RNC threatens to boycott commission's presidential debates

The Republican National Committee said Thursday it is planning a rules change that would force presidential candidates seeking the party’s nomination to sign a pledge saying they will not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. If ultimately enacted and enforced, the move would fundamentally change the way presidential elections have been conducted in the country for more than 30 years. The threat is a culmination of years of tension between the RNC and the nonprofit that was exacerbated by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly accused the commission of unfair treatment. Trump ultimately refused to participate in the second 2020 debate because he objected to it being held virtually because of the pandemic. In a letter to the commission first reported by The New York Times and obtained by The Associated Press, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel voiced frustration with the CPD's response to a long list of complaints, including concerns about its selection of moderators, a desire for a debate before early voting starts and a push for changes to the commission’s board.

The heat stays on: Earth hits 6th warmest year on record

Earth simmered to the sixth hottest year on record in 2021, according to several newly released temperature measurements. And scientists say the exceptionally hot year is part of a long-term warming trend that shows hints of accelerating. Two U.S. science agencies — NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — and a private measuring group released their calculations for last year's global temperature on Thursday, and all said it wasn’t far behind ultra-hot 2016 and 2020. Six different calculations found 2021 was between the fifth and seventh hottest year since the late 1800s. NASA said 2021 tied with 2018 for sixth warmest, while NOAA puts last year in sixth place by itself.

Teachers confront half-empty classrooms as virus surges

Teachers around the U.S. are confronting classrooms where as many as half of students are absent because they have been exposed to COVID-19 or their families kept them at home out of concern about the surging coronavirus. The widespread absences have only added to the difficulty of keeping students on track in yet another pandemic-disrupted school year. In the nation's largest district, attendance has been so low that New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday reversed an earlier pledge to keep children in schools and said he would consider allowing a return to some form of virtual instruction. “This is really taking a toll on the learning. If you have three kids in your class one day and you’re supposed to have 12, you have to reteach everything two weeks later when those kids come back,” said Tabatha Rosproy, a teacher in Olathe, Kansas, and the 2020 national Teacher of the Year. Some of the country's biggest school systems report absentee rates around 20% or slightly more, with some individual schools seeing far higher percentages of missing students.

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