The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, May 2, 2016.

Guardian: "A freight train derailed close to Washington DC early Sunday and is leaking hazardous material and causing disruption in the area of the capital. More than 10 cars are understood to have left the tracks, a small portion of the long, 175-car southbound train. No injuries have been reported." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

 

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

... Charles Pierce: "One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.... I'm going to be first in line to see [the film "Genius."] OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post on the artistry in the film "All the President's Men."The real Woodward & Bernstein weigh in.

"You think old people are weirdos but then you understand that they don't see you and they can't hear you." Reuters: "The Genworth Aging Experience is a traveling show created by Genworth Financial Inc., an insurance company, in partnership with Applied Minds, a design and engineering company, that allows museum visitors to feel first-hand the effects of aging...[with the goal of building] empathy and awareness of the challenges elderly people face in everyday situations." -- LT note: this world could always use a little more empathy.

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Sunday
Mar022014

The Commentariat -- March 3, 2014

The New York Times is liveblogging developments in the Ukraine crisis.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "As Russia dispatched more forces and tightened its grip on the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, President Obama embarked on a strategy intended to isolate Moscow and prevent it from seizing more Ukrainian territory even as he was pressured at home to respond more forcefully. Working the telephone from the Oval Office, Mr. Obama rallied allies, agreed to send Secretary of State John Kerry to Kiev and approved a series of diplomatic and economic moves intended to 'make it hurt' as one administration official put it. But the president found himself besieged by advice to take more assertive action." ...

     ... CW: Here's an example of what I've meant when I've criticized Baker's reporting. The above is supposed to be a news story. Yet after repeating some of the usual GOP whining (plus a remark from Sen. Dick Durbin [D-Ill.], who is 100% supportive of the President), Baker asks, "Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin?" Tough enough? Huh? What would sufficiently demonstrate "tough"? Invading Siberia? Bombing St. Petersburg? As Marco Rubio suggests, kicking the Russian tourists out of Miami? Or just some mano-a-mano arm-wrestling with "the former K.G.B. colonel"? If only we had the Dick & Dubya back, they would know what to do. ...

... Will Englund, et al., of the Washington Post: "Russian forces expanded their control of Ukraine's Crimea region Monday, as the Ukrainian prime minister acknowledged that his country lack's military options in dealing with the takeover. The Russian forces, already in control of much of Crimea, took possession of a ferry terminal in Kerch, in the eastern part of the peninsula just across a strait from Russian territory, according to reports from the area. The terminal serves as a departure point for many ships heading to Russia." ...

... Steve Erlanger of the New York Times: "With small military standoffs around Ukrainian bases continuing in Russian-controlled Crimea and deepening anxiety about Russian intentions in eastern Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday called Ukraine 'the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century.' Visiting the new government in Kiev, Mr. Hague urged Russia to pull back its forces in Crimea or face 'significant costs,' echoing comments made by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who is due here on Tuesday." ...

... David Jolly of the New York Times: "The growing crisis in Ukraine hit global financial markets on Monday, unsettling investors who had already been nervous about shaky emerging market economies. The biggest impact was felt on Russian markets, as the Moscow benchmark Micex index dropped 9.4 percent, and the ruble fell to a record low against the dollar." ...

     ... CW: Yo, Marco, those Russian tourists in Miami are already feeling the pain. Now how many rubles does it take to buy a Cuban coffee? ...

... Geir Moulson of the AP: "The German government said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accepted a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel to set up a 'contact group' aimed at facilitating dialogue in the Ukraine crisis. Merkel raised the idea in a phone conversation in which she accused Putin of breaking international law with the 'unacceptable Russian intervention in Crimea." ...

... Steve Erlanger: "As Russian security forces consolidated their hold on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula on Sunday, the Ukrainian government called up its reserves and appealed for international help, while American and European leaders warned of potential political and economic penalties for Moscow. Sunday was a day of messages and mopping up, with Ukrainian and Western leaders trying to dissuade President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from overplaying his hand and ordering an invasion of eastern Ukraine, even as Russian forces and their sympathizers in Crimea worked to disarm or neutralize any Ukrainian resistance there." ...

... Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "The State Department announced Sunday that Secretary of State John F. Kerry will visit Kiev on Tuesday to show support for the new leadership there in the face of Russian military intervention."

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Sunday that Russia risked eviction from the Group of 8 industrialized nations if the Kremlin did not reverse its military occupation of Crimea in Ukraine." ...

... Dana Davidsen of CNN: "... U.S. lawmakers are pushing for decisive action against Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the violence in the region and respect Ukraine's independence. Appearing on CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday, Sens. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, made the case for congressional sanctions and a suspension of Russian membership in the G8 and G20." CW: Predictably, Graham called President Obama "weak and indecisive," blah-blah. As far as I can tell, Obama is skeert of foreign leaders, but at home he's a ruthless dictator. ...

... Masha Lipman of the New Yorker: "Vladimir Putin is not interested in mustering a 'coalition of the willing.' ... The West is no longer seen as 'partner,' the word Putin commonly used in the past. The West has become an unequivocal enemy. It is no exaggeration to say that tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine evoke the prolonged division that defined the Cold War. The geopolitical struggles over Iran, Syria, Georgia, and, now, Ukraine do not rise to the apocalyptic potential of the Cuban Missile crisis, but the stakes are enormous.... This is Putin's response to Ukraine's attempt to build a new nationhood that combines a leaning toward the Western world with the nationalism of Ukraine's own west; both 'wests' are regarded by Putin as utterly hostile to Russian interests." ...

... "Russian Exceptionalism." Adam Taylor of the Washington Post revisits Putin's 9/11/2013 letter to the New York Times in which Putin argued against U.S. military intervention in Syria. Putin wrote then that "'decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus,' and that an American-led strike against the Syrian regime 'could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance. ... We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today's complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos,' Putin wrote. 'The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.'" ...

... Juan Cole contemplates some of the regional implications of Russia's takeover of the Crimea & possible Western sanctions. The situation is, to say the least, complex. ...

... CW: I don't know what to make of this Washington Post editorial, titled "President Obama's Foreign Policy Is Based on Fantasy," since the editors claim they're not warmongering. I think they'd like to see the Pentagon arrange for some goose-stepping military parades on Pennsylvania Avenue. ...

... CW: Since Russia's invasion of the Crimea, many news organizations have run this AP photo of Vladimir Putin, no doubt because he looks insane in the shot. But he also looks to me like a certain American. I wonder if any of you notice a resemblance to another figure often in the U.S. news:

Reid Epstein of Politico: Darrell "Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told 'Fox News Sunday' that [Lois] Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, would testify before his committee Wednesday, which he said he had been told by her attorney. That attorney, William W. Taylor, said Issa is wrong. 'As of now, she intends to continue to assert her Fifth Amendment rights,' Taylor told Politico."

Paul Krugman: "Recently the Federal Reserve released transcripts of its monetary policy meetings during the fateful year of 2008. And boy, are they discouraging reading. Partly that's because Fed officials come across as essentially clueless about the gathering economic storm.... What's really striking is the extent to which they were obsessed with the wrong thing. The economy was plunging, yet all many people at the Fed wanted to talk about was inflation."

Tim Alberta of the National Journal doesn't use the term, but he sure lays out the evidence that John Boehner is a flim-flam man. Actual legislating is not only against the GOP's perceived interests, it's hard, what with the devil being in the details.

Here's a surprise: Netanyahu promises to be obstreperous. Josef Federman of the AP: " Israel's prime minister headed to Washington on Sunday for a high-stakes meeting with President Barack Obama about U.S.-led Mideast peace efforts, vowing to maintain a tough line in the face of heavy international pressure to begin making concessions to the Palestinians."

New Jersey News

Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record: "Years before they resigned amid a scandal over politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, Governor Christie's top two executives at the Port Authority [-- Bill Baroni & David Wildstein --] led a secretive campaign to quickly push through controversial toll hikes on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels by drowning out criticism, limiting public input and portraying the governors of New York and New Jersey as fiscal hawks who reined in an out-of-control agency."

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

** Phillip Longman of the Washington Monthly demythologizes and debunks the "Texas Miracle": Texas "may offer low housing prices compared to California and an unemployment rate below the national average, but it also has low rates of economic mobility, minimal public services, and, unless you are rich, taxes that are as high or higher than most anywhere else in America. And worse, despite all the oil money sloshing around, Texas is no longer gaining on the richest states in its per capita income, but rather getting comparatively poorer and poorer.... The real Texas miracle is that its current leaders get away with bragging about it."

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Sunday said that he is not ready to legalize marijuana use in the state. 'Well, we have medical marijuana, which gets very close to what they have in Colorado and Washington. I'd really like those two states to show us how it's going to work,' he said on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' Brown said he was worried about what would happen to the nation if too many people used the drug too often."

Thoughts from Right Wing World

Arthur Brooks, the president of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, explains in a New York Times op-ed why it's a terrible thing to talk about inequality; rather, we should be instituting the winger/Villager agenda. His little essay is a good example of the slick tricks of fake intellectuals, but you will recognize the wind-up & pitch because you've seen exactly the same malarkey, presented in precisely the same format, coming from that other Brooks -- David. ...

... To continue with our Winger's Guide to the New York Times Op-Ed Page, we turn to a very sad Ross Douthat, who has "surrendered" to those of us who think "love and commitment" are "enough to make a marriage," whereas he is among the ever-dwindling minority who believe marriage should "emphasize gender differences and procreation." ...

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly: "It sounds like [Douthat] thinks women are only worth marrying so that they can have men's children. Loving them is not necessary. Being committed to them is not necessary. ...

     ... CW: That is what Douthat believes. Sadly, Douthat is a moderate conservative; the views of more perverse wingers are that women have almost no value -- they're merely temporary "hosts" to men's children. Incubators.

The federal government takes sides and hands out spoils based on skin color. -- Tucker Carlson, Fox "News" host & editor of the Daily Caller

Okay, that's enough.

Saturday
Mar012014

The Commentariat -- March 2, 2014

** Alison Smale & David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "As Russian armed forces effectively seized control of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula on Saturday, the Russian Parliament granted President Vladimir V. Putin the authority he sought to use military force in response to the deepening instability in Ukraine." ...

     ... Update: Alison Smale & Steve Erlanger of the Times: "Russia's move to seize control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula on Saturday led Ukraine to call up its military reserves on Sunday and warn Moscow against further incursions as Western powers scrambled to find a response to the crisis." ...

     ... Update: William Booth, et al., of the Washington Post: "Russian soldiers spread out across the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, taking control of military and civilian installations, after Russian President Vladimir Putin secured authorization to send in more troops as the Kremlin set the stage for a high-stakes international showdown over the future of Ukraine. Ukraine's new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, speaking at a press conference Sunday in Kiev, said 'This is actually a declaration of war to my country.' Yatseniuk urged Putin to pull back his troops. 'If he wants to be the president who started the war between two neighboring and friendly countries, he is within just a few inches of his target. We are on the brink of disaster.'" CW: This is more than a "declaration." I'd call it an "occupation."

     ... Update. Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "President Obama spoke for 90 minutes with Russian President Vladmir Putin Saturday in what appeared to have been a testy exchange reflecting an escalating battle of wills and growing international tension over Ukraine.... Putin gave little ground, according to a Kremlin account of the telephone conversation. Calling the Ukraine situation 'extraordinary,' he charged that Ukrainian 'ultranationalists,' supported by the U.S.-backed government in Kiev, were threatening 'the lives and health of Russian citizens' in Crimea.... Both Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, who had his own phone call with Putin, urged the Russian leader to open an immediate dialogue with Ukraine's new leaders, and permit international monitors to assess the situation on the ground." ...

     ... Readout of President's Obama's call with President Putin: "President Obama spoke for 90 minutes this afternoon with President Putin of Russia about the situation in Ukraine. President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia's obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act. The United States condemns Russia's military intervention into Ukrainian territory." There's more. ...

     ... Readout of President Obama's call with Prime Minister Harper & President Hollande. "President Obama spoke separately this afternoon with President Hollande of France and Prime Minister Harper of Canada."

... Here's the Guardian's liveblog (Mostly Saturday's developments. Last entry is at 9:24 am GMT Sunday). ...

     ... Update: Here's the Guardian's liveblog for Sunday.

... Karen DeYoung: "The Obama administration, its top European partners and the U.N. Security Council spent much of Saturday trying to fashion a response to the rapid escalation of the Ukraine crisis as Russian troops took up positions throughout the autonomous republic of Crimea. The U.N. Security Council met in emergency session for the second time in as many days. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was 'gravely concerned' and expected to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama has warned Russia that 'there will be costs' for a military intervention in Ukraine. But the United States has few palatable options for imposing such costs, and recent history has shown that when it considers its interests at stake, Russia has been willing to absorb any such fallout." ...

... ** David Remnick of the New Yorker: "... the military incursion is unlikely to stop in Crimea: nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking. Russia defines its interests far beyond its Black Sea fleet and the Crimean peninsula." ...

... Julie Ioffe of the New Republic: "Putin's war in Crimea could soon spread to Eastern Ukraine. And nobody ...can stop him." ...

... Oxana Shevel in the Washington Post: "Russia may be planning to take over Crimea, but several factors make it harder to believe that Russia will be able to establish control and to effectively annex Crimea as it did with [the Georgian regions of] South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria." ...

... This piece by Patrick Smith in Salon, as Barbarossa notes, "the US and EU aren't exactly innocent bystanders in Ukraine." Also, Tom Friedman is a "shameless toady." ...

... (BTW, Steve M. Wrote a fine takedown of the Oracle of Alaska.) ...

... Oh, stop worrying, people. President Obama may be naive, as John McCain sez, but fortunately he has Eastern European expert Marco Rubio (RTP-Fla.), who has provided the President with a list of eight things he must do to "punish Russia." Marco may not be able to see Russia from his house a la Palin, but he has seen real, live Russians in Miami. Spending money. Marco sez that's got to stop. (No rebuttal yet from the Florida Tourists Bureau.) ...

... CW: In a piece linked yesterday, we learned that Sen. Jim Inhofe (RNuts-Okla.) longed for the happy days of the Cold War. Well, Lucky Jim. It's baaaaack! ...

... CW: I see Sam Tanenhaus, in a New York Times op-ed, agrees: "SUDDENLY the specter of the Cold War is back.... The Cold War was less a carefully structured game between masters than a frightening high-wire act, with leaders on both sides aware that a single misstep could plunge them into the abyss." The piece is "a history lesson" worth reading. AND a reminder of how fortunate we are that we're not living under a McCain administration.

** Fred Kaplan in Politico Magazine: "More than five years into Obama's presidency, the single word that best sums up his foreign policy is 'realist' -- in some cases, as one former adviser told me, 'hard-nosed,' even 'cold' realist. Like all postwar presidents, Obama speaks in hallowed terms about America's global mission. But his actions reveal an aversion to missionary zeal."

Helena Evich & Tarini Parti of Politico: "The food industry appears poised to one-up the Obama administration with the launch of a national media blitz to promote its own nutrition labels on the front of food packages. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, which represent the biggest food companies and retailers, will roll out a coordinated marketing campaign ... on Monday to promote their 'Facts Up Front,' the industry's own voluntary program for providing nutrition information on the front of food and beverage packages."

Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress: Apple CEO Tim Cook tells climate-change deniers to invest their money elsewhere. CW: Cook presents Apple's sustainability effort as a purely moral decision -- "We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive" -- but as profit-motive denier, Cook is unconvincing: most Apple customers, & potential customers, are climate-change-aware. Apple's green energy policy is a sound business practice. Also, cheaper than paying its employees a living wage. ...

     ... Update. Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "Last year Apple announced it would build one of the world's largest solar arrays. Despite what [a conservative think tank] may believe about best business practices, the project is projected to generate about $11 million in annual revenue, and add 7,400 jobs in Cupertino, California."

CW: I missed this, but it's worth reading today: Rick Hertzberg's line-by-line analysis of Gov. Jan Brewer's "surprisingly good speech" announcing her veto of Arizona's so-called "religious freedom" bill.

Senate Races

New York Times: "Dozens of states will hold Senate primaries this year, beginning with Texas on Tuesday. [The page provides] a look at the key races in every state. The outlook of each contest is based on an analysis of data from the Cook Political Report and from Larry Sabato, a professor of politics...."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The ascension of [new White House political director David] Simas -- driven, data-obsessed and a relentless salesman -- is meant as a message to anxiety-prone Democrats that the White House is serious about mitigating losses in the Republican House and defending the party's control of the Senate." ...

... MEANWHILE, the Times piece -- by Nicholas Confessore -- that balances Shear's focus on Democratic strategy is all about Bucks from Billionaires: "Donors like Paul Singer, the billionaire Republican investor, have expanded their in-house political shops, building teams of loyal advisers and researchers to guide and coordinate their giving. And some of the biggest contributors to Republican outside groups in 2012 are now gravitating toward the more donor-centric political and philanthropic network overseen by Charles and David Koch, who have wooed them in part by promising more accountability over how money is spent."

... CW: As carefully as the Times may exercise its dubious balancing act, sometimes the he-said/he-said stories can't help but highlight the truth: the GOP is the political arm of Big Money. Nothing more.

Presidential Election 2016

Maureen Dowd: "By the time the Bushes and Clintons are finished, they are going to make the Tudors and the Plantagenets look like pikers.... Our meritocratic society seems increasingly nepotistic and dynastic." But enough of Jeb. What I really want to do here is bash Hillary.

News Ledes

AP: "Police arrested hundreds of people who strapped themselves to the White House fence on Sunday to protest the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.... Protesters were passionate but quite orderly."

CBS Baltimore: "Annapolis Police arrest two people for an armed robbery of a pregnant woman in labor."

Reuters: " A massive winter storm system packing cold air, snow and freezing rain was pummeling the central United States on Sunday and headed for the East Coast, sending temperatures plummeting and causing major delays for weekend travelers."

Guardian: "Twelve prisoners with links to the Taliban walked out of Kandahar's Sarposa prison on Saturday after forging a letter from the attorney general ordering their release. It was the third time prisoners have escaped from their cells in southern Afghanistan's main jail, and the most audaciously simple."

Los Angeles Times: "China's state media called Saturday night's knifing attack at a train station in Kunming 'China's 9-11' and called for a crackdown on terrorism. The death toll from the attack rose to 33 with four of the perpetrators among the dead. One suspect is in custody, a woman, who was reported to be hospitalized. The perpetrators were said to be Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from northwestern China's Xinjiang region. Chinese authorities showed on a television station a black flag recovered at the scene which they said was calling for independence for the region that some Uighurs refer to as East Turkestan." ...

Los Angeles Times: "... a string of televised confessions that have raised alarm among Chinese attorneys as well as media watchers who say police, prosecutors and reporters are convicting people in the court of public opinion for political ends."

Friday
Feb282014

The Commentariat -- March 1, 2014

Michael Shear & Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "As Ukrainian leaders accused Russia of carrying out an armed invasion in the Crimea region, President Obama on Friday warned Russia not to intervene militarily, saying the United States would stand with the world to condemn a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty":

... Here's a transcript of President Obama's remarks....

... The New York Times is liveblogging events. ...

... Julie Pace & Matthew Lee of the AP: "U.S. officials said Friday that President Barack Obama may scrap plans to attend an international summit in Russia this summer and could also halt discussions on deepening trade ties with Moscow, raising specific possible consequences if Russia should intervene in Ukraine.... The administration's warning that trade talks could be halted came as Russian officials were in Washington for economic discussions with Obama advisers.... Separately, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he would not address specific U.S. options, "but this could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a provocative way.' Asked about options in a CBS News interview, he said that 'we're trying to deal with a diplomatic focus, that's the appropriate, responsible approach.'" ...

... David Herszenhorn of the New York Times provides background: "Crimea, a multiethnic region populated by Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars, has been the focus of territorial disputes for centuries, and in recent decades it has frequently been a source of tension between Ukraine and Russia." ...

... Told Ya So, Part 1. McCain Reprises His Brilliant 2008 Performance. Jay Newton-Small of Time: "In response to reports of a Russian takeover in parts of Crimea, Arizona Senator John McCain said on Friday, 'We are all Ukrainians,' before calling for swift U.S. economic aid to Ukraine, condemnation of Russia at the United Nations, sanctions against Russian officials and the installation of U.S. missiles in the nearby Czech Republic.... McCain made his declaration in response to a question from TIME about his famous 2008 statement, 'We are all Georgians.' ... In the interview Friday, McCain said President Obama has 'been incredibly naïve' about Putin's goals. 'Putin wants to restore the Russian empire, that's his ambition, he's stated it many times. Therefore no one should be surprised,' McCain said. 'I predicted it and I'm not a genius. But I know Putin.'" ...

     ... CW: I'm trying to remember. Was it President Obama who said of Putin, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul"? Well, whoever it was, he surely was "incredibly naive."

... Told Ya So, Part 2. CNN: "In 2008, when she was the GOP vice presidential nominee, [Sarah] Palin questioned in a speech whether then-Sen. Barack Obama would have the foreign policy credentials to handle a scenario in which Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. 'After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence -- the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next,' she said in Reno, Nevada on October 21, 2008." Palin wrote Friday on Facebook, "Yes, I could see this one from Alaska.... I'm usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as 'an extremely far-fetched scenario' by the 'high-brow' Foreign Policy magazine." "In October 2008, Foreign Policy labeled Palin's prediction as 'strange.'" ...

     ... CW: Palin usually is "not one to say say Told Ya So" because Palin seldom gets anything right. And if you think she wrote that speech in October 2008 (or if she could find Georgia & Ukraine on a map), I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you. (At least she would know they're not in Africa, because she thought Africa was a country.) ...

... Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "Top [Republican] lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services said Thursday that the world would be better off if the Cold War was still on -- and if Obama wasn't cutting the defense budget." ...

I look back wistfully at the Cold War. There were two superpowers, they knew what we had, we knew what they had, mutually assured destruction meant something. It doesn't mean anything anymore. Now we have these people who are not rational, not logical, they're nuts. -- Sen. Jim Inhofe (RNuts-Okla.)

Your Official Friday Afternoon News Dump. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Obama administration said Friday that it would allow some people to receive federal subsidies for health insurance purchased in the private market outside of health insurance exchanges. The sudden shift was the latest in a series of policy changes, extensions and clarifications by federal officials trying to help beneficiaries and minimize political damage to Democrats in this election year. Federal officials said they had agreed to provide such assistance retroactively because technical problems had prevented consumers from using online exchanges to obtain insurance and financial aid in some states. Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat, had specifically asked the federal government to allow financial assistance, in the form of tax credits, for people buying insurance outside the state's troubled exchange." ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "More than a decade ago, Arkansas Rep. Josh Miller (R) was in a catastrophic car accident that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. Medicare and Medicaid paid the $1 million bill for his hospitalization and rehabilitation. But this week, as the Arkansas legislature has debated continuing its privatized Medicaid expansion..., Miller has remained steadfast in his opposition.... The difference, he said, is that some of the 100,000 people who have gained coverage through Arkansas's Medicaid expansion don't work hard enough or just want access to the program so they can purchase and abuse prescription drugs." (In the accident that critically injured Miller, "He was driving with a friend, alcohol was involved, but Miller said he couldn't remember who was driving.to the point that he does not know who was driving.... He was uninsured.") ...

... The Arkansas Times report, by Max Brantley, is well-worth reading, too, as it provides more detail. And this thought from Brantley:

A coldly rational person might say a cook in a fast-food restaurant, working long hours at low pay to feed a family, looks more deserving than an uninsured person injured on a drunken joy ride. I would not. No one should be pre-judged on a subjective merit test for health care.

     ... CW: What defines a Republican is his sociopathic certainty that he is uniquely "deserving" while others are unworthy.

Gail Collins: "The biggest difference between the fortunes of gay rights and abortion rights ... is that politicians who vote to limit women's rights to control their own bodies know that, for the most part, they're only hurting poor people. Low-income women are five times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy as their most affluent sisters. And the lawmakers who busy themselves throwing up barriers to abortion in their own states realize, deep in their hearts, that if their middle-class constituents want to end a pregnancy, they can get on a plane and go where it's easy to take care of the problem."

Dana Milbank performs a post-mortem on Dave Camp's tax reform proposal. The takeaway: Camp didn't do the politics right. ...

     ... A Congress Crammed with Mini-Cruzes. CW: In Partisan World, too many politicians don't do the politics right. Although officially as well as in their heart-of-hearts, they're politicians, they are inexperienced pols. They come from gerrymandered districts, so they don't really have to run for office; the only people they are required to cajole are fatcat donor-lobbyists. Then, if they're Republicans, their usual goal is to do nothing; John Boehner recently defined legislative "success" as repealing old laws, not creating new ones. Add to that mix hackery, hubris, & fear & loathing of the other, and it's little wonder we have a catatonic Congress. They simply don't know how to legislate. Ted Cruz is an exemplar, not an anomaly.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "We're still combing through the thousands of pages of previously withheld documents released Friday by the Clinton Library." Blake runs down "some of the most interesting things we have found. It will continue to be updated." ...

... Philip Rucker of the Post homes in on correspondence that shows how Hillary Clinton's aides worked to polish her image. I find these memos both amusing & baffling: For instance, in 1999, after Clinton had been in politics for decades, did she really need to be told -- in writing -- to "be real," along with other "style pointers," in advance of a meeting with Sen. Moynihan?

... Here's the Clinton Library page with links to the documents.

White House: "In his weekly address, President Obama said he took action this week to launch new manufacturing hubs and expand a competition to fund transformative infrastructure projects":

Gubernatorial Election

Reid Wilson of the Washington Post: "Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who on Thursday said he will run for an unprecedented fourth term in office, wants to challenge the notion that the state is unmanageable." ...

... CW: Sorry, I plumb forgot to link this yesterday. Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times: "Jerry Brown finally made it official Thursday: He's running for an unprecedented fourth and final term as governor. The announcement, widely expected, was made in minimalist Brown style, with a post on Twitter."

News Ledes

AP: "A group of knife-wielding men attacked a train station in southwestern China on Saturday, leaving at least 27 people dead and another 109 injured, the official Xinhua News Agency said, making it one of the deadliest attacks in China in recent years."

Guardian: "Iran's president said on Saturday the Islamic Republic has decided not to develop nuclear weapons out of principle, not only because it is prevented from doing so by treaties. President Hassan Rouhani also urged Iran's military leaders to let diplomacy prevail in dealing with potential foreign threats, in a clear reference to efforts to end the nuclear dispute and decades of hostile relations with the west."

Guardian: "Lawyers for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are seeking to have multiple charges against him dismissed. In a court filing late on Friday his lawyers said some charges were repetitive and that the number could sway jurors weighing whether to find him guilty and sentence him to death."

New York Times: "The newly installed, pro-Russia prime minister of Crimea declared on Saturday that he had sole control over the military and the police in the disputed peninsula and he appealed to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for help in safeguarding the region."

Thursday
Feb272014

The Commentariat -- Feb. 28, 2014

** Margaret Hartmann of New York: "The Supreme Court's ban on recording devices has been so effective that there are only two images of the court in session, which were snapped via hidden cameras in the 1930s. That's why it's remarkable that someone managed to record video of Supreme Court oral arguments and post it on YouTube this week, even though it's shaky and only two minutes long. The events in the video are almost as rare. It shows a man interrupting arguments in a patent case on Wednesday to protest the Citizens United decision, as well as footage from oral arguments on the campaign finance case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which took place on Oct. 8.... The protester was identified by the court as Noah Kai Newkirk, 33, of Los Angeles. He was quickly pulled from the room by police officers, and charged under the federal law banning, 'a harangue or oration' and 'loud, threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court building.'":

@MAG: Per your request:

     ... P.S. You can play Seat the Justices here. ...

... CW: Let me just say, while we're at it, that we should all be appalled that we allow the so-called public sessions of our third branch of government to remain completely hidden from public view. Not only are we prohibited from seeing the sessions ever, it is only in extraordinary circumstances that we have been permitted to hear the deliberations contemporaneously. It's a goddamned crime against the public interest. ...

... I'm just asking for video recordings of Supreme Court proceedings. I'm not asking that the Supremes take us on their workouts (even though I'd like to see Justice Ginsburg prove she can do 20 pushups, as she claims):

** Bernie Becker of the Hill: "A group of Democratic senators urged the Obama administration on Thursday to cap the amount of political activity that tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups can engage in at 5 to 15 percent. The 15 senators, in public comments on a proposed regulation change that grew out of the IRS targeting controversy, said that the rules need to ensure that 501(c)(4)s can't use their tax-exempt status to go around campaign finance rules." The senate signators were Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) signed the letter. CW: Gee, no Republicans.

Zeke Miller of Time: "Vice President Joe Biden rallied Democrats on Thursday ahead of this year's midterm elections.... Speaking at the Democratic National Committee's annual winter meeting, Biden maintained that Democrats enjoy an advantage on policy, saying a 'majority of the American people ... agree with us on every issue we are for. ... What we're worried about is the Koch brothers and their friends bringing in millions and millions and millions of dollars,' he said. But, he added, 'money can't buy an election when you're selling a bad set of goods.' The vice president called for an end to worries about the future of the party, in light of a spate of recent news stories about the DNC's more modest role and financial troubles. 'Give me a break,' he said. 'There is no Republican Party.'"

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: Democrats cash in on Republicans' sexist attacks on Democratic women leaders.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The federal budget deficit fell precipitously to $680 billion in the 2013 fiscal year from about $1.1 trillion the year before, the Treasury Department said Thursday. That is the smallest deficit since 2008, and marks the end of a five-year stretch when the country's fiscal gap came in at more than a trillion dollars a year."

Stacy Kaper of the National Journal: "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is looking for senators who would allow her military sexual-assault bill to pass even if they don't vote for it directly. The New York Democrat's controversial bill -- which would take away commanders' power to decide which sexual-assault cases are prosecuted -- has been granted a vote by leaders of both parties and could come to the floor as soon as next week. Gillibrand has 55 publicly declared supporters for her legislation, and if she could convince 60 members to vote yes on a procedural vote to take up her bill, it could pass with a simple majority using the votes she already has racked up."

The GOP Is Against Everything. Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Republicans stopped Democrats from advancing a bill that would have expanded healthcare and education programs for veterans. In a 56-41 vote Thursday, the motion to waive a budget point of order against the bill failed, as Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican roadblock. GOP Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) voted with Democrats."

... Charles Pierce has a very good response to the craven GOP senators who blocked the bill. So does Bernie Sanders, via Pierce:

Don't tell me that enabling a family to have a child is a political issue. When you have a 70-year-old woman taking care of her husband who had both legs blown off in Vietnam, and she's taking care of him 24 hours a day, don't tell me that's a political issue. I find it incredible that we had several Democrats come down to speak but very few Republicans, and then, when they did, I heard Iran sanctions and I heard Benghazi. Tell me what Benghazi or Iran sanctions have to do with caring for our veterans. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

... Steve M. has an excellent response, too, noting that Republicans probably won't pay for throwing veterans under the bus because "everybody knows" Republicans love the troops. ...

     ... CW: Maybe Bernie could have gotten unanimous consent if the bill had described veterans as "military contractors."

Awkward! Russell Berman of the Hill: John Boehner "began his weekly Capitol press conference by attacking President Obama for intending to 'pack it in for the year' and said Republicans would, by contrast, demonstrate leadership by presenting an alternative vision to the country. But when pressed on whether the House would actually hold votes on major legislation in 2014, the Speaker quickly backed away, and wouldn't commit to anything more than continued 'conversations' in the coming month." CW: As far as I can tell, Boehner's definition of "leadership" is "do nothing but attack President Obama." ...

... Boehner's presser, however, was not a complete waste of time. I am happy to pay my Boner Tax for this moment:

... So here's President Obama, "packing it in:"

... Don Lemon of CNN: "In a moving and heartfelt message Thursday, President Barack Obama challenged young minority men to make good choices.... The message was part of his new initiative called 'My Brother's Keeper,' where leading foundations and businesses will donate at least $200 million over five years towards programs aimed at minority youth of color.... A White House official said Obama improvised a good portion of his remarks and was more emotional than many planners of the event anticipated." CNN pulled some highlights:

... Here's the full speech:

Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama will announce Friday that two software firms have pledged more than $400 million worth of software for American classrooms during an appearance at the inaugural White House Film Festival. Software maker Adobe will provide some $300 million in free copies of programs like Photoshop and Premiere Elements that will help students and educators complete digital creative projects. Prezi, a Hungarian software company, is providing $100 million in licenses for its professional presentation program."

New York Times Editors on how raising the minimum wage affects businesses that employ low-wage workers: "Scholarly studies and the experience of businesses themselves show that what companies lose when they pay more is often offset by lower turnover and increased productivity. Businesses are also able to deal with higher costs by modestly increasing prices and by giving smaller increases to higher-paid employees."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Clinton Presidential Library will make its first release on Friday of records that were previously withheld from the public under legal provisions that expired early last year, a spokeswoman for the National Archives said. About 4,000 to 5,000 pages will be put online at 1 P.M. Friday, with paper copies becoming simultaneously available at the library in Little Rock.... More releases are expected in the next couple of weeks. Politico reported Tuesday that about 33,000 pages of records withheld as confidential advice to President Bill Clinton or information about candidates for appointments to federal office, were still unavailable to the public even though the legal basis to withhold them under the Presidential Records Act ran out in January 2013.... Some of the records come from then first lady Hillary Clinton's office...."

Paul Krugman on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: "... both Harry Reid ... and Nancy Pelosi ... have come out against giving the president crucial 'fast-track' authority, meaning that any agreement can receive a clean, up-or-down vote. So what I wonder is why the president is pushing the T.P.P. at all. The economic case is weak, at best, and his own party doesn't like it.... My guess is that we're looking at a combination of Beltway conventional wisdom -- Very Serious People always support entitlement cuts and trade deals -- and officials caught in a 1990s time warp, still living in the days when New Democrats tried to prove that they weren't old-style liberals by going all in for globalization. So don't cry for T.P.P. If the big trade deal comes to nothing, as seems likely, it will be, well, no big deal."

Optic Nerve. Spencer Ackerman & James Ball of the Guardian: "Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery -- including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications -- from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.... Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year."

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Conservative activists said Thursday that they will continue to press for additional legal protections for private businesses that deny services to gay men and lesbians, saying that a defeat in Arizona this week is only a minor setback and that religious-liberty legislation is the best way to stave off a rapid shift in favor of gay rights." ...

     ... CW: This gang is like (or one-and-the-same as) the anti-abortion crowd. They have taken up a cause that gives them permission to think about sex all the time. Since gay sex is even more taboo in their view than is extramarital hetero-sex, the anti-gay-marriage gang must be more hyper-excited than the fellas in the misogynists' club.

Tami Luhby of CNN: "Diners at eight Gator's Dockside casual eateries are finding a 1% Affordable Care Act surcharge on their tabs, which comes to 15 cents on a typical $15 lunch tab. Signs on the door and at tables alert diners to the fee, which is also listed separately on the bill.... Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, an upscale restaurant is also asking guests to pony up for its employee health care costs. Since it opened in November, Republique's tab comes with an optional 3% surcharge that allows it to employ all of its 80 workers full-time and provide them with health insurance. The fee is explained in a sign and on the menu, and servers explain it to diners without prompting." ...

... "ObummerCare Tax." Jonathan Chait: "Conservatives find this development very exciting.... There are costs associated with all kinds of government regulations and spending, but he’s not creating a line item on his tab to highlight his share of, say, financing the Department of Defense.... As an act of propaganda, this is completely self-defeating. Customers are told that the dreaded Obummercare may 'ultimately' put the restaurant out of business -- maybe one day, when the Sharia FEMA camp portion is phased in. But in the meantime, they're covering it by making the two people buying lunch fork over an additional 20 cents to cover health insurance for the restaurant's employees. That really doesn't sound like the worst deal in the world." ...

     ... CW: It is also an admission/reminder to customers that the restaurant proprietor heretofore has been happy to see her/his underpaid employees try to get along without affordable health care. Maybe the 15- or 20-cent ObummerCare Tax will encourage customers to give the underpaid wait staff slightly larger tips.

** John Schwartz of the New York Times: "In the 10 years since Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham after convicting him on charges of setting his house on fire and murdering his three young daughters, family members and death penalty opponents have argued that he was innocent. Now newly discovered evidence suggests that the prosecutor in the case may have concealed a deal with a jailhouse informant whose testimony was a key part of the execution decision.... [The informant, Johnny] Webb, and the prosecutor at trial, John Jackson -- who would later become a judge -- explicitly denied that any deal existed...." The Innocence Project found written evidence of a deal; also when he became a judge, Jackson continued to try to cut Webb's time & reduce the charges against him. "The Innocence Project also contends that prosecutors suppressed an effort by Mr. Webb to recant his testimony."

Luke Harding of the Guardian writes a frightening piece on what appears to be a Russian coup in the Crimea. CW: It sure looks as if Putin is doing something about that nostalgia he has for the good ole days of the Soviet Union.

New Jersey News

Ashley Killough, et al., of CNN: "Officials in Fort Lee, New Jersey released 911 audio Friday from the week in September when two out of three access lanes were closed to the George Washington Bridge, ultimately causing massive traffic gridlock across the city for four days in a controversy that has roiled the Christie administration. The 26 hours of emergency dispatch audio will reveal more information about whether the traffic jam, which was allegedly orchestrated by top former appointees of Gov. Chris Christie, led to harm or death due to delayed emergency response time from the unusually high congestion."

Shawn Boburg, et al., of the Bergen Record: "The private messages that linked Governor Christie's office to lane closures at the George Washington Bridge also contain jokes about causing 'traffic problems' at the home of a New Jersey rabbi associated with the Port Authority, newly released documents show. The information is contained in 20 pages of messages that previously had redactions shielding who sent and received texts between former Port Authority executive David Wildstein and others. The documents do not shed any new light on potential further involvement of the governor's office.... In the new batch of texts, the most insensitive texts were authored by [former Christie aide Bridget] Kelly, [former Christie campaign manager Bill] Stepien and Wildstein. The messages also confirm media reports that Port Authority police officer Chip Michaels, a friend of Christie's from their childhood in Livingston -- where Wildstein also grew up -- helped Wildstein survey and keep track of the backups throughout the closures." ...

... CW: There's a pdf of the e-mail exchanges here, but they're still heavily redacted, & I found them hard to follow.

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "... let's not forget that the press started asking questions about the lane closures in September -- it wasn't until January, after weeks of denying complicity -- that Christie finally conceded that his administration had been up to no good. In those intervening months, Christie did nothing to investigate what had happened, even though it was obviously that this wasn't an issue that wouldn't disappear without a full accounting of what transpired. And the most logical explanation for his lack of investigation is simple: He already knew." ...

     ... CW: Lewison is right. Christie's claims that he wasn't interested in learning the details of the plot(s) that ruined his chance to be POTUS make no sense -- unless he was ordering, encouraging or at least aware of the covert ops his top aides were managing. If your trusted associates & friends betrayed & destroyed your future prospects, wouldn't you want to know who, when, where & why?

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

Andrew Wolfson & Doug Stanglin of USA Today: "A federal judge on Thursday ordered Kentucky officials to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state. U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn ruled that Kentucky's Constitution and laws banning recognition of such marriages 'violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable.' The decision amounted to a final ruling of his Feb. 12 opinion in the case."

Right Wing World

Get Your People in Line, Ladies. CW: It appears Bill O'Reilly thinks black ladies Valerie Jarrett & Michelle Obama have it in their power to make black kids (link fixed) be more like what O'Reilly surmises white kids are like. Jarrett & Obama just need to tell their black friends to comport themselves to standards Loofah Man has set for them. Now I'm wondering why Laura Bush didn't make all the white kids of the USA into Little Goody Two Shoes. Guess Laura was a slacker. I don't think O'Reilly has any idea he's a flaming racist.

News Ledes

Chattanoogan: "District Attorney Herbert 'Buzz' Franklin said Friday he will not prosecute a man who shot and killed a man with Alzheimer's who was outside his home."

New York Times: "After nearly 20 months of celebrity theater and an incalculable amount of effort and courtroom expense, the misdemeanor trial of Kerry Kennedy ended on Friday in breakneck fashion, as jurors took one hour to find her not guilty of driving under the influence of a drug: a sleeping pill that she said she took by accident."

New York Times: Actor "Philip Seymour Hoffman was killed by a poisonous mix of drugs that included not only heroin but also cocaine, amphetamines and sedatives, the New York City medical examiner announced on Friday. The medical examiner ruled his death an accident."

Guardian: "The Federal Reserve has no authority to supervise or regulate Bitcoin, chair Janet Yellen told Congress on Thursday.... 'Bitcoin is a payment innovation that's taking place outside the banking industry. To the best of my knowledge there's no intersection at all, in any way, between Bitcoin and banks that the Federal Reserve has the ability to supervise and regulate. So the Fed doesn't have authority to supervise or regulate Bitcoin in anyway,' said Yellen. Yellen said there were concerns about the currency being used for for money laundering but that regulators were confident that US law was 'adequate to meet enforcement needs'."

The Guardian has a liveblog of events re: the Ukraine crisis. ...

... New York Times: "Amid fears of a Kremlin-backed separatist rebellion here against Ukraine's fledgling government, armed men in military uniforms took up positions at two Crimean airports as Ukraine's interior minister warned of 'a direct provocation,' but there was no sign of any violence." ...

... New York Times: "For now, Mr. Putin's strategy for retaining Russia's influence in a country where the Kremlin has profound interests, from its largest foreign military base to gas pipelines that fuel its economy, remains unknown and full of risks. Even so, events are subtly forcing Moscow's hand." ...

... The Times has a useful map of the Ukraine that identifies the ethnic, cultural & political divide that is straining the country.

AP: "The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in Tokyo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday and its chief executive said 850,000 bitcoins, worth several hundred million dollars, are unaccounted for. The exchange's CEO Mark Karpeles appeared before Japanese TV news cameras, bowing deeply for several minutes. He said a weakness in the exchange's systems was behind a massive loss of the virtual currency involving 750,000 bitcoins from users and 100,000 of the company's own bitcoins. That would amount to about $425 million at recent prices."