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Scott Brown's Surprise: Boston Globe: "Scott Brown, who surprised the political world with his upset victory in the 2010 special election, announced Friday afternoon that he will not enter the special election to replace John F. Kerry. ... Brown had long been considered the party’s strongest and most likely candidate. The party may now turn to former governor William F. Weld or former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey. Beyond that, the list of credible candidates is thin. Weld has left open the possibility he would run, but associates say he is unlikely to leave his law and consulting practice to resume a political career."
His Statement: "I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time," the former Republican senator said. "And I know it’s not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me."
Instant Analysis I: Politico: "It’s a serious, early recruiting failure for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and it makes the already uphill climb to a majority that much steeper for the GOP. They need six seats, and many party strategists privately counted on Massachusetts as one of them. ... [A] Republican source said that Brown really is considering a 2014 gubernatorial campaign, and that it is not just a matter of speculation. 'Scott Brown is looking at the governor’s race,' the source said." Washington Post: Four Reasons Brown May Run for Governor
Instant Analysis II: Weigel: Do you remember those months Democrats spent panicking that Scott Brown would rise again if John Kerry's Senate seat opened up? The panic that started roughly three weeks before Brown even lost his old seat to Sen. Elizabeth Warren? All for naught. ... Endless, half-informed column inches were written about how risky it was to nominate John Kerry to run the State Department, because surely the guy who just got ethered by an Oklahoma-born law professor was going to swoop in and save his seat for Republicans. This is your daily reminder to ignore most political reporting that's based on but-what-ifs."
The Harvard Cheating Scandal: Reuters: "As many as 60 students have been forced to withdraw from Harvard University after cheating on a final exam last year in what has become the largest academic scandal to hit the Ivy League school in recent memory. Michael Smith, Harvard's dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, sent an email on Friday saying that more than half of the students who faced the school's administrative board have been suspended for a time. Roughly 125 undergraduates were involved in the scandal, which came to light at the end of the spring semester after a professor noticed similarities on a take-home exam that showed students worked together, even though they were instructed to work alone."
Slate Flashback: In September 2012, Farhad Manjoo argued that the students should be celebrated for collaborating: "What’s the point of prohibiting students from working together? If the students in 'Introduction to Congress' act as these test rules demand when they move into the workforce, they’ll be fired. Outside of academia, teamwork is the rule. Collaboration is widely hailed as a primary factor in creativity and problem solving. It’s the reason Pixar’s offices are designed to foster, in Steve Jobs’ words, 'forced collisions of people' from different departments. In this case, it’s the test’s design, rather than the students’ conduct, that we should criticize." Full thing here.
"Wily Librarians" to the Rescue!: Wall Street Journal: "French tanks were closing in on this storied caravan city on the night of Jan. 23, when the al Qaeda-backed militants who had governed Timbuktu since April left a departing blow. They broke into one of the world's most valuable libraries, ripping centuries-old manuscripts from shelves. Then they torched these priceless artifacts, in a scene of destruction that horrified scholars around the world. But in a relief for this beleaguered city, and in a triumph for bibliophiles, the vast bulk of the library was saved by wily librarians and a security guard—with an assist from modern technology. An estimated 28,000 of the library's artifacts were smuggled out of town by donkey cart, said Prof. Abdoulaye Cissé and security guard Abba Alhadi, who worked to relocate the documents. Gunmen managed to burn only a few hundred papers, but even those were backed up digitally, said the library's bookkeepers."
White House Unveils Opt-Out Specifics: New York Times: "The Obama administration proposed yet another compromise on Friday in an effort to address the concerns of religious organizations that object to its policy requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives for women at no charge. ... Under the proposal, female employees could get free birth control coverage through a separate plan that would be provided by a health insurer. The institution objecting to the coverage would not pay for the contraceptives. The costs would instead be paid by the insurance company, with the possibility of recouping the costs through lower health care expenses resulting in part from fewer births." You can read more on the specific proposed rule-making here. Of course, as "XX Factor's" Amanda Marcotte points out, there's really not a whole lot new here that wasn't already in the works.
Go Ahead, Click on It. You Know You Want To. We'll Wait: How Did Ron Jeremy Become the Greatest Porn Star of All Time?
RIP, Ed Koch: New York Times: "Edward I. Koch, the master showman of City Hall, who parlayed shrewd political instincts and plenty of chutzpah into three tumultuous terms as mayor of New York with all the tenacity, zest and combativeness that personified his city of golden dreams, died Friday morning at age 88."
Energy Secretary Chu To Step Down: Associated Press: "Steven Chu, who won a Nobel Prize in physics but came under questioning for his handling of a solar energy loan, is stepping down. Chu offered his resignation to President Barack Obama in a letter Friday. He said he will stay on at least until the end of February and may stay until a successor is confirmed. Chu's departure had been widely expected and follows announcements by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson and Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that they are leaving."
Who Will Replace Him? The Hill's Ben Geman lists the field: "The long list of potential nominees to replace Chu includes former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.); former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman; and Sue Tierney, a managing principal at the Analysis Group who was DOE’s assistant secretary for policy under former President Clinton. Others include former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D); Center for American Progress founder John Podesta, who was Clinton’s chief of staff; and Stanford University’s Dan Reicher, who formerly headed climate and energy initiatives for Google and served on Obama’s transition team."
January Jobs Report: Reuters: "Employment grew modestly in January and job gains in the previous two months were larger than first reported, a counterpunch to recent data that suggested a tepid economic recovery had stalled at the end of last year. Adding to that optimism, separate reports on Friday showed factory activity hit a nine-month high in January as new orders rebounded, while car and truck sales surged and consumer confidence perked."
An Act of Terror: Washington Post: "A suicide bomber killed a Turkish guard in what U.S. officials called a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Friday, but current and former diplomats credited increased security with preventing more deaths. 'A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror,' White House press secretary Jay Carney said. 'However, we do not know at this point who is responsible or the motivations behind the attack.' Turkey, a key NATO ally, blamed the assault on a left-wing militant group with roots in the Marxist movements of the 1970s and a history of attacks on Turkish and American security targets. There was no immediate indication of a link either to al-Qaeda or to militants in neighboring Syria."
A Few More Quick Hits From Slate—
Brow Beat: Here Are the Rules for Netflix Spoilers
Breakingviews: 2012 May Be As Good as It Gets for Exxon
Slatest Super Bowl Prediction: San Francisco 27, Baltimore 17.
This post was updated at 5:05 p.m with additional information.