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Dahlberg: Epic NFL playoffs show new wave of quarterback talent

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Dahlberg: Epic NFL playoffs show new wave of quarterback talent

Aaron Rodgers seemed tired and uninterested, almost as if working overtime to spread fake science and conspiracy theories was more important to him than getting the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady didn’t look much better. He was beaten up and aging quickly on the field in Tampa Bay — until suddenly he wasn’t.

They both ended up losers on a NFL playoff weekend that might have been the most entertaining ever. And they both left their respective fields unsure of where they will be playing next year — or if they will be playing at all.

Not that it matters all that much. In an epic round of playoff games, the young quarterbacks showed the NFL will be in good hands for years to come.

Patrick Mahomes outdueled Josh Allen and the Bills in a game so good it should have been a Super Bowl by itself. Maybe two.

Joe Burrow won one for the Bengals, proving he is as good as he is brash, and Matthew Stafford is a game away from doing in Los Angeles what he never had a chance to do in Detroit.

Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile, never stopped smiling even though he did little except lead San Francisco to a winning field goal in frigid Green Bay.

The old guys? Eh, not so much.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity for Brady to finally acknowledge Father Time and call it quits on a remarkable career, even as he helped lead an improbable fourth quarter Tampa Bay rally against the Rams. Brady had his moments, but there were long stretches of the game when it appeared retirement couldn’t come soon enough for the greatest quarterback ever.

“I haven’t put a lot of thought to it,” Brady said afterward, picking his words carefully. “We’ll just take it day by day and see what happens.”

Rodgers also wasn’t going to commit to his future, but he did warn Green Bay fans they wouldn’t see him again if the team was planning to go into a rebuilding mode. He’s got a year left on his contract, though you might wonder why the Packers would risk another season of disruption at the hands of a quarterback who totally disrupted this one.

But, really, who else would want him?

Rodgers is as self-centered and arrogant as star athletes come, convinced perhaps by his stint hosting “Jeopardy!” that he knows answers others can only guess. He had no compulsion during the season pretending he was vaccinated, disrespecting his teammates and putting them and everyone else at Packers headquarters at risk of catching COVID-19.

The way social media gleefully mocked Rodgers’ performance in the snow against San Francisco, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of people cheering for him, much less buying a new insurance policy at his behest.

Those in the Twitterverse suggested Rodgers was silenced by a conspiracy of special teams players. They said he had no shot of winning, and pointed out that this was his first playoff loss in the Moderna era.

They also wondered — just like all of us — if the game plan for the 49ers was as detailed as the 500-plus pages of “research” Rodgers read before making his mind up to roll the dice with a virus that doesn’t care how good he is at finding open receivers.

Almost lost in all the drama is the fact is that even though Rodgers is poised to win a second straight MVP trophy he has played in only one Super Bowl in 14 years as a starter in Green Bay — and that was 11 long years ago.

Brady is different, of course, because Brady is different than any quarterback who came before him. The seven Super Bowl rings will be a record that stands the test of time, and he gave an entire franchise new life when he left New England for the Buccaneers two seasons ago.

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MN Senate Democrats make final push to legalize marijuana

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MN Senate Democrats make final push to legalize marijuana

A late push by Minnesota Senate Democrats to legalize marijuana failed Wednesday, underscoring that recreational pot use is unlikely to be allowed in Minnesota this year.

Marijuana is legal in Minnesota for certain medical purposes.

Wednesday’s effort, which failed in a procedural vote almost entirely along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate, can be viewed through the lens of election-year politics.

Two cannabis-legalization parties are active in Minnesota, and Democrats fear that candidates from those parties can peel off some of their voters who feel strongly about marijuana. Wednesday’s maneuver by Senate Democrats, while doomed, can serve as DFLers laying down a marker that they are united in their support for total legalization.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled House passed a plan to legalize pot last year, with some Republicans voting in favor of it, and Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has said he would sign it if it were to reach his desk.

However, support among Republicans in the Senate has never been strong, and many are stridently opposed. Some Senate Republicans have been amenable to “decriminalization” plans that would lessen penalties for pot and expunge records of those convicted for minor possession. Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Governor this year, supports such expungement.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen called such measures “piecemeal” and said they wouldn’t suffice.

Wednesday’s vote in the Senate wasn’t actually on the merits of legalization, but on whether the proposal should be brought to the Senate floor. Every DFLer who voted on the measure voted in favor of that idea, while every Republican who voted cast their vote against it. Two retiring independents, Sens. Tom Bakk of Cook and David Tomassoni of Chisholm, split their votes, with Bakk opposing and Thomassoni supporting.

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Tartan High senior chosen as ThreeSixty scholar for four-year scholarship to St. Thomas

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Tartan High senior chosen as ThreeSixty scholar for four-year scholarship to St. Thomas

Gwynnevere Vang, a senior at Tartan High School in Oakdale, has been chosen as the ThreeSixty Journalism Scholar and will attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul on a four-year, full-tuition scholarship.

The honor is awarded each year to one student enrolled in the nonprofit high school journalism program, which draws participants from across the metro area. There are currently four ThreeSixty Journalism Scholars enrolled at St. Thomas.

Housed at St. Thomas since 2001, ThreeSixty Journalism launched at the University of Minnesota in 1971 as the Urban Journalism Workshop, providing basic journalism training to Minnesota high school students, particularly low-income teens and teens of color. The program was part of a nationwide effort to increase the presence of people of color in newsrooms in order to better reflect and serve increasingly diverse communities. The Pioneer Press and Star Tribune are active partners.

Vang, in a written statement, said her career goal is to travel the country — if not the world — telling stories about the earth’s natural beauty and environmental movements. She joined ThreeSixty in summer 2020 and remained active with the program during the school year, completing a TV Broadcast Camp and high school journalism classes while contributing to her school’s online newspaper, the Plaid Press.

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Amber Heard’s sister, friend back her assault claims against Johnny Depp

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Raquel Pennington testifies in a previously recorded video deposition, as a picture of actor Amber Heard is seen on screen in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Amber Heard’s sister testified Wednesday that she found herself in the middle of fights — literally and figuratively — between her sister and Johnny Depp during their troubled relationship.

Whitney Heard Henriquez is the first witness to testify at the five-week civil trial to say she personally witnessed Depp hitting Heard. Depp has testified he never struck Heard.

Henriquez testified the fight occurred in March 2015 — a month after Depp and Heard’s wedding — when Heard found evidence that Depp had already had an extramarital affair.

Henriquez recounted that an inebriated Depp blamed Heard for forcing him into the extramarital encounter.

At one point, she said, she was caught between Depp and Heard as he charged up a staircase to confront Heard. Henriquez said she was struck in the back, and Heard became enraged and “landed one” on Depp, with Henriquez stuck between the two.

One of Depp’s bodyguards intervened and broke up the fight but “by that time Johnny had already grabbed Amber by the hair with one hand and was whacking her repeatedly in the face with the other,” Henriquez said.

It was the only time, Henriquez said, that she personally witnessed a physical assault. But she said she saw the aftermath of other fights, including bruises on Heard.

She said she had the nickname “marriage counselor” for her frequent efforts to mediate arguments between Heard and Depp.

“Clearly not very well,” she said of her mediation efforts.

But she acknowledged on cross-examination that she sided with Depp at times in their disputes, and said she worked to keep the couple together even after she watched her sister be physically assaulted.

“If my sister said that she still wanted to be with Johnny and if I could help with that in any way I was going to support her. I was going to be there for her,” she said.

Henriquez admitted that once, she even joked in a text message that Depp should hit Heard, but she said she didn’t really understand what her sister was going through at the time.

Henriquez also told a story about Depp’s behavior at Heard’s 30th birthday party in April 2016, one of the final fights between the couple. She said people took turns sharing favorite memories of Heard. Depp, who arrived late and intoxicated to the party, decided to tell a story about when he first met Heard as she auditioned for a movie and “she sat on the couch and her perfect (posterior) left the perfect imprint on the couch.”

“We were all kind of embarrassed,” Henriquez said.

Depp is suing Heard for libel in Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His lawyers say he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

Also Wednesday, a friend of Heard testified she saw the bruises and cuts left in the aftermath of multiple incidents of abuse inflicted by Depp.

In a recorded deposition played for jurors, Raquel Pennington said she never personally witnessed Depp strike Heard. But she said she saw the injuries, and she took photos of Heard’s face in December 2015 after a fight in which Heard says Depp head-butted her and perhaps broke her nose.

The photo shows a swollen nose, a cut lip, and two moderately black eyes on Heard’s face.

She also took a photo of strands of hair that she said were ripped from Heard’s scalp.

Heard “often had to cover bruises and injuries on her face” with makeup, said Pennington, one of many witnesses whose testimony was previously recorded.

Pennington said she doesn’t really consider herself a current friend of Heard, and that the two grew apart in the last year.

The December 2015 fight is one of several disputed incidents. While jurors have seen the photos taken by Pennington documenting the injuries, they have also seen video of Heard’s appearance on a late-night talk show the next day in which those injuries aren’t visible.

Heard has said the injuries were just covered by makeup.

Raquel Pennington testifies in a previously recorded video deposition, as a picture of actor Amber Heard is seen on screen in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

Pennington’s testimony came after Heard wrapped up her time on the witness stand Tuesday, including two grueling days of cross-examination in which Depp’s lawyers questioned Heard about the truthfulness of her allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

Pennington’s testimony provides corroborating evidence to several of the alleged assaults. In addition to the December 2015 incident, Pennington said she saw cuts on Heard’s feet when she returned from a trip to Australia in March 2015. Heard testified that Depp sexually assaulted Heard with a liquor bottle on that trip and that she cut her feet on broken glass from the attack.

And Pennington, who lived for a time in a suite of penthouses along with Depp and Heard, said she was the first person to see Heard during a final fight between the couple in May 2016 that precipitated the couple’s divorce.

Pennington said she interjected herself between the two and Depp knocked her hands away. She said she then covered Heard with her own body on the floor as Depp screamed at Heard to get up. She said she later saw Depp wielding a wine bottle to smash and knock things off the walls and counters.

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