The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, February 7, 2016.

New York Times: "Robin Chandler Duke, a rags-to-riches grande dame who married an ambassador and became one of America’s best known advocates for women by championing reproductive rights and international family planning, died in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday. She was 92."

New York Times: "Defying warnings of tougher sanctions from Washington, North Korea launched a rocket on Sunday that Western experts believe is part of a program to develop intercontinental ballistic missile technologies."

White House Live Video
February 8

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIH/NIAID, & Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC

4:15 pm ET: Celebrating African-American women & dance

Go to


Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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The Commentariat -- Dec. 6, 2013

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "House and Senate negotiators on Thursday closed in on a budget deal that, while modest in scope, could break the cycle of fiscal crises and brinkmanship that has hampered the economic recovery and driven public opinion of Congress to an all-time low. But the leaders of the House and Senate budget committees -- Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington -- encountered last-minute resistance from House Democratic leaders who said any deal should be accompanied by an extension of expiring unemployment benefits for 1.3 million workers. 'This isn't interparty bickering,' said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader. 'This is a major policy disagreement.'" ...

... Brad Plumer of the Washington Post explains why the federal unemployment extension must be reinstituted even as the unemployment rate is coming down (see today's News Ledes): "... even with steady improvement of late, the number of people who have been out of work for longer than 27 weeks is still historically high." These, of course, are the people whom the extension helps.

President Obama appeared on Chris Matthew's MSNBC show yesterday:

Paul Krugman on President Obama's December 4 speech on the economy: "Now ... we have the president of the United States breaking ranks [with conventional pundit wisdom], finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008. This is going to change the discourse -- and, eventually, I believe, actual policy. So don't believe the cynics. This was an important speech by a president who can still make a very big difference." ...

... MEANWHILE, the Washington Post's fake liberal columnist Ruth Marcus laments, "... in an omission both disappointing and predictable, the president spurned the chance to challenge his own party on government debt and spiraling entitlement spending and to address the degree to which those entwined phenomena conspire to frustrate progressive solutions." Blah blah. ...

... CW: Now look at what else progressives are up against (and, yes, I'm proud to have ended a sentence with two prepositions) ...

... Ed Pilkington & Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as 'free-market thinktanks', includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.... The proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level.... The State Policy Network (SPN) has members in each of the 50 states and an annual warchest of $83m drawn from major corporate donors that include the energy tycoons the Koch brothers, the tobacco company Philip Morris, food giant Kraft and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline." ...

... Nick Surgey in TruthDig: "Google ... has been funding a growing list of groups advancing the agenda of the Koch brothers. Organizations that received 'substantial' funding from Google for the first time over the past year include Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union (best known for its CPAC conference), and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation that led the charge to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act: Heritage Action. In 2013, Google also funded the corporate lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], although that group is not listed as receiving 'substantial' funding.... Google has a distinctively progressive image, but in March 2012 it hired former Republican member of the House of Representatives, Susan Molinari as its Vice President of Public Policy and Government Relations. According to the New York Times, Molinari is being 'paid handsomely to broaden the tech giant's support beyond Silicon Valley Democrats and to lavish money and attention on selected Republicans.'" Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "In a sign of the left's new aggressiveness, a coalition of liberals is trying to marginalize a centrist Democratic policy group [-- Third Way --] that was responsible for a Wall Street Journal op-ed article this week that said economic populism was 'disastrous' for the party.... By directly going after [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren [D-Mass.], who has an avid following among progressives, Third Way all but ensured that it would get the fight it seemed to want to pick." ...

... Jonathan Chait has a funny, but ultimately informative, take on the Third Way-Warren contretemps, "pitting unruly McGovernite hippies against smarmy Corporate Shill-o-crats."

Peter Schweizer in Politico Magazine: "A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) analysis finds that from July 12, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2013, the president’s public schedule records zero one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius. Equally shocking, over the same period, the president's calendar lists 277 private meetings with his other Cabinet secretaries (excluding full Cabinet meetings)." CW: Schweizer is a winger & so of course GAI is a right-wing tank. But assuming Politico verified his results (which may be a foolish assumption), this is a pretty stunning revelation. ...

... Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times: "... the [California] GOP website,, looks like an effort to steer citizens away from, which is the legitimate enrollment site for California's individual insurance exchange.... There's only one course for the Assembly Republicans to take, if they're not going to have a reputation for lying and misrepresentation hung around their necks. They need to take their website down and disavow it. The right time for them to do so is now." ...

     ... CW: I linked to a story on this hoax a few days ago, & I noticed Al Sharpton ran a segment on it. Still, following Hiltzig & Sharpton are probably not high priorities to busy families who need health insurance. As Hiltzig noted in an earlier post, "Just a couple of weeks ago California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris shut down 10 bogus insurance sites, some of them with names very similar to the real thing. She must have overlooked the GOP's entry." Shutting down this scam was my recommendation, too. ...

... ** Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "Quinetta Rascoe is working to sign people up for coverage under Obamacare in rural North Carolina, where lawmakers are hostile and many of the neediest people are skeptical and uninformed." ...

... CW: Former Bushie & therefore WashPo columnist Michael Gerson writes a column on how surgery & treatment saved him from dying of kidney cancer. Funny thing, he never mentions how lucky he was to have health insurance to cover his extensive & expensive treatment. Or how he sure is glad that the less fortunate will now have that chance, too. Putz.

Mark Landler & David Sanger of the New York Times: "China appears ready to force nearly two dozen journalists from American news organizations to leave the country by the end of the year, a significant increase in pressure on foreign news media that has prompted the American government's first public warning about repercussions. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised the issue here in meetings with President Xi Jinping and other top Chinese leaders, and then publicly chastised the Chinese on Thursday for refusing to say if they will renew the visas of correspondents and for blocking the websites of American-based news media."

Aaron Blake & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Obama lived with his uncle for a brief period in the 1980s while he was a student at Harvard Law School -- despite previously saying there was no record of the two having met.... Obama's relationship with his uncle is also news to scholars of the president, who also found no evidence that the two had met.... Onyango 'Omar' Obama faced a deportation hearing earlier this week following a drunk-driving arrest. During the hearing, he said that the president had lived with him while he was a student at Harvard."

Tim Egan Goes to San Francisco: "... the city named for a 13th century pauper from Assisi serves more as an allegory of how the rich have changed America for the worse."

Local News

Dayna Morales, Scam Artiste. John Batten of Bridgewater Patch: Dayna Morales, the New Jersey waitperson who claimed customers stiffed her because they didn't approve of her "gay lifestyle," received thousands of dollars in donations to make up for the lost tip before the customers came forward with strong evidence that they had tipped Morales generously tip & never wrote the supposed derogatory note. Morales "told on Nov. 18 that she wouldn't be keeping any of the money, saying she planned to send it to the Wounded Warrior Project. But as of Wednesday, the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that supports veterans returning from overseas duty, could not confirm Morales had made any donations.... Morales could not be reached for comment." ...

     ... Via Andy Martin of New York: "If we still wanted to give Morales the benefit of the doubt, we'd point out she could have donated anonymously from elsewhere. But we don't." ...

     ... CW: In my own effort to give Morales the benefit of the doubt, I once speculated that perhaps she was suffering from PTSD. Apparently not. Morales, though she has claimed to have endured harrowing combat experiences, never served in a combat zone. Of all her lies, & evidence of them keeps piling up, I find the false claims about combat service the most egregious.

News Ledes

New York Times: North Korea has released Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old American veteran of the Korean War, whom they had been holding since October 26 for "indelible" offenses against North Korea. "In early 1953, [Newman] served on the island of Chodo, advising North Korean anti-Communist guerrillas in raids on the mainland."

Reuters: "Storage tanks at the Fukushima nuclear plant like one that spilled almost 80,000 gallons of radioactive water this year were built in part by workers illegally hired in one of the poorest corners of Japan, say labor regulators and some of those involved in the work."

Guardian: "Thousands of fast food and retail workers went on strike across the US on Thursday in a signal of the growing clamour for action on income equality."

AP: "Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child's mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride[, Elizabeth Lev,] is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis' top advisers." CW P.S. Of course this wouldn't be a "disgrace" at all if priests were permitted to have normal sexual relationships.

AP: "The Russian pilot who sent a Boeing 737 into a near-vertical dive, killing all 50 people on board, might have had a fake license, Russian investigators said Friday. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said his team believes that some pilots working for small regional airlines in Russia have not been properly trained but managed to get fake licenses in centers certified by the country's aviation agency."

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November, according to government data released Friday morning, continuing several months of solid gains and raising hopes that the recovery is finally ready for takeoff. In addition, the national unemployment rate fell to 7 percent. This time, the decline reflected a pickup in hiring rather than a shrinking labor force."

New York Times: " The Pentagon announced Thursday that it had repatriated two longtime Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detainees to Algeria, where, fearing persecution, neither man wanted to be sent."

New York Times: "In his first concrete step to address the clerical sexual-abuse problem in the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis will establish a commission to advise him on protecting children from pedophile priests and on how to counsel victims...."


Nelson Mandela -- 1918-2013

Bill Keller of the New York Times: "Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday. He was 95."

Sudarsan Raghaven & Lynne Duke of the Washington Post: Nelson Mandela, the former political prisoner who became the first president of a post-apartheid South Africa and whose heroic life and towering moral stature made him one of history’s most influential statesmen, died Thursday, the government announced. He was 95.

The Guardian's story, by David Smith is here. The Guardian's obituary of President Mandela, by David Beresford, is here.

The Johannesburg Mail & Guardian front page is here.

The New York Times has a slideshow here. The Washington Post slideshow is here.

Mandela's inagural address, May 1994:

     The text is here.

The text of Nelson Mandela's speech from the dock, April 1964, is here and here. Audio of the second part of the speech is here.

The Washington Post has a timeline of Mandela's life.

Full text & video of South African President Jacob Zuma's remarks.

President Obama speaks on the life of Nelson Mandela:

The Washington Post is liveblogging remarks by world leaders & others.

NEW. Lydia Polgren & Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "Across South Africa, people paid tribute to the man they hail as the father of their nation — a secular saint whose commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation gave birth to a nonracial democracy from a country so long riven by segregation. Indeed, people around the world paid homage, including laying flowers at a statue of him in front of the British Parliament in London. After the long months of vigil as Mr. Mandela weakened, far from public view, many ...  rose to mourn and praise him and to ponder his legacy. There were few overtly critical voices."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 5, 2013

Josh Eidelson of Salon: "Thousands of fast food workers plan to walk off the job in 100 U.S. cities today, a major escalation in labor's strongest-ever challenge to an industry that's become ever more central to the present and future of U.S. work." ...

... Mother Jones writers put together charts & graphs to show why fast-food & other low-wage workers need raises. ...

... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday to correct economic inequalities that he said make it harder for a child to escape poverty. 'That should offend all of us,' he declared. 'We are a better country than this.' Focusing on the pocketbook issues that Americans consistently rank as a top concern, Obama argued that the dream of upward economic mobility is breaking down and that the growing income gap is a 'defining challenge of our time.'" CW: Video of the speech is at the top of yesterday's Commentariat. Elections matter. Think what kind of speeches Mr. Forty-Seven Percent would give about inequality. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The emphasis on cutting taxes and spending that began in the Reagan years is a direct cause of economic insecurity now. It has led, for example, to education cuts that have harmed children in low-income school districts. Reversing those decisions can still have an enormous impact. Mr. Obama did not reveal a sheaf of new ideas in his speech. But he did remind listeners of the many good ideas he has proposed about inequality over the years, most of which have been blocked by Republican opposition." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... experts who see inequality as one of the most urgent moral, political and economic long term challenges facing the country will see it as one of the most important speeches of the Obama presidency -- more ambitious than his similar 2011 speech in Kansas." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It's a symptom of all sorts of political and media dysfunction that a major presidential speech on one of the overriding topics of the day is being treated as a 'distraction' or an effort to 'change the subject' from obsession over the president's polling numbers or the likely-to-be-forgotten travails of" CW: Thanks, Ed. This lazy journalistic practice has been bugging me, too. ...

You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you're against. -- President Obama, to Republicans ...

... Washington Post conservative columnist Kathleen Parker is no fan of President Obama's -- she compares him to Baghdad Bob who reported all was well as bombs exploded in the background -- but she opines that Obama's positive messages about healthcare reform sure beat Republican never-ending, solution-free negativity. ...

... Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post: "A Monday op-ed by the centrist think tank Third Way railing against economic populism has sparked a liberal counterattack, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) calling on big banks to disclose their financial contributions to think tanks and progressive groups calling on Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Penn.), who is running for governor, to drop her affiliation with the group." CW: See yesterday's Commentariat for just how "centrist" the Third Way is.

Steve Holland of Reuters: "More people signed up on the government's new health insurance website on the first two days of December than in the entire first month of the launch of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform, sources familiar with the numbers said on Wednesday. The sources said about 29,000 people enrolled on Sunday and Monday, surpassing nearly 27,000 for all of October when the opening of the website was beset by glitches that led to a public apology by the president and a retooling of the portal." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "... the comparison [of] to commercial websites should come with two very important caveats. One is an acknowledgment of the huge, fundamental difference between what the two types of systems must do.... [Commercial sites are] engaging consumers, producers and retailers in a series of relatively straightforward transactions ... using technology that, for the most part, has been around for a long time., by contrast, must perform a whole series of complex transactions.... The second caveat: ... we should also compare [] to the process of buying health insurance before Obamacare came along.... If's consumer interface isn't yet living up to the standards of Amazon, it's already surpassed the standards of buying insurance before the Obamacare came along. That's progress."

... Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Most Americans who currently lack insurance say they are likely to get it for next year, as required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.... But a substantial minority, currently 28%, say they are more likely to pay the government fine imposed for not having insurance. The percentage planning to pay the fine has changed little in the last month.... The biggest differences appear by party identification -- 45% of uninsured Republicans plan to pay the fine, compared with 31% of independents and 15% of Democrats."CW: There's your evidence that the GOP sabotage program is working, & a certain number of vulnerable yahoos will get sick & die because of it. ...

White House photo.... CW: Kevin Drum has my back (see December 3 Comments in which I appear as "a dickhead, female version"): "Anyone who's worked in or around government for more than a few years knows that big IT projects are black holes. They're always late. They never work. And surprisingly often, they're epic catastrophes, projects so screwed up they literally have to be completely abandoned after years of work.... Like it or not, this means that everyone should have known that the website was a ... highly likely point of failure. You don't need to have a background in IT to know that, just a background in watching projects like these over the years. And since the website was obviously so central to the overall success of Obamacare, that means it should have gotten lots of presidential mindshare.... So yeah, this is a huge black mark on Obama." ...

... AND this somber note from Ed Kilgore: "... if the GOP wins back the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, the ACA will almost certainly be repealed (as it would have been, in large part, had Republicans won the Senate and the White House last year)." ...

... Your Illness, Your Fault. Jim Galloway & Daniel Malloy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: In a speech before a Republican women's group, Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens (RTP) said that people with pre-existing health conditions were "the exact same thing" as drivers who caused auto accidents.... Hudgens already earned national attention for his pledge to do 'everything in our power to be an obstructionist' against the law known as Obamacare." CW: Evidently Hudgens' pre-existing condition is OCDS -- ObamaCare Derangement Syndrome. ...

... Sy Mukherjee of Think Progress: "Consumer Watchdog singled [Hudgens] out in a 2011 report on insurance commissioners' relationships with the industry they regulate. It found that private insurers were Hudgens' top supporters for his 2010 race, donating just under $150,000 to his campaign."

** "Contempt for Congress." Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker: “'It is not our job,' [Chief Justice John] Roberts wrote in his haughtiest passage, 'to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.' But in the name of restraining Congress, his court is doing exactly that: second-guessing regulation of the health-insurance market (the A.C.A. opinion, which crippled Medicaid expansion), overriding ninety-eight senators' judgment that federal protection of the right to vote is still required (Shelby County), and perceiving, despite every expression of congressional intent, only naked self-interest behind campaign-finance reform (Citizens United and its progeny, McCutcheon v. F.E.C., argued in October)."

We Know Where You Are & Who's with You. Barton Gellman & Ashkan Soltani of the Washington Post: "The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals -- and map their relationships -- in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool. The NSA does not target Americans' location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones 'incidentally,' a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result." A graph of "how the NSA is tracking people right now" is here. An overview video is here. Soltani discusses how the NSA collects cellphone locational info in this video. ...

... Nicole Perlroth & Vindu Goel of the New York Times: "In the era of Edward J. Snowden..., [Internet] companies are competing to show users how well their data is protected from prying eyes, with billions of dollars in revenue hanging in the balance. On Thursday, Microsoft will be the latest technology company to announce plans to shield its services from outside surveillance. It is in the process of adding state-of-the-art encryption features to various consumer services and internally at its data centers."

Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will assert on Thursday that the Obama administration's vast overhaul of the financial system is close to accomplishing its goal of shielding society from the dangers posed by giant banks. In a broad policy speech intended to signal the administration's views on financial regulations, Mr. Lew will also make it clear that more measures may be needed to strengthen the global system. In comments that will most likely upset foreign governments, he will call on overseas regulators to make their rules tougher."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Despite ... violations and poor performance, Navy contracting officials kept giving the contractor [Glenn Defense Marine Asia] more lucrative business to resupply ships and submarines in the [Southeast Asia] region.... Today, Glenn Defense Marine and its president, Leonard Glenn Francis, are principal characters in one of the biggest contracting fraud investigations in the Navy's 238-year history.... In addition to salacious evidence of sailors selling secrets for sex, cash and other favors, the investigation has pinpointed systematic weaknesses in the Navy's worldwide contracting bureaucracy."

Dana Milbank gets booted from ALEC "policy summit" meetings in Washington D.C., where corporations tell state legislators what to do. The business-funded, right-wing "research" organization has fallen on hard financial times, partly thanks to public exposure it received for writing stand-your-ground laws. Here's the Guardian article, by Ed Pilkington, which Milbank mentions. ...

... Suzanne Goldenberg & Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: ALEC "is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy.... Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalising individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama's main channel for climate action." CW: This effort really exposes what ruthless, despicable people the Kochs, et al., are. There is absolutely no public policy upside to this & obvious, giant downsides; the purpose is to keep the country in the grips of the fossil fuel barons.

Nuke 'Em! Ben Armbruster of Think Progress: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) "said on Wednesday that if the United States ends up using military force against Iran's nuclear program, it should do so with nuclear weapons." ...

The preventative, first-use of nuclear weapons against Iran would have a devastating impact on US national security and dismember US power and standing in the world. That a senior Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee is even suggesting such a possible course of action is the height of reckless irresponsibility and so far out of bounds it is astonishing. -- Kingston Reif of the Center for Arms Control ...

... Mark Thompson of Time casts Hunter as Barry Goldwater 2.0.

Style over Substance. John Bresnahan & Anna Palmer of Politico: "The National Republican Congressional Committee wants to make sure there are no Todd Akin-style gaffes next year, so it's meeting with top aides of sitting Republicans to teach them what to say -- or not to say -- on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman. Speaker John Boehner's aides met recently with Republican staff to discuss how lawmakers should talk to female constituents. 'Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn,' said a Republican staffer who attended the session in Boehner's office."

** Jon Stewart on the War on Christmas -- an excellent piece:

... Gail Collins: Christmas warriors are demanding that retailers make "more mentions of the birth of the Savior while promoting sweaters for the whole family." ...

... CW: If you want to check out that Fox "News" War on Christmas map which Collins highlights, it's here. AND it's high-tech interactive! Click on the icon pointing to Wyoming & you'll learn that Breitbart reports that Jackson has limited its town square holiday displays to a mere 14-day period. Pretty horrifying. I suspect next year's big holiday function will be a bible-burning bonfire on the Jackson town square followed by a marathon reading of Mao's Little Red Book.

Presidential Race 2016

Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose political future has been the subject of intense speculation, pledged Wednesday that she would not run for president in 2016, her most ironclad statement yet. 'I pledge to serve out my term,' which ends in January 2019, Warren said, when pressed during a news conference in Boston with Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh."

News Ledes

New York Times: New York City "Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Thursday morning named William J. Bratton to lead the New York Police Department."

New York Times: "Sister Mary Nerney, a Roman Catholic nun who was a nationally known advocate for female convicts, in particular those who were survivors of domestic violence, died on Nov. 27 in Manhattan. She was 75."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 4, 2013

The President delivered a major speech this morning on his economic vision:

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama leaves the White House on Wednesday for one of the capital's most struggling neighborhoods to talk about the economy, not simply to divert attention from his troubled Affordable Care Act but to explain how that law, for all of its flaws, fits into his vision for Americans' economic security and upward mobility. It is a vision of partnership between government and citizens that Mr. Obama has described since he was a state senator in Illinois, and it draws on the legacies of three Republican presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower." ...

... Michael O'Brien of NBC News: "President Barack Obama said his signature health care reform law is going nowhere as long as he's in office, and he'll spend the remainder of his presidency fighting to make it work if necessary":


... Michael Shear of the New York Times: " White House officials ... are under mounting pressure from Democrats and close allies to hold senior-level people accountable for the botched rollout of President Obama's signature domestic achievement and to determine who should be fired.... The possible targets include Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary; Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services; Mike Hash, the head of the health and human services health reform office; Michelle Snyder, the chief operating officer at Medicaid and Medicare; Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the website; Jeanne Lambrew, the head of health care policy inside the White House; David Simas, a key adviser involved in the rollout; and Todd Park, the president's top adviser on technology issues.... Robert Gibbs, a former press secretary for Mr. Obama, said Tuesday what many Democrats were saying privately: Someone has to go." ...

... Jason Cherkis & Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post on why ObamaCare is going to work: "With the website now quasi-functional, there are good reasons to believe that the Affordable Care Act will catch on. Quite simply, there are tens of millions of uninsured people who want health insurance, a law in place to help them obtain it, and advocates on the ground making sure they know how to do it. For on-the-ground organizations, Obamacare represents a once-in-a-generation organizing opportunity. By signing someone up for health insurance, they are delivering a tangible benefit, something that person will value for years to come, and winning loyalty along the way. Nonprofits, as well as mayors and governors, have an intense incentive to make Obamacare work." ...

     ... CW: What Cherkis & Grim don't take into account is that for most people, the "tangible benefit" will seem to be going to the health insurance industry. Yes, the individuals may be glad to have health insurance, but they're also glad they have electricity. That doesn't mean they're thrilled about paying the monthly bills for these services. Except for people who could not otherwise obtain insurance that met their healthcare needs, I don't think most people will see the ACA as a "benefit." ...

... Kevin Drum: "Aside from the tea partiers who object on the usual abstract grounds that Obamacare is a liberty-crushing Stalinesque takeover of the medical industry, it's going to be hard to gin up a huge amount of opposition. And that's doubly true since, as Sargent says, the Republican Party will have no credible alternative for a benefit that lots of people will already be getting." ...

... Au contraire, says Paul Krugman: Right-wing outrage at ObamaCare is only going to get worse as gets better. "On both the healthcare and inflation fronts, what you have to conclude is that there are a large number of people who find reality -- the reality that governments are actually pretty good at providing health insurance, that fiat money can be a useful tool of economic management rather than the road to socialist disaster -- just unacceptable. I think that in both cases it has to do with the underlying desire to see market outcomes as moral imperatives. And I suppose there have always been such people out there. What's new is that these days they control one of our two major political parties." ...

     ... CW: My guess is that Krugman is right & Drum is wrong. Drum is operating on the assumption that voters are rational. Remember the "death panels"? There was no such thing (the proposed ACA bill required coverage for end-of-life counseling), but we are still stuck with the Republican Congress & Republican state legislatures which we got in part because of that hoax. And Sarah Palin is still claiming "the death panels are in there," even tho Democrats removed the requirement to cover end-of-life counseling in respose to the hoax. ...

... The Ghost of Scott Brown Haunts ObamaCare. Alec MacGillis of the New Republic explains the numerous lawsuits challenging the tax subsidy that makes the Affordable Care Act, um, affordable. MacGillis describes the arguments made Tuesday in one of the cases. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link. ...

     ... CW: These suits don't just challenge the law on an unjustified premise, IMHO. They are flat-out mean-spirited. The intent is to disallow tax subsidies to people who live in states whose Republican leaders haven't set up exchanges &/or accepted the Medicaid expansion. Residents of those states would be hit with a double-whammy: no Medicaid/no subsidy. I suppose if the plaintiffs are successful, there is the possibility of a silver lining: the effect might be to force those states to get with the program, as tens of thousands of their residents -- some of them "influential" -- would demand the subsidies. ...

... All Hat. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: Speaker John "Boehner and other top Republicans held a news conference at which they said they espoused a 'patient-driven' approach to health care rather than Obamacare.... John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday declined to commit to allowing a vote on a GOP-drafted health-care plan next year." ...

     ... CW: Really, all Boehner thinks it necessary for Congress to do about securing health insurance to Americans is to stand in the well of the House & yell --

... Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review in Politico Magazine: It wasn't just President Obama who had no idea wasn't going to work. The media made no effort to find out, either. Most journalists also were unaware that millions of Americans would lose their current policies. But, as crack journalist Chuck Todd opined, educating the public is not the media's job.

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "With the jobless rate hovering just over 7 percent, congressional Republicans said Tuesday that they are ready to let emergency unemployment benefits lapse on Dec. 31, immediately cutting off checks to more than a million recipients." CW: I gather from the story, which is about a pending budget deal, that cutting of emergency benefits is part of Paul Ryan's initiative to encourage the unemployed to raise themselves up by their own damned bootstraps. Nice start to his Pope Francis imitation. ...

... Ryan's Dilemma. Joan Walsh of Salon: "TPM and Politico both report that Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray are within sight of [a mini-budget] deal, though Politico cautions 'there remains a distinct possibility that the effort will flounder, as so many budget deals have.... But if Ryan is serious about running for president in 2016, and there are early signs he is, it's hard to imagine him inking any kind of deal to restore social-program sequester cuts and increase government fees in a climate where the Tea Party still holds disproportionate power in the nominating process.... Would Ryan risk a presidential bid to rescue the country from another government shutdown? I've never seen him stand up to that kind of ideological pressure from the right, but there could be a first time."

Richard Cowan of Reuters: "U.S. immigration reform supporters, reeling from their failure to get legislation enacted this year, saw a new ray of hope on Tuesday as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner announced he had hired a long-time immigration specialist to advise him." ...

... Emmarie Heutteman & Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A longtime labor leader and two other advocates of an immigration overhaul ended their water-only fasts on Tuesday in a tent on the National Mall, the 22nd day of an effort to press the House to take up legislation on the issue. In a ceremony choreographed to evoke the civil rights and farmworker movements of the 1960s, the labor leader, Eliseo Medina, 67, took a bite of bread and a sip of apple juice. Looking tired, Mr. Medina did not speak during the event. Afterward, he rose and walked away, leaning on the arm of another advocate."

The GOP's Latest Strategy -- Impeachment! Dana Milbank: "... on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary met to consider the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama. They didn't use that word, of course. Republican leaders frown on such labeling because it makes the House majority look, well, crazy.... They've proposed [impeachment] as the remedy to just about every dispute or political disagreement...."

Left-wing blogs are the mirror image [of the Tea Party]. They just have less credibility and less clout. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Thanks for your support, Chuck. -- Constant Weader

Chuck Schumer wants us to stop picking on Wall Street.... It seems odd that Schumer is trying to start an internecine war at this very moment, particularly with a tough 2014 up ahead. And as the number three Democrat in the Senate, his words carry outsized weight. But it's clear that the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party is feeling the heat from its resurgent populist wing: the Warrens, Baldwins, Browns and Merkleys. -- Markos Moulitsas ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "The obsessive centrists of the punditverse were abuzz [Tuesday] with praise for supposed centrist Democratic organization Third Way and their grumbling op-ed condemnation of Democratic liberal populism in abstract and 'economic populists' like Sen. Elizabeth Warren in particular. But why would the Third Way, a very reasonable and centrist organization that just wants both parties to get along and agree to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs be so very worked up about Elizabeth Warren, Wall Street reform, and the mere thought of breaking up large banks? ... Oh, I see":

... Markos Moulitsas: "Hmmm, so far [Tuesday] we've seen that Third Way op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and Sen. Chuck Schumer's comparing us to the teabaggers. Then there is DLC dinosaur Al From with a new book and rhetorical embrace of Hillary Clinton, unreconstructed racist Richard Cohen's blasting of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Fox News 'Democrats' Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell in Politico are back for another stab at that whole 'radical center' nonsense.... It's a coordinated counterattack by Wall Street Democrats spooked by the party's embrace of politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin and Jeff Merkley."

Based on academic research, Tom Edsall argues that there aren't many American voters who are true moderates, so "the dream of a moderate revolt against the parties will remain out of reach, exposed as an illusion." ...

     ... CW: I'd have to look at the actual research (which is too much trouble because one has to register to access it) to see how the researchers define each of their categories, but most liberals would agree that the guy in the White House (who likes Ike, as Jackie Calmes notes in the NYT story linked above) & most elected Democrats are moderates, not liberals. So we already have a centrist president & Senate. The moderate revolt Edsall says can't happen is in fact well-represented within the government now.

Nick Hopkins & Matthew Taylor of the Guardian: "The Guardian has come under concerted pressure and intimidation designed to stop it from publishing stories of huge public interest that have revealed the 'staggering' scale of Britain's and America's secret surveillance programmes, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper has said. Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee about stories based on the National Security Agency leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger said the Guardian 'would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly'." ...

... Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "As [Rusbridger] testified before a Parliamentary committee on national security, he faced aggressive questioning from lawmakers, particularly those of the ruling Conservative Party. Some asserted that The Guardian had handled the material irresponsibly, putting it at risk of interception by hostile governments and others. Others said the paper had jeopardized national security.... After Mr. Rusbridger's testimony, a senior British police officer, Cressida Dick, refused to rule out prosecutions as part of an investigation into the matter."

Maureen Dowd is robophobic. "Experts say there may be as many as 30,000 unmanned private and government drones flying in this country by 2020, ratcheting drones into a $90 billion industry, generating 100,000 jobs.... Of course, for the robophopic, there is already a way to get goods almost immediately: Go to the store." ...

... Alistair Barr & Elizabeth Weise of USA Today: "The drone economy is booming abroad and an underground version is growing fast in the U.S. The FAA plans to draw up regulations by 2015, but that's not quick enough, according to drone entrepreneurs."

Annie Gowen of the Washington Post: "Once a town whose bright stars were government leaders, the nation's capital has become a moneyed metropolis where entrepreneurs whose wealth is often amassed by doing business with the government are the new elite." Includes a slide show of Hickory Hill, the Robert Kennedy family's former home in McLean, Virginia, which is now owned by a tech entrepreneur. The entrepreneur, Alan J. Dabbiere, who purchased the property for $8.2 million, is gutting the place.

Moving on to less important matters, Joe Biden is on a mission to prevent World War III. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Shuttling from one feuding neighbor to the other, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived [in Beijing] from Tokyo on Wednesday to appeal to China's leaders to show restraint in policing a new air defense zone in the East China Sea that has ignited tensions with Japan."

Gubernatorial Races

Greg Sargent: "Democrats are currently using a major pillar of the health law -- the Medicaid expansion -- as a weapon against Republican Governors in multiple 2014 races. Many of these Governors opted out of the expansion or have advanced their own replacement solutions, and many are facing serious challenges." Major targets: Govs. Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania & Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

That Scott Walker campaign aide who urged Walker's followers to give to his campaign rather than give Christmas presents to their children? Walker fired her. But not for the Scrooge stuff. Instead, for anti-Hispanic tweets she sent a couple of years ago. As Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, "For the second time in less than four months, Gov. Scott Walker has fired an aide for making demeaning comments about Hispanics on social media."

Senate Race

Family Values. Margaret Hartmann of New York: Dick Cheney was "surprised" his daughter Mary & her wife Heather Poe "launched an attack against Liz" -- who's carpetbagging a run for the U.S. Senate -- on Facebook & said the disagreement should have been dealt with "within the family." "Cheney doesn't care if Liz was 'looking at' Mary, pulled her hair, or declared on a national news program that her marriage shouldn't be legal -- he will not tolerate fighting in this family."

Local News

Nathan Bomey, et al., of the Detroit Free Press: "The city of Detroit today officially became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes declared it met the specific legal criteria required to receive protection from its creditors. The landmark ruling ends more than four months of uncertainty over the fate of the case and sets the stage for a fierce clash over how to slash an estimated $18 billion in debt and long-term liabilities that have hampered Detroit from attacking pervasive blight and violent crime."

Ray Long & Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune: "The Illinois General Assembly today narrowly approved a major overhaul of the state government worker pension system following hours of debate on the controversial plan strongly opposed by employee unions. The House voted 62-53 to approve a measure that aims to wipe out a worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension debt by reducing and skipping cost-of-living increases, requiring workers to retire later and creating a 401(k) option for a limited number of employees. The measure needed a minimum of 60 votes to pass the House.... Moments earlier, the Senate voted for the measure 30-24. The bill needed at least 30 votes.... The measure now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he'll sign it. The vote is a major victory for Quinn as he heads into a re-election bid next year."

Mike Deak of the Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press: "A waitress who alleged that one of her customers wrote an anti-gay message on a receipt has been suspended from her job pending the completion of an investigation into the incident. On Friday, Gallop Asian Bistro posted on its Facebook page that waitress Dayna Morales 'is currently not on our employee schedule while (we) are still working to complete our investigation.' ... On Monday, WNBC reported that Morales had been discharged dishonorably from the Marines." ...

... Last week Fox "News" published a piece detailing claims by acquaintances of Morales that suggest she is a serial liar who has made various grandiose claims about her military experience that are untrue.

News Ledes

New York Times: Connecticut officials released audio of the 911 calls re: the Sandy Hook killings. "The Hartford Courant has excerpts of the audio here. Partial transcripts are here.

New York Times: "Chinese leaders pushed back at visiting Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday over what they assert is their right to control a wide swath of airspace in the bitterly contested East China Sea. But the Chinese also indicated they had not decided how aggressively to enforce their so-called air defense identification zone, which has ignited tensions with Japan."

New York Times: Hassane Laqees, "a major player in the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah from its inception three decades ago to its current intervention in Syria's civil war," was shot dead in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday. "Over the years, he survived several assassination attempts."

Bloomberg News: "Companies boosted payrolls in November by the most in a year, a sign that U.S. employers were optimistic about demand after the end of a government shutdown a month earlier, a private report based on payrolls showed today. The 215,000 increase in employment exceeded the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey and followed a revised 184,000 gain in October that was larger than initially estimated...."