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Texans QB Deshaun Watson, Rams WR Robert Woods lead Players of the Week –

Texans QB Deshaun Watson, Rams WR Robert Woods lead Players of the Week -

Against a terrific defense, Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods hauled in a huge outing and NFC Offensive Player of the Week after keying a 27-24 L.A. victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. Woods had 12 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns is quickly becoming one of the most promising pass rushers around and turned in a performance worth of NFC Defensive Player of the Week. In the Panthers’ 20-0 triumph over the Detroit Lions, Burns produced five tackles, two sacks, a tackle for loss and a pass defended.

Washington Football Team punter Tress Way was booming on Sunday in his team’s 20-9 win over the Cincinnati Bengals with a gross average of 50.4 yards (46.6 net) over his five puns and three of them landed inside the 20. For his efforts, Way was recognized as NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

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New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu finalizing six-year, $90M contract, sources say – ESPN

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu finalizing six-year, $90M contract, sources say - ESPN

Second baseman DJ LeMahieu and the New York Yankees are finalizing a six-year, $90 million contract, sources familiar with the agreement told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

LeMahieu finished third in the American League MVP voting after winning the AL batting title with an MLB-leading .364 average during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, becoming just the fourth player in Yankees history to lead the majors in that category, along with Mickey Mantle (.353 in 1956), Joe DiMaggio (.381 in 1939) and Lou Gehrig (.363 in 1934).

It was the second career batting title for the 32-year-old LeMahieu, who won the National League crown with a .348 batting average for the Colorado Rockies in 2016. He joined Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty (1899, 1902) as the only players to win batting titles in both leagues.

LeMahieu had rejected a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer by the Yankees.

While seeing most of his playing time at second base, LeMahieu, who made $12 million in 2020, also saw action at first and third base. He has elite contact skills and plate discipline, finishing the season with 10 home runs, including an MLB-best seven to the opposite field, 41 runs scored and 27 RBIs, and he led the AL in on-base percentage (.421), OPS (1.011) and OPS+ (177).

“If you add up the last two years in Major League Baseball, he’s on the short list of short lists for being the best player in the sport,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the regular season. “He’s been that impactful. In the biggest moments, he always seems to deliver.”

In two seasons with the Yankees, LeMahieu has a .336 batting average over 195 games, with 36 home runs, 129 RBIs, 150 runs scored and a .922 OPS. During that span, he led the majors with 80 multihit games and was second with 268 hits while posting a .384 batting average with runners in scoring position.

He also defied the perceived norm by hitting home runs with more frequency while playing for the Yankees (every 24 plate appearances) than he did with the Rockies (76).

The only hiccup in his 2020 season came when he landed on the 10-day injured list in August after he sprained his thumb on an awkward swing. It was the second time he had injured that thumb; he also broke a small bone in it while with the Rockies in 2018.

The three-time All-Star selection has a Silver Slugger Award (2019) and three Gold Glove Awards (2014, 2017, 2018) to his name, showing his value at the plate and in the field. In 2018, while with the Rockies, he led all major leaguers in defensive regression analysis.

In 10 major league seasons, LeMahieu, a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2009 draft, has a .305 career batting average with 85 home runs, 478 RBIs, 651 runs scored and a .787 OPS.

ESPN’s Marly Rivera contributed to this report.

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NFL bold predictions, Divisional Round: Lamar Jackson tops Josh Allen as rusher AND passer –

NFL bold predictions, Divisional Round: Lamar Jackson tops Josh Allen as rusher AND passer -

Maurice Jones-Drew: I think we all expect Lamar Jackson to rush for more yards than Josh Allen, but I’ll do you one better. I predict Jackson will throw for more yards than Allen despite the fact that the Bills quarterback averaged 100 more passing yards per game (284.0 vs. 183.8) during the regular season.

Joe Thomas: The Cleveland Browns keep riding the victory train with another banner upset, this time stunning the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs! They get it done by scoring four touchdowns on four trips to the red zone while picking off Patrick Mahomes twice in the second half.

Marc Ross: The Los Angeles Rams’ defense has been dominant this season, ranking first in scoring, total yards and passing yards while finishing third against the run. L.A. has only given up 30 points once (vs. Bills in Week 3) and hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer. But a well-rested Aaron Rodgers puts on a show and becomes the first to throw for more than 300 yards as the Packers top 30 points, handing the Rams’ their largest point-differential loss of the season.

Nate Burleson: Much has been said about Chris Godwin’s uneven playoff debut. He had five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card Round, but recorded four drops — the same amount he compiled over the last two regular seasons combined, per Pro Football Reference. Godwin’s short memory pays off as he hauls in two touchdowns and at least 100 receiving yards against the Saints’ top-five defense. Oh yeah, and he doesn’t have a single drop.

DeAngelo Hall: The first game of the weekend presents arguably the best matchup when the Packers’ offense and Rams’ defense take the field. No unit has been able to stall Green Bay’s No. 1 scoring offense over the last two months of the regular season, but MVP front-runner Aaron Rodgers and Offensive Player of the Year candidate Davante Adams have yet to face a defense as stout as the Rams. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey prove to the be the better duo, as L.A. holds Green Bay to 20 points or less for just the second time this season.

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Inspectors general of several federal agencies open sweeping review of security, intelligence surrounding Capitol attack – The Washington Post

Inspectors general of several federal agencies open sweeping review of security, intelligence surrounding Capitol attack - The Washington Post

The review was announced as the nation’s capital is on edge, with a growing security presence aimed to dissuade any further violence this weekend or at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday. Government officials are sealing off streets and some large public areas in the hopes of preventing a repeat of last week’s chaos.

The Justice Department review “will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DoJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DoJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DoJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office said in a statement.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the FBI’s Norfolk office circulated an intelligence report a day before the attack warning of talk online to attack Congress, break windows, push in doors, and “get violent … Get ready for war.” FBI officials said they shared that information the same day with other law enforcement agencies, but some senior officials outside the FBI have said they never saw it.

According to people familiar with the matter, dozens of people in D.C. on the day of the riot were previously identified on a government watch list as potential terrorist suspects.

Horowitz’s office will examine “whether there are any weaknesses in DoJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” the statement said, adding that his office may also examine other issues that arise during the course of his investigation.

The announcement of such a probe, as the FBI’s sprawling national investigation into the attack is barely a week old, underscores the degree of concern in government circles that vital intelligence may have been missed or mishandled. In his statement, Horowitz said his office “is mindful of the sensitive nature of the ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions” and will “take care to ensure that the review does not interfere with these.”

In a letter to Pentagon leaders, a senior official from the Defense Department inspector general’s office said its review will begin this month and will examine “requests for DOD support leading up to the planned protest and its aftermath at the U.S. Capitol complex, the DOD’s response, and whether the DOD’s actions were lawful and supported by requirements according to regulations and applicable guidance.”

Officials with D.C. police and the Capitol Police have accused the Defense Department of responding slowly as rioters forced their way into the Capitol building, saying that senior officials initially denied their request for urgent help and took hours to get members of the D.C. National Guard on site to assist.

Pentagon officials have said local and Capitol officials sought only limited help from the D.C. National Guard — which because D.C. is not a state is commanded by the Defense Department — ahead of time and had unrealistic expectations about how quickly a force of part-time soldiers can deploy.

In the months before the riot military leaders, scarred by criticism over their role in Trump’s heavy-handed response to racial justice protests last June, have sought to distance themselves from the polarized politics surrounding November’s election and Trump’s attempts to overturn its result.

Separately, the Capitol Police inspector general has told lawmakers that its office also will review events surrounding last week’s melee and suspend all other casework while it does so, according to a congressional aide.

“It’s absolutely vital,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) “that we have a clear understanding of the U.S. Capitol security breach.”

Some lawmakers have asked the Government Accountability Office to examine those same issues, but that agency has not yet announced its decision on the request.

Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.

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Pelosi to Speak on Trump Impeachment, Biden on Vaccine and Economy: Live Updates – The New York Times

Pelosi to Speak on Trump Impeachment, Biden on Vaccine and Economy: Live Updates - The New York Times
Speaker Nancy Pelosi signing the article of impeachment on Wednesday. She has discretion over when to transmit the article, formally starting the Senate proceeding.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

As Washington eagerly awaited answers Friday morning about the timing and scope of President Trump’s impeachment trial, Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed reporters in the Capitol about when she planned to send the charge to the Senate.

Ms. Pelosi’s weekly news conference at 11:30 a.m. was the first time the California Democrat has fielded questions since the House impeached Mr. Trump on Wednesday for inciting a violent insurrection at the Capitol as he sought to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election victory.

Democrats, poised to take unified power in Washington next week for the first time in a decade, worked with Republican leaders to try to find a proposal to allow the Senate to split time between the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump and consideration of Mr. Biden’s agenda, including his cabinet nominees and a $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan he proposed on Thursday to address the coronavirus. But they were virtually silent in public about their plans.

Although Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has privately told advisers that he approves of the impeachment drive and believes it could help his party purge itself of Mr. Trump, he refused to begin the proceedings this week while he is still in charge. That means the trial will not effectively start until after Mr. Biden is sworn in on Wednesday, officials involved in the planning said.

It has also left Democrats weighing whether to bring their case to the Senate immediately, potentially handicapping Mr. Biden’s first few days in office and distracting from his inauguration, or waiting until a few days after he is sworn in. The latter option may be more appealing to Mr. Biden, but it could undercut Democrats’ argument that Congress must move urgently to impeach and try Mr. Trump.

With Republicans fractured after the president’s exhortations to supporters to reject his defeat inspired a rampage, many of them were trying to gauge the dynamics of a vote to convict Mr. Trump. Doing so would open the door to disqualifying him from holding office in the future.

A cautionary tale was playing out in the House, where a faction of Mr. Trump’s most ardent allies was working to topple Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, from her leadership post. Ms. Cheney had joined nine other members of the party who voted with Democrats to charge the president with “incitement of insurrection.”

Most Senate Republicans stayed publicly silent about their positions. But Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and one of the president’s leading critics, signaled on Thursday that she was among a small group in her party so far considering convicting Mr. Trump.

It remained unclear whether the 17 Republican senators whose votes would be needed to convict Mr. Trump by the requisite two-thirds majority would agree to find him guilty.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

A makeshift memorial for Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed by the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The F.B.I. is investigating 37 people related to the killing of Officer Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after being injured during the pro-Trump riot on Jan. 6, according to an F.B.I. memo sent to the private sector and others on Friday. The Times obtained a copy of the report.

Mr. Sicknick was struck with a fire extinguisher as a violent mob flooded the halls of Congress, according to two law enforcement officials. Lawmakers hid under their desks from violent protesters after President Trump encouraged them during a rally to head to the Capitol. Mr. Sicknick died in the hospital where he was getting treatment for his injuries.

Fourteen other Capitol Police officers were injured in the mob last week, the memo said.

Law enforcement officials are bracing for more unrest in the days leading up to the inauguration.

Since the Jan. 6 siege, intelligence officials have seen Chinese, Iranian and Russian efforts to fan the violent rhetoric, according to a joint threat assessment dated Thursday. The amplification is consistent with previous efforts to take advantage of divisive Republican rhetoric, such as the Russian efforts to amplify disinformation spread by Mr. Trump during the campaign about the security of mail-in voting.

The inspectors general for several federal agencies, including the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, announced on Friday that they had opened an investigation into the response to the riot at the Capitol. The watchdogs will also look at how federal agencies shared intelligence ahead of the riot.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.

A Capitol police officer looked out onto the inauguration stage. The investigation will examine whether key information about the rioters’ plans was shared with the Capitol Police and other agencies.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Inspectors general from a range of federal agencies are opening a coordinated investigation into the catastrophic failures that led to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, amid reports that officials ignored, downplayed and responded sluggishly to a deadly assault on the nation’s core democratic institutions.

Government watchdogs, who are shielded from political interference under federal law, said on Friday that they planned to review the protocols, and policies that were in place in the lead-up to last week’s breach.

Their goal: To determine why the federal government was caught flat-footed when pro-Trump rioters attacked Congress, and come up with protocols to prevent similar failures in dealing with a dramatic escalation in political violence in Washington and in state capitols.

The review will be jointly conducted by the inspectors general from the Justice Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior, according to a statement from the office of Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general.

In the days following the attack, it has become clear that federal agencies, including the F.B.I., did not do enough to heed alarms, raised within the bureau itself, that far-right extremists allied with President Trump planned to attack the Capitol. Several people on a terrorist watch list were also in Washington for the rally by Mr. Trump that devolved into the assault.

At the same time, questions have arisen about the Pentagon’s delay in sending national guard troops to help Capitol Police officers who were overwhelmed and, in some cases, badly beaten by the mob.

The review will examine all of the information relevant to the that was available to the Justice Department and the F.B.I. before it took place, and the extent to which that information was shared with the Capitol Police and other federal, state and local agencies.

Mr. Horowitz will also review what role Justice Department personnel had in responding to the siege, and whether weaknesses in the department’s protocols led to the security failure.

The Department of Defense review “will examine requests for D.O.D. support leading up to the planned protest and its aftermath at the U.S. Capitol complex, the D.O.D.’s response, and whether the D.O.D.’s actions were lawful” the Pentagon’s inspector general wrote in a statement on Friday.

The new probe comes after the announcement earlier this week that the inspector general from the Capitol Police will initiate a separate investigation into the failures by the force to contain the violence. The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency, signaled that it would look into what role, if any, members of Congress may have played in inciting the mob.

Led by Representative Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat and former Navy pilot, more than 30 lawmakers on Wednesday called for an investigation into an uptick of visits to the Capitol — perhaps for the purpose of surveillance and planning — the day before the riot.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. unveiled his plan to fight the coronavirus and improve the economy in a speech in Wilmington, Del.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

As the fallout from the assault on the Capitol sparks fresh concerns of new violence and Washington heightens security ahead of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the president-elect is gearing up to assume office at a tenuous moment for the nation.

Mr. Biden unveiled an ambitious $1.9 trillion spending package on Thursday night, intended to help combat the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy. He has signaled that he will prioritize domestic issues during his first weeks in office even as the pending trial of President Trump may sidetrack the Senate from his priorities, including approving his cabinet nominees.

Speaking from Delaware on Thursday to introduce his sweeping economic plan, Mr. Biden urged lawmakers to come together and pass additional relief.

“Unity is not some pie in the sky dream,” he said. “It’s a practical step to getting the things we have to get done as a country, get done together.”

Mr. Biden’s plan has an initial focus on large-scale expansions of the nation’s vaccination program and virus testing capacity. In remarks scheduled for Friday afternoon, he is expected to give additional details about his plan to vaccinate Americans.

And as investigations continue, federal officials have moved to arrest dozens of Americans who rioted at the Capitol last week. A man seen holding a Confederate battle flag, a person identified as striking a police officer with a flagpole and a retired firefighter identified as having thrown a fire extinguisher at officers were among those arrested on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, in a briefing with Vice President Mike Pence, Christopher A. Wray, the director of the F.B.I., acknowledged that in the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol, the bureau was “seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter” surrounding the inauguration, including plans for armed protests both in Washington and at state capitol buildings around the country.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Thursday authorized the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops and surrounded the state Capitol grounds in Sacramento with a six-foot, covered chain-link fence to “prepare for and respond to credible threats.”

Mr. Biden has spoken little about the threats to his inauguration, saying earlier this week only that he was “not afraid” to take the oath of office outdoors as planned. With less than a week to go, Mr. Wray and federal law enforcement officials sought to assure the public that Mr. Biden’s inauguration would be safe.

The Secret Service, which is leading the effort to secure the inauguration, said on Thursday that it would establish a “green zone” in downtown Washington this weekend, blocking streets surrounding the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial and shutting down train lines. National Guard troops continue to flood into the increasingly militarized city, with a total of 20,000 expected to be present for Inauguration Day.




Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Economic Rescue Package

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday proposed a spending package to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. The plan includes $1,400 direct payments to individuals and more generous unemployment benefits.

During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck. Millions of Americans never thought they’d be out of work — many of them never even envisioned the idea — are facing eviction, waiting for hours in their cars to feed their families as they drive up to a food bank. A growing chorus of top economists agree that the moment of crisis — in this moment of crisis, with interest rates at historic lows, we cannot afford inaction. Our rescue plan also includes immediate relief to Americans hardest hit and most in need. We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most. The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough. One in seven households in America, more than one in five Black and Latino households in America, report they don’t have enough food to eat. So we’re going to extend emergency nutritional assistance for 30 — for 43 million children and their families enrolled in the SNAP program through the rest of this year. To the millions of you just looking for a fighting chance in this economy, I promise you, we will not forget you. We understand what you’re going through. We will never, ever give up.

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President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday proposed a spending package to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. The plan includes $1,400 direct payments to individuals and more generous unemployment benefits.CreditCredit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to combat the economic downturn and the Covid-19 crisis, outlining the type of sweeping aid that Democrats have demanded for months and signaling the shift in the federal government’s pandemic response as Mr. Biden prepares to take office next week.

The package includes more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly, including money to accelerate vaccine deployment and to safely reopen most schools within 100 days. An additional $350 billion would help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls, while the plan would also include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, more generous unemployment benefits, federally mandated paid leave for workers and large subsidies for child care costs.

“During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck,” Mr. Biden said in a speech to the nation on Tuesday evening. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy.”

He acknowledged the high price tag but said the nation could not afford to do anything less. “The very health of our nation is at stake,” Mr. Biden said, speaking from Delaware. “We have to act and we have to act now.”

Here are some of the highlights of Mr. Biden’s so-called American Rescue Plan:

  • The “rescue” proposal would be financed entirely through increased federal borrowing, and flows from the idea that the virus and the recovery are intertwined.

  • The $20 billion “national vaccine program” he announced envisions nationwide community vaccination centers.

  • He also called for a “public health jobs program” that would address his goals of bolstering the economy and the coronavirus response while also rebuilding the nation’s public health infrastructure. The proposal would fund 100,000 public health workers to engage in vaccine outreach and contact tracing.

  • To address the racial disparities in health exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately claimed the lives of people of color, he pledged to increase funding for community health centers, and also intends to fund efforts to mitigate the pandemic in prisons and jails, where African-Americans and Latinos are overrepresented.

  • Mr. Biden proposed a wide range of efforts to help those who have suffered the most under the economic shutdowns, including emergency paid leave to 106 million Americans, regardless of the size of their employer, and extending tax credits to many families to offset up to $8,000 in annual child care costs.

  • The plan gives billions of dollars in aid to renters struggling to keep up with mounting unpaid liabilities to landlords, and it would give grants to millions of the hardest-hit small businesses.

  • The proposal would temporarily increase the size of two tax credits in a manner that would effectively provide more cash from the government to low-income workers and families.

  • Mr. Biden called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and he proposed extending expanded unemployment benefits through the end of September, with an extra $400 weekly supplement.

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, in October. He has apologized for trying to reverse the results of the presidential election and disenfranchise tens of millions of voters.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican who spent weeks trying to reverse the results of the presidential election before changing his mind at the last moment, apologized on Thursday to Black constituents who felt he had attacked their right to vote.

In a letter addressed to his “friends” in North Tulsa, which has many Black residents, Mr. Lankford, who is white, wrote on Thursday that his efforts to challenge the election result had “caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state.”

“After decades of fighting for voting rights, many Black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, for their vote to matter, and even a belief that their votes made an election in our country illegitimate,” he wrote, according to the news site Tulsa World.

Mr. Lankford said in the letter that he had never intended to “diminish the voice of any Black American.” Still, he added, “I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you.”

Mr. Lankford, who sits on a key Senate oversight committee, was initially one of the Republicans who tried to upend Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, even as courts threw out baseless questions raised by President Trump and his allies about election malfeasance.

Democrats in Congress have viewed Mr. Lankford as a rare, cooperative partner on voting rights, and his decision to join those Republicans seeking to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters — many of them Black citizens living in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta — came as a surprise.

The first indication he might do so came during his appearance in December at a Senate hearing about alleged voting “irregularities,” when he repeated unsupported Trump campaign allegations about voting in Nevada that had been debunked in court nearly two weeks earlier.

Mr. Lankford and other Republicans had claimed that by challenging the election results, they were exercising their independence and acting in the interests of constituents who were demanding answers.

“There are lots of folks in my state that still want those answers to come out,” Mr. Lankford said a few days before the Electoral College vote was certified.

After the riot at the Capitol, Mr. Lankford was one of several Republican senators who abandoned their earlier challenge, saying the lawlessness and chaos had caused them to changed their minds.

In a joint statement that night with Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, Mr. Lankford called on “the entire Congress to come together and vote to certify the election results.”

Mr. Lankford has faced calls from Black leaders to resign from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which is designed to commemorate the racist massacre in the city’s Greenwood district, an affluent Black community known as Black Wall Street. The massacre, which took place 100 years ago this spring, was one of the worst instances of racist violence in American history. A white mob destroyed the neighborhood and its Black-owned businesses, and up to 300 residents were killed.

Deanne Criswell, commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department, has coordinated the city’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Criswell has been nominated as FEMA Administrator.
Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. continued to fill out his administration on Friday, turning to former Obama administration officials to take on key roles.

He tapped Deanne Criswell, currently the commissioner of New York City’s Emergency Management Department, to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If confirmed, she will help oversee the federal government’s pandemic response efforts.

Ms. Criswell previously worked at FEMA from 2011 to 2017 where she led the federal response to emergencies and disasters. She is also a member of the Colorado Air National Guard, where she served as a firefighter and deputy fire chief. She has deployed to Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan and Iraq on firefighting missions.

Mr. Biden on Friday also chose David S. Cohen to return to the C.I.A. as deputy director, a role he filled from 2015 to 2017. Previously, Mr. Cohen was the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the Treasury Department. While there, he oversaw sanctions — intelligence-based actions that play a large role in national security — against Iran, Russia, North Korea and terrorist organizations.

And Mr. Biden has chosen Anita Dunn, a top strategist for his presidential campaign last year and for former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, to be a White House senior strategist. Ms. Dunn is a partner at the Washington consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker and was a senior adviser to former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.

Other officials named on Friday include:

  • Shalanda Young, the staff director and clerk for the powerful House Appropriations Committee, was nominated to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

  • Jason Miller, a former Obama administration official who served as deputy director of the National Economic Council, was nominated to be the deputy director for management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • Janet McCabe, who specializes in environmental law and policy and worked at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration, was nominated to be the agency’s deputy administrator.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: the right balance – The Verge

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: the right balance - The Verge

Let’s just get to it: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are the best true wireless earbuds that the company has made yet. For their $200 asking price, you get a comfortable fit, effective active noise cancellation, and good, punchy sound quality. These earbuds improve on Samsung’s prior efforts with clever features like a speech detection mode that automatically lowers your music and lets you hear the outside world as soon as you start talking.

But they also inch Samsung closer to a siloed-off world, not unlike Apple, where the best experience is reserved for people who stick to Samsung-branded devices. A few features like 3D audio and automatic device switching — sound familiar? — only work if you’re using these earbuds with a Samsung phone or tablet. Most people aren’t going to be cross-shopping the Galaxy Buds Pro and AirPods Pro since they’re designed for different mobile operating systems, but Samsung has never leaned into its own ecosystem with earbuds quite like this. Thankfully, there’s enough good for everyone else that the Galaxy Buds Pro still come out a success.

The Buds Pro are an amalgam of the Galaxy Buds Plus — they have an in-ear design with silicone tips — and the open-air Galaxy Buds Live, from which they borrow some style cues. The outer casing is a tasteful mix of glossy and matte finishes and has been redesigned to protrude less from your ear. Samsung says this revamped shell also “reduces the contact area between your ear and the bud, improving comfort and minimizing any clogged-up feeling.”

The wing tips from the Galaxy Buds Plus are gone; Samsung got the message that some customers experienced discomfort from those over time. Instead, you get the usual three sizes of silicone ear tips, which are a bit shorter than before to help with the low-profile design. Samsung tells me it has considered including foam tips but has so far held off. You’ll also notice a section of mesh on the outside. This covers one of the three built-in microphones and is there to act as a wind shield for voice calls. (More on that later.)

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: the right balance - The Verge

I really like how these earbuds fit. They feel stable and twist into place for a good seal in my ear canal, without making my ears feel too plugged up. The air vent and reduced contact area really do seem to make a difference there, and I appreciate that the Buds Pro don’t noticeably jut out from my ears like some competitors. If I have one critique, it’s an old one: more than a few times, I accidentally activated the touch-sensitive controls when trying to adjust the fit of an earbud. Such is life with tap gestures, I suppose. The controls can be turned off if this proves a problem for you.

According to Samsung, the Galaxy Buds Plus are rated IPX7 for water and sweat resistance, which means they can survive a half-hour swim in fresh water — so even your sweatiest runs and workouts shouldn’t present any problem. That’s the highest rating among any of Samsung’s earbuds and beats out the AirPods Pro, Jabra Elite 85t, and Bose Sport Earbuds, which are all IPX4. Either earbud can be used independently with mono audio if you prefer that option for voice calls or biking.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: the right balance - The Verge

The wonderfully pocketable Buds Pro charging case is so close in size and shape to the Buds Live case that accessories for the latter will fit the former, and it still charges over both USB-C and Qi wireless charging. But endurance is one area where these earbuds settle for very average numbers. Samsung promises up to five hours of playback with ANC enabled (or eight with it off). Case top-offs put you at 18 hours of total battery life or 28 without noise cancellation. That’s basically on par with the rest of the field, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the 11 hours of continuous audio that the Galaxy Buds Plus are capable of. Alas, it turns out the Buds Pro have a smaller battery capacity (61mAh for each bud versus 85mAh) on top of their more power-hungry ANC feature.

The Galaxy Buds Pro have two-way speakers in each earbud: there’s an 11-millimeter woofer and 6.5mm tweeter. Those are larger than what was in the Buds Plus, though smaller than the single 12mm driver from the Buds Live; in that instance, Samsung was most focused on getting satisfactory bass out of an open-style earbud. Here, it’s aiming for “the most comprehensive sound in the Galaxy Buds line yet.” I can’t speak to what “comprehensive” is supposed to mean, but the Buds Pro are enjoyable to listen to, with a good bass thump, crisp treble, and a pleasant soundstage / imaging.

A lot of earbuds can make it feel like everything is happening in the middle of your head, but these do a solid job keeping instrumentation and vocals distinct. Sturgill Simpson’s “Oh Sarah” and Troye Sivan’s “Easy” (with Kacey Musgraves and Mark Ronson) make for nice showcases — in very different genres — of how layered the Buds Pro can get.

Bass heads might want to go for the “bass boost” EQ setting, and the tweeters can occasionally give off a little too much brightness and sibilance for some tracks like Jason Isbell’s “Be Afraid,” but for the most part I was very pleased with the sound signature. I don’t think Samsung hits the same fidelity as something like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2, but those are nearly $100 more expensive. I’d be perfectly content with the Buds Pro as my daily earbuds.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: the right balance - The Verge

The Galaxy Buds Pro blend design aspects of the Galaxy Buds Plus and Galaxy Buds Live.

The active noise cancellation on the Galaxy Buds Pro is much better than the Galaxy Buds Live, where it seems to barely do anything since there’s so much outside noise to contend with. Samsung claims that the Buds Pro can cut down on “up to 99 percent” of noise “at 118.43Hz,” which is wildly specific and won’t mean much to most people. In my experience, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds, and the AirPods Pro all outperform Samsung at quieting the world around you, but Samsung does a perfectly adequate job at muffling street noise and household distractions. You can choose between high and low levels of noise cancellation in case you’re sensitive to the effect.

Samsung’s latest transparency / ambient mode still doesn’t sound as natural as what Apple and Bose have achieved, but it’s a definite improvement over the very digitized version from the Galaxy Buds Plus. And the fantastic “voice detect” feature, which automatically lowers audio volume and switches from ANC to ambient mode when you start talking, is one of the best things about the Galaxy Buds Pro. Sony did something similar on its 1000XM4 headphones, but I haven’t seen this convenient trick in many earbuds, and now I wish all of them at least had the option.

Samsung uses a “voice pickup unit” — basically an accelerometer that senses jaw movement — to know that it’s you talking and not someone nearby. After a few seconds of no more talking, ANC returns and your music gets turned back up. Voice detect works as expected, but if you’ve got a tendency to talk to yourself or sing to your music, you might want to keep it disabled and assign ambient sound to a long press of one of the earbuds. Controls work the same way as other Samsung buds, with a single tap to pause / play, double to skip to the next song, triple to go back, and a customizable long press that can be used for volume, voice assistants, or ambient mode.

For voice calls, Samsung has a three-mic system and uses beamforming to isolate your voice from your environment. The lower profile of the Buds Pro helps combat wind noise, and the mesh-covered chamber does a good job filtering out any gusts if you’re talking with someone outside. Clarity is also good, as you should be able to hear in Becca’s video review above. Speaking of voice, the Galaxy Buds Pro still have hands-free “Hey Bixby” capabilities.

Pro as in… AirPods Pro?

There’s no denying that a few features of the Galaxy Buds Pro are heavily influenced by Apple’s AirPods Pro. The first of these is 3D audio, which is Samsung’s take on the immersive spatial audio capabilities of the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Load up a movie with Dolby surround, and the Buds Pro will attempt to cram a surround sound listening experience into a pair of earbuds.

Samsung says that 360 audio uses Dolby head tracking technology, which “enables you to stay at the center of the scene when you’re watching a movie or TV show.” In concept, this sounds similar to Apple’s approach, which uses sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes in the earbuds and your iPhone or iPad to keep the sound source anchored to your device — even when you turn your head side to side.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how convincing Samsung’s 3D audio is or whether it compares favorably to spatial audio because it requires OneUI 3.1, which for now is only available on the new Galaxy S21 lineup. The $1,300 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra that Samsung sent for this review doesn’t have that update yet.

The second AirPods feature that Samsung has tried to directly counter is automatic switching. Apple’s earbuds can hop between an iPhone, iPad, or Mac depending on which one you’re using in that moment without you having to manually make the change. Samsung says it has now pulled off the same trick, so the Buds Pro should automatically switch between your Galaxy smartphone and tablet. Unfortunately, the laptop gets left out of Samsung’s equation completely, which makes the feature somewhat less helpful. I wish that more earbuds would just give us proper multipoint Bluetooth pairing to two devices at once; Jabra continues to be the standout there. Automatic switching feels like a makeshift solution until Samsung can get to multipoint.

Both of these capabilities require you to be fairly entrenched in Samsung’s ecosystem. 3D audio only works on Samsung hardware, so if your Android phone is from a different brand, you lose out on it altogether. Same goes for auto-switching. If neither feature is important to you, that might not matter, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Also worth mentioning is that Samsung isn’t extending the same level of iOS support it has maintained for the Buds Plus and Buds Live: the existing iOS app doesn’t work with the Buds Pro, so you can’t use features like voice detect on iPhone. I’m not sure what the reasoning is there, but maybe Samsung’s internal data shows that not many people are pairing its earbuds to Apple devices. You can still pair them and use noise canceling and ambient modes — much like the way AirPods Pro function on Android.

The Galaxy Buds Pro face stiff competition everywhere you look, and you can find superior ANC and sound quality elsewhere. But with these latest earbuds, Samsung has blended much of what worked best about the Buds Plus and Buds Live. Battery life is merely average, but that’s the only real gripe I’ve got. They don’t necessarily win at any one category, but the Galaxy Buds Pro strike an excellent all-around balance. And you can clearly see Samsung trying to recreate some of the ecosystem “magic” that AirPods owners are now used to.

The Buds Pro feel great in your ears, sound better than any Samsung earbuds to date, and have convenient tricks to complement their decent noise cancellation. There’s still a place for the Galaxy Buds Plus if all you want are wireless earbuds with a battery that just goes and goes, and the Buds Live remain the better pick if you need environmental awareness at all times. But if you’re nabbing the Buds Pro as a preorder bonus for a new Galaxy S21, you should be more than satisfied.

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