Ukrainians plead for support — and calm — as U.S. and others tell their citizens to flee

Published February 14, 2022 at 8:03 AM EST
Demonstrators hold a sign saying "Ukrainians will resist" at a rally in Kyiv on Saturday.
Sergei Supinsky
AFP via Getty Images
Demonstrators during a rally in Kyiv on Saturday, held to show unity amid U.S. warnings of an imminent Russian invasion.

Good morning,

We're following these stories today:

The latest in Ukraine: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is heading to Kyiv today and Russia tomorrow. More than a dozen countries — including the U.S. — told their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately; Ukrainians say the message of panic is making them feel very alone.

Valentine's Day: Whether you're celebrating with loved ones, shaking your fist at Hallmark or just waiting for chocolates to go on sale tomorrow, NPR has you covered with a bunch of great holiday reads.

Kamila Valieva cleared to compete: An arbitration panel cleared the Russian 15-year-old phenom, who is heavily favored to win. The International Olympic Committee says if she does, there won't be a medal ceremony for women's individual figure skating during the Games.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, the Ambassador Bridge, which links the U.S. and Canada in Detroit, reopens after police remove the last protesters.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Carol Ritchie, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark and Chris Hopkins)


Canadian bank freezes about $1.1 million in funds for border protest

Posted February 14, 2022 at 11:57 AM EST

TD Bank has frozen about $1.1 million that was intended to back disruptive protests against Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, according to multiple Canadian news outlets. The money was reportedly being held in two personal accounts.

TD Bank — the name is short for Toronto-Dominion Bank — says most of the money came from a GoFundMe campaign that was shut down, according to Canada’s CTV News. Another portion was deposited from direct donations. Supporters had sought to raise cash to sustain the protests, which have disrupted cross-border business and made international headlines in recent weeks.

TD Bank tells NPR that it wants an Ontario court to decide where the money should go.

"We are unable to release the funds without the court's direction because multiple parties, including the account holder, intended recipients and some donors, may be entitled to the funds," a TD spokesperson told NPR. "The Court, not TD, should decide on the distribution of the funds."

The Ambassador Bridge, the busy border crossing that has been the centerpiece of the protest campaign, "reopened late Sunday after police cleared and arrested a lingering group of protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates," as NPR reported.

In early February, GoFundMe blocked around $10 million worth of donations from reaching the protest movement, dubbed the Freedom Convoy. The fundraising site said it would refund the money to those who contributed, after determining that the campaign violated its standards.

The GoFundMe decision prompted the fund-raising site GiveSendGo — which calls itself “the number one Free Christian crowdfunding platform” -- to step in, pledging to get money to protesters.

But late last week, the Ontario Superior Court granted a government request to freeze access to money raised to back the blockade in Ottawa and at other border crossings. TD Bank then moved to freeze the money it was still holding.

GiveSendGo has insisted that it will still be able to deliver the money to protesters in Canada, despite the court’s order. But the platform was apparently hacked Sunday night: as of Monday morning, its website wasn’t loading, and reports state that hackers say they will release the names of people who donated to try to prolong the protests.


New Zealand hopes Barry Manilow, James Blunt and the Macarena can disperse protesters

Posted February 14, 2022 at 11:27 AM EST
An orange barrier separates tents and crowds of protesters from the ground of Parliament, where a line of police stand facing the crowd.
Marty Melville
AFP via Getty Images
Protesters continued their demonstrations against New Zealand's COVID-19 mandates on Saturday.

Authorities in Wellington, New Zealand, are getting creative in their efforts to disperse the crowd of anti-government protesters who have refused to budge for nearly a week.

After trying direct appeals and deploying sprinklers, they're turning to the hit songs of Barry Manilow, James Blunt and others.

Hundreds of people protesting the government's mask and vaccine mandates arrived in the capital city last week. They set up camp outside Parliament as lawmakers returned from summer recess, and have proceeded to block traffic and gather in the streets ever since.

Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington District Commander, said on Monday that the disruption to residents, schools and workplaces is "creating real stress and concern."

"We continue to appeal to protesters to leave the demonstration and to take their children – it has been wet and cold overnight, and we now have concerns about the health risks posed and sanitation issues," Parnell added.

There were some 3,000 protesters over the weekend, with a constant presence of 400 to 500 people in tents at the encampment and in surrounding streets, Radio New Zealand reported.

Police said on Monday that some protesters had moved their vehicles overnight, and are directing them to relocate to a newly-designated parking facility at Sky Stadium.

The plea follows a series of attempts — both direct and indirect — to get the protesters to leave.

Officers tried to forcibly clear the grounds on Thursday, arresting more than 120 protesters but failing to significantly disperse the crowd.

"Police have identified a range of different causes and motivations among the protestors, making it difficult to open clear and meaningful lines of communication," Parnell said the next day.

Trevor Mallard, the speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, had Parliament's sprinklers activated on Friday, the fourth day of protests.

According to RNZ, some protesters responded by digging trenches to try to redirect the water to nearby drains. The tents and their occupants stayed put, even as a heavy downpour turned the ground to mud.

On the fifth day, Mallard initiated what RNZ described as "a battle of the music speakers" when he started playing a 15-minute loop of Barry Manilow music (including "Mandy"), "Macarena" by Los del Río and COVID-19 vaccine advertisements through the speakers inside Parliament buildings. News outlet Stuff reports the tunes were picked from a playlist of the world's 25 most hated songs.

The music was met with boos and the 1984 Twisted Sister song "We're Not Gonna Take It," which CNN notes has already become a kind of anthem of the Canadian truckers that launched the movement with similar protests earlier this month.

Mallard's playlist has evolved in recent days, with RNZ reporting it now includes an out-of-tune recorder rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." It also features catchy children's songs, like Frozen's "Let It Go" and "Baby Shark," CNN adds.

English musician James Blunt offered up his own catalog in a tweet, sharing a BBC story about the Manilow music and addressing New Zealand Police: "Give me a shout if this doesn't work." Mallard took him up on the offer.

RNZ reports that Blunt's "You're Beautiful" has been played so many times that protesters now know most of the words and are singing along.

The tactic has made headlines around the world, and elicited mixed reactions.

Mallard told Stuff over the weekendthat surrounding residents had been consulted on the plan and were supportive. He said their lives had been disrupted by the protests already, and some had even gone to stay with friends.

“And one of them is a Barry Manilow fan,” he added.

Some opposition lawmakers and police authorities have criticized the move, characterizing it as childish and saying it would only spur protesters to stay put.

Parnell told RNZ that "it certainly wouldn't be tactics or methodologies that we would endorse, and it's something we would have preferred did not occur."

"But it did occur, so we have to deal with what we've got in front of us."


A Christian revival at a West Virginia high school prompts a student walkout

Posted February 14, 2022 at 10:46 AM EST

Students in a West Virginia city have staged a walkout to protest a Christian assembly they were forced to attend during school hours on Feb. 9.

More than 100 Huntington High School students left their homerooms on a Wednesday morning to demonstrate against a mini-revival in the school's auditorium.

The students participating in the walkout chanted "Separate the church and state" and "My faith, my choice."

Cabell County Schools spokesperson Jedd Flowers says the event, organized by the school's chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was supposed to be voluntary, but two teachers mistakenly brought their entire class.

Officials say it won't happen again. But some in the city say even voluntary church services have no place in school.

Going the distance

A Canadian woman contacted British police during a break-in. They still helped

Posted February 14, 2022 at 10:31 AM EST

U.K. police helped respond to a home invasion in Canada after a woman mistakenly contacted them for help because their localities shared the same name.

England's Durham Constabulary said last week that the unidentified woman used their live chat feature to report an intruder breaking into her home in Durham, Canada, some 3,000 miles away. British responders contacted local police, who were able to get her help and detain the suspect within roughly half an hour.

"This is certainly a success story of international cooperation between two police communication centres separated by tremendous distance," said Inspector Paul Hallett, unit leader of Communications/9-1-1 at Durham Regional Police.

Officials said the "distraught" woman chatted with them seeking help and then went silent.

The handler realized she meant to contact a different Durham police force and kept the chat open, while others in the control room contacted officers at the Durham Regional Police Service in Ontario, the constabulary said.

Canadian officers arrived at the scene to find a 35-year-old man inside the house. He fled, but was cornered in a nearby yard and tasered after refusing to obey police orders. Officials said he was arrested "approximately 30 minutes after his victim first contacted police on the other side of the Atlantic."

The unidentified suspect is now facing charges including breaking and entering, assault, forcible confinement and disobeying a lawful order of the court. The victim received medical attention for her injuries, they added.

Inspector Andrea Arthur, who heads the British force's control room, praised the team for remaining calm and helping their Canadian colleagues resolve the situation "quickly and professionally."

“If we can assist in rescuing a vulnerable victim in immediate danger, regardless of where they live, we will do all we can to help," she said. "In this case, we’re glad to learn there has been an arrest and, more importantly, the victim is out of danger and receiving the help she needs."

British Royal Family

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall tests positive for COVID-19

Posted February 14, 2022 at 9:56 AM EST
Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, speaks to staff at a charity community kitchen in London on February 10, the day her husband tested positive for COVID-19.
Geoff Pugh
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, speaks to staff at a charity community kitchen in London on February 10, the day her husband tested positive for COVID-19.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and wife to Prince Charles, has tested positive for COVID-19 several days after her husband also received a positive test.

Camilla is self-isolating and officials from her residence, Clarence House, have alerted organizations she was in contact with, according to a statement in multiple British news outlets.

Charles tested positive last Thursday, but Camilla tested negative that day and proceeded with three public engagements, the BBC reported. Those include a visit to a community food hub that is being used to deliver meals to elderly and vulnerable people.

Last week, ahead of the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s monarchy, the queen said that when Charles becomes king, she wants Camilla to be known as Queen Consort. The announcement is seen as a way to clarify the title and status of Camilla, who has experienced ups and downs with the royal family over the decades.

Super Bowl 2022

Here are some of the biggest moments from last night's Super Bowl

Posted February 14, 2022 at 9:21 AM EST
The Los Angeles Rams celebrate after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
Ronald Martinez
Getty Images
The Los Angeles Rams celebrate after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

We're revisiting some of the highlights from Sunday's Super Bowl (not to be confused with the Superb Owl, though that is actually a thing.)

The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20, ending the nailbiterwith a last-minute touchdown and marking the second straight year a team has won the Super Bowl on its home turf.

But they weren't the day's only big winners, with other standouts including a halftime show by rap royalty and a slew of star-studded advertisements. Here are some of those memorable moments.

The coin toss honored the legacy of Title IX

Tennis legend and California native Billie Jean King kicked off the game with the honorary coin toss, which carried a special symbolism this year.

King has 39 Grand Slam titles to her name, including a record 20 from Wimbledon. She famously defeated Bobby Riggs in 1973's "Battle of the Sexes," and opened doors for future generations of female players by fighting for more recognition and better pay.

She joined the team captains of the California School for the Deaf, girls youth tackle football players from the Inglewood Chargers and Watts Rams, and high school girls from the Flag Football League of Champions to honor the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which provides equal federal funding for men's and women's high school and collegiate sports. King narrated a video tribute celebrating the law's legacy before walking onto the field.

"It is an honor to stand with these outstanding student athletes and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX on one of the world's biggest stages," she said in a statement. "It's hard to understand inclusion until you have been excluded, and I am proud to be part of this year's Super Bowl Coin Toss and the NFL's commitment to bring us together and make us stronger."

Mickey Guyton belted the national anthem — remember her name

Country singer Mickey Guyton drew widespread praise for her gorgeous rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

It was an honor many years in the making for the breakout star, who grew up singing in church choirs and earned the nickname "the national anthem girl" in high school because she performed it so many times.

Guyton released her debut album last September and then became the first- ever Black artist to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album of the Year (in addition to two other nominations).

She spoke to NPR's Morning Editionand World Cafe last fall about her experience finding her voice and navigating the country music scene as a Black woman, after a decade of experiencing racism and feeling forced to conform in Nashville.

She wasn't the only songstress who shone on the field: Singer Jhené Aiko performed "America the Beautiful."

Unfortunately, the two singers got mixed up when Guyton was captioned incorrectly as Aiko, a mistake that social media users noticed right away. NBC has apologized to both artists for the error.

The fumble brings a whole new meaning to the title of Guyton's debut album: Remember Her Name.

Rap took center stage, and Eminem took a knee

Fans went wild for the halftime show, in which a stacked roster of hip-hop, R&B and rap legends brought renewed energy to their old-school hits — firing up the early-aughts nostalgia and fueling some generational debates on social media.

The performance was headlined by California icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, as well as New York's Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent and Detroit-born Eminem, who finished his song with what appeared to be a protest statement.

Eminem took a knee for about 50 seconds at the end of his solo set, which many fans interpreted as an act of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

As NPR has reported, Kaepernick first started kneeling in 2016, and many other players across sports followed suit the next year in response to disparaging remarks by former President Donald Trump.

Ads focused on celebrities, humor, nostalgia and special effects

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans notes that the modern Super Bowl viewer has much to bemoan, or at least be skeptical about — from allegations of racism in the NFL and concerns about the long-term impacts of players' head trauma to the general state of the pandemic and economy.

He says most ads didn't exactly rise to meet the moment, focusing on celebrities, humor, nostalgia and other tactics to entertain and intrigue.

"The result was a batch of mostly middling commercials that didn't really feel tethered to much," he writes. "They didn't offer unbridled partying or celebration, but weren't often serious or poignant enough to speak to the modern moment, either."

Deggans unpacked a sampling of "the hippest, most entertaining, most telling ads of the Big Game." Click here to watch and read about the highs (Lindsay Lohan! A celebrity power couple hawking Amazon Alexa!) and the lows (Pringles nightmares, anyone?).

One memorable ad from UberEats, featuring a cast of celebrities chowing down on things like detergent, a lightbulb and a candle (to emphasize that it delivers more than just food) even prompted a warning from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's twitter account: "Do not eat soap."

Author interview

Comedy writer Georgia Pritchett chronicles her life and anxiety in a new memoir

Posted February 14, 2022 at 8:53 AM EST
A woman with short, brown curly hair wearing glasses and a dark sweater with rainbow striped sleeves smiles while sitting on a staircase with her head resting on her hands.
Antonio Olmos
Harper Collins
Georgia Pritchett is a screenwriter for shows including "Veep," "Succession" and "The Shrink Next Door."

Screenwriter Georgia Pritchett shares what it’s like to live as an anxious person in her hilarious new memoir, My Mess is a Bit of a Life: Adventures in Anxiety. Through a series of vignettes, the Succession and Veep writer chronicles her early childhood and goes into her present-day life as a partner and mother.

In one passage she writes about her childhood:

“I used to worry that everyone else in the world was a robot and I was the only human. And if I let on that I know this secret, they would kill me. When I told my brother this, he pretended to be a malfunctioning robot and then tried to kill me. I think anyone would have done the same in his position.”

Pritchett told Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin that she had been struggling with talking about her emotions out loud, so her therapist suggested she write them down in a journal. That journal turned into this funny yet heartfelt book.

The author is still getting used to talking about her feelings.

“My whole career has been putting words in other people's mouths, but I've suddenly written this very personal, direct thing and now it's out in the world," she says. "In many ways that's horrifying.”

Listen to their full conversation here.

Plus, check out the rave reviews from some familiar faces:


If Kamila Valieva wins, no medals ceremony will be held for women's figure skating, the IOC says

Posted February 14, 2022 at 8:38 AM EST
Kamila Valieva skates in a view of empty stadium seats.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos
Getty Images
Kamila Valieva of Team ROC skates during a training session Sunday. Valieva has been at the heart of doping controversy at the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

Despite a massive doping scandal, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete again at the Beijing Winter Olympics in tomorrow's marque individual event. Even so, if she places in the top three, there won't be a medal ceremony for now, the International Olympic Committee says.

Valieva is the 15-year-old skating star who dazzled in the Olympic team event, landing two quad-jumps in an Olympic first and helping her team to an apparent win. But when the event's medal ceremony was mysteriously delayed, it was revealed Valieva submitted a doping sample on Dec. 25 which tested positive for a banned substance believed to enhance endurance. It's unclear how the medals for the team event will end up, and why Valieva's results weren't made public until this month — after she had competed at the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee moved to disqualify Valieva, but the Russians opposed the decision and the Court of Arbitration for Sport stepped in. The court met for nearly six hours Sunday and heard from Valieva herself to consider if she should be allowed to continue competing at the Beijing Games. They were not ruling on if Valieva violated anti-doping rules.

They announced today that Valieva can take to the ice again in the women's individual event Tuesday, where she's the gold medal favorite.

Their reasoning took into account her age, NPR's Tom Goldman reported onMorning Edition. At 15, she's considered a protected person under the World Anti-Doping Code, meaning she's subject to lower sanctions for violations and she's vulnerable to having her career severely hurt by a suspension.

"Preventing the athlete to compete at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in these circumstances," said CAS director general Matthieu Reeb at a press conference. "Such late notification [of Valieva's anti-doping test] was not her fault."

In response,the IOC says they won't hand out medals or flowers in the event if Valieva places in the top three.

"The IOC will, in consultation with the athletes and NOCs concerned, organize dignified medal ceremonies once the case of Ms. Valieva has been concluded," the committee said in a press release.

As NPR's Brian Mann notes, all of this must be profoundly traumatic for Valieva, widely considered a genius on the ice.

She has not spoken publicly about the situation. Former Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon doesn't believe Valieva knowingly used a performance-enhancing drug, and as a minor, he says the adults around her failed her.

"The way that Kamila Valieva was able to skate in that team competition is amazing. Every program she did, I was one of the first people to stand up because I was in awe of what I was seeing," Rippon told Goldman.

"They ruined that for her, and they ruined it for all of us who really were so excited that there was this incredible talent," says Rippon.

Beijing 2022 is yet another Olympics mired in a doping controversy. For more on how anti-doping efforts lost many peoples' faith, read this.


'Ghostbusters' director and 'Animal House' producer Ivan Reitman has died

Posted February 14, 2022 at 8:19 AM EST
Ivan Reitman attends the GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE World Premiere in Nov. 2021 in New York City.
Theo Wargo
Getty Images for Sony Pictures
Ivan Reitman attends the GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE World Premiere in Nov. 2021 in New York City.

Gifted comedy director and producer Ivan Reitman — who directed Ghostbusters and Twins and produced Space Jam and National Lampoon's Animal House — has died at 75.

“Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life,” Reitman’s children Jason, Catherine and Caroline said, according to The Associated Press.

Reitman died in his sleep on Saturday at his home in Montecito, Calif., his family said.

In his long and successful career, Reitman didn’t garner a mantle full of Hollywood’s most prestigious awards — a common fate for comedy. But his films were wildly popular and created iconic moments for well-loved actors such as John Belushi and Bill Murray.

“We take comfort that his work as a filmmaker brought laughter and happiness to countless others around the world,” Reitman’s children said. “While we mourn privately, we hope those who knew him through his films will remember him always.”

Reitman was born in Czechoslovakia in 1946. He grew up in Canada, where his family emigrated to escape oppression under Communism. He began directing and producing short films while he was a student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“In Toronto, he produced the stage production Spellbound which evolved into The Magic Show. It played on Broadway for five years,” his bio at McMaster says. “His off–Broadway hit The National Lampoon Show subsequently led to his film National Lampoon’s Animal House, produced in 1978.”

Reitman has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; he was also honored an officer of the Order of Canada. His official citation for the latter notes that Reitman produced some of Canadian director David Cronenberg's early horror films, before going on to create comedies that became genre-defining classics.


Whatever your relationship status, kick off Valentine's Day with these NPR reads

Posted February 14, 2022 at 8:05 AM EST
A heart-shaped red balloon reading "Happy Valentine's Day" sticks out from a bouquet of colorful flowers.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Balloons and flowers are sold outside a convenience store last Valentine's Day in New York City.

Happy Valentine's day from team live blog! We would love for you to check out these greetings for the public media fans in your life:

And whether you're celebrating your loved ones, shaking your first at Hallmark or just waiting for chocolates to go on sale tomorrow, NPR has you covered with a bunch of great holiday reads.

Check out some of this year's Valentine's Day coverage:

Ukraine-Russia crisis

As U.S. and others tell their citizens to flee Ukraine, residents say they feel alone

Posted February 14, 2022 at 8:02 AM EST
People walking down the street of a city are reflected in a golden frame of a store window.
Chris McGrath
Getty Images Europe
People are seen reflected in a Chanel store window on Friday in Kyiv, Ukraine.

We're following the latest developments in Ukraine, where diplomatic efforts are continuing amidst U.S. officials' warnings of an imminent Russian invasion.

President Biden spoke separately with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over the weekend. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is heading to Kyiv today, and Russia tomorrow.

NPR's Joanna Kakissis spoke to Morning Edition from Ukraine about what people there are hoping to hear. Listen here or read on for details.

Ukrainians want more support from Germany

Ukrainians haven't been pleased with Germany's handling of the crisis and want more forceful support, Kakissis says. Germany has a business relationship with Russia (see: the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline), so Scholz has so far been careful in what he says while promising tough sanctions if Russia does invade.

Scholz is expected to speak with Zelenskyy about how to stabilize Ukraine's international economy, as global fears have taken a toll on Germany's currency and the availability of international flights. Citing German media, Kakissis adds that Scholz also plans to talk about the economy during his upcoming visit to Russia, in an attempt to get them to back off.

In fact, Ukrainians feel like support from the West has been lacking altogether

Ukrainians want Scholz and other Western leaders to show some moral support and "communicate something other than panic," as Kakissis put it.

Over the weekend, more than a dozen countries — including the U.S. — told their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, and many embassies have said they're planning to move at least some of their operations from the capital of Kyiv to the western city of Lviv. It's less than a two-hour drive from neighboring Poland (a NATO ally and EU member), which has opened its border to Americans heading west.

Kakissis has spent several days reporting from Lviv, calling it a "beautiful, lively city with cobblestone streets and cafes everywhere and kids ... playing in the squares." The Ukrainians she spoke with there expressed disappointment that so many Western countries are telling their citizens to flee.

Ivanka Gonak, a tour guide and historian, told Kakissis that the panic is making Ukrainians feel very alone.

"I’m a mother of three children. And I’m a bit desperate," she said. "Because I don’t know if Ukraine should rely on the help of the international community. Each family that I know, they have their emergency backpacks. They feel they might need to run at any moment."

While Western countries tell their citizens to flee, Ukrainians are sticking it out

Most Ukrainians don't want to run, Kakissis says, pointing out that they've lived with Russia as an aggressive neighbor for years. In fact, many have joked that the only locals fleeing are the oligarchs who flew out on their private planes.

She also notes that while Ukrainians are pinning their hopes on diplomatic efforts (and, in some cases, mobilizing to defend themselves), they're also going on with their lives. In fact, she says, the top news item over the weekend was about the winner of Ukraine's entry into the Eurovision song contest: A number by Alina Pash that's all about national identity, looking ahead and moving forward.