Politicians debate the future of the president — and our democracy. More than 200,000 people will be diagnosed with COVID-19 today. Another 4,000 will die.
But in Westport, we woke up to this scene today.
There is beauty all around us. We are so fortunate to not look far to find it.
The property between Clapboard Hill Road and Morningside Drive South is one of the last big pieces of private open space left in Westport.
A new house is under construction there. This week, excavation began in the middle of the field.
No building or subdivision plans have been filed, so this might be work to improve the water table, drain the wetlands or otherwise tend to the fill there.
“06880” will follow up when we find out for sure.
Before he became CBS News chief homeland security and justice correspondent, a 3-time Emmy Award winner and the author of a book on police and the Black community, Jeff Pegues was an All-FCIAC running back on the Staples High School football team.
So he’s got some skin in the game when he interviews James Brown, host of CBS’ “The NFL Today” and Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” on January 27 (7 p.m.).
The free virtual program — sponsored by the Westport Library — will preview the Super Bowl, with intriguing insights and analysis. Click here to register.
James Brown and Jeff Pegues.
And finally … on this date in 1968, Johnny Cash performed his now-famous concert at Folsom Prisom.
If you’ve never been to one of Jeff Pegues’ “Newsmakers” events at (or, virtually, via) the Westport Library, you’ve missed something special.
Last January the CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent, author — and 1988 Staples High School graduate — kicked off the series by interviewing (live) Mo Rocca, fellow CBS News correspondent, podcaster and TV personality.
In June (via cyberspace) Pegues chatted with billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.
Up next: a pair of conversations about 2 American obsessions: politics and sports.
Both are virtually free. By that I mean: they are online (virtual), and there is absolutely no charge.
Tomorrow (Wednesday, November 11, 7:30 p.m.), Pegues hosts a intriguing conversation with Major Garrett and Nancy Cordes. (Click here to register.)
Major Garrett and Nancy Cordes
They’re 2 of America’s most insightful political reporters. And they just got through covering one of the most compelling, challenging and consequential elections in history.
What was it like in the newsroom this past week? Pegues will help them tell you.
Cordes is CBS News’ chief congressional correspondent. Based in Washington, she contributes to all of the network’s broadcasts and platforms.
Garrett is White House correspondent for CBS News, and a contributor to National Journal. He previously served as chief White House correspondent for Fox News.
Next month (Tuesday, December 1, 7 p.m.). Pegues will be joined by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Los Angeles Sparks Forward Candace Parker, and former NBA star Charles Smith. (Click here to register.)
This is not just jock talk. Topics include how George Floyd’s death sparked a social justice movement in sports, and the ways in which athletes are using their power and influence to mobilize fans.
Since joining CBS News, Pegues has led coverage of some of the biggest stories of the last decade. He reported on the conflict between the Black community and police, and wrote a book: “Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between Police and the Black Community.”
Pegues has received 3 Emmy Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and in 2017 was part of the CBS News team that earned an Edward R. Murrow Award.
And he know sports as well as politics. At Staples, he was an All-State sprinter, and an All-FCIAC football running back.
Winfield is one of 7 players in MLB history with over 3,000 hits and 450 home runs. The 12-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 — his first year of eligibility.
Smith is a retired NBA power forward in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers selected him as the 3rd overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie first team, and played nearly 10 years in the league.
Parker is one of the most decorated female basketball players ever. The first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, she is a league champion, 2-time MVP, and Rookie of the Year. She is now a broadcaster, and role model for young athletes.
Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening begins next Wednesday (June 17). It’s a big day for Governor Ned Lamont. And at 9 a.m., he shares it with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
He’s the special guest and speaker for their virtual “Morning Network” meeting. The event is free — and open to all.
Lamont will give an update on the pandemic, discuss the next phase in reopening, offer his views on the future, and answer questions. They may be submitted ahead of time by email, or through the chat function during the event.
Also virtual — and also featuring big names — is the Westport Library’s next Trefz Newsmakers series.
CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues interviews billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.
They’ll talk about Lasry’s career, how he gives back, his advice for entrepreneurs, and COVID-19’s effect on business and the sports world.
Driving around Westport and Weston, Aarti Khosla has been touched by the many yard signs and balloons congratulating high school and middle school graduates. She’s been impressed by the banners on Main Street, not far from Le Rouge — her “aartisan” chocolate shop.
But as she thought about all that’s going on America today, she was inspired to act on the words that she fervently believes in: “Spread love.” And what better place to spread love than nearby Bridgeport?
She called the superintendent of schools, and offered to celebrate their graduates with “Give a Little Love” hearts. Here’s her message to “06880” readers:
“Next week, 1115 Bridgeport students will graduate from high school. This is an enormous accomplishment. We recognize the obstacles they overcame to achieve success.
“Le Rouge asks for your support in celebrating these graduates. We will make chocolate hearts to celebrate every Bridgeport high school senior. If each Westport graduating senior — or a relative or friend, or perfect stranger — agrees to celebrate 3 Bridgeport students with a $25 sponsorship, we can give our love to the entire community via chocolate hearts.
“We have until next Monday to make this a reality. Click here to help.”
Aarti Khosla’s wonderful chocolates
Some youngsters returned to their elementary schools for the first time since March today. It was also their last time at “their” school.
“Moving up” car parades were held for 5th graders around town. This was the scene captured by Kings Highway Elementary School parent Tricia Lau-Lewis.
All 5 kids went to KHS. The youngest will be in 5th grade there next year.
Meanwhile, after the Saugatuck El parade, Carolyn Doan’s family headed to Sunny Daes. They met some Greens Farms Elementary folks there (below).
MoCA Westport shut down in mid-March. But their beautiful Steinway grand piano did not sit idle.
As part of their pandemic programming, they invited accomplished local pianists to perform. They filmed them, and shared the virtual concerts free on their YouTube page.
Pianists are invited to play music of their choice. Some — like Chris Coogan — are inspired by MoCA’s current Helmut Lang exhibition. He wrote and performed an original piece.
This week’s performance features two Staples students. Patrick Looby and Lucas Lieberman are rising seniors. They played together in November, at Carnegie Hall.
For MoCA they play Aram Khachaturian’s lively waltz “Masquerade.” Enjoy!
More music news! Drew Angus — the 2007 Staples High School grad profiled recently on “06880” as an example of a gig worker navigating his way through the coronavirus crisis — performs via Zoom this Friday (June 12, 12 noon).
It’s a Westport Senior Center production — but it’s open to everyone who wants to hear the work of this talented young singer/songwriter.
Click here for the Zoom link (meeting ID: 883 1489 6846; password: 2DHJSV). It’s also available on Facebook (click here, or search for Toquet Hall).
Here’s a sight you don’t see every day: Yesterday, a helicopter apparently headed for a landing at Old Mill Beach or Sherwood Island State Park.
If you know the back story, click “Comment” below.
And finally … this is a poignant song at any time. Particularly at graduation. And really particularly this year.
Here’s to the Class of 2020. You haven’t seen each other for a while. But you’ve come a long way from where you began. I hope you see each other for a long time, soon.
Last year, Jeff Pegues arrived early for a book signing.
The 1988 Staples High School graduate — who rose through the broadcast ranks and is now CBS News justice/homeland security correspondent — had published his second book, Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy.
He sat in his car at the Saugatuck Congregational Church, watching dozens of people arrive. It was a bigger crowd than in many major cities.
“I was humbled, and struck by how many Westporters are interested in information beyond the headlines,” Pegues says.
“That’s not always the case. And it troubles me.”
When the Westport Library — which had sponsored his talk off-site, during its renovation project — wrote a thank-you note, he started thinking what more he could do.
He’s a fan of New York’s 92nd Street Y, which sponsors a long-running, provocative speakers’ series.
Pegues lives in Washington, DC. But his hometown — and hometown library — retain strong holds on him.
Would the library be interested in a series of interview/conversations with intriguing newsmakers? he wondered.
Would we ever! replied executive director Bill Harmer.
With a generous donation from Christian J. and Eva W. Trefz, the Newsmakers Series kicks off on Saturday, January 25 (7 p.m.). The first guest is Mo Rocca, noted CBS News correspondent, podcaster and TV personality.
It takes place in the soaring Forum — which, thanks to a previous $1 million gift, already bears the Trefz name.
Quarterly events are planned. Pegues will help bring intellectuals, foreign policy experts, politicians, actors, artists, athletes and other newsmakers to Westport — and will moderate each. His job is to help the audience “understand who they really are.”
Pegues is enthusiastic about the project.
“The library is a destination for ideas,” he notes. “And it’s important for newsmakers to come to a town with so many influential people.”
As a journalist, he notes, he often asks questions like “how did you get here?” What, for example, motivated the child of a single mom in Akron to not only become a basketball superstar, but to speak out about topics most athletes would not touch?
LeBron James would be a perfect candidate for a Trefz Newsmaker evening, Pegues says.
Rocca — the first interviewee — has “a unique take on people,” Pegues says. “He has an incredible ability to mix news judgment with a comedic touch.”
Rocca’s resume includes 4 seasons each with “The Daily Show” and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show”; the “Mobituaries” podcast and book (an irreverent but well-researched appreciation of intriguing things past), and current gigs on both “CBS Sunday Morning” and NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”
He’s won 2 Emmy Awards — one fewer than Pegues.
“Westporters should have access to people like Mo,” Pegues says. “They want clarity and insights.”
He looks forward to helping provide it — in a place that is particularly meaningful to him.
“Westport is a huge part of my upbringing,” Pegues says. “My parents moved here in the late 1970s for 2 reasons: the minnybus, and the library.”
The townwide transportation system — whose hub was Jesup Green — is long gone.
In 1986, the library moved to its new location, next to the green. A few months ago, it reopened in a transformed, 21st-century way.
Next month, Jeff Pegues helps the Westport Library become even more special and vibrant than it already is.
(General admission tickets for the 1st Trefz Newsmakers Series on January 25 are $35, and include a copy of Mo Rocca’s “Mobituaries” book. VIP tickets are $100, and include a private reception with Rocca, and preferred seating in the Forum. Click here for tickets.)
In 2016, Jeff Pegues published Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America.
The author — a 1988 Staples High School graduate who rose through the broadcast ranks to WABC-TV News, and now is CBS News justice/homeland security correspondent — spoke with hundreds of officers, police chiefs, community activists, even then-FBI director (and Westporter) James Comey. Pegues’ unbiased view of both sides of the cop/community divide came out in the midst of a national debate over police/citizen relations.
Earlier this month he published Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy. It too is the right book, at the exact right time.
Russia’s influence on our elections was a hot topic during the 8 months Pegues researched and wrote it.
But even he had no idea his book would hit the shelves just days before President Trump’s Helsinki Summit moved the title — “kompromat” means “compromising material” — out of obscurity, and into our national dialogue.
Pegues’ interest in the subject was piqued during the summer of 2016. In his CBS News role, he was one of the first people to hear — from reliable intelligence sources — about Russia’s interference in our election.
“Intelligence and law enforcement people who do not usually panic were really worried,” Pegues recalls.
He watched as American media focused on the presidential campaign — not on “the story behind the campaign, which was Russia’s hacking and influence.”
His own network was part of that surface coverage, Pegues notes. “I was stomping around the newsroom, saying we should be covering the Russian story every night.”
He spent 24 hours traveling with then-CIA director John Brennan, who told the CBS correspondent, “Unusual stuff is happening.” Pegues says, “It felt like we were living in a movie script.”
Pegues pitched a book idea to publishers. Some did not think it was a story. Prometheus — which published Black and Blue — trusted the author’s judgment. “I told them this would be a story for the ages,” he says.
During the day, Pegues talked to sources for his “Evening News” or “CBS This Morning” reports. On weekends and during vacations, he wrote Kompromat.
The more he dove into his research, the more it surprised him. “This is really remarkable,” Pegues says. “We haven’t gotten all of it yet. This is a new kind of warfare.”
But Kompromat is not just a frightening tale of ongoing Russian influence in our elections. Pegues confronts a related question: What will it take to protect American democracy?
“The intelligence community says this is ongoing,” the journalist says. “I’m worried about 2018 — and 2020.”
And he worries about kompromat — not the book title, but the actual activity.
“If in 2016 you’d told people we’d be where we are this week — with national talk about the president possibly being compromised — everyone would say ‘impossible,'” Pegues says.
“But officials are behind bars. They’re on trial. They’re cooperating with prosecutors. It’s amazing. And what’s happening now has serious repercussions for our entire democracy.”
Russians do not have to actually change votes in order to have an impact, Pegues emphasizes. “They just have to to change how we think. What we see and read has an impact on how we vote.”
The ultimate goal of the Russians, Pegues says, is not about Donald Trump. “It’s about weakening our democracy, so Putin can point to us, and our fragile democracy, and use our example to build up the Russian Federation. That’s really what he wants.”
So is Pegues hopeless about our future?
“Reporters are doing incredible work,” he says. “The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC — these are not easy stories to do.
“Intelligence people don’t give out information like candy. It’s hard to get. But we’ve seen very good, collective reporting. Like Watergate, it’s important for democracy to dig, so we can move forward.”
It is crucial, Pegues adds, that reporters “get this story right. We’ve been called ‘the enemy of the state,’ and Trump’s supporters believe we are.”
Pegues thinks special counsel Robert Mueller will deliver a report before the midterm elections. He also thinks “35% of the country probably won’t buy what he says.
“But I think at some point the public will realize this story is about the future of our country. Our adversary is trying to change who we are, and how we think. That’s not about partisan politics at all. It’s about our democracy.”
Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last week. Jeff Pegues played youth soccer in Westport, then earned a football scholarship to Miami University in Ohio.
Pegues expects “a couple of years of trials. Even so, it will be quite a while before we get the full story. And I don’t think 100% of the country will ever think we got all the answers.”
When Pegues began writing Kompromat, he knew it was an important story. He had no idea though that his book would be published the same month the American president met alone — for 2 hours — with his Russian counterpart.
In book publishing — as in politics — timing is everything.
As justice/homeland security correspondent for CBS News, Jeff Pegues has special insight into the police/community relations crisis that’s dominated American headlines for the past couple of years.
As an African American man, he’s got a different — but very important — perspective too.
Which is why the 1988 Staples High School graduate’s new book — Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America — is such a crucial addition to this national debate.
Earlier this week — in the midst of tracking down sources for the still-developing Russian-presidential-campaign-hacking story — Pegues talked about his project. We had not spoken for 3 decades — I was his youth soccer coach, before he became a Staples football star, earned a scholarship to Miami University in Ohio and rose through the broadcast ranks to WABC-TV news, then 3 years ago CBS national news — but he was eager to chat.
Jerff Pegues, reporting for CBS News.
His parents grew up in the Deep South — Montgomery and Birmingham — during the heart of the civil rights movement. He’s related on his mother’s side to Rosa Parks.
During his 25 years in the news business, Pegues worked on many law enforcement stories. He’s developed strong relationships with police officers, commanders and federal investigators.
As he covered a string of police shootings – from Ferguson through Tulsa, Charlotte and more — he realized he was in a unique position.
“It’s important to dispel myths, and get all sides of the story in one place,” Pegues says.
“With Twitter, Facebook and other social media, people get information from sources they agree with. They reinforce their opinion. They don’t question it.”
He admits, “I’m not Shakespeare. But I know how to interview people, and get honest answers. That way everyone can see the issues, study them and start to solve problems.”
Speaking with hundreds of subjects — officers, police chiefs and union leaders, community activists, even FBI director (and fellow former Westporter) James Comey — Pegues offers an unbiased view from both sides of the cop-community divide.
Police speak about the pressure to enforce laws, involve themselves in social issues and work in neighborhoods that have been neglected for years. Black citizens talk about confrontations that have happened for decades; finally, they say, there is proof that they are being singled out, harassed, even killed.
A police chief remarks that officers feel there are targets on their backs. “I thought, ‘a lot of African Americans feel the same way,'” Pegues says. “But they can’t take that ‘uniform’ off.
“I want the truth out there,” he adds. “Folks in the black community need to understand stop-and-frisk. Cops need to talk about the disrespect they feel in some communities, as they try to help. There are good people on both sides.”
However, he adds, despite similar concerns about issues, “in this politically charged atmosphere, there’s not a lot of listening.”
Pegues plays it right down the middle. “I have friends and family on both sides,” he says.
Writing about a subject with new headlines nearly every week — though the book will not be published until spring — is not easy. For example, Pegues says, earlier this week the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police apologized for historic mistreatment of minorities by police. That came too late to include in Black and Blue.
But stories like those will bring readers to his book. Once there, Pegues’ clear, coherent and constructive approach to cop/community relations will draw them in.
And — whether they are police officers, black activists or any other American — Jeff Pegues’ book will get us all thinking.
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Jeff Pegues — the 1988 Staples grad who is now a celebrated CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent — scored a big interview with Delrish Moss, the new police chief in embattled Ferguson, Missouri.
Last night on the “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley,” Pegues asked Moss about his experiences as a black teenager in Miami, in the 1980s.
A white police officer used the n-word, telling Moss not to walk downtown after dark. Another encounter — being pushed against a car, and frisked — followed soon after.
Why, Pegues asked, would that draw Moss to law enforcement, rather than push him away?
Pegues got the money quote.
“My grandmother has a saying: ‘You can’t clean a house if you’re not in it,'” Moss replied.
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