The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Washington Post: "California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County late Wednesday after an onshore pipeline burst, spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean — blackening beaches and endangering West Coast wildlife. The area, a popular camping spot some 20 miles from Santa Barbara, known for its palm tree-lined seashore and pristine surf, has been “closed indefinitely.” The extent of the damage is not known."

New York Times: "Islamic State militants on Thursday solidified their rout of Syrian government forces in the historic desert city of Palmyra, moving to the outskirts to seize its airport and the notorious Tadmur Prison, according to residents and statements from the group. It was the first time that the ISIS militants seized an entire city from Syrian government forces; it won control of its first major city, Raqqa, from Syrian insurgents and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front after the two became rivals."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

Washington Post: "Nearly 34 million cars and trucks nationwide were declared defective Tuesday because of deadly air bags made by auto-parts giant Takata, in what is expected to be the biggest recall of any consumer product in U.S. history. The expanded recall doubled the number of vehicles believed to have the air bags, which can blast out sharp metal shrapnel when deployed, a flaw that has been linked to six deaths and more than 100 injuries." ...

... The Post has a partial list of the vehicle makes that may have the dangerous air bags. "But neither automakers nor the government has made it easy to find out whether your car is included — and how it should be fixed.... Consumers reported Tuesday that they got conflicting answers or no answers at all when they called dealerships about the recall. Meanwhile, car manufacturers said people should continue to drive their vehicles — even those with the deadly defect — until the parts arrive at their local dealerships." CW: Comforting. You can still get to work, but do watch for flying shapnel.

ABC News: "Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden, is undergoing treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the Office of the Vice President told ABC News."

Guardian: "Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has cancelled a pilot scheme banning Palestinian workers from Israeli buses in the occupied territories – denounced as tantamount to apartheid – only hours after it was announced. The plan had been approved by Netanyahu’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, but was cancelled amid fierce criticism from Israeli opposition figures, human rights groups and a former minister in Netanyahu’s own party, who said it was a 'stain on the face of Israel' that would damage its international image."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
May 21

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:00 pm ET: White House Mapathon

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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Friday
Apr262013

Where Facts and Beliefs Collide

The Common Politicus Americanus. Would that he were a rarer bird.

When I look at the news and opinion pieces I've linked over the past couple of days, I am struck by the number of articles that speak to our intrinsic inability to “face facts.” It is easy enough to write off some of the actors in these stories as craven or crazy. Yesterday, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, the mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, claimed that that the bombing “was staged, that the bombing was fake.... There was no blood, she said. It was paint.” Tsarnaev may not be the typical mother of a miscreant (or, in her case miscreants) who claim their mass-murdering son “was always such a good boy”; she is allegedly something of a miscreant herself who fled to Russia, perhaps to escape the “2012 felony charges of shoplifting and property damage in Massachusetts.”

But what do we make of a President of the United States, one George W. Bush, who not only confused Sweden and Switzerland, but refused to even consider that he might be wrong? (Evidently a staff member privately corrected Bush because a few weeks later he admitted he was wrong.) Or how about Dubya's equally-brilliant successor in Texas? “Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that spending more state money on inspections would not have prevented the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant that was last investigated by Texas environmental regulators in 2006. Perry told The Associated Press that he remains comfortable with the state's level of oversight....” He added, “(People) through their elected officials clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight.” Or what about PretendDem Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who, when “asked about polls showing more than 90 percent of voters supporting expanded background checks, including back home..., doubted that was truly indicative of public opinion"?

 

As Paul Krugman has been pointing out for years now, it isn't just a few so-called leaders who can't get their heads around facts and fact-based data. As he remarked – again – in his column in today's Times, “... the dominance of austerians in influential circles should disturb anyone who likes to believe that policy is based on, or even strongly influenced by, actual evidence.” Krugman posits several likely motivations for politicians' unwillingness to accept reality, but once you get past their dubious claims about the immorality of public debt in a time of recession, it comes down to this: their reality is different from our reality: “The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences.... The wealthy, by a large majority, regard deficits as the most important problem we face. And how should the budget deficit be brought down? The wealthy favor cutting federal spending on health care and Social Security – that is, 'entitlements' – while the public at large actually wants to see spending on those programs rise.”

 

Lawmakers' preference for policies that help the wealthy was demonstrated again yesterday when House members didn't believe economists “from across the political spectrum” who argued before them that the mortgage interest deduction “is wasteful and does little to spur home ownership.” Why refute the economists' expertise? For one reason, the mortgage deduction is popular among voters, and for a second, it most “helps those in the highest income brackets.” Now, I am not suggesting members of Congress should not challenge “experts.” They should. But here's what Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a (former?) real estate agent, told the economists: “Never once did I have a client say to me, 'I want to buy this house because I can get a higher mortgage interest deduction.'” That's just stupid. Most people try to qualify for the highest mortgage they can get, even if they don't always decide to buy the priciest house. Their banks, in calculating their incomes, takes the anticipated mortgage deduction into consideration, and savvy home purchasers know this. Just like loan officers, these potential homeowners see the mortgage tax break as a boost to their annual disposable income. Because it is. So nobody told Tiberi this? I guess they thought he was smart enough to know. Their mistake.

 

Every one of us has experienced the cognitive dissonance associated with challenges to our long-held beliefs. For most of my life, I thought Tommy-guns were British-made and were so-named because British “Tommies” carried them. I only discovered, in writing about Tommy-guns as an aside to a long piece, that the Thompson submachine gun was American-made and named for its American inventor, Gen. John T. Thompson. This is a small thing, akin to Bush's confusion of Sweden with Switzerland, and it was easy to adjust my mistaken  belief in the origin of the Tommy-gun.

 

But we all also have experienced more substantial cases of cognitive dissonance – such as when a trusted friend, relative or spouse betrays us. Our first instinct is probably confusion. We're likely to blurt “I can't believe you did that.” But even with events that shatter our lives, we eventually do “believe you did that,” and we adjust, sometimes finding clues in past behaviors we ignored. That is, we “reduce dissonance,” as behavioral scientists would say, “by altering existing cognitions” or “adding new ones to create a consistent belief system.”

 

There is a third way to “reduce dissonance.” That is to “reduc[e] the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.” This is pretty much the crazy person's way of dealing with unpleasant realities that conflict with our beliefs, dreams and fantasies. People who take this approach “can't handle the truth.” So they don't. This is the methodology employed by our so-called leaders when they dismiss out-of-hand facts and fact-based assertions that conflict with their own preconceived notions. They are, for instance, amenable to Reinhart and Rogoff's thesis, so when Krugman says Reinhart and Rogoff got it wrong, they “reduce the importance of” Krugman. Their excuses are myriad. A while back I heard teevee blowhard Chris Matthews say, “We all know we have to reduce the deficit. Krugman is just an economist; he doesn't have to govern.” (Paraphrase.) Matthews' point was that Krugman lived in an ivory tower, not the real world – the Real World being the Washington of the Very Serious People – and therefore, Serious People were right to dismiss Krugman's fried-egghead musings. Charts and graphs? Pffft. We all know we have to reduce the deficit.

 

Frankly, there is little difference between Zubeidat Tsarnaev on the one hand, and politicians like Rick Perry on the other, when it comes to their methods for reducing their own cognitive dissonance. As Todd Robberson of the Dallas Morning News: wrote, "Perry made up, out of whole cloth, a supposed preference among Texans for freedom from regulation over being safe from industrial explosions and other disasters.... Never mind that the company had stored 540,000 pounds of highly explosive ammonium nitrate on the site without informing residents of the extreme danger and without informing the Department of Homeland Security – as required.” Really? Are Texans really “comfortable” with that? Even before the explosion that killed and injured so many, I doubt many Texans would agree that businesses should have the “freedom” to store huge amounts of explosives next-door to private homes, a school and a nursing home. The vaunted “free market” does not come with a license to kill.

 

Too many elected officials are operating under the same cognitive rules as the unstable mother of presumed terrorists. Now would be a good time for these political leaders -- and commentators -- to reacquaint themselves with reality. Now would be a good time for them to reduce their incidences of cognitive dissonance by "altering existing cognitions"; that is, by accepting, for instance, the vast scientific evidence on the man-made causes of climate change and the extensive sociological data on gun violence. As long as politicians routinely resort to insane denials of well-known facts, there is little hope we can reduce the problems we face.

 

We expect distraught mothers to be crazy. We should expect legislators and other political leaders to deal realistically with facts, however disturbing they find those facts.

 

Thursday
Apr252013

The Commentariat -- April 26, 2013

Jim Fallows argues, in an essay republished in the National Journal, that despite our "polarized and unequal" economy, the stagnation of the middle class, and our increasingly "stratified and rigid" society, it is still worthwhile to believe in the American dream because it's aspirational. CW: not sure I agree. ...

... Amy Sullivan of the National Journal on the downsizing of the American dream. ...

... Ron Brownsten of the National Journal: "After years of economic turmoil, most families now believe the most valuable -- and elusive -- possession in American life is economic security."

Eric Moskowitz of the Boston Globe interviews the Tsarnaev brothers' car-highjacking victim. ...

... Massimo Calabresi of Time highlights the remarks of Philip Mudd, a former top CIA and FBI terrorist hunter, who spoke at a Brookings conference on Wednesday:

At left, Roger Sterling, a/k/a John Slattery. See today's Comments for context.

 

... CW: according to reports of what Dzhokhar Tamerlan told investigators, the brothers cooked up the bombing plan about a week before the Marathon, & they had no outside assistance. Assuming these assertions are true (and I don't take them as fact), it would have taken pretty close surveillance to catch these two improvisational terrorists. If you think you want a country that catches & incarcerates in Guantanamo Grande every potential terrorist, ask yourself this: "Would I be considered a potential terrorist?" If you have been highly critical of the government, ferinstance, the feds might consider you -- not to mention most of the Congress and the press -- to be potential terrorists. Nixon had an enemies list. If Obama has one, millions of Americans would be on it.

Paul Krugman: "The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.... The years since we turned to austerity have been dismal for workers but not at all bad for the wealthy, who have benefited from surging profits and stock prices even as long-term unemployment festers. The 1 percent may not actually want a weak economy, but they're doing well enough to indulge their prejudices."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, declared on Thursday that it was time to consider lifting a ban on repatriating low-level detainees to Yemen from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, amid rising desperation and a hunger strike among inmates there."

Desequestration, When Convenient. Ashley Halsey & Lori Montgomerey of the Washington Post: "The Senate took the first step toward circumventing sequestration Thursday night with a bipartisan vote that would put furloughed air traffic controllers back on the job. The House is expected to take up the measure as early as Friday, and the White House has promised to consider any bill which it receives.... The Justice Department had reversed a plan that would have required 116,000 workers to take 22 unpaid days off between now and Oct. 1. In a letter to his staff, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that additional flexibility provided by Congress and 'aggressive steps' taken by the department to cut costs allowed him to eliminate the need for furloughs." ...

... The World's Greatest Deliberative Body Doesn't Always Deliberate. Steve Benen: "... when it really wants to, the Senate can move with lightning speed.... It appears that lawmakers are also mindful of which Americans are affected [by sequestration cuts] and what kind of inconveniences the political world is prepared to tolerate. Children being thrown out of Head Start centers is a shame, but wealthier air travelers waiting on the tarmac for a couple of hours is a travesty in need of swift congressional intervention." ...

... CW: I missed this, from Greg Sargent, which he published April 24: "Suddenly, the idea of temporarily turning off the sequester altogether is being seriously talked about by top Democrats. It required the outcry over sequestration-caused flight delays to bring it about, however. With Republicans complaining about the flight delays -- and attacking Obama as responsible for them, even as Republicans claim the sequester as a victory for themselves -- Harry Reid is now calling the GOP's bluff by suggesting we simply cancel the sequester temporarily, by counting war savings to reduce the deficit. The White House today endorsed Reid's idea...."

Emmarie Heutteman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee announced Thursday that it would introduce a series of bills beginning this week to overhaul the nation's immigration system. The move was designed to keep the committee in the middle of the debate over the issue, which is now percolating on Capitol Hill, and to press a bipartisan group in the House that has been working in private on its own broad legislation." ...

... BUT Greg Sargent: "At an event this morning, John McCain effectively boxed in House Republicans on immigration by stating flatly that reform is a complete nonstarter unless it includes a path to citizenship."

Kim Dixon of Reuters: "The popular U.S. tax deduction for mortgage interest is wasteful and does little to spur home ownership, economists from across the political spectrum said at a congressional hearing on Thursday, but many lawmakers mulling a tax code overhaul were having none of it."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Talks to revive gun control legislation are quietly under way on Capitol Hill as a bipartisan group of senators seeks a way to bridge the differences that led to last week's collapse of the most serious effort to overhaul the country's gun laws in 20 years." ...

... Alex Roarty of the National Journal: progressive groups are already targeting ConservaDems for their opposition to gun safety measures, & these progressives have "drawn a line in the sand" on "entitlement reforms."

Wherein President Obama & his researchers find some nice things to say about George W. Bush:

Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, in Salon: "Each of the words in his speech were deliberately chosen. Each of the words had a purpose and meaning, and he believed each of them because today President Obama has more in common with former President George W. Bush than with Sen. Barack Obama, who decided to run for president in the 2008 election." ...

... Bill Clinton speaks at the dedication of the Bush library:

... ** "Yes, George W. Bush Was a Terrible President, and No, He Wasn't Smart." Jonathan Chait: "He oversaw a disastrous administration for precisely the reason his critics always grasped: Bush was an intellectual simpleton, a man who made up his mind in absence of the facts, who swatted away inconvenient realities as annoyances.... The failures of Bush's governing method -- the staffing of hacks and cronies, the disdain for evidence -- was perfectly reflected in the outcomes. The Bush presidency was a full disaster at home and abroad, and whatever small accomplishments that can be salvaged barely rate any mention in comparison with the failures." ...

... Gene Robinson: George W. Bush's policies just keep looking worse in hindsight than they did contemporaneously.

President Obama spoke at a memorial service for victims of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion:

... AP: "The service opened with a photo slideshow set to country music and projected onto a movie screen. It showed images of the men from their childhood, their weddings and other moments throughout lives filled with children and friends. Mourners were given programs with full-page profiles of each of the victims, describing their lives, their values and their faith. Both the president and first lady Michelle Obama wiped away a tear as bagpipes sounded 'Amazing Grace.' ... After the service, the president and first lady were planning to visit privately with relatives and friends of firefighters killed in the explosion, the White House said."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on the changing reports as to particulars in the Boston Marathon case.

Local News

Katie McDonough of Salon: "While Minnesota state lawmakers consider a measure to legalize gay marriage and an alternative civil unions bill for gay couples, Democratic state Rep. Kim Norton has signed on to a third option: universal civil unions. The bill would offer civil unions to gay and straight couples, getting the state government out of the marriage business altogether and making 'certain that every Minnesotan couple gets a civil union in the state of Minnesota,' Norton told ABC's KAALTV. The measure would leave marriage 'to the churches that are offering them,' she added." CW: this is an approach I suggested years ago (I thought I invented it, but probably other people invented it, too) when it appeared gay marriage wasn't going to be legalized. It made sense then; it's anachronistic now.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Thousands of garment workers rampaged through industrial areas of the capital of Bangladesh on Friday, smashing vehicles with bamboo poles and setting fire to at least two factories in violent protests ignited by a deadly building collapse this week that killed at least 304 workers." CW: the people of Texas should have as much gumption.

New York Times: "George Jones, the definitive country singer of the last half-century, whose songs about heartbreak and hard drinking echoed his own turbulent life, died on Friday in Nashville. He was 81."

Ultimate Ingratitude. Boston Globe: "The family of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev ... received food stamps and welfare when the brothers were growing up, according to a letter from the state Department of Transitional Assistance that was obtained by the Globe. In the letter, sent Thursday to the chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, the department outlined the benefits that the brothers had received through their parents, Anzor and Zubeidat, as well as benefits Tamerlan Tsarnaev later received as a member of his wife's household." ...

... Boston Globe: "Authorities are investigating whether an MBTA Transit Police officer wounded during the shoot-out with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was hit by friendly fire, State Police spokesman David Procopio confirmed Thursday. Richard Donohue Jr., 33, was struck in the leg by a bullet, which authorities said remained embedded there. He was listed in serious but stable condition Thursday night at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge."

... AP: "The surviving Boston Marathon bombings suspect has been released from a civilian hospital and transferred to a federal medical detention center in central Massachusetts." ...

... Washington Post: "Nine months before the Boston Marathon bombing, a U.S. counterterrorism task force received a warning that a suspected militant had returned from a lengthy trip to Russia, U.S. officials said.... But officials said there is no indication that the unidentified customs officer provided the information to any other members of the task force, including FBI agents who had previously interviewed the militant."

Wednesday
Apr242013

The Commentariat -- April 25, 2013

** Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Guantánamo ... has become a place where no new prisoners arrive and no one can leave, and it makes little sense."

Frank Rich on Boston, guns, the Koch brothers' media aspirations, and Bush. ...

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "All the living American presidents past and present are gathering in Dallas, a rare reunion to salute one of their own at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center." ...

... If you want to see some photos of the library & its exhibits, Time's Brooks Kraft obliges. ...

... He doesn't need my counsel because he knows what it is: Run! -- Former President George W. Bush, encouraging his brother Jeb (not his real name) to run for president

There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes. -- Former First Lady Barbara Bush, discouraging her son Jeb (not his real name) from running for president

Congress's Very Special People. John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico: "Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, sources in both parties said. The talks -- which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers -- are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said." CW: note of caution: this is a Politico story.

Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. Jim Abrams of the AP: "An effort by House Republicans to highlight problems with President Barack Obama's health care law by bailing out a program for people with pre-existing medical conditions appeared to backfire Wednesday. GOP leaders postponed a scheduled vote after the measure met strong opposition from two directions: from conservative groups resistant to any federal role in health care and from Democrats who objected that the Republicans planned to pay for the high-risk patient program by raiding a disease prevention provision the administration says is essential to the overhaul. The legislation, a departure from the usual GOP efforts to kill the Affordable Health Care Act outright, also faced a White House veto threat." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Paul Kane, ledes with music to our ears: "House Republican leaders suffered a humiliating legislative setback Wednesday...." ...

... Dana Milbank on how House conservatives ditched their leadership's lame attempt "to make Republicans appear to care about the little guy" & opted instead for -- another vote to repeal ObamaCare. House Majority Leader Eric "Cantor can forget warm and fuzzy for now; he has enough trouble just making his colleagues sound humane." On the menu at the conservatives' lunch meeting: Chick fil-A of Cantor.

Your Taxpayer Dollars ...

Part 1. Waste. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a balance of zero. They are supposed to be closed. But nobody has done the paperwork yet."

Part 2. Fraud? Ayesha Rascoe & Deepa Seetharaman of Reuters: "Taxpayer-backed funds kept flowing to electric carmaker Fisker Automotive months after the company failed to meet key production benchmarks, lawmakers said at a congressional hearing on Wednesday. Republican lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee cited Department of Energy documents as showing Fisker got $32 million in payments, even after it failed to launch its Karma vehicle in February of 2011."

Part 3: And Abuse. Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "The Internal Revenue Service issued more than $11 billion in faulty refunds through its Earned Income Tax Credit last year, according to an inspector general's report released this week. Treasury Department Deputy Inspector General Michael Mc'Kenney found that the IRS has failed for the past two years to comply with a federal law requiring agencies to reduce payment errors to a rate of less than 10 percent. President Obama signed the statute in 2010."

Girls Just Gotta Have Guns

Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "In a new Public Policy Polling poll of very pro-gun New Hampshire, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has seen a 15-point drop in her approval rating in the state, and a full 50% of New Hampshire voters say that Ayotte's vote against background checks will make them less likely to vote for her in future elections, including 66% of self-described moderates." ...

... De Nile Runs through North Dakota. Manu Raju of Politico: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (PretendDem-N.D.) "Asked about polls showing more than 90 percent of voters supporting expanded background checks, including back home, Heitkamp doubted that was truly indicative of public opinion."


Science Daily: "... a new study shows that children are routinely killed or injured by firearms. The study, conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health, Denver Health and Children's Hospital Colorado, was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It examines trauma admissions at two emergency rooms in Denver and Aurora over nine years and found that 129 of 6,920 injured children suffered gunshot wounds." Thanks to contributor James S. for the link.

Jonathan Chait bids "a fond farewell" to Sen. Max Baucus (PretendDem-Montana), who is not running for re-election in 2014: "Baucus has an ex-wife; a new, former-staffer wife; the lowest net worth of any Senator; and a mortgage on a $900,000 home in Washington. That leaves Baucus with about a year and a half of auditioning for [lobbyist-seeking] clients while also serving as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, while his lobbyist trainees frantically cash in before their most lucrative window closes. Finally, Baucus's self-interest and the national interest are aligning behind one decision: He is leaving elected office." ...

... Nobody Likes Max. Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed: "Since Baucus announced his retirement on Tuesday, the news has been met with near jubilance among House Democrats and conservative groups alike.... The base of Baucus detractors is broad, bipartisan, and vocal, arguing that his long career has been governed not by ideology or conviction, but by self-interest and an unrelenting focus on helping out his friends and sending pork back home."

Henry Blodgett of Business Insider: "The economic argument is over -- Paul Krugman has won." CW: BTW, Stephen Colbert's explanation of the Rogoff-Reinhart errors is more accurate than Blodgett's explanation. (See yesterday's Commentariat for Colbert's take.) ...

... Paul Krugman: "... in sheer intellectual terms, this is looking like an epic rout.... The cynic in me ... says that after a brief period of regrouping, the VSPs will be right back at it -- they'll find new studies to put on pedestals, new economists to tell them what they want to hear, and those who got it right will continue to be considered unsound and unserious." ...

... "Very Sensitive People." Krugman: "What I think is happening is that austerians have put themselves in a box. They threw themselves -- and their personal reputations -- completely behind the various elements of anti-Keynesian doctrine: expansionary austerity, critical debt thresholds, and so on. And as Wolfgang Munchau says, the terrible thing was that their policy ideas were actually implemented, with disastrous results; on top of which their intellectual heroes have turned out to have feet of clay, or maybe Silly Putty." Krugman elaborates on this, with examples, in several recent posts to his blog.

Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: "The lesson from Europe appears to be: Embrace Muslim communities. That's a conclusion U.S. law enforcement agencies would confirm. The better the relationship with local Muslim groups, the more likely they are to provide useful information about potential jihadis." ...

... Charles Pierce: "As the days go by, we learn more and more that what we were dealing with here, as deadly as their actions were, was a plot by the Wayne and Garth of terrorism.... Eevery little detail that's emerging about the brothers goes a long way toward defusing the OMIGOD MOOOOOSSSSLLIIIIIMMMMMM CALIPHATE JIHAD!!!! hysteria in certain precincts of the media.... Ennobling the actions of a couple of bloodthirsty square pegs by draping those actions with vast, geopolitical significance is a bigger disservice to their victims than laughing at the two of them is."

A couple of contributors -- Akhilleus & James S. -- have recommended this NASA video, "Three Years of the Sun in Three Minutes." "In the three years since it first provided images of the sun in the spring of 2010, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun's rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle. This video shows those three years of the sun at a pace of two images per day. SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths." More info here.

Whoever is responsible for sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama & others -- is pretty weird. Campbell Robertson & Cynthia Howle of the New York Times look into the fraught relationship between Paul Kevin Curtis & James Everett Dutschke.

Local News

David Klepper of the AP: "Rhode Island is on a path to becoming the 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry after a landmark vote in the state's Senate on Wednesday. The Senate passed gay marriage legislation by a comfortable 26-12 margin, following a House vote of approval in January. The bill must now return to the House for a largely procedural vote, likely next week, but the celebration began Wednesday.... Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, called Wednesday's vote historic. 'I'm very much looking forward to signing this,' he told The Associated Press as he congratulated supporters."

News Ledes

AP: "Police officers and investigators on Thursday were searching the high school attended by two football players who raped a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. Search warrants were also executed at Vestige Ltd., a digital evidence company in northeastern Ohio, in addition to Steubenville High School and the offices of the Steubenville school board in eastern Ohio.... The search warrants are part of an attempt to learn whether other laws were broken in connection with the rape."

New York Times: "The White House said Thursday that it believes the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its civil war, an assessment that could test President Obama's repeated warnings that such an attack could precipitate American intervention in Syria."

Washington Post: "The Boston Marathon bombing suspects were planning to drive to Manhattan and detonate their remaining explosives in Times Square, New York City officials said Thursday. They said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect, told investigators from his hospital bed that he and his older brother hatched the New York plan on April 18, hours before their deadly encounter with law enforcement officers." ...

... Wall Street Journal: "A federal judge decided to advise Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his Miranda rights, even though investigators apparently still wanted to question him further under a public-safety exception. The judge's move, made on Monday in the hospital where Mr. Tsarnaev was recovering, has prompted some Republican lawmakers to press the Justice Department as to why it didn't make a stronger bid to resist the judge's plans."

AP: "With deep visible in the walls, police had ordered a Bangladesh garment building evacuated the day before its deadly collapse, but the factories flouted the order and kept more than 2,000 people working, officials said Thursday. At least 194 people died when a huge section of the eight-story building splintered into a pile of concrete." ...

MEANWHILE, here at home ... New York Times: "A series of explosions on two fuel barges on the Mobile River in Alabama caused a fire to burn out of control into Thursday morning, leaving three people critically injured and forcing the evacuation of a Carnival Cruise Lines ship nearby."

CNN: "The mother of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing says she believes the tragedy that killed three people and injured dozens more was staged, that the bombing was fake.... There was no blood, she said. It was paint.... Zubeidat Tsarnaev [the mother] is wanted on 2012 felony charges of shoplifting and property damage in Massachusetts, according to court officials.... Anzor Tsarnaev, [the father of Tamerlan & Dzhozhar, who will return to the U.S. in a few days] ... has said he will cooperate in the investigations into the alleged crimes of his sons." ...

     ... UPDATE. The New York Times has more on the crazy mother. ...

... AP: "Sixteen hours after investigators began interrogating him, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings went silent: he'd just been read his constitutional rights. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev immediately stopped talking after a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney's office entered his hospital room and gave him his Miranda warning, according to four officials of both political parties...."

Tuesday
Apr232013

The Commentariat -- April 24, 2013

People, through their elected officials, clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight. -- Gov. Rick Perry, justifying lax regulation in the State of Texas ...

... Texas -- State of Denial. Paul Weber & Sophia Tareen of the AP: "Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that spending more state money on inspections would not have prevented the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant that was last investigated by Texas environmental regulators in 2006. Perry told The Associated Press that he remains comfortable with the state's level of oversight following last week's massive blast in the rural farming town of West that killed 14 people and injured 200.... Perry was in Illinois on Monday on a trip intended to lure companies to relocate to Texas. Among his selling points: Texas' low regulatory climate.... Bills in the Republican-controlled Legislature ... include one that would restrict the public's ability to research a company's environmental compliance history. Another would eliminate, in some cases, the ability of groups to contest permits issued by state environmental regulators. On Monday, a Senate committee cleared the proposal for a full chamber vote." ...

... Todd Robberson of the Dallas Morning News: "Perry made up, out of whole cloth, a supposed preference among Texans for freedom from regulation over being safe from industrial explosions and other disasters.... Never mind that the company had stored 540,000 pounds of highly explosive ammonium nitrate on the site without informing residents of the extreme danger and without informing the Department of Homeland Security -- as required."

No, It Is Not All Obama's Fault. Steve Benen: "For many, especially in media, there's an assumption that there are two major, mainstream political parties -- one center-left, the other center-right -- and an effective president can govern through competent bipartisan outreach. Those assumptions are wrong.... Outreach doesn't work because Republicans have reached an ideological extreme unseen in modern American history. It's a quantifiable observation, not a subjective one.... There may have been a time a president could cajole rivals, but until recent years, presidents didn't have to deal with an entire political party that, statistically speaking, is the most ideologically extreme since the dawn of the modern American party system." ...

... BUT, But, but, Steve! Why can't President Obama be more like this? --

     ... (CW: Also, all presidential speeches should have musical accompaniments.) ...

... Exhibit A in New York Times reporters Michael Shear & Peter Baker's "Obama Is a Wuss" story was this: Democratic Sen. Mark Begich voted against the background checks bill, yet ...

Mr. Begich's defiance and that of other Democrats who voted against Mr. Obama appear to have come with little cost. Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, is still planning a trip to Alaska -- to let Mr. Begich show his constituents that he is pushing the government to approve the road.

... BUT as Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News reveals, the Alaska road is actually an excellent example of presidential deal-cutting: "... the real reason for [Jewell's] visit -- and the reason Obama agreed to give the road project a second look despite fierce opposition from environmentalists (and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)-- was a deal last month between the administration and Alaska's Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski." Knox provides the details. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait of New York takes down MoDo, the Times reporters & others who compare President Obama to Lyndon Johnson (who "enjoyed huge majorities in both houses, along with a majority-rule Senate") & movie presidents. ...

... ASIDE. Speaking of MoDo, there was an interesting discussion in yesterday's Comments about bodice-ripping. "How to Undress a Victorian Lady in Your Next Historical Romance" by Alexandra Alter of the Wall Street Journal is helpful, too:

NEW. Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker provides a guide to the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev....

... Travis Waldron of Think Progress: Tamerlan Tsarnaev's boxing career "has led Drs. Robert Cantu and Robert Stern to urge examiners to study his brain for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease found in boxers since the 1920s...." ...

... Guess how much the scientists at the Daily Caller like this theory. Now, in case you mistrust your own intuition, check it out. ...

... Rand Paul, in case you were wondering, is still appearing on the teevee. Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul on Monday made clear that in his view, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings should be tried through normal means, rather than as an enemy combatant." ...

... Eli Lake of Newsweek: "... there were good reasons that the [Russians'] tip [about Tamerlan Tsarnaev] didn't trigger a more aggressive American investigation, current and former intelligence and law-enforcement officials tell The Daily Beast. Those officials pointed to the FSB's habit of treating much behavior by Chechens as suspicious, and nearly all such behavior as terror-related. The Tsarnaev request, they speculated, was likely triggered by the FSB's concern that he would participate in or provide support to Chechen insurrectionists in Russia, rather that by any sense of a threat to American interests." ...

... David Henneberry, the man who found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding in his boat, talks to WCVB Boston. With video. Via Adam Martin of New York.

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The Securities and Exchange Commission may soon make publicly traded corporations disclose all of their political donations, and business groups are already preparing a counterattack."

Congressional Races

Buh-Bye, Baucus. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Under friendly fire in the Capitol and squeezed politically at home, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a man often at odds with fellow Democrats, announced Tuesday that he would retire in 2014 after almost four decades in Congress.... In Montana, the former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer -- still a popular and formidable politician -- was making unsubtle suggestions that he might want Mr. Baucus's seat. Expectations among senior Democrats that Mr. Schweitzer was waiting in the wings relieved some of the pressure to keep Mr. Baucus in the re-election hunt." ...

... A Bad Day for Baucus's Former Aides:

... ** Matt Miller of the Washington Post: "Never has a politician done so much to lift the prospects of the republic simply by saying goodbye." ...

... Howard Dean is already circulating a Draft Schweitzer petition. He doesn't seem all sad about Max's move.

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest poll on the special election in South Carolina finds Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch expanding her lead to 9 points over Mark Sanford at 50/41. Green Party candidate Eugene Platt polls at 3%." ...

It's All About Mark. Nick Wing of the Huffington Post: "GOP congressional candidate Mark Sanford picked an inopportune time to release a newspaper ad complaining about his 'rough week.' After a six-day stretch that included a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a catastrophic explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, and a daylong lockdown of an entire city, Sanford ran a full-page ad in the Charleston Post and Courier on Sunday lamenting recent negative developments in his campaign for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District." ...

... Forget the Alamo. Texas pundits are pretty pissed at Sanford's misremembering the Alamo. This Houston Chronicle post is a case on point. ...

... Oh, P.S. Gina Smith of the Beaufort, South Carolina, Island Packet: "First Congressional District candidate Mark Sanford, who previously has said he was in his ex-wife's home Feb. 3 because he didn't want his youngest son to watch the Super Bowl alone, said Tuesday that a second son was at the home, too."

Local News

Anjeannette Damon of the Las Vegas Sun: "... the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to begin the process of repealing the gay marriage ban from the state constitution. Only one Republican, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, joined with Democrats to vote in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would repeal the ban on gay marriage and replace it with a requirement that the state recognize all marriages regardless of gender." ...

... Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "The bill will now go to the state Assembly. If it passes there, it will have to be passed by the next legislature, which meets in 2015, and then by the people the following year." ...

... Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "By a vote of 7 to 4, the [Rhode Island State] Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, while allowing religious leaders who oppose such marriages to refuse to perform them. The landmark vote by the full Senate could come on Wednesday. Gay rights advocates said that they think they have the votes to prevail, all but ensuring adoption of same-sex marriage by the only state in New England that does not already allow it." ...

... French News ...

Laura Smith-Spark of CNN: "French lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday, despite vocal protests from some conservatives opposed to the step. The nation's lower house approved a marriage bill, which would also give same-sex couples the right to adopt, in a 331-to-225 final vote.... President Francois Hollande, who pledged his support for same-sex marriage on the campaign trail last year, will have to sign the bill before it becomes law."

Dubya News

As Akhilleus warned us in yesterday's Commentariat, we're coming up on George W. Bush Week. To prime us for Falling in Love with George, one of the Washington Post's resident wingers -- Jennifer Rubin -- has typed out her love letter & published it in the newspaper Unofficially Known as Fox on Fifteenth, an appellation that is about to become obsolete as the Post looks to fold the set of "All the President's Men" & move its HQ to the burbs or beyond....

... John Amato of Crooks & Liars, with an assist from Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money, is helpful here. ...

... Ass. Exposed. Steve Benen: "... though the right likes to pretend otherwise, there were terrorist attacks during Bush/Cheney's tenure -- after 9/11.... It's a little tiresome to hear Republicans argue in effect, 'Other than the deadly anthrax attacks, the attack against El Al ticket counter at LAX, the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush's inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush's international unpopularity, the former president's record on counter-terrorism was awesome.' And finally, I'm not sure Republican pundits have fully thought through the wisdom of the 'other than 9/11' argument. Bush received an intelligence briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, at which he was handed a memo with an important headline: 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.' Bush, however, was on a month-long vacation at the time. He heard the briefer out and replied, 'All right. You've covered your ass, now.'" ...

... MEANWHILE, over at the National Journal, Ron Fournier, former AP Washington bureau chief and occasional head cheerleader at Karl Rove U., has written a piece titled, "Go Ahead, Admit It; George W. Bush Is a Good Man." Fournier's evidence is that Bush has been nice to him; fer instance, one time Dubya sent Fournier a thank-you note after Fournier stood when Dubya entered a press conference in Germany while the German press remained seated....

... Best not to read Fournier's Ode to a Bush without having an antidote at the ready: in this case, a swell point-by-point rebuttal by Stefan BC of Wonkette: "Yes unlike those contemptuous krauts AMERICAN journalists know how to show respect for their authoritarian father figure. Fournier wants you people to remember that politeness is always measured by the thank you notes that a person sends, not the people that one indiscriminately bombs without provocation."


CW: FINALLY, if -- like me -- you thought that nothing funny could be said about the Rogoff-Reinhart clusterfuck, then you don't know Stephen Colbert:

... Later, Colbert interviewed Thomas Herndon, the UMass grad student who discovered the errors in the Rogoff-Reinhart paper:

News Ledes

New York Times: "In what appeared to be a new phase in an intensifying conflict that has raised fears of greater bloodshed and a wider sectarian war, Iraqi soldiers opened fire from helicopters on Sunni gunmen hiding in a northern village on Wednesday, officials said."

Politico: "U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday demanded the United Nations fire a human rights advocate who blamed the American 'global domination project' for the Boston Marathon bombings. 'Outraged by Richard Falk's highly offensive Boston comments,' Rice wrote on Twitter late Tuesday. 'Someone who spews such vitriol has no place at the UN. Past time for him to go.'"

AP: "The nephew of a small-town Illinois mayor shot and killed five people, including two boys, before leading police on a chase that ended in an exchange of gunfire that left him dead, authorities said Wednesday. Illinois State Police said they believe Rick O. Smith, 43, entered a Manchester home through the back door and shot the victims at close range with a shotgun, leaving two women, one man and the boys dead.... Scott County State's Attorney Michael Hill said Smith, of rural Morgan County, had previous convictions for reckless homicide, drugs and bad checks."

Politico: "Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Tamerlan Tsarnaev returned from Russia last year 'with a willingness to kill people.'" ...

... Politico: "The brothers suspected in last week's fatal Boston Marathon attacks used a remote-control device from a toy car to set off the bombs, a key lawmaker said Wednesday. Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed the details after a closed-door briefing with three senior national security officials on Capitol Hill." ...

... AP: "Two U.S. officials say the surviving suspect in the Boston bombings was unarmed when police captured him hiding inside a boat in a neighborhood back yard.... The officials tell The Associated Press that no gun was found in the boat. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said earlier that shots were fired from inside the boat." CW: also kinda deep-sixes the theory that Dzhokhar shot himself in the neck. A more extensive report by the Washington Post is here. ...

... Reuters: " The security planning for last week's Boston Marathon, where two bombs went off killing three people and wounding 264, included preparation for such an emergency, a top Massachusetts public safety official said on Wednesday." ...

... Boston Globe: "Russian officials alerted the Central Intelligence Agency about their concerns over the potential radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in late September 2011, and a US intelligence official says the agency nominated Tsarnaev for inclusion on a government terror watchlist." ...

... New York Times: "Information about one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, [Tamerlan Tsarnaev,] was entered into two different government watch lists in 2011, but no action was taken after an F.B.I. review concluded that he had no links to extremist groups, American officials said Wednesday." ...

... Boston Globe: "The brother of slain MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier today remembered him as a person born to be a lawman, a person with a compassionate heart that drove him to help others, and a country music fan with two left feet who still managed to learn how to square dance. 'People ask me if Sean were here, what would he think? Are you kidding me? He would love this,' Rob Rogers told Vice President Joseph Biden, top officials of the elite college, and thousands of others gathered at Briggs Field in Collier's memory." ...

... New York: Tsarnaev brothers may have experimented with explosives using fireworks powder before making the bombs they set at the Boston Marathon. ...

... Boston Globe: "Russian authorities contacted the US government with concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev not once but 'multiple' times, including an alert it sent after he was first investigated by FBI agents in Boston, raising new questions about whether the FBI should have paid more attention to the suspected Boston Marathon bomber, US senators briefed on the investigation said Tuesday." ...

... Boston Globe: "Thousands of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, faculty and staff as well as law enforcement officials from across the nation are expected to attend a memorial service for fallen campus police officer Sean Collier.... Vice President Joe Biden, as well as MIT President L. Rafael Reif, police chief John DiFava and members of Collier's family are scheduled to speak."

New York Times: Italian "President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday appointed Enrico Letta, the deputy head of the Democratic Party, as prime minister designate tasked with forming a government to lead the country out of weeks of political impasse following inconclusive national elections."

New York Times: "An eight-story building in Bangladesh that housed several garment factories collapsed on Wednesday morning, killing at least 70 people, injuring hundreds of others, and leaving an unknown number of people trapped in the rubble, according to Bangladeshi officials and media outlets." CW: Like Texas, Bangladesh is a third-world country where the people prefer to let businesses like sweatshops flourish rather than be hampered by safety inspections. ...

     ... Reuters UPDATE: "A block housing garment factories and shops collapsed in Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people and injuring more than a thousand, officials said.... One fireman told Reuters about 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors slammed down onto those below.... Mohammad Asaduzzaman, in charge of the area's police station, said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday."

Washington Post: "At 1:07 p.m. on Tuesday..., the official Twitter account of the Associated Press sent a tweet to its nearly 2 million followers that warned, 'Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.' ... At 1:08, the Dow began a perilous but short-lived nosedive. It dropped about 150 points, from 14697.15 to 14548.58, before stabilizing at 1:10 p.m., when news that the tweet had been erroneous began to spread. By 1:13 p.m., the level had returned to 14690. During those three minutes, the 'fake tweet erased $136 billion in equity market value,' according to Bloomberg News' Nikolaj Gammeltoft.... About an hour after it was over, a group of hackers who cause trouble in support of Assad, an informal collective known as the Syrian Electronic Army, claimed responsibility for the attack."