The Ledes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

New York Times: "With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for 'changing military dangers and military threats.'”

Guardian: "Syrian rebels have issued three demands for the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers they've held captive for five days, Fiji's military commander has said. Brig Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front wants to be taken off the United Nations terrorist list, humanitarian aid delivered to the capital Damascus, and compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with UN officers."

AP: "U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader. Al-Shabab had attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people a year ago this month and the U.S. had targeted planners of the bloody assault."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 1, 2014.

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country’s powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister’s resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan’s worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'”

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
September 2

12:30 am ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

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-- Constant Weader

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Saturday
Aug112012

The Commentariat -- August 12, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's Sunday sermon. The NYTX front page is here.

Michael Schmidt & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities."

Presidential Race

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate provides President Obama with something he has been eagerly looking for -- a bigger target.... Instead of a referendum on his own performance, the president has an opening to turn the election into a referendum on the vision that Mr. Ryan has advanced and Mitt Romney has adopted.... Stanley B. Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said that surveys showed attacks on the Ryan plan moved voters dramatically.... 'There are a lot of white, working-class voters, particularly older ones, who will walk away now, even if tempted earlier by the slow economy.'"

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "For the past 10 days, the Romney campaign took extraordinary measures to keep Mr. Ryan's whereabouts and movements a mystery.... It required painstakingly planned skulduggery, which the campaign outlined in detail, late on Saturday afternoon."

** The New York Times Editorial Board does a fine job of summing up how bleak life would be in the U.S. under a Romney-Ryan administration: "Mr. Romney had already praised the Ryan budget as "excellent work" but until Saturday the deliberate ambiguity of his own plans gave him a little room for distance, an opportunity to sketch out a more humane vision of government's role. By putting Mr. Ryan's callousness on his ticket, he may have lost that chance." ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress fleshes out the Times editors' assertions. ...

... Here's the Obama camp's first shot at Romney-Rand (Freudian slip; I meant Romney-Ryan):

     ... The link at the end of the video takes you to an Obama-Biden campaign page that elaborates on the points made in the video.

Nate Silver analyzes the risk Romney took in choosing Ryan. His choice may not have the payoff Rmoney hopes for. Interesting factoid:

Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman of Minnesota.

James Downie of the Washington Post: "... the idea that Ryan or Romney's nomination of him as his vice president is courageous is simply wrong." Downie explains why.

Steve Benen: "For months, Mitt Romney repeated a common complaint about President Obama's professional background: he's spent his life in the political world, not the real world.... Oddly enough, Romney hasn't repeated that line of criticism in a while.... In May, Romney went so far as to say working in the private sector for 'at least three years' should be a prerequisite to national office. Now, Romney wants to put Ryan one heartbeat from the presidency, despite the fact that Ryan" has spent his entire career in politics. "Romney was almost certainly pushed into this announcement by a conservative establishment that doesn't trust him or feel excited to rally behind him, and Romney didn't have the standing or intestinal fortitude to push back. It's a Quayle/Palin kind of decision...." ...

     ... When it's "our turn," Steve, and the little people aren't sufficiently compliant, sometimes I have to compromise my high standards for the greater good. Love, Mitt.

** Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic: "Under Paul Ryan's plan, Mitt Romney wouldn't pay any taxes for the next ten years -- or any of the years after that.... Well, maybe not quite nothing. In 2010..., Romney would have paid an effective tax rate of around 0.82 percent under the Ryan plan, rather than the 13.9 percent he actually did.... The vast majority of Romney's income came from capital gains, interest, and dividends. And Ryan wants to eliminate all taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends.... It might seem impossible to fund the government when the super-rich pay no taxes. That is accurate. Ryan would actually raise taxes on the bottom 30 percent of earners, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center,but that hardly fills the revenue hole he would create. The solution? All but eliminate all government outside of Social Security and defense...."

"Thanks, Willard. Love, Barack." David Corn of Mother Jones: "Paul Ryan is exactly whom President Barack Obama wanted on the Republican ticket with Mitt Romney. By selecting the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, whose name is synonymous with the GOP's cut-taxes-for-the-rich and slash-programs-for-the-middle-class-and-the-poor, Romney has helped Obama in his No. 1 mission: shape the election not as a referendum on the sluggish economy but as a sharp clash between opposing sets of values and programs for the future."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "The craziest thing so far about today are the reports that now that Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan, he is going to abandon his support for Paul Ryan's budget."

It isn't just the Ryan budget Willard will have to defend:

     Ezra Klein: "Ryan was, for instance, the key House backer of Social Security privatization. His bill, The Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005, was so aggressive that it was rejected by the Bush administration. Now it's Romney's bill to defend. In Florida." Read Klein's whole post. ...

    Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "Ryan's claims that his economic and social philosophy reflect Catholic teachings seem to have rubbed the bishops (and even more adamantly, Catholic liberals) the wrong way, and could become a problem for the ticket at a time when the so-called 'war on religion' had created a fine opportunity for Republicans to consolidate support among 'traditionalist' white Catholics."

Jonathan Chait: "Ryan's nominations represents a moment when the conservative movement ceased to control the politicians from behind the scenes and openly assumed the mantle of power."

Michael Tomasky of Newsweek: "Thelma and Louise were 'daring' too, but they ended up at the bottom of a canyon. If the Democrats handle this situation properly, that's where this ticket will end up too, and then the rest of us -- the people who don't want federal policy to be based on Atlas Shrugged -- can finally and fully press the case to the right that America is not behind you, and please grow up." ...

... Noam Scheiber of The New Republic thinks Romney knows that: "Ryan is the way Romney and his aides escape blame for their now-likely defeat -- blame which would have vicious and unrelenting—and pin it in on conservatives instead."

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: there is a woman on the GOP ticket: Ayn Rand.

Galt/Gekko 2012. Paul Krugman: "Romney obviously felt he needed a VP who will get people to stop talking about him."

Among Charles Pierce's thoughts on "the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, an authentically dangerous zealot": "Paul Ryan lives in a house overseen by the National Park Service, which means that he qualifies for a 20-percent investment tax credit." CW: I think this is the place:

CW: Since he was a teenager living on Social Security survivor benefits, throughout his education at public schools & a public university and all through his professional career, the taxpayers have supported Paul Ryan. He has lived on the public dole most of his life. Clearly, Ryan comes from the school of sociopaths who think they are "entitled" to close to 100% public support, but everybody else is a freeloader. BTW, I don't think that guy working on the front stoop in the Google Earth photo is Ryan.

Meanwhile, Back in Janesville.... Alison Bauter of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Ryan will remain on the ballot for re-election to his seat in the House of Representatives, said Susan Jacobson, finance director/campaign manager for his House campaign."

Maureen Dowd essentially ignores Ryan and writes instead about the likability quotients of Obama and Romney. Her column includes some good quotes, like this one:

Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed. He knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career. It's very hard to make a lot of money without taking some kind of reputational risk along the way. -- Marc Wolpow, "a former Romney employee at Bain Capital," on "Mitt's 1988 deal with Michael Milken while the junk bond king was under federal investigation"

Still Can't Keep His Foot out of His Mouth: Peter Hamby of CNN: "Speaking at a rally in Ashland, [Virginia...,] Romney described Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who was in attendance, as 'a great friend, and I hope the next governor of Virginia.' Bolling is running for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination against state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a darling of conservative activists who is trouncing Bolling in early polling.... Romney and his aides tried to walk back the comments after the event."

Congressional Races

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Rep. Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate has the power to reshape the race for control of Congress.... Democrats say putting Ryan on the ticket will make his budget even more of a focal point in 2012 and force Republicans who haven't already taken a position on it to do so."

News Ledes

New York Times: Sheldon Adelson's frontman in China, Yang Saixin, "along with tens of millions of dollars in payments the Sands made through him in China, is a focus of a wide-ranging federal investigation into potential bribery of foreign officials and other matters in China and Macau.... On Tuesday..., Paul D. Ryan is to appear at a fund-raiser at the Sands's Venetian casino in Las Vegas; Mr. Adelson is likely to attend...."

New York Times: Tammy Smith, "an Army officer being promoted to brigadier general, openly acknowledged her homosexuality on Friday by having her wife pin her star to her uniform, thus becoming the first openly gay officer of flag rank in the United States military."

New York Times: "With a gaudy three-hour farewell that mashed up theater, acrobatics, fashion and a few generations of musical idols, London extinguished the Olympic torch Sunday night, capping two weeks of athletic achievements with a jukebox collection of songs and a marathon display of endearingly wacky stagecraft." Guardian story here. ...

... CBS Sports: "Most medals. Most gold medals. The U.S. left no doubt at the Olympics. When the U.S. men's basketball team took the Olympic title Sunday, it won the 46th gold medal for Americans in London, their highest total at a 'road' Olympics."

** New York Times: "President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt forced the retirement on Sunday of his powerful defense minister, the army chief of staff and several senior generals, in a stunning purge that seemed for the moment to reclaim for civilian leaders much of the political power the Egyptian military had seized since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year. Mr. Morsi also nullified a constitutional declaration, issued by the military before he was elected, that eviscerated the powers of the presidency and arrogated to the military the right to enact laws."

AP: "Twin earthquakes in Iran have killed at least 250 people and injured over 2,000, Iranian state television said on Sunday, after thousands spent the night outdoors after their villages were leveled and homes damaged in the country's northwest."

Friday
Aug102012

The Commentariat -- August 11, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Debunking the Douthat Doctrine." The NYTX front page is here. ...

... Speaking of nuns, as I do in my column, apparently our nuclear facilities are not safe from at least one of them -- a fascinating New York Times story by William Broad on Sister Megan Rice, an 82-year old nun who, with two accomplices, aged 57 & 63, & a couple of pairs of bolt cutters, easily breached the so-called security at the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Tennessee.

Perseid meteor over Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah. Space.com photo.Tom Skillern of Yahoo! News: "NASA says the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks Saturday and Sunday nights, will be the best show of the year. Hundreds of shooting stars -- along with Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon -- will be visible to viewers across North America. 'We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour,' NASA's Bill Cooke says. Cooke advises space enthusiasts to look for meteors just before dawn in the eastern sky and avoid city lights. A trip to the dark skies in the countryside will yield three times as many visible meteors." ...

... A friend & Reality Chex reader writes, "Tonight is the Perseid Shower. It's cloudy. But I know something beautiful and wonderful is happening without any help from any human being, and can't ever be sullied."

CW: Here's one I missed from earlier this week -- Amy Chozick of the New York Times: President Obama is an avid news consumer -- and critic. He hates he-said/she-said journalism.

Gail Collins writes an amusing column about oppo trackers, who follow political candidates & record their every word. The candidate whom Collins remarks got caught saying "he prays the media will stop covering 'sob stories' about how someone 'couldn't get, you know, their food stamps or this or that'" is Eric Hovde, who is running in the Wisconsin GOP (natch!) U.S. Senate primary.

Matt Miller of the Washington Post calls out his weasly colleague Charles Krauthammer for this remark: "Obama loves to cite great federal projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system. Fine. Name one thing of any note created by Obama's Niagara of borrowed money." Wells, sez Miller, "... the stimulus created the equivalent of a dozen Hoover Dams." Miller cites a Center for American Progress study: "The increase in U.S. wind-power output under the Obama administration so far has been ... 12 times as much as produced by the [Hoover D]am.... As Michael Grunwald points out in a Time column today, it was 'the Obama stimulus bill that revived the wind industry and the rest of the clean-tech sector from a near-death experience.'"

Presidential Race

CW: If Romney's VP pick is indeed Paul Ryan, that supports what I said yesterday: Romney knows he hasn't closed with conservatives. It also reinforces the fact -- and at this point it is a fact -- that Romney is a pushover for conservatives & as president would roll over for all but the most insane GOP Congressional demands. People who vote for Romney will, in effect, be voting for President Ryan, making Ryan the Dick Cheney of domestic fiscal terrorism. If this is where the voters are, we're looking at 16 years of Ayn Rand economics. ...

     ... Update: Hate to say I told you so, but Mitt Romney just said, in introducing Paul Ryan, "Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States." He has already turned over the reins to Ryan. ...

... "The Smell of Panic." Steve Kornacki of Salon: "The most important thing to know about Mitt Romney’s running-mate choice is this: It's not the move he would have made if the campaign was going the way he hoped it would." ...

... "Five Things to Know about Ryan -- and Romney." Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven't since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn't have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance. And the richest Americans would get a huge tax cut. This is the America that Paul Ryan envisions. And now we know that it is the America Mitt Romney envisions." Thanks to contributor P. D. Pepe. ...

... Greg Sargent: "In picking Ryan, Romney is confirming his commitment to full-flown economic radicalism - something that he had kept well disguised until the Tax Policy Center study unmasked it." ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "Romney, who has been extremely vague about what he would do if elected, will now own Paul Ryan's ideas, which include privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, bloc-granting and drastically cutting Medicaid, and reducing discretionary spending to levels that would affect every popular government program.... Even before this (apparent) announcement, Democrats were planning on tying Romney to Ryan's policy platform. Now Romney has done it for them." ...

... Mark Murray & Domenico Montanaro of NBC News have their own list of Ryan's strengths & weaknesses, which largely coincides with Lizza's. ...

... Here's Krugman's "Flim Flam Fever" post re: Ryan. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "The race to become the Republican vice-presidential candidate seemed hopelessly deadlocked today as Mitt Romney announced he would choose between former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan 'as soon as I can tell them apart.' ... The campaign has even resorted to creating flashcards with the likenesses of Messrs. Pawlenty, Ryan, and Portman on one side and their names on the back, but to no avail. 'It's gotten so frustrating, last night Mitt suggested that maybe we should choose someone who wasn't white or male,' the aide said. 'He was kidding, of course....'" CW: guess Willard had a breakthrough.

Harry Reid's Accusation Is Not Preposterous. James Stewart of the New York Times: "... this summer the Internal Revenue Service released data from the 400 individual income tax returns reporting the highest adjusted gross income. This elite ultrarich group earned on average $202 million in 2009, the latest year available. And buried in the data is the startling disclosure that six of the 400 paid no federal income tax. The I.R.S. has never before disclosed that last fact. Not even Mr. Romney, with reported 2010 income of $21.7 million, qualifies for membership in this select group of 400. But the data provides a window into the financial lives and tax rates of the superrich.... Besides the six who paid no federal income tax, the I.R.S. reported that 27 paid from zero to 10 percent of their adjusted gross incomes and another 89 paid between 10 and 15 percent.... What's abundantly clear, both from Mr. Romney's 2010 returns and from the returns of the top 400, is that at the very pinnacle of taxpayers, the United States has a regressive tax system."

Greg Sargent: Jon Huntsman, Sr., who says that speculation that he is Harry Reid's source is inaccurate also "forcefully called on Romney to release his tax returns. This matters, because Huntsman is a longtime backer of Romney -- he has long been close to Romney; he supported his early campaigns; he was the national finance chairman of Romney's 2008 presidential campaign; and he has raised a lot of money for him over the years. (He backed his own son in the latest GOP primary.)"

Paul Krugman: "The big story of the week among the dismal science set is the Romney campaign's white paper on economic policy, which represents a concerted effort by three economists -- Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and John Taylor -- to destroy their own reputations. (Yes, there was a fourth author, Kevin Hassett. But the co-author of 'Dow 36,000' doesn't exactly have a reputation to destroy). And when I talk about destroying reputations, I don't just mean saying things I disagree with. I mean flat-out, undeniable professional malpractice." Krugman thinks the economists have fallen prey to the "Culture of Fraud" that pervades the Romney campaign: "... this is a campaign that's all about faking it -- fake claims about Obama, fake claims about policy, fake claims about Romney's personal history."

Charles Pierce: while Willard was being the governor who never raised taxes, he was being the governor who "raised fees on practically everything. Including being blind."

Charles Blow answers the question "What's the matter with Romney?"

No Fair Picking on Me. Sabrina Siddiqui of the Huffington Post: "Mitt Romney appears to be seeking an agreement with the Obama campaign to remove his business record from the conversation, a sign that the repeated attacks on his tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital may be getting under the presumptive Republican presidential candidate's skin." CW: in The Sociopath's Guide to Election Etiquette, that's in the chapter that explains Romney can tout his business acumen as his major qualification for the presidency, but Obama can't criticize Romney's business record.

CW: Jerry Markon of the Washington Post has a long piece on Romney's management of the Big Dig. Turns out he was very, very good at it -- for about 5 minutes, after which he lost interest. Sounds as if he has a short attention span.

Dana Milbank: "What makes Romney's welfare gambit dispiriting is that, as a member of one of the most persecuted groups in American history, he knows more than most the dangers of fanning bigotry. Yet now he has injected into the campaign what has for decades been a standard device for race-baiting.... Romney made the racial component official when his Republican National Committee hosted a conference call the next day with Gingrich, who, sure enough, reprised his food-stamp assault.... Thursday, the RNC hosted a call with Santorum, who did everything but revive the 'welfare queen' attack of the 1980s."

Alex Becker of the Huffington Post: "The Franciscan Action Network (FAN), a Catholic faith-based advocacy and civic engagement organization, is strongly criticizing Mitt Romney's recent ads and rhetoric regarding welfare programs and welfare recipients, urging him to spend some time in low-income communities." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Romney -- Worse than Bob Dole. Marcos Moulitsas cites some variables that suggest Romney won't get much of a convention bump.

AND in Steve Benen's 29th week of chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, he comes up with -- 29 lies. Let's shoot for 30 lies next week, Mitt. We know you can do it.

Congressional Races

Scott Brown Takes a Stand for Voter Suppression. Peter Schworm of the Boston Globe: "US Senator Scott Brown today criticized the state's welfare department for sending voting registration forms to 478,000 people on public assistance, saying the mass mailing was a ploy to boost the ranks of Democratic voters and benefit rival Elizabeth Warren's campaign. The state ... last month sent registration forms, along with prepaid return envelopes, as part of a settlement over a lawsuit accusing the Patrick administration of violating the federal 'motor voter' law. It requires states to provide voter registration at motor vehicle and public assistance offices." Brown also is pissed because Warren's daughter chairs one of the organizations that brought suits against a number of states, including Massachusetts. ...

... Globe Update: "U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is calling on Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren to reimburse Massachusetts for the cost of mailing voter registration letters to welfare recipients.In a statement released Friday, Brown alleged the letters were sent to nearly half a million welfare recipients, as part of a court settlement, in an effort to 'aid' Warren's Senate campaign." CW: As usual, the Warren campaign's response was, in my opinion, flat-footed & totally inadequate. They've let slip yet another opportunity to make a laughingstock of Brown.

... Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: "Yes, it is now apparently considered politically acceptable -- in Massachusetts, the birthplace of American democracy! -- for a candidate to object publicly to the registration of low-income voters. Used to be one had to say such a thing in veiled terms...."

News Ledes

** New York Times: "Mitt Romney is scheduled to announce his vice-presidential candidate on Saturday in Norfolk, Va., with several signs pointing toward Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin emerging as the leading candidate for the position. Mr. Romney is set to disclose the selection as he tours the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, the campaign announced Friday evening." ...

... Washington Post story here. ...

... NBC News Update: "Mitt Romney's campaign has announced that the presumptive GOP nominee has chosen House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate." ...

... Update: You can also watch the hoohah here or here. ...

... Here's an updated New York Times story.

National Catholic Reporter: "At the end of its annual assembly Friday in St. Louis, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said it will proceed with discussion with the Vatican 'for as long as possible' but will reconsider if the sisters are 'forced to compromise the integrity of [their] mission.'"

AP: "A federal jury in San Diego on Friday convicted two former Border Patrol agents of human smuggling in one of the highest-profile corruption cases in the last decade. After a five-week trial, Raul and Fidel Villarreal were found guilty of conspiracy to bring in illegal immigrants for financial gain and other counts. Raul Villarreal was long a public face of the Border Patrol who frequently appeared on television as an agency spokesman."

Meridian, Mississippi Is Still Meridian, Mississippi. ABC News: "The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has released investigative findings determining that children in predominantly black Meridian, Miss. have had their constitutional rights violated by the Lauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services in what civil rights investigators allege is a school to prison pipeline with even dress code violations resulting in incarceration."

Thursday
Aug092012

The Commentariat -- August 10, 2012

Rural Acreage for Sale. Mountain, valley views. Private setting; distance to nearest neighbor averages 225 million km. Commute time to nearest town: about 8-1/2 months. A portion of Curiosity's first color photo of Mars.

Q&A with Frank Rich: why Harry Reid is no Joe McCarthy. And other stuff.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Jon Grinspan compares 19th-century political "discourse" & voting practices to today's campaigns. Things have been worse.

Dana Milbank on the newest McCarthy: "Andrew McCarthy's work is providing the intellectual underpinnings -- such as they are -- for Rep. Michele Bachmann's outrageous suggestion that Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood." Milbank so thoroughly tears McCarthy's attack of Abedin to shreds that McCarthy ends up saying, "I'm a whack job, I guess."

Mark Bittman of the New York Times forgets about food & pleads for gun contro'. Good for him.

Jim Salter of the AP: "At a pivotal national meeting, members of the largest group for American nuns have been weighing whether they should accept or challenge a Vatican order to reform.... The president of the nuns group, Sister Pat Farrell, is expected to make an announcement Friday as the meeting ends. She has indicated in her public remarks this week that the sisters may not formulate a definitive response."

Jennifer Preston of the New York Times: "Leadership changes at the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure six months after an online uproar over a decision to cut funds for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood was greeted with skepticism on Thursday among breast cancer advocates and longtime former supporters."

An Employee of the New York Times & Damien Cave: on top of everything else, a crime wave in Syria.

Presidential Race

Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "Obama’s lead in the [new] CNN-ORC poll is buoyed by men and independents -- two groups that until recently had favored Romney. Obama leads 53 percent to 42 among independents, and has a 6 percentage point advantage among men. Romney's unfavorability rating climbed considerably in the poll."

Mike Allen of Politico: "Advisers to President Barack Obama are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who 'would devastate the American middle class' ...."

You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad. They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they're wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them. -- Mitt Romney, Thursday, apparently with a straight face

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect writes on Romney's welfare attack ad & echoes my view of Newt's "rationale" for it: "In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads.... I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.... Newt's argument is ... that although the Romney ad makes false claims, that's OK because Barack Obama and those who work for him are, in Newt's opinion, the kind of people who would gut work requirements if they could, so therefore it's OK to say that they are actually doing it, even though they aren't." ...

The Obama camp hits back on the welfare claim:

... Michael Cohen of the New York Daily News: "So Mitt Romney has two new ads out this week, and they offer a pretty clear indication of his larger political problem: He hasn't closed the deal with conservatives. First there was an ad on Monday that that accused Obama of gutting welfare reform.... Then there is an ad [Thursday] that accuses President Obama of declaring a war on religion because of his decision to force employers to offer contraceptive services to women.... Both of these ads are deeply dishonest.... Accusing Obama of a 'war on religion' is the height of political slander.... And once again it's completely hypocritical: when Romney was governor he went along (without comment) with a similar contraceptive policy in Massachusetts." ...

... CW: following Cohen's logic, I'd say Romney would have to choose Paul Ryan as his running mate, though Ed Rendell's suggestion that Romney choose Michele Bachmann would be great, too. Michael Shear & Trip Gabriel write in today's New York Times: "That Mr. Romney has not yet named his vice-presidential nominee has created an opening for social and economic conservatives to pressure him publicly, and they have taken the opportunity to make an aggressive case for Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin."

CW: I wouldn't link to an Erskine Bowles op-ed if that pompous deficit hawk bashed Mitt Romney. Oh, wait, here's Bowles in the Washington Post complaining that Romney's budget wouldn't cut the deficit: "This month, Romney said that his tax reform proposal is 'very similar to the Simpson-Bowles plan.' How I wish it were. I will be the first to cheer if Romney decides to embrace our plan. Unfortunately, the numbers say otherwise: His reform plan leaves too many tax breaks in place and, as a result, does nothing to reduce the debt." Sometimes one has to compromise one's principles for the greater good.

The Obama campaign's latest. CW: I'm going to have to look up that "Son of Boss" story. It's news to me:

Okay, here ya go.... Grace Wyler of Business Insider: "The ad, "Son of Boss," pivots off of a new CNN op-ed from tax lawyer Peter C. Canellos and tax expert Edward D. Kleinbard":

Peter C. Canellos, a tax attorney & former chair of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section, & tax expert Edward D. Kleinbard, former chief of staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation, in a CNN opinion piece: for years, Mitt Romney was on the board of directors of Marriott International, & "from 1993 to 1998, Romney was the head of the audit committee of the Marriott board. During that period, Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including 'Son of Boss,' a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter.... In this respect, Marriott was in the vanguard of a then-emerging corporate tax shelter bubble that substantially undermined the entire corporate tax system..., perhaps the largest tax avoidance scheme in history.... The Son of Boss transaction was listed by the [IRS] as an abusive transaction, requiring specific disclosure and subject to heavy penalties.... The government brought successful criminal prosecutions against a number of individuals involved in Son of Boss.... Romney approved the firm's reporting of fictional tax losses exceeding $70 million generated by its Son of Boss transaction." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "In February, Bloomberg News reported on Romney's role as head of Marriott's audit board, including his approval of the 'Son of Boss" transactions.' Lewison quotes the Bloomberg piece. ...

... Ashley Killough of CNN: "Team Obama said the ad will run in the same states that Romney's bus tour will cross in the coming week, including Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio -- all battleground states."

Antics. CNN: "The Democratic National Committee is rolling out another bus tour to trail Mitt Romney's own over the weekend through key battle ground states, harping on the Republican candidate's economic policies as throwing 'the middle class under the bus.'" And speaking of buses ...

... Network: "NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, is inviting Governor Mitt Romney to spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities..., people who will be further harmed by his proposed budget cuts and by the terribly divisive and demeaning political advertisements about welfare. The Sisters' invitation comes after recent false attacks from Mr. Romney that demonstrate his lack of understanding of the struggles families and children face as they work to get out of poverty.... As NETWORK demonstrated in their recent 'Nuns on the Bus' tour, budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney will hurt struggling families throughout the nation. The Romney-Ryan budget would devastate services such as nutrition assistance, childhood education and job training that provide pathways out of poverty for millions of families." Via Steve Benen. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Bill Burton, the main face of Priorities USA Action, refused to back away from an ad that the pro-President Obama super PAC unveiled yesterday, despite blowback from Republicans and fact-checks that have questioned the account the spot relays. 'What fact in that ad is wrong?' Burton said as he pushed back on a fairly feisty Wolf Blitzer during an interview on the CNN set."

Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "The Romney campaign ... has seized on a new soundbite to distort. The campaign sent an email blast Thursday afternoon featuring a video of an Obama rally in Colorado from earlier that day and falsely claimed that he wants the government to bail out every industry."

Turns out the Romney Liars & Hypocrites Club is bilingual. Lawrence Downes explains in the New York Times.

AND Donald Trump turned down a chance to speak at the GOP convention. CW: uh-huh. A spokesperson for Trump said the former millionaire had given his fortune to the obscure Order of Oopsus Daisi, & has entered a monastery where he has taken a vow of silence. (Well, that's as believable as the "turned down a chance to speak" story.) ...

... CW: guess I was wrong. Jennifer Wlach of ABC News: "Donald Trump will have a 'major role' at the Republican National Convention, an aide to the real estate mogul tells ABC News."

Congressional Races

** Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "In the battle for control of the Senate, no race has received as much financial attention as the reelection bid of Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, with outside conservative groups working together to pour tens of millions of dollars into Ohio's airwaves to try to unseat him.... The Brown-Mandel campaign is a case study of the aggressive fundraising and spending this election season by interest groups outside the candidates' campaign operations. And because many of the groups behind the spending are not required to disclose their donors, the effort has created a virtual shadow campaign that will probably far exceed what Mandel spends on his campaign."

AP: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "says it will stop airing a television ad that is critical of North Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp's record as attorney general. The ad claims when Heitkamp was attorney general during the 1990s, she spent taxpayer money on private airplanes. Heitkamp on Thursday called the statement 'completely false' and asked TV stations to quit running it.... Heitkamp says ... her office got two surplus planes for free from the Department of Defense. One was flown on anti-drug missions. The second was used for spare parts." Via Greg Sargent.

Cameron Joseph of The Hill: Missouri's GOP Senate nominee "Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) voted against the creation of a national sex offender registry and against reauthorizing a program that assists runaway and homeless children. Both bills passed by wide margins with strong bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled House.... Democrats believe votes like these can be used to paint Akin as too conservative for the state."

Joe Swickard & Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press: "Four staffers of former U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Livonia, [Michigan,] were charged today in connection with the false nominating petitions that led to McCotter's departure from Congress. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette described the four as 'not simply Keystone Kops running amok ... criminal acts were committed.'"

Local News

CW: this New York Post story was way too entertaining to ignore: "They must have rubbed Mayor Bloomberg the wrong way. City officials pulled the plug on a vibrator giveaway by the Trojan condom company yesterday, disappointing potentially thousands of pleasure-seeking women.... Trojan sent tingles of excitement across the city when it announced the giveaway of some 10,000 vibrating sex toys from hot-dog-style pushcarts.... But instead of climaxing in a successful giveaway, the promotion was prematurely interrupted by City Hall, which sent a dark-suited representative to put the squeeze on Trojan's 'Pleasure Carts.'" ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Breaking! For $3,100, Trojan was granted the permit they need to please the masses, and will try again on 14th Street between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. tonight. Patience, people."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Now that the murder trial of Gu Kailai has ended, far more detailed accounts have emerged from inside the courtroom of the case that prosecutors built against Ms. Gu, the wife of one of China's most ambitious leaders. The accounts show her plotting with allies, including the local police chief, to protect her son from what she saw as the blackmail demands of the British business associate she is believed to have killed."

Bloomberg News: "The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today proposed new regulations that would revamp how American homeowners interact with mortgage servicers. One set of rules aims to provide homeowners with clearer, timelier information about changes to interest rates and options for avoiding foreclosure. A second set of rules requires servicers to credit payments promptly, correct errors, stay accessible and limit foreclosures if homeowners are working on loan modifications."

Washington Post: "The long-moribund housing market has bustled to life, with prices and new-home construction rising in recent weeks. Hiring, so weak earlier this year, picked up last month. And on Thursday, the government reported an acceleration of a downward trend in the number of people seeking unemployment insurance, as well as a sharp improvement in U.S. exports. Together, the signs point to an improving economy, a potentially important shift for President Obama's re-election campaign." ...

... BUT. CNN: "A new national survey indicates that the number of Americans who say things are going badly in the country is on the rise, as a growing number of people believe that economic conditions are getting worse."

New York Times: "Federal authorities ended two investigations into the actions of Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis, handing a quiet victory to the bank after years of public scrutiny. In a statement late Thursday, the Justice Department said there was 'not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution' against Goldman or its employees after a Congressional committee asked prosecutors to examine if the bank had been involved with any illegal acts related to several mortgage deals."

AP: "Thousands of mourners are expected to pay their final respects to the half-dozen Sikh worshippers gunned down by a white supremacist at their Wisconsin temple over the weekend.... Dignitaries scheduled to attend include U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan."

Wednesday
Aug082012

The Commentariat -- August 9, 2012

** Monopoly! Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Banks are making unusually large gains on mortgages because they are taking profits far higher than the historical norm, analysts say. That 3.55 percent rate for a 30-year mortgage could be closer to 3.05 percent if banks were satisfied with the profit margins of just a few years ago. The lower rate would save a borrower about $30,000 in interest payments over the life of a $300,000 mortgage."

Joan Biskupic of Reuters: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, the eldest member of the bench and leader of its liberal wing, said she cracked two ribs in June but met all her work obligations and remains committed to staying on the court at least three more years." ...

Linda Greenhouse: thank the Supreme Courts of yore for the U.S. women's Olympics teams, but don't expect any more "rights-creating" laws to get such positive readings in today's Court.

Charles Pierce. "... I agree with Goodhair [Rick Perry] on this. If you want to have a death penalty, and if you believe in all the barbaric arguments on its behalf, then you simply cannot care whether or not you execute the odd retarded person or two. The most singularly clumsy moral contortions we have in this country take place over the issue of whether you can wedge a death penalty into the system of laws that this country claims to have. You simply cannot do that." Read the whole post.

E. J. Dionne goes on a nice little rant about the hypocrisy of Romney & the right, principally on ObamaCare, but on other stuff, too. It includes, "If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law."

** Jim Crow Now Officially Controls Ohio. Ari Berman of The Nation: "The real story from Ohio is how cutbacks to early voting will disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio's most populous counties.... Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it's most convenient for working people to vote. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends." CW: we have not seen voter suppression travesties like this since the 1960s. Too bad the Voting Rights Act -- which the Supremes would like to blow up at first opportunity -- didn't cover every state. ...

Presidential Race

Alex Pareene of Salon thinks the press is getting better at exposing candidates' lies & that's why Willard has had three "Marshall McLuhan moments" in recent days. CW: I hope Pareene is right, but -- as my latest NYTX column demonstrates -- they could do a helluva a better job.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on the Times story news about Mitt Romney's attack on Obama's welfare-to-work policy. I think my critique is of importance because it shows how the Times is skewing stories to favor Romney. The NYTX front page is here. ...

     ... Charles Blow smells desperation. ...

     ... So does the New York Times Editorial Board: "Mitt Romney's campaign has hit new depths of truth-twisting with its accusation that President Obama plans to 'gut welfare reform' by ending federal work requirements. The claim is blatantly false, but it says a great deal about Mr. Romney's increasingly desperate desire to define the president as something he is not." CW: to document their editorial, the editors link to seven sources, some of them secondary. None of them is a New York Times story. That would be because the Times reporting is fairly useless. ...

... Kevin Cirilli of Politico: "Newt Gingrich said Wednesday there's 'no proof' of a claim made in a Mitt Romney campaign ad that President Barack Obama ended the welfare work requirement. 'We have no proof today,' the former House speaker said on CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360. But I would say to you, under Obama's ideology, it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing.'" CW: evidently there's "something about Obama" that makes him "look like" a guy who would send "a lot of people checks for doing nothing." ...

... AND, not surprisingly, the Kenyan anti-colonial theorist a/k/a Gingrich is the guy "who suggested to senior Romney advisers they take on the welfare issue." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Driftglass writes a terrific post on the welfare lie -- and the Romney campaign -- and the Republican party.

Wow! Greg Sargent writes that as a response to the Priorities USA ad featuring Joe Soptic, whose wife died of cancer years after his Bain-controlled company laid him off (see the August 7 Commentariat & an update yesterday's Commentariat), "Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul suggested today that Soptic's wife would have had health insurance if she had lived in Massachusetts and had been covered by Romneycare. 'If people had been in Massachusetts, under Gov. Romney's health care plan, they would have had health care,' Saul said. Conservatives are apoplectic. They think this has given the Obama team a big opening to remake its case about Obamacare. And they're right. The Romney campaign now seems to be claiming that government-established universal health care is the answer to what to do about people like Ms. Soptic who lack insurance. That's Obama's argument for Obamacare." Read the whole post, with which I agree to the letter. CW: it seems foot-in-mouth disease is contageous. Everyone on Team Romney -- Romney himself, Eric Etch-a-Sketch Fehrnstrom, the Kiss-My-Ass-in-Front-of-a-Polish-Shrine guy & now Andrea Saul has a serious case of it. ...

... Jed Lewison: "... the logical conclusion is that everyone without healthcare should move to Boston, and that's insane. But it's also the bare essence of Mitt Romney's health care policy." ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Narrowly judged, the ad is scurrilous.... But the more accurate version of this heartbreaking story is still worth telling. Indeed it may be the best illustration this campaign has offered of how politics affects the lives of ordinary people. America's employer-based health insurance system -- in which a layoff plus an illness can equal financial ruin or death -- is a national embarrassment.... My advice for Priorities USA: take your ad back to the editing room and re-release it as an endorsement of Obamacare, and an argument for re-electing the President who will preserve it."

Scott Wilson & Bill Turque of the Washington Post: "President Obama campaigned in [Colorado] Wednesday with a special appeal to female voters, warning a raucous audience in a basketball gymnasium here that Republican challenger Mitt Romney wanted to take women's health rights 'back to the 1950s.' To shouts of support, Obama spoke proudly of Obamacare, the name Republicans once derisively labeled his health-care reform legislation. On Wednesday he acknowledged to many of its beneficiaries here that 'I kind of like the name.'"

Real Economists to Romney: That's Not What We Said. Ezra Klein contacts independent economists whom the Romney campaign claims -- in an ad -- have done research which supports his economic policy proposals. The economists all say Mitt's people have misinterpreted or misused their work. ...

... AND Jim Tankersley of the National Journal interviews Jim Diamond, an economist not associated with the Romney campaign but whose work the campaign has held up in support of their plan. Well, no, Diamond says he "can't argue" with conclusions of the Tax Policy Center that showed Romney's plan as benefiting the rich while raising taxes on the middle class.

Mitt Launches His Holy War:

On the Wrong Side of Every Issue. Franco Ordonez of McClatchy News: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans a campaign stop Sunday at the for-profit NASCAR Technical Institute outside Charlotte, N.C. -- a show of support for an industry that has been hammered by Democrats in recent months." CW: Maybe some of Mitt's NASCAR-owner buddies will join him. Nothing like friends getting together to exploit the little people (including taxpayers).

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "Obama today joined Romney in publicly disagreeing with a controversial ban on gay members of the Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation's largest and most well-known youth development groups." CW: surely it's time for Romney to flipflop.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times previews the GOP convention sideshow, featuring presidential also-rans, whose "speaking engagements" will be in places other than the convention dais. Me, I'm signing up for Newt University.

Congressional Races

Maybe Sen. Claire McCaskill (ConservaD-Missouri), believed to be toast, caught a break. Her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin (RTP-Missouri) is a nut case. Greg Sargent has details. Steve Benen has more. ...

... Gail Collins: in Missouri & Indiana, "The Tea Party is once again giving Democrats a new lease on life."

News Ledes

Denver Post: "President Barack Obama relayed a message to the middle-class Thursday afternoon on a grassy quad at Colorado College, often times interrupted by chants of 'Four more years! Four more years!' from the thousands in attendance."

NBC News: "At a court hearing Thursday in Centennial, Colo., lawyers representing movie theater mass shooting suspect James Holmes said their client is mentally ill...."

AP: "George Zimmerman will seek to have second-degree murder charges dismissed under Florida's 'stand your ground' law in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, his attorney said Thursday. The hearing, which likely won't take place for several months, will amount to a mini-trial involving much of the evidence collected by prosecutors as well as expert testimony from both sides."

ABC News: "The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Google to pay $22.5 million for violating user privacy on its Apple's Safari browser. It's the biggest FTC fine ever issued for a commission violation."

New York Times: "The Postal Service's financial problems worsened in the spring. The agency reported a $5.2 billion net loss on Thursday for the quarter that ended June 30."

Guardian: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled a new crime-fighting system developed with Microsoft – and revealed that the city will take a cut of the profits if it is sold to other administrations. The innovation, which bears a passing resemblance to the futuristic hologram data screens used by Tom Cruise in the science fiction film Minority Report, will allow police to quickly collate and visualise vast amounts of data from cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources."

New York Times: "The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed political leader Bo Xilai, began here on Thursday morning and came to an end seven hours later, with officials saying that the defendant and her accomplice had all but confessed to poisoning a British businessman who had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu's son."

AP: "The United States on Thursday began a landmark project to clean up a dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange -- 50 years after it was first sprayed by American planes on Vietnam's jungles to destroy enemy cover. Dioxin, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, will be removed from the site of a former U.S. air base in Danang in central Vietnam."

Here's Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria.

Al Jazeera: "Libya's National Transitional Council has handed over power to a new assembly in a symbolic move marking the first peaceful transition after more than 40 years of rule by the late Muammar Gaddafi."

New York Times: "The United States and its Arab allies are knitting together a regional missile defense system across the Persian Gulf to protect cities, oil refineries, pipelines and military bases from an Iranian attack, according to government officials and public documents."

AP: "The ancient Martian crater where the Curiosity rover landed looks strikingly similar to the Mojave Desert in California with its looming mountains and hanging haze, scientists say."

AP: "The president and the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure are both stepping down from their roles, the nation's largest breast cancer foundation said in announcing a major leadership shake-up. The high-profile departures come in the wake of continuing fallout from Komen's decision earlier this year to briefly end funding for Planned Parenthood."

AP: "Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has filed a defamation lawsuit in New York against the National Jewish Democratic Council and top officials, saying they made libelous statements regarding his political contributions." CW: Sorry, Sheldon. When you made yourself a public figure, you became, um, a public figure. You ain't gonna win this one. Hope that doesn't hurt your feelings, Mr. Sensitivity.