5 things to know for March 4: Tornadoes, politics, Good Samaritan, Asia, Michael Jackson

A series of devastating tornadoes cut through Alabama Sunday night.
A series of devastating tornadoes cut through Alabama Sunday night.

(CNN)It’s a grim morning in Alabama after a deadly outbreak of tornadoes last night. So let’s get right to that and everything else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

At least 23 people were killed after a series of devastating tornadoes gashed through Alabama last night. Half of the deaths occurred just south of the city of Opelika. It’s the deadliest tornado outbreak in the US in five years and surpasses the death toll from all tornadoes in the country in 2018. The damage looked “as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said. He said the path of destruction is about half a mile wide and runs for miles. The county was hit by back-to-back twisters within the span of about an hour, CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman said. Authorities will escalate search and rescue efforts this morning as they look for more survivors and victims.

Deadly tornadoes touch down in Alabama and Georgia
Deadly tornadoes touch down in Alabama and Georgia 01:14

House Democrats start ramping up their investigations of President Trump today. As part of that the House Judiciary Committee will request documents from more than 60 people — including Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler told ABC News over the weekend that it’s time “to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, about corruption and abuse of power.”

Meanwhile it looks like there will be enough Republican votes in the Senate to oppose Trump’s national emergency declaration. Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul said he’d support the resolution of disapproval that’s already passed the House. The Dems had to have four GOP senators to join with them to get the resolution through the Senate, and Paul is the fourth GOP vote they needed. The vote in the Senate will come sometime in the next two weeks. If it passes, the resolution would go to the President for his signature, but Trump has already said he’d veto it. And it’s unlikely there are enough votes in either chamber to override his veto.

Nadler: Yes, I think Trump obstructed justice
Nadler: Yes, I think Trump obstructed justice 01:13

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could be meeting up later this month to end the trade war between the two countries. The two sides are in final negotiations on a deal that would lower Chinese tariffs on US good as the US removes broad sanctions against China, the…

Timeline of turmoil: How Virginia’s ongoing political scandals developed

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Virginia with the commonwealth’s top three officials embroiled each embroiled in separate scandals.

Here is a minute-by-minute timeline of the political controversies that have put the commonwealth in the national spotlight.

Gov. Ralph Northam defends proposed bill loosening restrictions on abortion in an interview with WTOP and says, “It’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

5:15 p.m. – Republican General Assembly leaders call on Northam to provide an “immediate explanation.” Over the next hour, the call is echoed by other political leaders.

~ 6 p.m. – A photo from a 1981 VMI yearbook with Northam’s nickname listed as “Coonman” begins to circulate on social media.

10:56 p.m. – Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it met with Northam and calls on his resignation saying, “it is clear he can no longer effectively serve as governor.”

2:29 p.m. – Capitol Police say two people were arrested outside the Governor’s Mansion earlier in the day.

2:45 p.m. – Northam says, “I darkened my face” while participating in a dance contest for which he learned to moonwalk to portray Michael Jackson.


Who is Justin Fairfax? The descendant of slaves is next in line for Virginia governor

WASHINGTON — As Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam resisted calls to resign over a racist photo that appeared under his name in his medical school year book, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax remains in the wings as the man who would replace him if Northam were to step down.

Northam denied on Saturday that he was either person in a photograph that showed one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. The governor said he had “darkened’ his face with shoe polish for a Michael Jackson costume in 1984, however.

While Northam apologized and asked for forgiveness on Saturday, he also noted that he maintained a good relationship with Fairfax, who would be America’s fifth-ever black governor were he to take Northam’s place.

“Justin and I have a very, very close relationship,” Northam said at the press conference Saturday. “He has been very supportive … he is a wonderful person.”

On Saturday, Fairfax released a statement saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the images that appeared in Northam’s yearbook.

“The Governor needed to apologize, and I am glad that he did so,” Fairfax said. “He also reached out to me personally to express his sincere regrets and to apologize.”

He added that the two have worked closely for many years. “He has been a friend to me and has treated my family and me with hospitality and respect,” Fairfax said.

Fairfax said despite Northam’s career of service to American children, soldiers and constituents, he could not condone the governor’s actions from his past.

“Now more than ever, we must make decisions in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he concluded.

Fairfax, 39, was only the second African-American elected statewide in Virginia when he won the post alongside Northam in 2017.

The Duke and Columbia-educated lawyer has been a rising star in the party since making his first run for office 2013, after serving as a federal prosecutor in the high-profile Eastern District of Virginia.

Fairfax lost that first campaign for attorney general in a Democratic primary, but…

Virginia’s current turmoil is state’s chance to reconcile with its racist past

A monument to Confederate general Robert E Lee is adorned with an anti-hate sign.

It’s 400 years since the ship carrying the first African slaves to America docked on the coast of Virginia, beginning a process that would see millions of black people forced into servitude.

The state has spent the better part of a decade planning for 2019 to be a solemn remembrance, with a series of exhibitions and ceremonies aimed at recognizing that dark past, and looking to a more inclusive future.

But in the space of a week all that endeavor has been forced into the background, with Virginia’s leaders instead seemingly engaged in a bid to singlehandedly revive the art of blackface.

Ralph Northam, Virginia’s governor, kicked things off when he admitted to being in a college yearbook photo that showed a man in blackface next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. As Virginia, and soon the nation, reeled from that revelation, Northam then denied he was in the image, but said he had indeed worn blackface in the past, to impersonate Michael Jackson during a dance competition.

As the governor clung on, the state’s attorney general Mark Herring, the man third in line to replace Northam should he have to quit, confessed to his own dalliances with blackface. Herring said he had worn “dark makeup” while dressing as the rapper Kurtis Blow.

Sandwiched in-between those incidents, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, was accused of sexually assaulting a female academic in 2004. And on Friday, a second woman came forward accusing Fairfax of rape while the two were students at Duke University in 2000.

As much of the nation has looked on in horror, all three men have refused to resign. Many have been stunned by the efforts of Northam and Herring to attempt to place into context their blackface makeup shenanigans. Both have cited their age at the time – Northam was 25, Herring was 19 – and that the incidents occurred in the 1980s, as providing some sort of reasonable explanation. But others have pointed out that 25 years old is not that young, and 1980 was not that long ago.

Still, for all the surprise outside, and inside, the state, many say they are not shocked.

“For me the scariest part is – and this has been said in the black community for decades – what happened this past week was that things we know exist came to the surface,” said Francesca Leigh-Davis, who co-hosts the RVA Dirt local politics radio show in Richmond, the Virginia state capital.

Jessee Perry, co-host of RVA Dirt Girls, helped organize the demonstration to demand Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign.
Jessee Perry, co-host of RVA Dirt Girls, helped organize the demonstration to demand Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign. Photograph: Jay Paul/Reuters

Leigh-Davis and her RVA Dirt co-hosts, Melissa Vaughn and Jessee Perry, organized a demonstration outside the governor’s mansion. Scores of people held signs and chanted “Northam has got to go” as the governor held a news conference inside – where he told reporters about his shoe-polish-assisted Michael Jackson impression.

Northam hasn’t been seen in public since. He has resisted calls from Democrats, including the Virginia legislative black caucus and candidates for the White House, to resign, and has hired a crisis communications firm.

To the outsider, Virginia has been moving left politically over the past decade, to the extent that some have mused whether the state, which brushes up against Washington, DC, in the north-east, should even still be considered part of ‘The South’, in the parlance of the US civil war.

The state elected Douglas Wilder, the first African American to serve as governor in the US since reconstruction, in 1989. More recently, Virginia voted for Barack Obama in 2008 – the first time the state had pledged for a Democrat in the White House in more than 40 years, and backed Obama again in 2012. In 2016 Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5% in the state.

But Cornell Brooks, a Virginia resident and former president of the NAACP, and a…

Ralph Northam Is Just A Small Piece Of The Shift In Race Politics In The Trump Era

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, with his wife, Pam, speaks with reporters at a news conference Saturday in Richmond, Va.

The clock seems to be ticking for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

The highest reaches of the Democratic Party inside and outside the state have said he should resign over a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page from 1984. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presidential candidates and, perhaps most important, both of Virginia’s senators and its longest-serving black representative all said Northam should step aside.

Northam didn’t help himself Saturday with a news conference in which he compounded matters. He denied he was in the photo — after first apologizing for it Friday — and then said he had used shoe polish to darken his face to look like Michael Jackson for a dance party in the 1980s.

He had learned to moonwalk, he said. What do they say about what to do when you’re in a hole?

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as Rep. Bobby Scott, all Democrats, said in a joint statement after Northam’s Saturday news conference that “we no longer believe he can effectively serve as governor of Virginia and that he must resign.” Prior to issuing that statement, they had already called Northam to tell him that themselves.

As of Monday afternoon, Northam was still holding on, but he was a man on an island.

The entire episode shines a light not just on Northam’s troubles but also on the politics of race in the Trump era. Democrats are saying that if they hope to have the moral high ground, they have to have zero tolerance.

A higher standard

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas, said on CNN Monday he doesn’t think the Democratic Party can stand up to the “bigotry” of President Trump with Northam still in office.

“I don’t think we can do that,” he said, “unless we hold all of our officials to a high standard.”

Trump tweeted that what Northam did was “unforgivable!” But lots of people saw irony in that. Trump, after all, from the day he launched his presidential run in 2015, said Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers to the United States; exploited white grievance to win the presidency; and as president expounded a kind of moral equivalency between white nationalists and those protesting them after the deadly, racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who is seriously considering a presidential bid, pulled no punches Sunday in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“We have a president who’s a racist,” Brown said, noting Trump’s role in the birther movement, in which he questioned former President Barack Obama’s birthplace; Trump’s family’s role in alleged housing discrimination decades ago; his response to Charlottesville; and his administration’s role in what Brown called “suppressing the vote.”

Democrats see a double standard in the Trump era. They point out that Northam and Al Franken before him had to go (Franken for sexual misconduct allegations), but Trump, Iowa Rep. Steve King (who questioned how the terms white nationalist and white…

Yearbook truths, political lies

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, pauses during a news conference in the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

No doubt Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wish their yearbook pages had come with the warning labels: “THIS INFORMATION WILL BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. GET IT APPROVED BY A POLITICAL CONSULTANT BEFORE SUBMITTING.”

Northam’s 1984 yearbook includes a photograph of two people dressed up, one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. A different yearbook from a few years earlier lists the nickname “coonman” under his picture. Kavanaugh’s 1983 yearbook has the words “Devil’s Triangle” and “FFFFFFourth of July” under his photograph.

Northam at first admitted he was in the photograph, then said he wasn’t. He blamed two upperclassmen for giving him the nickname “coonman,” and said he had no idea what the word meant, though…

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Denies Being in Racist Yearbook Photo and Will Not Step Down

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told reporters on Saturday that he does not believe he is one of the two people in a racist photo featured in his school yearbook.

Standing by his wife, Pam, the Democratic governor admitted to “darkening his face” in a Michael Jackson dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, around the same time. But he said he is sure he is not one of the two people pictured in blackface and in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his 1984 medical school yearbook page.

“I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo,” Northam said.

When asked about political leaders who are asking for his resignation, Northam said if he can communicate that he is not the person in the photograph, he can continue to lead. If not, he said he will make a decision on…

Virginia governor denies he is in racist yearbook picture – and will not quit

Demonstrators hold signs and chant outside the Governor’s Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, denied he was one of the people dressed in a Ku Klux Klan uniform or in blackface in a photo from his medical school yearbook page, amid pressure to resign.

Delivering a statement in Richmond on Saturday afternoon, the Democrat conceded it would be difficult for many people to believe he was not in the photo when just 24 hours earlier he had said he was.

Nonetheless, he said: “I am not either of the people in the photo.”

He also admitted to darkening his skin with shoe polish when he was young, to enter a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, dressed as Michael Jackson.

Northam said he was ignoring the chorus of people calling for his resignation because that would be taking the easy way out.

“I’m asking for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness,” he said.

There was little forgiveness in the air in national and state political circles. Most 2020 Democratic contenders demanded Northam’s resignation and before he spoke Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic party of Virginia, said: “We made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning – we have gotten word he will not do so. We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign.”

The photo was included on Northam’s 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School and was made public on Friday. The Democratic governor then confirmed he was one of the two people in the photo, but did not identify which individual he was.

That certainty had apparently dissolved by Saturday, when Northam was first reported to be making calls to obtain more information about the photo and then said neither of the people in the black-and-white image was actually him.

“My first impression was this couldn’t be me,” Northam told reporters at the Executive Mansion.

Northam claimed he saw the yearbook for the first time on Friday and had not been involved in its production. He said he spoke to classmates from the time to confirm his suspicion he was not in the photo.

“I am not and will not excuse the…

Katy Perry & Luke Bryan Invited Themselves to Lionel Richie’s House

Luke talks about judging ABC’s ‘American Idol’ with Katy Perry & Lionel Richie, and reveals what it was like having dinner at Lionel’s house.

Jimmy Kimmel Interviews 20-Year-Old Attacked by Snake, Bear & Shark https://youtu.be/L3XD2TpVzdc

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Katy Perry & Luke Bryan Invited Themselves to Lionel Richie’s House

Beyoncé and the End of Respectability Politics

Beyonce performed at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.

Beyoncé is at the pinnacle of her career. At the Coachella festival in the Southern California desert on Saturday, she showed that there’s nothing this mother of three can’t do. But she didn’t just kill the performance; she also rewrote the book on black respectability politics. She could have decided to play to the majority-white audience with a show that made it easier to forget cultural differences. Or she could be herself. Beyoncé chose the latter.

In putting on a show that celebrated the diversity of black people, she conveyed that no matter how much fame or money she has, she will refuse to divorce herself from black culture, even the parts that are underappreciated, disrespected or misunderstood by white people. Beyoncé was performing her music, but she was also saying that the performance of respectability — the policing of black people’s behavior and appearance to better appeal to white people — is an oppression we don’t need in our lives.

Black musicians in particular have long been told how they should look and perform to sustain their success and be marketable to a larger audience. That often meant that black artists distanced themselves from the things associated with black culture, especially the things that might be coded as not-respectable.

Whitney Houston famously struggled under this weight. At the urging of her mentor Clive Davis and others, she wore glamorous clothes, sang pop-driven songs instead of R&B and obeyed other unwritten social norms that circumscribed how she could live her life and express herself.

Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama have all been accused of staying aloof from black culture to gain more power and be more relatable to a wider, whiter audience. It is a common belief among black people that the more successful we become, the more we should keep away from black culture — especially when white people are looking. And especially at work.

Members of Beyoncé‘s audience at Coachella.

Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Lawson, echoed this sentiment before her daughter’s performance: “I told Beyoncé that I was afraid that the predominately white audience at Coachella would be confused by all of the black culture and black college culture because it was something that they might not get,” she wrote on Instagram.

But Beyoncé assuaged her fears. “I have worked very hard to get to…