The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 26, 2016.

New York Times: "Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to [the] startling hypothesis ... that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection..., which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. It is still early days, but Alzheimer’s experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

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

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

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

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

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

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-- Constant Weader

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The Commentariat -- April 26, 2014

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The United States and other members of the Group of Seven will impose new sanctions against Russia as early as Monday because it continues to support separatist actions in Ukraine, White House officials said Saturday. President Obama, traveling through Asia, has been consulting with U.S. allies about the worsening situation in Ukraine, where a peace agreement struck a week ago has yet to defuse tensions." ...

... Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "The Kremlin has ended high-level contact with the Obama administration, according to diplomatic officials and sources close to the Russian leadership. The move signals an end to the diplomacy, for now. 'Putin will not talk to Obama under pressure,' said Igor Yurgens..., a close associate of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. 'It does not mean forever.'" ...

... AFP: " Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called the Internet a 'CIA project' and warned Russians against making Google searches. Putin assured a group of young journalists that the Internet was controlled from the start by the CIA and its surveillance continues today."

Perhaps the Most Insidious Way the Plutocracy Is Taking Control. Motoko Rich of the New York Times: "In effect, [the] Walton [Family Foundation] has subsidized an entire charter school system in the nation's capital, helping to fuel enrollment growth so that close to half of all public school students in the city now attend charters, which receive taxpayer dollars but are privately operated. Walton's investments [in Washington, D.C.] are a microcosm of its spending across the country.... Analysts often describe Walton as following a distinct ideological path. In addition to giving grants to right-leaning think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Walton foundation hired an education program officer who had worked at the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC]."

Edmund Zagorin in the American Prospect: "Race-blind admissions are affirmative action for whites.... No group experiences more affirmative action than white people. Michigan's formal pro-white affirmative action policy, colloquially known as 'legacy preference,' puts the children of alumni ahead of other applicants. It unquestionably favors the white and the wealthy, at the expense of the poor and the black. Outside of the U.S., legacy admissions mostly went the way of feudalism. But at many U.S. universities, and especially at Michigan, legacy admissions amount to an eternal parade of white pride.... And legacy doesn't even scratch the surface of the biggest instrument of racial discrimination...: standardized testing.... Standardized testing is literally the example given in sociological texts to define the term "institutional racism'."

Abby Rapoport of the American Prospect: "By appointing [Deborah Leff,] an advocate for defendants' rights, as the new pardon attorney, the Obama administration has signaled it is serious about commuting drug offenses."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "... the Navy brass is reeling over this week's disclosure that one of its most prominent pilots is under investigation for allegedly fostering a culture of sexual harassment, hazing and lewd behavior. The pilot, Capt. Gregory McWherter, is the former commander and public face of the Blue Angels, the Navy's elite flight squadron. Less well known is the fact that until Friday, he also was president of the Tailhook Association, a nonprofit aviator fraternity that despite its past disgrace still draws thousands to its annual convention.... On Friday, however, he submitted his resignation as president of the Tailhook Association...."

"Party of Guns." James Hohmann of Politico: "At the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Indianapolis Friday, six potential Republican candidates for president touted their pro-gun bona fides and pledged allegiance to the Second Amendment."

Ashley Parker & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Speculation about Speaker John A. Boehner's intentions in overhauling the nation's immigration laws intensified Friday after he mocked the most conservative House members for thwarting his attempts to fix the system, shore up the borders and address the legal status of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants. For Mr. Boehner of Ohio, who expressed his frustrations at a Rotary Club luncheon in Ohio on Thursday, it was the latest in a series of bracing comments that White House officials and activists said could be an indication that he was willing to buck opposition in his own party and move ahead on immigration." CW: I'm not holding my breath. But if Boehner does break with the Tea Party on immigration, Nancy Pelosi will do the heavy lifting. Again. ...

... For fun, let's go to the videotape:

... Otherwise, a Great Day for the GOP

Ed O'Keefe & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) has been secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, according to people familiar with the case. The indictment is expected to be unsealed in the coming days. A person briefed on the case said Grimm was indicted by a grand jury empaneled by the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn and that his attorney had been in talks with prosecutors." ...

... Grimm, in happier days (January 2014):

Lauren French of Politico: "The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether retiring Rep. Steve Stockman's campaign committee violated federal law. The investigation over reporting errors sent to the Federal Election Commission was made public by the Texas Republican's office on Friday."

Flunked GOP How-to-Talk-to-the-Ladies Class. Manu Raju of Politico: "Det Bowers, a pastor challenging Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina GOP Senate primary, once blamed women for causing most divorces -- even when husbands are unfaithful to their wives. During a sermon on the Book of Peter delivered at the Christ Church of the Carolinas, Bowers said it was an 'abominable idolatry' when wives love their children more than their husbands, arguing that's what causes divorces most of the time. He added that in the 'vast preponderance' of situations where men are adulterous, women are to blame because they have showered too much emotion on their children instead of their husbands."

A Great Day for the GOP A'Way Out West

You People Are So Unfair. Daniel Strauss of TPM: Sean Spicer, "a top spokesman for the Republican National Committee, got heated during an interview Friday on CNN, saying Republicans have been unfairly linked to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his racist remarks." With video. ...

... CW: Right. Prominent Republicans -- including three who see themselves as presidential material -- endorsed Bundy's views, & GOP house organ Fox "News" made Bundy their cause celebre, but there are no "links" whatsoevah to the Republican party. ...

... Christopher Hooks of the Texas Observer "points & laughs" at how prominent Texas politicians Sen. Ted Cruz (might run for president), AG Greg Abbott (running for governor), Gov. Rick Perry (might run for president) reacted to Cliven Bundy's racist comments. ...

I took this boot off so I wouldn't put my foot in my mouth with the boot on.... But you know, when you talk about prejudice, we're talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings. We don't have freedom to say what we want. If I call -- if I say negro or black boy or slave, I'm not -- if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offended, then Martin Luther King hasn't got his job done then yet. They should be able to -- I should be able to say those things and they shouldn't offend anybody. I didn't mean to offend them. -- Cliven Bundy, yesterday

So, black people or Martin Luther King, Jr. -- who's been dead for nearly half a century -- are taking away Bundy's freedom of speech. 'Those people' have a helluva a lot of nerve taking offense at his derogatory, racist comments. -- Constant Weader

... ** Hilarious Craigslist ad via Betty Cracker of Balloon Juice. ...

... Gail Collins weighs in. To protect the ecosystem, those cattle should be banned from federal lands. ...

... Caty Enders of Esquire visits the Bundy Ranch. Creepy-funny. Or just creepy.

... Posse Comitatus. Rachel Maddow delves into the history of Bundy's Big Beef. Her wind-up, condemning Fox "News" & GOP elected officials for embracing Bundy, is mighty fine. Thanks to Victoria D. for the lead:

A Great Day for the GOP in New Jersey

Lisa Brennan of Main Justice: "The Securities and Exchange Commission has joined with the Manhattan District Attorney's office to investigate possible misuse of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey funds by Gov. Chris Christie.... Two SEC Enforcement Division lawyers in the New York regional office are examining the manner by which the Christie administration apparently steamrolled the agency's top in-house counsel into creating a legal justification in 2011 allowing the New Jersey governor to grab $1.8 billion of Port Authority tax-exempt bonds to fix the aging Pulaski Skyway bridge and other neglected state roadways.... But the justification for the diversion may have constituted fraud." ...

... Scott Raab of Esquire elaborates.

Bad News for ALEC & the Koch Boys

Steven Mufson & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "In state capitals across the country, legislators are debating proposals to roll back environmental rules, prodded by industry and advocacy groups eager to curtail regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases. The measures ... have been introduced in about 18 states.... The new rules would trim or abolish climate mandates -- including those that require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules.... But the campaign -- despite its backing from powerful groups such as [Koch-funded] Americans for Prosperity -- has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, the No. 2 official in the South Korean government, apologized and offered to resign on Sunday, as the country remained angry and saddened over the sinking of a ferry that left 302 people, a vast majority of them high school students, dead or missing."

New York Times: "Antigovernment militants in eastern Ukraine on Saturday rebuffed international calls for the release of a group of European military observers, but suggested that they would consider a prisoner exchange. The military observers -- at least seven officers reportedly from Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Denmark -- were detained on Friday at a rebel checkpoint at the edge of this city while traveling with a Ukrainian military delegation, which was also held. The militants have accused the observers of espionage."

AFP: "US troops arrived Saturday in Lithuania, part of a US contingent of 600 sent to the region to reassure NATO allies amid the escalating Ukraine crisis. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite hailed the arrival of American forces as a 'deterrence measure' in the region where alarm has risen over Russia's actions in Ukraine."

Reuters: "President Barack Obama said on Saturday the United States did not use its military might to 'impose things' on others, but that it would use that might if necessary to defend South Korea from any attack by the reclusive North." ...

... New York Times: "Opening the first visit to Malaysia by a U.S. president in nearly half a century, Barack Obama looked ahead Saturday to economic and security talks with Prime Minister Najib Razak, who leads a southeast Asian nation with an important role in Obama's efforts to forge deeper ties with the region."


The Commentariat -- April 25, 2014

Ann Marimow & Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Judges at the lowest levels of the federal judiciary are balking at sweeping requests by law enforcement officials for cellphone and other sensitive personal data, declaring the demands overly broad and at odds with basic constitutional rights. This rising assertiveness by magistrate judges -- the worker bees of the federal court system -- has produced rulings that elate civil libertarians and frustrate investigators, forcing them to meet or challenge tighter rules for collecting electronic evidence."

What to Do With Inconvenient Facts:
Ignore Them & Make up Some Shit

It's hard to get accurate numbers on anything. But the numbers we see today is that -- as I understand them -- we believe there are more people uninsured today in Kansas than there were before the president's health-care plan went into effect. And I thought the goal was to bring more people into insurance. -- Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), remarks in Salina, Kan., April 14, 2014

Worse Than Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is poised to take over Oregon's broken health insurance exchange, according to officials ... who say that it reflects federal officials' conclusion that several state-run marketplaces may be too dysfunctional to fix. In public, the board overseeing Cover Oregon is scheduled to vote Friday whether to join the federal insurance marketplace.... Behind the scenes..., federal and Oregon officials already have agreed that closing down the state marketplace is the best path to rescue what has been the country's only one to fail so spectacularly that no resident has been able to sign up for coverage online since it opened early last fall."

Sabrina Tavernise & Barry Meier of the New York Times: "Nearly five years after Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act, giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate various tobacco products, the F.D.A. is training its sights on e-cigarettes -- a fast-growing industry riven by competing interests, including those of Big Tobacco. Proposed F.D.A. rules, which were announced on Thursday, would give the federal government authority over e-cigarettes, along with cigars, pipe tobacco and other products. But the road map put off until later almost all of the trickiest issues, like whether flavors should be banned or television advertising limited."

Paul Krugman: “'Capital in the Twenty-First Century,' the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty..., is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren't. And conservatives are terrified.... The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty's thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling...." ...

... Here's Krugman's review of Piketty's book in the New York Review of Books, which P.D. Pepe linked a couple of days ago. "The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven't just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we're also on a path back to 'patrimonial capitalism,' in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.... In the past -- during Europe's Belle Époque and, to a lesser extent, America's Gilded Age -- unequal ownership of assets, not unequal pay, was the prime driver of income disparities. And he argues that we're on our way back to that kind of society." ...

... MEANWHILE, Krugman's esteemed colleague David Brooks also reviews Piketty's book & finds it wanting. Brooks, describing himself as a "quasi-Marxist," by which I think he means he does see class, implies that Piketty is merely a non-mega-rich elite who envies mega-rich elites. Also, Brooks says, Piketty tries to "predict the future," & he might be wrong, so his proposed solution -- taxing wealth instead of income -- is dumb & punishes innovators. Brooks thinks it "amazing" that Piketty is getting so much attention when what he writes "says more about class rivalry within the educated classes than it does about how to really expand opportunity. "

Tim Egan: The Seattle minimum-wage movement could spell disaster if the "15 Now" activists get their way.

Mark Landler & Jody Rudoren of the New York Times: "President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown." ...

... White House: "President Obama and Prime Minister Abe [of Japan] answer questions from the press following a bilateral meeting in Tokyo":

... Justin McCurry & Tania Branigan of the Guardian: "The US is duty-bound to come to Japan's aid in the event of a conflict with China over a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, Barack Obama declared at the start of a tour of Asia aimed at reassuring Washington's allies in the face of threats to stability from North Korea and an increasingly assertive China."

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "... there is something about being told that he is blind, clueless, and also silencing that affects [Chief Justice John Roberts'] viscerally. His entire two-page concurrence in Schuette ... is a rebuke to [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor; not on matters of doctrine, but on good taste and decorum in public discourse over race.... Justice Antonin Scalia goes even further in his concurrence, describing Sotomayor's logic in analogizing the Michigan anti-affirmative initiative to Jim Crow as 'shameful.'" See also Paul Waldman's comment on Roberts, linked below.

American Justice, Ctd. Shadee Ashtari of the Huffington Post: "RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal, "one of America's 'most eligible bachelors," was caught on tape beating & kicking his girlfriend 117 times over the course of half-an-hour & threatening to kill her. He hired a high-priced lawyer, natch, probably paid off the girlfriend, who quit cooperating with authorities, & got off with no felony conviction, three years' probation & a few hours of community service. The judge suppressed the videotape. ...

... Philip Matier & Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The deal also means that Chahal - with no felony conviction - will be allowed to stay on the board of his $100 million-a-year social advertising technology company, RadiumOne, which has been preparing to go public." ...

... Jordan Weismann of Slate: "... if you believe Brendan Eich deserved to get the boot from Mozilla because he opposed same-sex marriage, you ought to be appalled by a case like Chahal's. And if you bothered by the Eich case, domestic abuse can at least offer a clear example of what should count as a fireable offense."

Beyond the Beltway

Greg Botelho of CNN: "Cliven Bundy -- the Nevada rancher turned conservative folk hero for bucking the federal government's attempts to stop his cattle from grazing on public land -- admits he doesn't understand the bipartisan uproar over his comments suggesting blacks might have been better off under slavery. But he understands what he meant by those comments, and he's not backing down." ...

... Oliver Willis of Media Matters has video of Cliven Bundy's racist comments about "the Negro," first published by the New York Times. "The Bundy Ranch responded to criticism of the tirade on their Facebook page on April 24, claiming that 'words are taken out of context' and that Cliven Bundy 'is not a racist man.'" CW: Uh-huh. And what exactly was the "context"? I don't think those yahoos have the slightest idea of what "out of context" means. BTW, if you object to my calling the geniuses at the Bundy Ranch "yahoos," well, I was taken out of context. ...

     ... CW Update: Okay, there is some context. Apparently Bundy got on the subject of "the Negro" because he wondered why people of color weren't supporting him. "Where is our colored brother? Where is our Mexican brother? Where is our Chinese? Where are they? They're just as much American as we are, and they're not with us. If they're not with us, they're going to be against us." ...

     ... Republican Josh Barro in a New York Times opinion piece: "Mr. Bundy, weirdly, is onto something here. The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging. And nonwhites are not interested, because a gut-level aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.... Republicans' biggest problem with minorities runs even deeper than economic disparities and racist gaffes.... Economic prosperity alone will not make racial minorities eager for antigovernment language." ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "More video has emerged of Cliven Bundy's slavery remarks, and they now include a bit about 'the Spanish people' -- by whom Bundy appears to mean undocumented Hispanic immigrants. But there's a twist: The Nevada rancher actually seems quite fond of them.... 'When you see those Mexican families, they're together. They picnic together. They're spending their time together,' he said. 'I'll tell you, in my way of thinking, they're awful nice people. We need to have those people join us and be with us.'" ...

... CW: What Scott, & of course Bundy, miss is that people are people. "The Negro" and "the Spanish people" don't have peculiar character traits; some are "awful nice people" & some are rats -- just like white people or Asian people or AmerIndian people. Whoevah. It's true that people are conditioned by culture, & that conditions will impact culture, but it is ridiculous to make assumptions about individuals based on real or imagined cultural stereotypes. There are plenty of people who look a lot like Cliven Bundy who are decent, law-abiding citizens. I wouldn't assume a person was a racist, thieving scoff-law loon just because he was a white guy wearing a ten-gallon hat & cowboy boots. ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has video of Bundy's full remarks about race. ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York catches Bundy claiming he didn't say anything about "the Negro" "picking cotton." Apparently nobody told Bundy about videotapes. ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: "Samuel 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher. Sarah Palin. George Zimmerman. 'Bette in Spokane.' Cliven Bundy. Every few months or so, conservatives elevate a new Everyman or Everywoman to embody their crusade.... You would think, after worshipping so many false idols, that conservative leaders might temper their enthusiasm for the latest purveyor of right-wing melodrama." ...

... Paul Waldman of the American Prospect: Bundy's "only cause was that he shouldn't have to pay fees to graze his cattle on land he doesn't own. To most people he looked like a crazy old man with a sense of entitlement that would put any 'welfare queen' to shame. But to his advocates, he was an avatar of freedom. Why? Well, he does ride a horse and wear a cowboy hat, and he loves guns and hates the government. What else did they need to know?" ...

... Paul Waldman, in the Washington Post: Chief Justice John "Roberts' decisions in recent years have made clear that he thinks discrimination against African-Americans is merely a thing of the past, so the law should no longer seek to address it.... Outbursts such as this one by Bundy remind us that this wrongheaded belief matters. Roberts' beliefs don't come from a place of hate the way Bundy's do; I'm sure he would sincerely like to see a society in which race never matters and discrimination is just a memory. But he thinks we're already there, which makes him just as blind." ...

... Dylan Scott: "Conservative media titan Sean Hannity, formerly one of Nevada rancher Clive Bundy's strongest advocates, expressed his vehement disgust Thursday with the latter's remarks on slavery." ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "But the pointing guns at federal agents part Sean was fine with." ...

... AND David Edwards of the Raw Story: Fox "News," which was apparently All Bundy All the Time, shut down the Bundy reel after the Times' reported on his racist remarks. In fact, when Democratic strategist Joe Trippi tried to mention Bundy on air, Fox host Gretchen Carlson cut him off: "Alright, let's not bring that into this discussion,' she said reflexively. 'I don't want to bring that into this discussion!'" With video. ...

... Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Hannity, et al.: "Not every idiot who yells 'freedom' and 'down with tyranny' deserves your support. Unless you're looking for cheap, vicarious thrills, the cause should matter.... And if you are so starved for examples of government repression that you have to rally behind an idiot whose great, principled cause is free cattle fodder, then maybe, just maybe, government repression isn't the huge, massive problem that you like to pretend it is." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Charles Pierce, on the Georgia secret-guns-for-everyone law. CW: Pierce concentrates on the last aspects of the law that most troubled me: "It eliminates even the most rudimentary forms of record keeping.... Gun rights were in no danger in Georgia; nobody's rights are infringed by a dealer's being required to keep a record of his sales. What this is about is simply telling the rest of the country to piss up a rope. It's hippie-punching on a grand scale. It's raising an actual bulwark against the president's imaginary campaign to disarm the populace. It's paranoia with a concealed-carry permit."

Flunked GOP How-to-Talk-to-the-Ladies Class. Joseph Dussault of the Boston Globe: "New Hampshire State Representative Will Infantine incensed fellow lawmakers when he suggested that the wage gap exists because women don't work as hard as men do. The state House of Representatives met Wednesday to vote on the 'Paycheck Equity Act,' which was unanimously passed by the state Senate.... The aim of the bill is to prevent wage discrimination based on gender."

Re: commentary by Akhilleus & James S.:

News Ledes

AFP: "North Korea will gain nothing by making threats, US President Barack Obama said Friday, warning it of sanctions with 'more bite' if it went ahead with a fourth nuclear test. Speaking in South Korea as satellite images revealed the North could be preparing for an underground explosion, Obama stressed that Washington and Seoul stood 'shoulder to shoulder' in their refusal to accept a nuclear North Korea."

AFP: "Latvia on Friday welcomed American troops on its soil, part of a US force of 600 sent to the region to reassure the Baltic states amid concern over Russia's actions in Ukraine."

Washington Post: "Russia on Thursday began military drills on its border with Ukraine as the government there mobilized against pro-Russian militants, killing 'up to five' people, according to Ukrainian officials. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the Ukrainian actions, and his top deputies said a Ukrainian mobilization in the restive eastern part of the country would elicit a Russian response. The tit-for-tat military movements brought the two sides closer to a direct armed confrontation in a standoff that analysts call one of the most dangerous on European soil since the end of the Cold War."


The Commentariat -- April 24, 2014

Gail Collins: "A century or so ago, when Americans were trying to imagine the year 2000, the talk was about ending social ills.... In 1964 at the [World's F]air, everyone was thinking about building stuff.... And what about our visions of the future now? Imagining things 50 years in the future, our novelists and scriptwriters generally see things getting worse -- civilizations crash, zombies arrive, the environment implodes."

Net Neutrality, R.I.P. Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "The principle that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead. Companies like Disney, Google or Netflix will be allowed to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers under new rules to be proposed by the Federal Communications Commission, the agency said on Wednesday. The proposed rules are a turnaround for the agency.... The proposal comes three months after a federal appeals court

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times: "The Food and Drug Administration will propose sweeping new rules on Thursday that for the first time would extend its regulatory authority from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, popular nicotine delivery devices that have grown into a multibillion-dollar business with virtually no federal oversight or protections for American consumers."

Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone: President Obama is finally moving on climate change abatement. Plus: "Although no final decision has been made, two high-level sources in the Obama administration told me recently that the president has all but decided to deny the permit for the [Keystone XL] pipeline -- a dramatic move that would light up Democratic voters and donors while further provoking the wrath of Big Oil."

Fox, Henhouse. Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report from a Senate oversight panel. Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations, according to the report from an oversight panel of the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee. A year-long bipartisan investigation by the panel also found that Edwards improperly relied on the advice of top political advisers to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about the wording and timing of three separate reports."

Yo, Darrell. Maybe an Actual IRS Scandal. Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times: "The IRS handed out a total of nearly $1.1 million in bonuses in a 27-month period to more than 1,146 employees who had been disciplined for failing to pay taxes, according to an inspector general's report.... The IRS' contract with the National Treasury Employees Union states that disciplinary action or investigations do not preclude an employee from receiving a bonus or other performance award unless it would damage the integrity of the agency.... The IRS issued a statement saying that it already was making changes to its bonus policy.... As of the end of the 2011 fiscal year, federal employees and retirees combined owed $3.5 billion in delinquent taxes, according to the IRS." (That's employees or retires of all federal agencies, not just the IRS.) ...

... CW: Worth bearing in mind is that the inspector general who oversaw this report is Russell George, the same Dubya appointee who invented the Picking-on-the-Tea-Party "scandal."

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "Victims of child pornography whose images of sexual abuse have circulated on the Internet may claim damages from every person caught with illegal images, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. But justices rejected the idea that a single person who possesses such images may be assessed the full amount due to the victim, setting aside a $3.4-million verdict against a Texas man in a favor of a woman whose childhood rape was photographed and widely circulated on the Internet."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "The Navy has reassigned a former commander of the Blue Angels, its acrobatic fighter squadron, and is investigating allegations that the elite team of pilots was a hotbed of hazing, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, documents show."

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Obama's visit to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, or Mirikan, aimed to highlight both Japan's technological prowess and the renewal of a 10-year scientific collaboration agreement between the two countries. While the event had plenty of examples of how the two countries are working together -- including a pre-recorded message from the International Space Station's Japanese commander and two American flight engineers serving alongside him -- the real stars of the show were a couple of robots":

... Dana Milbank: "Nothing is wrong with an American president spreading goodwill and eating good sushi, but the photo-op nature of the trip risks contributing to a perception that Obama's Asian policy, and his foreign policy in general, is similarly itinerant. He's seeing the sights, getting some good pics and moving along -- more tourist than architect of world affairs." ...

... CW: Here's Why. Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "President Barack Obama's in Asia this week pushing a deal that almost none of his allies at home want. On the Hill, most of the pushback is coming from the president's fellow Democrats, who say it undercuts the economic fairness argument that's a central focus of his midterm strategy. Despite Obama's support for the agreement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have made clear they don't have much interest in the Tran-Pacific Partnership or broader fast-track trade authority passing before November -- if then."

Revenge of the Sun God. Carter Eskew, one of the WashPo editorial page's pseudo-Democrats, makes a good point in spite of himself: the Koch brothers' self-serving, extensive campaign against solar energy could backfire on the Koch's GOP handmaidens -- especially in the South, Ma & Pa like their solar panels, & the GOP-Koch team is trying to kill them.

Senate Races

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Like clockwork, the consistently wrong Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol quickly moved to 'unskew' a set of new polls showing Democrats in surprisingly good shape in a handful of Senate races where Republicans have long been regarded as the favorites." ...

... Jon Terbush of the Week: "The Republican National Committee's response: 'Desperate after losing Nate Silver, The New York Times published a poll taken from people they found outside the DSCC who confidently predicted they'd keep the Senate.'" ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... conservatives rushed straight to the internals to discredit the poll in almost exactly the same way they unskewed the 2012 polls to show Romney doing much better than he actually was." ...

... CW: Nonetheless, it's not time to breath a sigh of relief. As Beutler points out, "polling this far out probably doesn't tell us anything terribly useful."

Jame Hohmann of Politico: "U.S. Chamber of Commerce polling, conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates last Wednesday and Thursday, shows the Colorado Senate race is a dead heat with the climate favorable for the GOP. The internal survey, obtained exclusively by Politico, has Republican Rep. Cory Gardner up by 2 points among likely voters, 44 percent to 42 percent, over Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. Libertarian Party candidate Gaylon Kent pulls 7 percent. This is within the 4-point margin of error."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Black voters ... will play a huge role in determining whether the president's party can stop Republicans from taking the Senate" in 2014.

Presidential Race

David Corn of Mother Jones: Rand Paul's presidential ambitions have made him a Reagan fan (to a fault, of course). It wasn't always thus. He used to say "Jimmy Carter had a better record on fiscal discipline than Reagan." ...

... Brooks Jackson of "Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul claimed that 20 million jobs were created after President Ronald Reagan's dramatic tax cuts in the 1980s, and that this was the 'last time' such job growth took place. Paul is wrong on both counts."

Beyond the Beltway

Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation today that would vastly expand where Georgians can legally carry firearms, a proposal that has drawn heaps of praise and scorn from outside groups.... House Bill 60, which passed in the final hours of this year's legislative session, allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in a wide range of new places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings. A recent analysis also said it could let felons use the state's 'stand your ground' rules to claim self-defense if they feel threatened." ...

... CW: Seems like an excellent law. However, HB 60 is not the top news in today's AJC. No, it's about a deadly shooting in an Cobb County mall: "Danny Wray Brown ... pulled out a gun and began shooting Monday afternoon at the Cobb County mall. 'He just let go and started shooting," [Devin] Cummings[, a man who tried to help the victim,] said. One shot hit a car and one hit the Macy's building, Cummings said. But at least one shot struck Violet Lambert, killing her.... Within hours of the shooting outside the mall, Brown was found dead in his home of a self-inflicted gunshot, police said." ...

... Niraj Chokshi of the Washington Post has more on what the bill sanctions. It's pretty horrible. Here are a couple of the brilliant provisions: "Firearms dealers no longer need to maintain records of sales and purchases.... The fingerprinting requirement for licenses is now removed.... No one is allowed to maintain a database of information on license holders that spans multiple jurisdictions."

Stephanie Strom of the New York Times: "Going further than any state so far, Vermont on Wednesday passed a law requiring the labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients."

CW: If you think Vermont is all healthy living punctuated by occasional dips into Cherry Garcia, it ain't. The state also has permissive gun laws. According to Wikipedia, "The state of Vermont neither issues nor requires a permit to carry a weapon on one's person, openly or concealed. The term 'Vermont Carry' is widely used by gun rights advocates to refer to this permissive stance on gun control...."

Ben Strauss of the New York Times: "A National Labor Relations Board official took a historic step last month in ruling that Northwestern's scholarship football players should be considered employees of the university and therefore had the right to unionize like other workers. And then, almost immediately, Northwestern began a wide-ranging campaign to defeat a unionization vote, which is scheduled for Friday."

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Now that he's won a confrontation with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing his cattle on federal land, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has time to hold court on everything from abortion to the current state of 'the Negro.' ... 'They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom.'... The Times reached out to spokespeople for Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dean Heller (R-NV), who have spoken in support of Bundy, and for Texas Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott (R)." Funny thing, they all distanced themselves from Bundy. ...

... Here's the Times story, by Adam Nagourney. ...

... CW: BUT what will Sean Hannity do? See Infotainment.

News Ledes

... New York Times The Lede: "Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine released the American journalist Simon Ostrovsky on Thursday, three days after he was taken prisoner in the town of Slovyansk while filming a video report for Vice News. The Brooklyn-based news organization confirmed his release in a statement, which was followed by a tweet from the correspondent."

Guardian: Ukrainian troops are moving against pro-Russian separatists. The Guardian's liveblog is here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Russia announced on Thursday that it was immediately starting military drills involving its army and air force along the border with Ukraine, harshly criticizing the government there for moving against pro-Russian forces occupying various government buildings in a show of force that left a still-undetermined number of people killed and wounded." ...

Washington Post: "Three American medical staff members died when an Afghan security official opened fire Thursday at an American-run Christian hospital in Kabul in the latest violence targeting foreigners in Afghanistan."

Guardian: "Pupils at the elite Southbank International School in London were victims of serial paedophile teacher William Vahey, the school has confirmed. The scale of the abuse is expected to be revealed later on Thursday in a letter to parents.... Vahey, a 64-year-old American who taught at Southbank between 2009 and 2013, killed himself after being found with 90 images of boys. The FBI believe the children were drugged with sleeping pills and molested in assaults dating back to 2008."


The Commentariat -- April 23, 2014

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Justice Department issued guidelines Wednesday adding new detail to President Barack Obama's plan to offer commutations to drug convicts serving prison terms longer than they would have received today. 'We are launching this clemency initiative in order to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates, candidates who have a clean prison record, do not present a threat to public safety, and were sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed, and are no longer seen as appropriate,' Deputy Attorney General James Cole said at a news conference."

They Don't See Race. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a fractured decision..., the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state's public universities. The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity. States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.... Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in the longest, most passionate and most significant dissent of her career, said the Constitution required special vigilance in light of the history of slavery, Jim Crow and 'recent examples of discriminatory changes to state voting laws.' Her opinion, longer than the four other opinions combined, appeared to reflect her own experiences...." ...

... ** Charles Pierce: "The decision was written by Anthony Kennedy, who lives in that wonderful world where the law is a pure crystal stream running through green meadows, unsullied by the grit and silt that piles up in the actual lives of actual human beings.... What we are seeing, over and over again, is what happens when you combine the inebriate effect of American Exceptionalism in the philosophy of the law. Race does not exist as an issue in our country anymore because we have overcome it, because we are America and, therefore, Exceptional." ...

... Emily Bazelon of Slate: "In another context -- gay rights -- Kennedy has worried a lot about how a majority's display of 'animus,' or prejudice, can hurt the minority. But he's not concerned that's what drove Michigan's voters to ban affirmative action. This time he sees only an entirely valid democratic process. The single point on which Scalia and Sotomayor agree is that Kennedy has reinterpreted the 1960s and 1970s rulings beyond recognition." ...

... Noah Feldman, In Bloomberg News, explains the convoluted logic of Anthony Kennedy's decision & deems Sonia Sotomayor's dissent "one for the casebooks and the ages."

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court signaled on Tuesday that it was struggling with two conflicting impulses in considering a request from television broadcasters to shut down Aereo, an Internet start-up they say threatens the economic viability of their businesses." ...

... David Carr of the New York Times: "... the Aereo case ... has a little bit of everything: legacy media hanging on to cherished business models, an insurgent with a crafty workaround and perhaps most important, the first big test of who owns and has rights to things that are stored in the cloud."

Massimo Calabresi of Time: In hearing an Ohio case yesterday, "the justices appear ready ahead of the midterm elections later this year to knock down laws in 16 states that aim to prevent lying in political races, likely claiming they violate the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech."

Campaign Money & Junk Food. Mark Bittman of the New York Times: "... the majority of Supreme Court members don’t see it that way; they believe that campaign finance limits restrict 'free speech.' This is the same argument used to defend the marketing of junk food to children. It goes like this: 'Anyone can say anything they want, but if you can afford to say it louder and more publicly than anyone else, that's O.K.' It's clear that this is true even if it harms the general public."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: Science proves it: "... Supreme Court justices cannot be trusted with our Constitution, at least as long as they are selected by political officials with a strong motivation to ensure that the justices are themselves highly partisan." They just can't wrap their brains around information that conflicts with their strongly-held beliefs.

Jaime Fuller of the Washington Post: "Everything you didn't even think you wanted to know about Supreme Court retirements."

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Wednesday accused Harry Reid of violating Senate ethics policy, saying that he has used taxpayer money for political purposes. Calling Reid 'so dirty and so unethical,' Priebus charged that the Senate majority leader breached Senate rules by posting partisan attacks on the official Senate website and his official Twitter account."

Steve Benen: The CBO has found that Medicaid expansion is even a better deal for the states than it previously calculated, yet Republican legislators are using every arrow in their quiver to ensure that under no circumstances will the poorer residents of their state get health insurance.

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "After conducting an investigation, the Army inspector general rebuked [Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan] in August for protecting the colonel [from investigations of multiple accusations of bad conduct, including sexual assault,] and failing to take appropriate action. But the Army kept the results under wraps until this week, when it released a heavily redacted copy of the investigative report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Post.... The Army suspended Harrison in June for mishandling the case involving the Japanese woman but only after she took her frustrations outside the chain of command.... The general's handling of the case provides a textbook example of the Pentagon's persistent struggle to get commanders to take reports of sexual misconduct seriously."

Maureen Dowd: "... next Sunday, in an unprecedented double pontiff canonization, Pope John Paul II will be enshrined as a saint in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican had a hard time drumming up the requisite two miracles when Pope Benedict XVI, known as John Paul's Rasputin and enforcer of the orthodoxy, waived the traditional five-year waiting period and rushed to canonize his mentor.... Given that [John Paul] presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain't no saint.... Perhaps trying to balance the choice of John Paul, who made conservatives jump for joy because he ran a Vatican that tolerated no dissent, the newly christened Pope Francis tried to placate progressives by cutting the miracle requirement from two to one to rush John XXIII's canonization." ...

     ... CW: While the entire notion of sainthood -- as defined by the Roman Catholic Church -- is nonsense, the "miracle requirement" is exceptionally absurd. Could we please, in the 21st century, dispense with the notion that anyone can perform a miracle, which by definition is a supernatural event? There is no such thing. I suppose it's "progress" that one so-called miracle will now suffice to affirm a person's sainthood. ...

... Well, There's Always Saint Tim. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Cardinal Timothy Dolan says that Christian businesses like Hobby Lobby should not be forced to obey government rules that require all health care insurance plans provide access to contraceptives because women can already buy birth control at 7-11":

Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "You know, celibate, white, old men probably should just stay away from any discussion of lady parts and their health."

Senate Races

Jonathan Martin & Megan Thee-Brenan of the New York Times: "Four Senate races in the South that will most likely determine control of Congress appear very close.... The survey underscores a favorable political environment over all for Republicans in Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas -- states President Obama lost in 2012 and where his disapproval rating runs as high as 60 percent.... Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a two-term incumbent who has been considered perhaps the most imperiled Democratic senator in the country, holds a 10-point lead over his Republican opponent, Representative Tom Cotton." ...

... New York Times: "Although the Democrats currently have a 51 percent chance [of holding onto their majority in the Senate], that doesn't mean we're predicting the Democrats to win the Senate -- the probability is essentially the same as a coin flip. The Republicans' chances have been declining in recent weeks, falling from a recent high of 54 percent. This is mostly due to some unfavorable polls in Arkansas and Iowa."

Beyond the Beltway

Academic Freedom, South Carolina Style. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "The state's House of Representatives recently voted to cut $52,000 in funding for the College of Charleston as punishment for assigning students to read 'Fun Home,' the graphic novel [about a woman coming to terms with her closeted gay father;s suicide] that formed the basis for [a] play [performed on campus]. House lawmakers endorsed a similar budget cut for the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg for using a different book with gay themes in its reading program.... [There is] a worsening political battle between South Carolina's public universities and conservative Republican lawmakers, who argue that campus culture should reflect the socially conservative views of the state."

Here in Southwest Florida, We Do Not Vote for Boring Sober People. Dave Breitenstein of the (Fort Myers) News-Press: "State Rep. Dane Eagle was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence early Monday in Tallahassee, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Court documents show Tallahassee Police first spotted Eagle (R-Cape Coral) pulling out of a Taco Bell on West Tennessee Street. He then made a U-turn in his black SUV, and police said he nearly hit a curb outside Papa John's before running a stoplight. After pulling him over, the officer reported a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle, and his eyes were bloodshot and watery.... Eagle's arrest marks the second Southwest Florida Republican politician to run afoul of the law in recent months. Former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel resigned in January following a stint in rehab sparked by his cocaine arrest in October."

News Ledes

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared -- the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents -- but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: "A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'":