The Ledes

Thursday, September 29, 2016.

New York Times: "A commuter train crashed into one of the busiest train stations in the New York area during the morning rush on Thursday, killing at least one person, injuring more than 100 others and creating a scene of chaos and destruction, the authorities and witnesses said. The crash occurred around 8:45 a.m., when a commuter train traveling at a high rate of speed barreled through the barriers meant to stop it and finally stopped against a wall of the Hoboken Terminal building, officials said." -- CW

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

New York Times: "The veteran television personality Jane Pauley will replace Charles Osgood as the anchor of the highly rated CBS show 'Sunday Morning.' Mr. Osgood, who is retiring, announced the news on his last show on Sunday. Ms. Pauley’s first day in the role will be Oct. 9, and she will become only the third anchor of the show, which started in 1979." -- CW 

New York Times: "Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But how did our species go on to populate the rest of the globe?.... In a series of extraordinary genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer. In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.... All non-Africans are closely related to one another, geneticists found, and they all branch from a family tree rooted in Africa.... There are also clues that at least some modern humans may have departed Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration." -- CW ...

... CW Note to White Racists: You, too, are black. It's way past time to give up your quest for "racial purity"; it's genetically impossible. This, BTW, is something non-ignoramuses have known for a couple of decades. No wonder you hate science.


The Los Angeles Times has extensive coverage of the Emmy Awards here.

The video below will most likely be taken down for copyright infringement, so watch it while you can. It's pretty funny. Here's a WashPo report on Jeb!'s cameo on the opening bit for the Emmy Awards. Also, ABC may put up a video of it here, but they have nothing at all up on the awards ceremony as of 8:30 am ET, Monday, Sept. 19.

Chris Welch of the Verge: "Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work.... Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform's 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages."

You'll want to supersize this one:


Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unsuccessful in his bid to become Donald Trump's running mate, has reimagined himself as a celebrity, instead. He'll appear this season on "Dancing with the 'Stars,'" competing against other fabulous celebrities like Ryan Lochte, unless Lochte is unavoidably detained in a Brazilian jail. (Here's a link to Perry's veepstakes proffer. Of course Trump ultimately rejected Perry, but promised to make him head of some agency or department Perry probably can't remember.) CW: As always, we concentrate on the serious, important news because politics ain't funny.

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- CW 

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

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The Commentariat -- August 6, 2014

Manu Raju & James Hohmann of Politico: "Montana Sen. John Walsh is engaged in internal deliberations with his political team about whether to stay on the ballot this year, sources said Tuesday, in the wake of a plagiarism scandal that has tarnished the appointed Democratic lawmaker's standing. Senate Democratic leaders in Washington and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are not playing an active role in the discussions, allowing the situation to be sorted out between Walsh and his Montana Democratic colleagues, according to people familiar with the matter."

Maureen Dowd: Impeach Obama! It's a win-win-win for Democrats, for President Obama & for President-by-Succession Biden. Plus, "It gives the [Republican] party, which is ripping itself apart trying to figure out what it stands for, a clear identity: You can count on Republicans to always impeach Democratic presidents in their second terms. G.O.P. will become short for Gratuitously Ousting Presidents."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "After declaring the surge of Central American migrants crossing the border a humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration has shifted sharply to a strategy of deterrence, moving families to isolated facilities and placing them on a fast track for deportation to send a blunt message back home that those caught entering illegally will not be permitted to stay."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is weighing plans to circumvent Congress and act on its own to curtail tax benefits for United States companies that relocate overseas to lower their tax bills, seeking to stanch a recent wave of so-called corporate inversions, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said on Tuesday." ...

... Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Washington policymakers are bracing for a wave of corporations to renounce their U.S. citizenship over the next few months, depriving the federal government of billions of dollars in tax revenue and stoking public outrage ahead of the Nov. 4 congressional elections. So far this year, about a dozen U.S. companies -- including such well-known brands as Medtronic medical devices and Chiquita bananas -- have merged with foreign firms and shifted their headquarters offshore to avoid U.S. taxes, analysts say. Dozens of additional deals are in the works...."

Julie Pace of the AP: "Seeking to strengthen America's financial foothold in Africa, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in commitments Tuesday aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and toward more equal economic partnerships. The bulk of the commitments came from private-sector companies, including Coca-Cola and General Electric, underscoring Africa's growing appeal to businesses. The continent is home to six of the world's fastest-growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class with increased spending power":

... Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "President Obama took a swipe at China in a speech to a summit of African leaders in Washington on Tuesday, claiming that the US is interested in the continent for more than just its minerals and oil." ...

... Chris Jansing, MSNBC's very own birther. (With prompting, she cleans up her act):

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The planned release of a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA's interrogation of terrorism suspects has broken down in a dispute between the committee and the Obama administration over how much of the document can be declassified. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, said Tuesday that she had written a letter to President Obama raising objections to material that was stripped from the report by the CIA and the White House."

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "Economists at Standard & Poor's Ratings Services are the authors of the straightforwardly titled 'How Increasing Inequality is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, and Possible Ways to Change the Tide.' The fact that S.&P., an apolitical organization that aims to produce reliable research for bond investors and others, is raising alarms about the risks that emerge from income inequality is a small but important sign of how a debate that has been largely confined to the academic world and left-of-center political circles is becoming more mainstream." ...

... Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Congres's overhaul of the financial system aims to reshape large banks so that if they get into trouble they can descend into an orderly bankruptcy that does not set off a wider panic. But on Tuesday, two regulators, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, sharply criticized the plans that the banks have prepared for winding themselves down in a controlled fashion. The F.D.I.C. said that it had determined that the so-called living wills were 'not credible.'"

Greg Sargent: "Gallup finds that three of the largest drops in the rate of the uninsured just happened to take place in states with the most hard-fought Senate races": Kentucky, Arkansas & Colorado. ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "President Barack Obama's health care law has become a tale of two Americas. States that fully embraced the law's coverage expansion are experiencing a significant drop in the number of uninsured residents, according to a major new survey released Tuesday. States whose leaders still object to 'Obamacare' are seeing much less change."

** Edward Snowden, 2.0! Evan Perez of CNN: "The federal government has concluded there's a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN. Proof of the newest leak comes from national security documents that formed the basis of a news story published Tuesday by the Intercept, the news site launched by Glenn Greenwald, who also published Snowden's leaks.... The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden left the United States to avoid criminal charges. Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter 'it seems clear at this point' that there was another." ...

... BUT. The AP scooped the Intercept. Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: "The government, it turned out, had 'spoiled the scoop,' an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday's AP story was much friendlier to the government's position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.... The government's decision to spoil a story on the topic of national security is especially unusual, given that it has a significant interest in earning the trust of national security reporters.... [intercept editor John] Cook told the [government] official [at the National Counterterrorism Center] that in the future the agency would have only 30 minutes to respond to questions before publication." ...

... Peter Foster of the Telegraph: "Speculation that there was a second source grew last month after the German magazine Der Spiegel published two articles containing apparent NSA leaks that were not, as in the past, explicitly sourced to Mr Snowden...." ...

... The piece by Jeremy Scahill & Ryan Devereaux, published in the Intercept, relies on classified intelligence documents date subsequent to Snowden's leaving the NSA: "Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government's widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept." ...

... In addition, this article by Greenwald is based on an April 2013 top secret document, which Greenwald does not source to Snowden (who left the agency in June 2013). I read the piece yesterday & thought Greenwald didn't add anything to Juan Cole's post on the U.S.'s aid to Israel's war efforts, which I did link. Guess I was a teensy bit wrong. ...

... Finally, here's the AP story, which government officials fed to Eileen Sullivan.

Kim Barker of ProPublica: "Move America Forward[, a Tea party-backed 'charity,'] calls itself the nation's 'largest grassroots pro-troop organization,' and has recruited a bevy of Republican luminaries, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, to support its efforts. Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.... The charity's funds and other assets also appear to have been used to subsidize three conservative political action committees, records show." Plus, their fundraising claims are fake or stolen from actual charitable groups. Also, they're a tax audit waiting to happen. CW: Luckily for scammers like this, Republicans keep cutting IRS funds so the IRS has limited resources to conduct audits. ...

     ... CW: Hard to believe that astroturfers would do anything so dishonorable, isn't it? ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: The Republican State Leadership Committee "was implicated in a risky campaign finance scheme that an internal report warned could trigger 'possible criminal penalties' and 'ultimately threaten the organization's continued existence,' according to a confidential document Politico obtained...." Led by Ed Gillespie, former Republican party chairman, lobbyist, co-founder (with Karl Rove) of the super-duper PAC American Crossroads & now candidate for the Senate in Virginia, the RSLC leaders engaged in activities its own lawyers said were "improper" -- "essentially laundering 'toxic' money from the gaming industry by routing it out of [the] state [of Alabama] and then back into Alabama." The leaders all deny the charges & say the legal report was the product of "internal" conflict. Gillespie was apparently not party to the pass-through scheme which involved, amonth others, "one of the Christian groups through which Jack Abramoff funneled Choctaw Indian-money."

Tom Edsall of the New York Times more-or-less asks the philosophical question, what is corruption? ...

... This sort of question comes to mind when you read Ross Douthat, who imagined that "a creative White House lawyer -- a John Yoo of the left" -- could come up with "legal justifications" for the President's committing "an extraordinary abuse of office: the granting of temporary legal status, by executive fiat, to up to half the country's population of illegal immigrants." While I'll admit the relative value of the goals is in the eye of the beholder, it's hard not to notice that Douthat is comparing a justification for torture to a justification for clarifying the status of millions of people living in Limbo America. (It is fair, I think to compare Yoo to David Barron, who wrote the so-called justifications for using drones to kill Americans abroad. [President Obama rewarded Barron with an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals.]) In defining "corruption" or "abuse of power," one really has to look at the merits of the action &, specifically, how the actor benefits.

Congressional Races

Dave Helling & Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star: "Kansas Republicans Tuesday appeared poised to nominate Pat Roberts for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate -- a victory claimed after the toughest race of his decades-long political career. Incomplete returns showed that the Kansas GOP picked Roberts, 78, over insurgent tea party challenger Milton Wolf, a 43-year-old Leawood radiologist."

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) lost his primary to businessman Dave Trott on Tuesday, becoming just the third sitting member of Congress to lose in a primary this year. Bentivolio, who has frequently clashed with GOP leaders, entered the day as an underdog."

Jay Newton-Small of Time writes a brief rundown of these & other results from yesterday's primary races.

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces his toughest race yet. "The focus from McConnell’s campaign on the GOP leader's influence is also an attempt to mitigate some of the damage it privately admits has been done by [Alison] Grimes [D] hammering McConnell on job creation. It acknowledges his comments, as quoted by a local paper, that economic development in the state is 'not my job' have been a thorn in the senator's side."

Presidential Race

Today in Rand Paul. Two Headlines to Remember:

... Brian Beutler: "Watch Rand Paul Run for His Life Before Steve King Insults an Immigrant in Iowa." Video & commentary. ...

... Jeremy Stahl of Slate: "Rand Paul Takes Bite of Burger, Hears Questioner Is a DREAMer, Flees While Still Chewing.... He actually leaves the table after having taken a bite of what appears to be a hamburger, seems to almost do a spit-take, getting up from his seat midchew, and leaving behind the half-eaten sandwich." Video & commentary." ...

... NEW. Here's Li'l Randy's excuse for cutting & running. As Akhilleus lays out in the Comments, & as a couple of stories linked below demonstrate, one should not credit much Rand Paul says, especially when he's trying to get out of a jam.

... "You're Very Good at English." Dave Weigel comments on Steve King's response to the DREAMers. CW: I thought King was very gallant. He asked the young woman if she was a drug smuggler rather than checking out her calves to see if they looked like cantaloupes. ...

... OR, as digby puts King's remarks, "And now a word from the GOP's leading strategist on immigration policy."

CW: Yesterday I linked a story by Chris Moody of Yahoo! News which pointed out that Rand Paul not only has changed his position on U.S. aid to Israel, he lied & said he never "really proposed that in the past," (which he did in 2011). Kevin Drum: "This is starting to become one of Paul's distinguishing features. He's also done the same thing regarding the Civil Rights Act. Instead of simply saying that his thinking has evolved in some way or another, he aggressively denies he ever held his previous position and then pretends to be outraged that some liberal shill of a reporter is deliberately misrepresenting his position. How dare he?!?" ...

... CW: I think we can conclude that Rand Paul is very good at running away from unpleasantness. ...

NEW. Sarah Smith of Politico: "Democrats seized on Rand Paul's comments over foreign aid to Israel on Tuesday, adding to a growing chorus of criticism from those on the left who say the Kentucky senator wants to 'rewrite history.'" ...

... Sarah Smith: "It's not just the left: Some on the far right are hitting Rand Paul over inconsistencies between his past and present policies. 'I think it's a little like a compass,' conservative columnist Ann Coulter said Tuesday night on CNN. 'It used to be whatever would please 15-year-old Ayn Rand readers was his position. Now, it's whatever will please basically the mainstream media.'" ...

... NEW. AND the annoying Mike Allen of Politico reports that Rand Paul is going to give "a major foreign policy speech" next month. Video report. Probably won't be a repeat of those 2011 anti-foreign aid speeches. Paul has removed the copies of those remarks from his "Everybody Loves Randy" scrapbook & run them through the shredder. He thought reporters did, too. ...

... Simon Maloy of Slate: No matter how many times Rand Paul accuses Hillary Clinton of dereliction of duty over Benghazi, the media report it as big news.

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Just six minutes after former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell emailed a wealthy businessman about getting a $50,000 loan, he sent a note to a staffer asking to discuss state university studies of the man's new dietary supplement." AND there are more "coincidences." It doesn't look good for Transactional Bob. ...

     ... CW: And another thing. A lot of these big shots get in trouble because they're surrounded by yes wo/men who tell them they can do no wrong. But McDonnell's aides are testifying they told him not to do some of this stuff to help Williams, & Bob pretty much did it anyway or found some workaround.

Tom Dart of the Guardian: "The first US execution since the drawn-out death of Joseph Wood is scheduled for Wednesday in Missouri, where Michael Worthington is set to die for the 1995 murder of a college student."

Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post: "Raymond Burse..., the interim president at Kentucky State University..., announced that he would take a 25 percent salary cut to boost [the] wages [of school employees earning less than $10.25/hour].... He has pledged to take further salary cuts any time new minimum-wage employees are hired on his watch, to bring their hourly rate to $10.25." ...

... CW: Virtually every CEO of a major American corporation could & should do the same.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: A mysterious crater that "suddenly appeared, yawning nearly 200 feet in diameter in Siberia's Yamal Peninsula may have been caused by methane gas "related to Yamal's unusually hot summers in 2012 and 2013.... As the Associated Press put it in 2010, the melting of Siberia's permafrost is 'a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere." CW: But never mind. Climate change is a myth or an Obama plot to undermine God's plans for Alabama coal or something.

News Ledes

Reuters: "Russia has amassed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine's eastern border and could use the pretext of a humanitarian or peace-keeping mission to invade, NATO said on Wednesday."

Washington Post: "Politicians appealed Wednesday for emergency aid for thousands of minority Iraqis who have been stranded with little food on a mountaintop in the country's north, surrounded by al-Qaeda-inspired rebels."

Time: "Federal health officials are facing a surge in reports of possible Ebola cases from hospitals and health departments, none of which have been confirmed but which highlight a moment of growing domestic concern about an outbreak that has claimed over 800 lives in Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told TIME on Tuesday that it's received several dozen calls from states and hospitals about people who are ill after traveling in Africa. 'We've triaged those calls and about half-dozen or so resulted in specimen coming to CDC for testing and all have been negative for Ebola,' CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said...."

Guardian: "Formal negotiations to secure a lasting ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are expected to begin in Cairo on Wednesday, as a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas enters a second day."

AP: "A U.S. drone fired two missiles at a sprawling compound in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan on Wednesday, killing seven militants, two Pakistani intelligence officials said."


The Commentariat -- August 5, 2014

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Gay men and lesbians still have a long way to go before they achieve the formal legal equality that women have long enjoyed. But they have made stunning progress at the Supreme Court over the last decade, gaining legal protection for sexual intimacy and unconventional families with stirring language unimaginable a generation ago. At the same time, legal scholars say, the court has delivered blows to women's groups in cases involving equal pay, medical leave, abortion and contraception, culminating in a furious dissent last month from the court's three female members. Many forces are contributing to this divide, but the most powerful is the role of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court's swing vote." ...

More on the Deportation Party. Ed Kilgore: "To grasp how fateful [the House's Friday night anti-DREAMers vote was] this was, you have to think back to the summer of 2012, when President Obama announced DACA in an action that was universally understood as a preemption of a pending GOP initiative being crafted by Sen. Marco Rubio for the relief not just of DREAMers, but of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was trying to find something to embrace to offset the 'self-deportation' position he had embraced during the primary season. Had Obama not announced DACA, its substance would have probably become the dominant GOP position. Now House Republicans have officially moved far to the right of where they were the day before DACA was announced, and ... well to the right of Romney '12." ...

... CW: The Deport 'Em vote would never have taken place had Boehner allowed a version of the Senate bill to come for a vote before the House: it would have passed with mostly Democratic support, & President Obama would have signed it into law. Sorry, Friends of Boehner, your buddy does not belong to "the governing wing" of the GOP.

Jonathan Chait: "Representative Mo Brooks [RWhiteyWhiteWhite-Ala.], appearing on Laura Ingraham's radio program, diagnoses the Republican Party's so-called difficulty attracting nonwhite voters. 'This is a part of the war on whites that's being launched by the Democratic Party,' explains Brooks, 'and the way in which they're launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else.' White racial victimization is a concept as old as racism itself.... The war on whites has raged continuously in the right-wing mind for more than two centuries." ...

... So Mo don't know racial animus is supposed to be subtext, But teabagger Chris McDaniel, who still doesn't think he lost the Mississippi GOP primary to Sen. Thad Cochran, figured out the subtext thing by the final draft: Daniel Strauss of TPM: "The first draft of [a McDaniel] press release according to the Daily Caller said that 'Thad Cochran lost Republican votes in the runoff, but made up the difference with black democrat votes.' That line was changed to 'Thad Cochran lost Republican votes in the runoff and made up for the difference with Democrat votes.'" ...

     ... As Ed Kilgore notes, McDaniel still "managed to scratch the same itch in the same press release by whining about 'race-baiting radio ads' allegedly run by Thad Cochran's campaign." CW: not subtle, but definitely subtext. ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "In a brief press conference punctuated by several loud rumbles of thunder, losing Mississippi senate candidate Chris McDaniel announced that the campaign is submitting an official challenge of the June runoff election to the state Republican executive committee." Besides identifying more "questionable" votes than separate the two candidates in the runoff, "McDaniel's team likely aims to prove that Cochran's margin of victory came from Democratic votes, and therefore wasn't a victory at all" under state Republican rules.

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "The Obama administration's attempt to redact some portions of an upcoming report on 'enhanced interrogation techniques' is drawing ire from Capitol Hill and could delay the release of the detailed analysis for months. That's likely to increase hostilities between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, which are already riding high after the spy agency admitted to snooping on some Senate staffers in the run-up to the report's release. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg View on why President Obama is standing by John Brennan: "... throughout his presidency, Obama has been overly skittish when it comes to potentially crossing his national security bureaucracy, and I strongly suspect that torture and other Bush-era abuses are both part of the original cause and will cause more of that timidity down the road. Obama has tried to deal with this by getting the policy right. But when we learn more about the events of the last six years, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that getting the internal politics wrong has made it a lot harder to get the policy right."

Juan Cole on the "Top 5 Ways the US is Israel's Accomplice in War Crimes in Gaza." Thanks to P.D. Pepe for the lead. ...

... CW: I hesitated to link this story yesterday, as I wasn't familiar with the author. However, several commentators, including Juan Cole, have relied on the writer & his reporting, so I'm going with it. Richard Silverstein: "[Sunday's] report [linked here yesterday], originating in Der Spiegel that Israel intercepted the telecommunications of Secretary of State John Kerry when he was in flight to the Middle East has just become a much bigger story. The reporter noted that there were two countries who eavesdropped on Kerry. But he didn't say which country it was. My highly-placed Israeli source tells me that the identity of that country is Russia.... Israel provides Russia with transcripts of the Kerry calls it intercepts when his plane is within tracking distance. And Russia does the same when Kerry's calls are intercepted by its agents.... It also reveals a huge, gaping hole in U.S. telecommunications security. How is it that calls made on Kerry's plane couldn't be encrypted or protected in some way."

Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Monday denied that he once supported ending federal aid to Israel -- an idea he proposed as recently as 2011."

Benghaaazi! Not! Ctd. Last Thursday, the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee released its report on the Benghazi attacks, which "found no evidence of an intelligence failure prior to the attack" & debunked several GOP criticisms of the Obama administration. BUT. Rob Garver of the Fiscal Times: "Over the weekend, the committee chair [of a "select" House committee to investigate the Benghazi incident], Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that plans are moving forward for additional hearings and that witnesses are being contacted." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Olivia Marshall of Media Matters: "The findings [of the House Intelligence Committee] present a new challenge for media outlets in the runup to Gowdy's Benghazi select committee, explicitly formed to investigate 'unanswered questions' that previous Benghazi investigations have long-since asked and answered. When House Republicans announced plans to form the committee in May, many in the media presented Gowdy's premise of 'unanswered questions' as legitimate.... The House Intelligence Committee's finding ... adds to a pile of overwhelming evidence against the right-wing's Benghazi hoax. Will it finally be enough to convince the media to stop taking Gowdy and his misguided Benghazi witch-hunt seriously?"

Alex Altman & Elizabeth Dias of Time: "... BCFS, formerly known as Baptist Child and Family Services ... has emerged as one of the biggest players in the federal government's response to the influx of more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who have trudged across the southern border so far this year. It runs two of the largest facilities for temporarily housing immigrant children, as well as six permanent shelters in California and Texas. Since December, BCFS has received more than $280 million in federal grants to operate these shelters.... On July 7..., the Department of Health and Human Services awarded BCFS $190,707,505 in a single grant. BCFS is just one part of a sprawling system of shelters for unaccompanied children across the country.... [BCFS CEO Kevin] Dinnin received nearly $450,000 in compensation in 2012.... Unlike the temporary shelters, the permanent facilities are largely inaccessible to media and the taxpayers that fund them." ...

... The New York Times has some excellent graphs here of where the children are being sent -- and where they're coming from.

Paul Waldman reminds us that in 1991 this "very famous Hollywood liberal tried to exploit [Jim] Brady's shooting in order to take your guns away."

Senate Races

Nate Silver: "... we continue to see Republicans as slightly more likely than not to win a net of six seats this November and control of the Senate."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) & Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) face primary challenges from the right today & Thursday respectively. Both are expected to win.

See also McDaniel challenge to Cochran primary win, linked above.

CW: You may be shocked to learn that former Sen. Handsome Scott Brown does not mind lying through his beautiful teeth to become Senator Scott Brown once again. Here he is in an op-ed in the Manchester Union Leader: "It turns out this [border] crisis is the result of executive orders issued by President Obama in 2012 that halted deportation proceedings against young illegal immigrants."

Presidential Race

David Rauf of the Houston Chronicle: "Gov. Rick Perry has formed a federal political action committee to help Republican candidates, in what amounts to another sign that Perry is jockeying to curry national support for a 2016 presidential bid. Perry filed the paperwork Thursday with the Federal Election Commission to create a political action committee called 'RickPAC.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "After Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012, McDonnell's wife sought out the candidate to promote the dietary supplement at the heart of the former first couple's corruption trial, a onetime aide testified Monday.... The sixth day of the McDonnells' trial ... was marked again by a series of revelations that could be damaging to the couple. It was also notable in that [Jonnie] Williams -- after 15 hours on the witness stand -- finally stepped down with his account largely intact and with a few key points clarified in prosecutors' favor." ...

... The Washington Post's live updates of the trial are here. ...

... What About Bob? Dana Milbank: "Had he taken the [plea bargain] deal [prosecutors offered him before trial], [Bob] McDonnell would have looked like a sleazy pol. Now, he looks like a sleazy pol and a cad. Even if the former GOP governor beats the 13 counts, the trial is showing him to be not just greedy but also ungallant, allowing his wife and children to suffer to minimize his own shame.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, security researchers say. The records, discovered by Hold Security, a firm in Milwaukee, include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, ranging from household names to small Internet sites."

Washington Post: "A shooting at a training academy for Afghan military officers wounded numerous troops Tuesday in Kabul, the U.S.-led military coalition said. A two-star U.S. Army general was killed and a one-star German general was wounded, according to media reports." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE here.

New York Times: "As a 72-hour cease-fire mediated by Egypt took hold Tuesday morning, Israel announced that it had withdrawn its forces from Gaza and Hamas said it would engage in talks on a lasting arrangement to keep the peace. Most Israeli troops had already pulled back from populated areas in Gaza, and many had redeployed in Israel. But as late as Monday, Israeli officials had said that the army would maintain some positions inside Gaza, and the announcement of a complete pullout appeared to be a major concession to the Egyptian initiative."


The Commentariat -- August 4, 2014

Der Spiegel: "Spiegel has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told Spiegel.... During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment.... Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East." ...

     ... CW Note to Ed Snowden: Everybody does it, even BFFs.

The Economist interviews President Obama on Africa & a wide range of subjects. With audio (that background noise you hear is AF1).

David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Fox News analyst Juan Williams on Sunday confronted the CEO of the Heritage Foundation [Michael Needham] for his role in 'demonizing' President Barack Obama to the point that many all-white tea partiers were calling for impeachment." A lovely rant:

... Williams interviews Eric Holder for the Hill: "Holder predicts that Congress will pass his proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, specifically reductions in sentencing, even if Republicans hold majorities in both chambers after November's midterm elections. 'Next year you are likely to see significant accomplishment when it comes to criminal justice reform,' he said."

Paul Krugman: "The Dodd-Frank reform bill ... is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine.... All accounts indicate that the [Consumer Protection Financial Bureau] is in fact doing its job, and well -- well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies.... Dodd-Frank ... giv[es] regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save 'systemically important' banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.... Did reform go far enough? No."

Benjamin Goad of the Hill: "Business interests are vowing to fight President Obama's executive order imposing new restrictions on companies who want to do business with the federal government. Obama announced the action this week, ordering up new regulations that would require firms seeking federal contracts to disclose labor law violations and create new compliance advisors at agencies to oversee decisions about which firms get the work."

This piece of crap by Ross Douthat on Obama Rex is getting a good deal of media attention. CW: I could deconstruct it down to teeny little turds, but I won't bother. ...

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly dispenses with one aspect of it: Douthat's assumption that he knows what President Obama will do on immigration reform. ...

... CW: One angle that I haven't seen anyone suggest in relation to whatever the President decides to do in regard to immigration relief is this: the POTUS has the constitutional authority to grant reprieves & pardons. I believe he could use that authority to grant reprieves to undocumented residents, & he could place conditions on those reprieves, conditions similar to those in the Senate bill, which Speaker Boehner refuses to bring to the House floor for a vote. I doubt that is what Obama has in mind, but I think it's what he should do. ...

     ... ** Update. Brian Beutler makes the same point Longman does: "Douthat’s thesis rests on the assumption that aggressive executive action on behalf of certain unauthorized immigrants will by definition be 'an extraordinary abuse of office.... [L]awless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.' These are awfully firm conclusions to draw about a policy that hasn't been unveiled yet." And Beutler does mention Obama's "unchecked pardon power," noting the President is unlikely to use it.

... BUT. David Jackson of USA Today: "White House officials are downplaying stories that President Obama is prepared to take executive action on immigration that would allow millions of undocumented people to stay in the United States.' The reports you're seeing are uninformed speculation,' White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Pfeiffer said Obama asked the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to 'present him with recommendations by the end of the summer.' Those agencies have not yet reported back." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "CNN anchor Candy Crowley called out Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) Sunday for claiming that illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande have committed thousands of homicides. Perry said his constituents in Texas are concerned about 'the 90 percent-plus of individuals who don't get talked about enough that are coming into the United States illegally and committing substantial crimes.' He said that the 203,000 illegal immigrants who have come into Texas since 2008 and booked into Texas county jails have been responsible for over 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults. Crowley, the host of CNN's 'State of the Union,' called Perry's claim 'wildly off.'' Video via Crooks & Liars:

... PolitiFactTexas (July 17): "... for this declaration to hold water, one would have to assume illegal immigrants committed nearly half of the state's homicides since 2008; we found no such data. This statement is both incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!" ...

It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case — not one — in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby. -- Justice Antonin Scalia, concurrence, Kansas v. Marsh, 2006

... Texas "Justice." Maurice Possley of the Marshall Project, in the Washington Post: "Since [Cameron Todd] Willingham was executed [in Texas] in 2004, officials have continued to defend the account of the informer, Johnny E. Webb, even as a series of scientific experts have discredited the forensic evidence that Willingham might have deliberately set the house fire in which his toddlers were killed. But now new evidence has revived questions about Willingham's guilt: In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb's prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line....

In 2004, [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry refused to temporarily stay Willingham's execution despite the report of a leading forensic expert that sharply disputed the finding of arson by a Texas deputy fire marshal. Perry's administration has also repeatedly undercut the authority of a state Forensic Science Commission, which agreed that the arson finding relied on flawed analysis. Defending his handling of the case in 2009, the governor declared that Willingham 'was a monster.' The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, the members of which were all appointed by Perry, voted in March to deny Willingham a posthumous full pardon.

You are so frozen in fear of your own voters -- so frozen in fear of your own colleagues -- and the nation needs you to be courageous. Only cowards scapegoat children, and only those who are ashamed of themselves do it after hours on a Friday night. -- Rep. Luis Guiterrez (D-Ill.), Friday, to Republicans during House debate of the border bill

Steve LaTourette, a now-retired, long-time Republican Congressman from Ohio & an ally of John Boehner's, has an opinion piece in Politico Magazine knocking the Tea Party in general as "the grifting party" -- who are "lining their pockets" with special interest money & contributions they grift from unwitting dupes -- & Ted Cruz specifically: "Groups like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots are run by men and women who have made millions by playing on the fears and anger about the dysfunction in Washington.... Our Founding Fathers set up a system of government that by its very nature excludes the possibility of one party or one ideological wing of one party getting everything it wants. Ted Cruz, who quotes the founders almost every chance he gets, ought to know this." CW: Of course LaTourette also claims that "the governing wing" of the GOP wants to get things done, which is a crock. ...

... CW: If "the governing wing" wanted to "get things done," John Boehner would have made a deal with Nancy Pelosi a long time ago to pass consensus legislation. The argument that he would have lost his speakership is weak; Pelosi could have got Democrats to vote for him as part of the deal. Boehner instead chose to pass dead-in-the-water bills while refusing to allow votes on bills that could pass the House & conform to Senate legislation. He coulda been a statesman. Instead, he's a clown. ...

I want to fund Israel. I also want to make sure our children have a future. -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), before blacking Iron Dome funding last week ...

... Jonathan Chait notes that the cost of the program that was going to ruin our children's future was 0.006 percent of the federal budget. "You could say that Tom Coburn is upholding his party's principles in a courageous and consistent fashion. You could also say he is a dangerous, ideological fanatic. Both those descriptions would be correct.... Republicans continue to cling to an opposition to spending that has paralyzed basic government functions.... Faced with an immovable logjam, the two parties can only move ahead by producing phony savings."

Benghaaazi! Not! Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, [Calif.,] the second-ranking Democrat on the committee. The panel voted Thursday to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.... That conflicts with accusations of administration wrongdoing voiced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County), whose House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has held hearings on the Benghazi attack." Via Greg Sargent.

David Remnick has a long, interesting piece in the New Yorker about Russia & Vladimir Putin's beliefs, methods & imperial ambitions.

Drones! James Barron of the New York Times: "... drones are soaring as never before, deployed by some for fun and others for work as new models come on the market at lower and lower prices. But their proliferation has also resulted in problems.... On Sunday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat from New York, said the city had turned into the Wild West for drones. He said it was time for new federal rules and urged the F.A.A., which is considering regulations for drones, to issue them by the end of the year. ...

... digby: "Nobody knows where [Texas mass murderer Ronald Lee Haskell] got his guns. But we can assume that Governor Perry figures he had an All American, God given right to have as many as he wanted.... But sure, by all means, let's put every effort into stopping non-existent crime among immigrants and child refugees down at the border. That's what we call conservative 'problem solving.'"

Gubernatorial Race

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: "In a nationwide push to fight Republicans who deny the existence of man-made climate change, investor-turned-activist Tom Steyer has founded a Florida political committee, seeded it with $750,000 of his own money, and says he'll spend far more to help Democrat Charlie Crist defeat Gov. Rick Scott."

Beyond the Beltway

David Goodman of the New York Times: "Narcotics officers on Saturday arrested a Staten Island man whose visceral cellphone images of the forceful and ultimately deadly arrest of Eric Garner helped galvanize protests and set off a citywide debate over police practices. The police charged the man, Ramsey Orta, with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon -- a .25-caliber Norton semiautomatic handgun -- that the officers said he had been trying to pass to a teenager on the sidewalk of a drug-prone street only blocks from the spot where officers had the fatal confrontation with Mr. Garner."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Claiming it had achieved most of its objectives and pressured by Western allies to stop causing civilian casualties in Gaza, Israel moved to wind down its operations there on Monday -- either unilaterally or through a new Egyptian-brokered cease-fire announced late in the day."

New York Times: "James S. Brady, the White House press secretary who was wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and then became a symbol of the fight for gun control, championing tighter regulations from his wheelchair, died on Monday in Alexandria, Va. He was 73."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Monday rejected as unconstitutional an Alabama law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The requirement, adopted by the legislature in 2013, would have forced three of Alabama's five abortion clinics to close, severely restricting access to abortions while not providing significant medical benefits, United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote in a 172-page decision.

Haaretz: "Israel entered day 28 of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on Monday, after scaling back its offensive over the weekend. The IDF unilaterally declared a 7-hour humanitarian cease-fire late Sunday, which went into effect at 10 A.M. This follows the Israeli security cabinet's decision to no longer attempt to reach a truce agreement through negotiations with Hamas and the Palestinian factions in Gaza. ...

... Here's the State Department statement on Israel's shelling of the U.N. school in Rafah, Gaza.


The Commentariat -- August 3, 2014

New York Times Editors: "It was a remarkable two days of legislative dysfunction, even for congressional Republicans, who have been pushing the limits of unhinged governance.... Congressional nihilism has created a vacuum. Now it's President Obama's job to fill it.... Having spent the summer howling about a catastrophe at the border, Republicans are now congratulating themselves for refusing to solve it."

Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "In a new study conducted by researchers tasked with studying of the root causes and consequences of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, the sovereign citizen movement was perceived to be the gravest terrorist threat, rivaling Islamist extremists and militia/patriot groups."

Nathan Thrall explains in the London Review of Books what led to the current Israeli-Hamas conflict. It's complicated! ...

My suggestion is a two-state solution and coexistence between Israel and the West Bank: two capitals in Jerusalem, a mutually agreed territorial modification, removal of most of the Jewish settlements from the West Bank. -- Amos Oz

Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker on the Israeli-Gaza conflict as seen through the eyes of novelist Amos Oz & former Palestinian Rashid Khalidi.

Maureen Dowd writes a column wherein she whacks Dubya for the Oedipal thing, then ends by whacking Obama. CW: I do think she's mostly right about John Brennan. He never should have been put in a position of power & responsibility. Calling Brennan "a cheerleader for torture," however, is an overstatement. See this 2008 piece by Glenn Greenwald.) Still, Obama should invite Brennan to resign. Soon. There's no doubt he was, at the least, complicit in CIA torture operations during the Bush years. ...

... "We Tortured Some Folks." digby on President Obama's remarks (see yesterday's Commentariat): "We have normalized torture with this tepid, half-assed, sanctimonious admission that 'we tortured some folks' and that it crossed a line and all, but they did it because people were afraid. Heckuva job."

Michael Paulson of the New York Times (July 30): "The Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under fire for the way his diocese has dealt with sexually abusive priests, apologized Wednesday for his conduct but rejected calls for his resignation. The archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, acknowledged errors in his diocese's response to abuse allegations, writing in a column for the diocesan newspaper that 'it is very clear that we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past' and that he had only recently removed from ministry several priests accused of abuse.... He did not directly address accusations that he himself had had inappropriate sexual relationships with adult men, other than to say that he commissioned an investigation 'because I had nothing to hide and wanted to be vindicated from false allegations, as anyone would.'" Via Steve Benen. ...

     ... CW: If Nienstedt had relationships with consenting adult men who knew what his job was, I would say there's a good chance the relationships weren't "inappropriate." Although Paulson couches the "inappropriate" behavior as an accusation by others, it sure comes across as a value judgment on the part of the Times, & in a straight news report, that is "inappropriate."

Stan Diel of the Alabama Media Group: Twinkle Cavanaugh, the President of the Alabama Public Service Commission, wants all Alabamians to "be in prayer" against the EPA's proposed carbon emissions regulations. "PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker..., a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan." Via Benen. ...

     ... CW: Well, Chip & Twinkle, God put that coal away down deep under her green earth, & it could be she didn't have any plans for you-all to dig it all up & burn it down, spewing the carcinogous detritus into the good air she gave all her creatures breathe. Nor was it likely in her plan to warm up the earth to ungodly temperatures. Those floods & hurricanes & droughts & heat waves are God's way of telling you nitwits to cut carbon emissions, & she doesn't appreciate your beseeching her to destroy her little pet planet.

Gubernatorial Election

Dave McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner[, the GOP's nominee for governor of Illinois,] has channeled at least part of his fortune into the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean paradise long criticized as a tax haven for American investors.... For Rauner, consistently leading [Gov. Pat] Quinn [D] in mid-summer polling, it's the same political issue that President Barack Obama used to his advantage against uber-rich Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Beyond the Beltway

Brent Johnson of the Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie [Friday] said he doesn't recall receiving a text message from a top aide in December as talk of the controversial lane closings at the George Washington Bridge intensified. Regina Eg[e]a, whom the Republican governor has named his next chief of staff, testified last month before a state legislative committee that she texted Christie about testimony given by Port Authority officials concerning the lane closings but later deleted the message."

Laura Vozzella, et al., of the Washington Post: "Tanned, relaxed and sometimes witty on the stand, [Jonnie] Williams[, Sr., the chief witness in the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption case,] might charm and convince the eight men and four women who hold the former first couple's fate in their hands. But there's also a risk that jurors will see him as a snake oil salesman, one who duped the McDonnells and is lying now to save his own skin."

News Ledes

AP: "Fighting raged Sunday on the western outskirts of Donetsk as the advancing Ukrainian army tried to seize control of the rebel stronghold. In danger of being encircled, the separatists renewed their calls for Russia to send troops to their aid. To support their operations, the pro-Russian fighters have been confiscating vehicles and food from residents and businesses in Donetsk." ...

... ** New York Times: "The growing confrontation between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine has derailed a recent accord that promised one of the most expansive collaborations ever between the countries' nuclear scientists, including reciprocal visits to atomic sites to work on projects ranging from energy to planetary defense."

Washington Post: "A United Nations school was attacked in southern Gaza on Sunday, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 30, as Israeli shells continued to bombard southern Gaza, hours after President Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would pay 'an intolerable price' for its assaults. A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said an Israeli air strike most likely hit the school in the southern border city of Rafah, while about 3,000 Palestinians, who had fled their homes and were seeking refuge there, were waiting in line for food and other supplies." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Israel withdrew most of its ground troops from the Gaza Strip on Sunday in an apparent winding down of the nearly monthlong operation against Hamas that has left more than 1,800 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis dead. Even as Israel said it was close to completing its mission, heavy fighting raged in parts of Gaza, with at least 10 people killed in what U.N. and Palestinian officials said was an Israeli airstrike near a U.N. shelter. The United States lashed out at Israel, saying it was 'appalled' by the 'disgraceful' attack." ...

     ... Guardian UPDATE: "A deadly attack on a school in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza has been denounced as a 'moral outrage' and 'criminal act' by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon."

Guardian: "Libya's interim government says a day of militia fighting for control of the international airport in the capital Tripoli has killed 22 people."

Guardian: "One of two American aid workers infected with the deadly Ebola virus returned to the US from Africa on Saturday. Both were volunteers treating Ebola patients in Liberia, one of three countries affected in a West African outbreak that has so far killed 729 people, the deadliest outbreak in history."