 1980s – is unclear and rarely enforced.
Yale was charged with failing to report a single foreign source gift from 2013-2017, despite having received at least $375 million in foreign contributions over that period.
Harvard is under investigation after its chemistry department chair was arrested last month for lying about receiving millions of dollars from China’s government-backed Thousand Talents Plan (TTP).
Provides salaries and benefits for scientists around the world to secretly moonlight for Chinese institutions.
Consists of more than 7,000 renowned scientists (including several Nobel laureates).
The bigger picture… Officials said that U.S. universities failed to report at least $6.5 billion in foreign funding from China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Harvard and Yale represent the department’s seventh and eighth probes, in addition to audits at Georgetown, Cornell, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Maryland, and MIT.
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Barr Comments on Trump Tweets
In an interview with ABC News, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said President Trump’s tweets about the DOJ’s prosecution of his longtime political aide, Roger Stone, made it “impossible to do his job.” Earlier that day, Barr accepted an invitation to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31.
The Senate voted 55-45 (with 8 R’s joining the 47 D’s) to pass the Iran War Powers Resolution, which would ban President Trump from ordering offensive airstrikes against Iran. The House has signaled that it could also pass the Senate resolution – however, Trump has said he would veto such a measure.
Last month, the House voted to approve a nonbinding resolution with similar intent.
Fire officials in Australia have confirmed, for the first time all season, that every bushfire in New South Wales is now under control. More than 2,400 homes were destroyed and about 13.3 million acres of land were burned across the country’s most populous state.
McClatchy, one of the largest newspaper publishers in the U.S., has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debt and pension obligations. The move is expected to end the McClatchy family’s 163-year reign over the company, with hedge fund Chatham Asset Management set to become the majority stakeholder.
Tesla on Thursday announced plans to raise more than $2 billion through the sale of common stock. The company also disclosed that the SEC issued Tesla a subpoena in early December regarding certain financial data and contracts.
Clash of the (Tech) Titans
A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge ordered the Pentagon and Microsoft to temporarily halt all work on the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract until an Amazon lawsuit has run its course. A fellow JEDI finalist, Amazon is challenging the Pentagon’s decision to award the contract to Microsoft, alleging that improper influence from President Trump swayed the government’s decision.
In August 2019, President Trump ordered the JEDI contract be placed on hold to investigate claims of Amazon favoritism. Microsoft was assigned the contract one month later.
Showered with Love
Bobby and Caren Moore were nervous about flying with their newborn baby girl. They feared their adopted daughter might not be welcomed on the flight since crying children can sometimes present nightmare scenarios for fellow plane passengers.
However, the family received the surprise of their life. They were treated to an impromptu baby shower mid-flight, complete with handwritten notes from the passengers and crew.
Heart of America
In this day and age, it’s accomplishment enough to receive even one Valentine’s Day card outside of grade school. But when “Operation Valentine” was announced on social media as a way to send love notes to a 104-year-old Purple Heart recipient, the mail began to pour in.
Retired Marine Major William White is now attempting to sort through over 70,000 Valentines that were sent to him, with the help of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who are all helping him feel the love this Valentine’s Day.
An unlikely human/dog duo recently uncovered a troubling fact in the U.K. – national air pollution levels measured at higher amounts closer to the ground, posing extra risks for young children and toddlers. In a stroke of inspiration, 13-year-old Tom Hunt enlisted the help of his black lab, Baggy, to tackle the problem from the ground up.
Fun Coupons… Jeff Bezos has reportedly bought the most expensive property in LA with a price tag of $165 million (just one-eighth of a percent of his total net wealth).
2 Fast 2 Furious… a UC Berkeley graduate student’s paper found that daytime traffic in Austin, TX sped up by 3.4% once Uber and Lyft left the city.
Radiation station… an independent California laboratory tested the new iPhone 11 pro and found that it emitted radiofrequency radiation levels twice as high as federal safety limits.
Vote of no confidence… MIT researchers published a security audit identifying numerous flaws in Voatz, a mobile app used for online voting in the 2018 elections and scheduled for use again in 2020.
the DONUT’s Dibs
If you’re itching for some political debate…Project Divided is working to bridge the divide between Americans of different political views through productive discussion. Check out their most recent episode, where a liberal Texan and a conservative Texan sit down for a level-headed conversation on immigration.
Which of these countries was NOT a founding member of the United Nations?