The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, October 19, 2014.

Guardian: "A cruise ship carrying a Dallas healthcare worker who was being monitored for Ebola returned to port on Sunday.... A lab supervisor who handled a specimen from Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died from Ebola in Dallas on 8 October, showed no symptoms during the cruise but self-quarantined out of caution. Carnival Cruise Lines told passengers the unidentified woman was tested for Ebola but the results were negative."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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

White House Live Video
October 20

1o:00 am ET: Affordable Care Act Champions of Change meeting

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Stephen Colbert describes his workday:

No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.



A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

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The Commentariat -- August 1, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' false comparison between Obama's & Romney's "dull campaigns." The NYTX front page is here.

Dana Hughes of ABC News: "The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported today. What's made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki...."

"Fire Ed DeMarco." Paul Krugman: Ed DeMarco, who heads (I think he's the acting director) the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which runs Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, "has just rejected a request from the Treasury Department that he offer debt relief to troubled homeowners.... Deciding whether debt relief is a good policy for the nation as a whole is not DeMarco's job.... If the Secretary of the Treasury, acting on behalf of the president, believes that it is in the national interest to spend some taxpayer funds on debt relief, in a way that actually improves the FHFA's budget position, the agency's director has no business deciding on his own that he prefers not to act." So fire his ass, Mr. President. CW: this is an old story. There is some question as to whether Obama can fire DeMarco, but since he's only acting director, I'd say the answer is Caio, Eddie. ...

     ... Update: Krugman has more on DeMarco, & it's consistent with everything I've read in the past, especially the Geithner part.

... Brady Dennis & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post tell the underlying story. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein, writing in the Washington Post on the DeMarco fiasco: "... the failure to move aggressively to fill the executive branch with his appointees has been the biggest mistake Barack Obama has made during his four years in the White House." CW: it is White House staff who are responsible for staffing up, although Obama would ultimately review all the top picks. So it would be interesting to know just who-all in the White House aren't doing their jobs of cuing up nominees. It seems unlikely that -- overall -- the administration is purposely leaving vacant key positions; therefore, this sounds like a case of gross incompetence.

Hoping No One Will Notice. Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "Senate Republicans last week proposed a plan that would raise taxes on more than 20 million Americans, while maintaining the high-end Bush tax cuts.... Now, House Republicans have adopted the same plan, and the effect is the same: roughly 24 million middle- and lower-class Americans will see their taxes raised so that roughly two million of the richest taxpayers can maintain a tax cut...."

AND Dan Pfeiffer of the White House tells Charles Krauthammer he's sorry over the Churchill bust thing. I'm none too sure an apology was in order even if it was polite.

Presidential Race

NEW. Greg Sargent: a new analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center "finds that Mitt Romney's tax plan] would cut taxes dramatically on the richest five percent while raising them on everyone else.... Romney's tax plan would result in a $2,000 tax increase on middle class families." ...

... President Obama cites the report:

NEW. Krugman Again: Really, Willard loves big government & socialized medicine. And "debasing" the currency is good, too.

** Mitt Romney in the National Review. "Culture does matter." I don't know if Mitt wrote this or commissioned it. In any event, he authorized it, & like all those post-February 1999 Bain Capital documents, he signed his name to it. For those of you who questioned the thesis "he's not all that bright," time to reconsider. Whoever wrote this essay either thinks the reader is simpleminded or is simpleminded himself. I'm going with the latter. Thanks to Jack M. for the link. ...

... Answer True or False: (1) "Often, I have trouble deciding which lie to tell." (2) "Sometimes I say things, then pretend I didn't say them, then defend what I said in the first place, all in the course of 24 hours." (3) "Friends & family say they worry I may be insane." Sara Murray of the Wall Street Journal: "Mitt Romney caused a stir among Palestinians earlier this week when he suggested culture plays a role in the Palestinian Authority's economic shortfalls. He reversed course in an interview with Fox News Tuesday and denied making such a comment, saying, 'I'm not speaking about it -- did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy. That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that.' Well it appears Mr. Romney has changed his mind again because in an opinion piece in the conservative National Review Online, the Republican reversed course and owned up to the comments he made."

... Daniel Drezner in Foreign Policy: "... when Romney says he thinks culture is the key, it's another way of saying that he doesn't think the United States, World Bank or any policy tool out there is really going to promote economic growth in the least developed world."

Willard's World. Maureen Dowd: "We now know how little he knows about the world, how really slow on his feet he is, what meager social and political agility he has." She thinks he would make a nice garden statue.

Gossip Edition. Sam Stein & Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: an unnamed Bain investor told Harry Reid that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for ten years. CW: if that's not true, Mitt -- prove it. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Michael Graetz, a professor of tax law at Columbia & deputy assistant Treasury secretary under Bush I, thinks it likely Romney fudged on his taxes, possibly by undervaluing assets.

Here's a lovely biographical ad about Mitt that will warm the cockles of your heart --

     -- Until Jed Lewison of Daily Kos tells you the truth behind Romney's absurd claims. What a total phony.

All of My People Are Experts at Firing You People. Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe: "The Mitt Romney campaign's chief financial officer described himself as a 'financial outsourcing consultant' on the professional networking website LinkedIn until at least July 17, according to a cached version of his profile page, but has since changed the description to 'political/finance professional.'"

Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal: "The Romney campaign finally came out firmly against tax credits for wind power. That might sound like a pretty marginal issue nationwide, but in a state such as Iowa -- home to more wind-sector jobs than any other state -- it's a pretty big deal." CW: too bad if being the anti-science candidate costs you the election, Mitt. Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: Gov. Terry Branstad (R), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), and in fact the entire Iowa GOP Congressional delegation, respectfully disagree with Wandering Willard. Grassley blames it on Poland.

Paul Krugman: "Something is very wrong with what’s going on inside that impressive head of hair." CW: I think this theme that something isn't quite right about Romney may have legs. ...

... And sorry for going All Krugman All the Time, but I think he has nailed the crux of the phony "economic debate" that constitutes the presidential campaign: "It's really amazing: between miscalculations on Obama's part and scorched-earth Republican opposition, what we've had is insane austerity in the face of depression -- yet we're having an election centered on the claim that the weak economy shows that government spending doesn't work."

A new Obama ad, tying Romney to the Bush wartime deficit:

A reader wrote to me privately the other day, fed up with all the obnoxious Obama campaign pitches for contributions. So here's yet another approach:

... AND Michael Shear of the New York Times writes, "The appeals for donations occasionally recall the 'Everything 80 percent off! Going out of Business' sales that try to entice customers into the store. And yet, Mr. Obama's campaign team has clearly calculated that it is willing to risk leaving that kind of impression if it means raising more money."

Right Wing World

John Celock of the Huffington Post: "A Republican member of the Tennessee state legislature emailed constituents Tuesday morning with a rumor circulating in conservative circles that President Barack Obama is planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in an effort to stop the 2012 election from happening."

Local News

** Charles Pierce ruminates on "What Happened in Texas: The Tea Party now has morphed into a movement made up solely of three elements: corporate money, television hucksters, and suckers. The first of these make the other two elements possible."

Cherrie Gregg of CBS Philly: Pennsylvania's Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichelle (R) testified in the state voter ID case that she didn't know what the law said but was sure 99 percent of state voters have photo ID even though she has no way of actually knowing.

Gossip Edition. Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post: "Gov. John Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe, announced Tuesday they are separating after 10 years of marriage, but plan to remain a family that spends a 'great deal of time together.' In a joint statement, they stressed there was no affair and that they had tried 'extended counseling.'"

News Ledes

Reuters: "President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said. Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad."

Washington Post: "The Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for another year, a pre-election statement of the GOP's unyielding opposition to raising taxes for any taxpayer. The 256 to 171 vote ... fell largely along party lines, though 19 Democrats voted with Republicans.... One Republican was opposed. It came after the House rejected a Democratic alternative, also largely on a partisan 170 to 257 vote, that would have preserve tax cuts for income up to $250,000 but allowed them to expire for the wealthy."

New York Times: "A series of public statements and private communications from the Israeli leadership in recent weeks set off renewed concerns in the Obama administration that Israel might be preparing a unilateral military strike on Iran.... But after a flurry of high-level visits, including one by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to Israel on Wednesday, a number of administration officials say they remain hopeful that Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to let the United States take the lead in any future military strike...."

Washington Post: "Three commuter jets came within seconds of a midair collision at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday after confused air traffic controllers launched two outbound flights directly at another plane coming in to land, according to federal officials with direct knowledge of the incident."

Do-Nothing Fed Continues to Do Nothing. New York Times: "The Federal Reserve took no new steps to support the economy Wednesday, but it said in a statement that it was ready to act if job growth did not improve."

New York Times: "United States stock markets were thrown into turmoil on Wednesday morning after more than 100 stocks were hit with a surge of volatile and unexpected trading immediately after markets opened.

New York Times: "House and Senate leaders on Tuesday, with little fanfare and no drama, said they had reached a tentative agreement that would pay for federal government operations through next March, averting the prospect of another messy shutdown debacle." Washington Post story here.

New York Times: "The White House and Congress raced to impose more punishing sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, as that country's nuclear ambitions resurfaced in the presidential election campaign after Mitt Romney's pledge to give Israel unstinting support in its confrontation with Iran.... Sanctions have been in the works for months. Campaign officials also said that for all his criticism, Mr. Romney's prescriptions for dealing with Tehran do not differ much from the president's.... Colin H. Kahl, a former Pentagon official who is an adviser to the Obama campaign, [said] 'A lot of this is Romney describing our current policy and masquerading it as criticism of the president."

New York Times: "Gore Vidal, the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization, died on Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles, where he moved in 2003, after years of living in Ravello, Italy. He was 86."

Default Day! Washington Post: "The U.S. Postal Service, facing a $14.1 billion loss this fiscal year amid plummeting mail volume, will default for the first time Wednesday, on a congressionally mandated $5.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury."

New York Times: "As electric power was restored across India on Wednesday, the nation's new power minister sought to tamp down a growing argument between state and federal ministers over who was to blame for Tuesday's unprecedented blackout."

AP: "A judicial official says that Hans Kristian Rausing has pleaded guilty to preventing the proper burial of his wealthy wife Eva Rausing. A spokesman for Britain's judiciary says that Rausing, whose father made billions selling his stake in the Tetra Pak drinks-carton empire, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of 'preventing the lawful and decent' burial of his 48-year-old wife."


The Commentariat -- July 31, 2012

** Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "a personal note about ObamaCare and my recent absence." ...

... For Some, the Check Is in the Mail. Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: the Affordable Care Act "requires insurers to give out annual rebates by Aug. 1, starting this year, if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent. As a result, insurers will pay out $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, although not all of it will go to individuals."

Via Digby:

... Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) lets a lawyer for the Koch-funded Cato Institute have it. Whitehouse is a former prosecutor, & it shows, big-time. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link:

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "The deep federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of next year may trigger dismissal notices for tens of thousands of employees of government contractors..., and the warnings may start going out ... days before the presidential election.... Obama administration officials say that the threat of layoffs is overblown and that Republicans are playing up the possibility rather than trying to head it off.... Republicans reacted with fury, saying it is the White House that is playing politics."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: Paul "Ryan is either a radical or a fraud."

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones posts a lot of charts, which -- all told -- add up to this:  

Despite raking in such a large share of the national income, our nation's über-wealthy pay very little in taxes by global standards. -- Josh Harkinson


Sorry to be late with this, but it's worth reading Charles Pierce's reflections on -- mostly -- the Sunday shows. And let me just say that the fact ABC "News" would give Dana Loesch a prominent place to air her views suggests to me that the FCC should yank its broadcast licenses today.

New York Times Editors: "According to [a] study [released by Sen. Tom Harkin {D-Iowa}], taxpayers poured about $32 billion into for-profit colleges in the most recent year -- much of it spent on marketing or pocketed as profit. Meanwhile, 96 percent of their students were forced to take out loans, as opposed to about 13 percent in community colleges and 48 percent in four-year public colleges. A majority leave without degrees. And while the for-profit sector accounts for only about 13 percent of enrollment nationally, it accounts for nearly half the loan defaults." The overview of Sen. Harkin's investigative report is here, with links to particulars.

Think Progress: " A Pew Research Center ... poll, taken after the Colorado shooting, shows that 47 percent of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, compared to 46 percent who say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns. While Pew calls this 'no significant change' from April numbers, it does represent a 5-point swing since their previous poll...."

Ian Millhiser: once again Senate Republicans filibuster an Obama judicial nominee who has strong bipartisan support. Just because.

Prof. Colin Carter & Dr. Henry Miller in a New York Times op-ed: "By suspending renewable-fuel standards that were unwise from the start, the Environmental Protection Agency could divert vast amounts of corn from inefficient ethanol production back into the food chain, where market forces and common sense dictate it should go." CW: Miller is with the conservative Hoover Institution, but I think he's right.

Whistleblowers Can Be Obnoxious. Eric Lichtblau & Scott Shane of the New York Times on Robert Smith, the radiologist & lawyer at the center of an F.D.A. spying scandal.

Do not lie to Harry Reid.

Presidential Race

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama hinted Monday evening that his re-election campaign will transition to a more positive and forward-looking message by the end of next month and into the fall. Obama told a group of high-dollar donors at a New York City fundraiser that he intends to spend 'a lot of time talking about the specific agenda that I intend to pursue in the second term.'"

Julián Aguilar & Zoë Gioja of the Texas Tribune: "San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who was jokingly mistaken for a White House intern by Barack Obama less than three years ago, will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that will nominate the president for a second term."

... Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: at this year's Democratic National Convention, "Elizabeth Warren ... will speak immediately before Bill Clinton speaks on what party officials hope will be an energetic penultimate night. Warren and Clinton will speak in prime time on Wednesday, Sept. 5...."

Jim Acosta of CNN: "The traveling press secretary for Mitt Romney lost his cool and cursed at reporters who attempted to ask questions of the Republican presidential candidate in a public plaza near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw Tuesday."

Steve Holland of Reuters: "Solidarity, the trade union movement which led the Polish struggle against communist rule, distanced itself on Monday from a visit to Poland by U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying he supported attacks on unions in his own country." But former Polish President Lech Walesa, who has broken with Solidarity (so not so solid), practically endorsed Romney. Current "Polish leaders enjoy fairly strong ties with the Obama White House."

NPR's Cokie Roberts says Romney was going to Poland to get out the white vote back home. AND the wingers wig out.

What a difference a candidate makes:

Pushback. Dana Davidsen of CNN: "Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said the Obama White House has been the most supportive administration throughout the two countries' diplomatic relations on matters of Israeli security, in an interview to air Monday on 'The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.' Barak -- also a former prime minister of Israel -- said that though historically administrations from both political parties have supported the Jewish state President Obama's support, security-wise, is unparalleled." Watch Blitzer -- he's so astounded you expect him to spit the GOP Kool-Aid he's been drinking:

Mitt Gives the Thumbs-up to Socialized Medicine. It's totally cost-effective! Charles Dharapak Zeke Miller of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney offered praise for the Israeli health care system today -- a medical plan that has been socialized since its founding in 1948. Romney ... marveled at how little Israel spends on health care relative to the United States." CW: Yes, it is marvelous, Mitt. Now, tell us why that is. ...

... Digby adds, "Don't tell Mitt but it's funded with a progressive health care tax." Thanks to contributor Janice K. for the link. ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post has more: "Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system.... Israel's lower health care spending does not look to sacrifice the quality of care. It has made more improvements than the United States on numerous quality metrics, and the country continues to have a higher life expectancy." With charts! ...

... Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "While heavy government price control is the 'secret' to Israel’s lower health care costs, the simple fact is that it is the same secret used by every other first world country to keep costs down."

... Here's the Bottom Line. Romney Doesn't Know What He's Talking about. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "So was Romney simply clueless about the details of Israeli health care? Was he too busy trying to ingratiate himself with his hosts to pay attention? Or does he secretly think government-run health care has its virtues? I don't know -- and I'm not sure Romney does either."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on Romney's "analysis" of Israeli v. Palestinian culture: "... as Romney often likes to remind us, government restrictions on commerce can be bad for the economy, and there are probably few places on earth where commerce is more restricted than in the Palestinian territories.... Meanwhile, Romney vastly underestimated the economic gulf between the two economies. He guessed the gross domestic product per capita difference between Israel and the Palestinian territories to be about two-to-one, along the lines of the U.S. to Mexico. But in fact it's more like 20-to-one. Israel's GDP per capita is about $31,000 compared to just $1,5000 [sic.; that's $1,500] for West Bank and Gaza, according to the World Bank." ...

... CW: as a couple of commenters to Seitz-wald's post pointed out, Romney's crediting the Jewish "culture" for creating a higher GDP than Palestine's is just his way of stereotyping Jews as good businesspeople. ...

... Ashley Parker & Richard Oppel of the New York Times report on the controversy. "Throughout the day, Mr. Romney's aides were grim-faced and exasperated as they tried to contain the aftermath of what Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist, called 'a completely manufactured story.'" ...

... Scott Wilson's report for the Washington Post has the same gist: "Romney has tried to follow an unwritten rule of American campaigning: Don’t criticize the president while on foreign soil. But he has struggled with another unwritten rule -- one that applies to travel more generally: It is also a bad idea to criticize foreigners while on foreign soil." ...

... Dan Amira of New York: "Mitt Romney is now two-for-two in insulting large swaths of people during his international tour. After he enraged the British..., Romney moved on to Israel, where he appeared to blame Palestinian poverty in part on 'providence' and the territory's inferior culture.... Ignoring Israel's role [in impoverishing Palestine] is a major omission if one is actually trying to explain the differences in GDP-per-capita between Israel and Palestine. Of course, an accurate and thorough analysis was not Mitt's goal." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "John McCain refuses to believe that Mitt Romney said what he said." McCain actually defended Romney's remarks about Palestine, because, as he said, 'I am sure that Gov. Romney was not talking about difference in cultures, or difference in anybody superior or inferior.' It's "worth keeping in mind when you consider the fact that McCain not only vouched for Romney today, but he's also vouched for Romney's tax returns as well."

Secret Mitt's Secret Audits Shall Remain Secret. CNN: "Mitt Romney's campaign said Monday they would not release any more of the candidate's personal income tax information, despite an acknowledgement from Romney that he had been audited in the past." CW: actually, he said "from time to time."

Jonathan Chait of New York: actually, no, Romney isn't a wimp. ...

... Alex Pareene of Salon: he's a bully. And he doesn't care what John McCain thinks. And Barack Obama doesn't care what John McCain thinks. But if you care, the answer is "bomb everywhere forever." ...

... In Stupid v. Evil, Stupid Gets the Last Word. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: after Dick Cheney said McCain's choice of Sarah Palin was a mistake, McCain reminds Fox "News" viewers that Cheney was America's Torturer-in-Chief.

Different Cast, Same Story. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "The star of the most recent Mitt Romney campaign ad criticizing President Barack Obama for arguing that government can play a constructive role in helping business has major business dealings with government entities."

Local News

New York Times Editors: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (RTP) & a Tea Party-associated group are trying to oust the only three state Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats. "If the three justices lose their retention battle..., it would ... send a message of intimidation undermining judicial independence and impartiality...."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Republican congressional investigators have concluded that five senior ATF officials -- from the special agent-in-charge of the Phoenix field office to the top man in the bureau's Washington headquarters -- are collectively responsible for the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation that was /marred by missteps, poor judgments and inherently reckless strategy.'"

AP: "The two Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate nomination in Texas spent the final hours of their white-hot runoff race rallying their bases Monday, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst making a hard appeal to veterans and tea party-backed Ted Cruz taking his anti-establishment message to radio and television stations." ...

     ... Houston Chronicle Update: "Texas' drift toward the Tea Party brand of GOP conservatism continued Tuesday when lawyer Ted Cruz scored a surprisingly easy win over David Dewhurst in the Republican primary runoff for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison."

Washington Post: "Syria’s top diplomat to Britain defected Monday, according to the British Foreign Office..., as tens of thousands fled heavy fighting in Aleppo, the most populous city in the country and its commercial capital."

AP: "India's energy crisis cascaded over half the country Tuesday when three of its regional grids collapsed, leaving more than 600 million people without government-supplied electricity in one of the world's biggest-ever blackouts."

Washington Post: "Japan raised concern Tuesday about China's growing assertiveness in regional waters at a time when it's becoming less clear who in Beijing is making decisions about the military."

New York Times: "Tony Martin, the debonair baritone whose career spanned some 80 years in films and nightclubs and on radio and television, died on Friday at his home in West Los Angeles. He was 98."


The Commentariat -- July 30, 2012

New York Times Editors: "A new Republican spending proposal revives some of the more extreme attacks on women's health and freedom that were blocked by the Senate earlier in this Congress. The resurrection is part of an alarming national crusade that goes beyond abortion rights and strikes broadly at women's health in general.... Even [though Speaker Boehner has postponed consideration of the bill], the subcommittee's anti-woman work product is a statement of Republican policy.... There is a striking overlap between the subcommittee's regressive politics and the polices espoused by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. That makes it a window on what a Romney presidency could mean for women’s rights and lives."

Daniel Devise of the Washington Post: "A Senate committee that successfully pressed for tighter regulation of the for-profit higher-education sector published a report Sunday that said the business had put shareholders before students."

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "... half of the nation's adjustable-rate home mortgages are based on" the Libor index. "That's a lot of money resting on an interest rate that turns out to have been rigged." But A.R.M.s used to be tied to a federal index. Wall Street changed that, for Wall Street.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post: "A U.S. initiative to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects in Afghanistan ... is running so far behind schedule that it will not yield benefits until most U.S. combat forces have departed the country, according to a government inspection report to be released Monday. The report, by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, also concludes that the Afghan government will not have the money or skill to maintain many of the projects, creating an 'expectations gap' among the population that could harm overall stabilization efforts."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker profiles Paul Ryan. Or "What We're in for if the GOP Wins Big in November."

Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post: half the money spent on the 2012 election so far has been "dark money" -- donated to groups that don't reveal the names of their donors. CW: laughably, the conservatives on the Supremes said in their Citizens United decision that transparency would be a guarantee against corruption. Scalia said the same thing in his CNN appearance last week -- but that didn't stop him from ruling against Montana's election finance law without even hearing arguments.

Ron Brownstein, writing in the Atlantic, says "Obama would be foolish not to pursue gun control.... Among the voters who might actually vote for Obama (particularly minorities and college-educated white women), restrictions on gun ownership still attract solid majority support." ...

... AND Justice Scalia ruminates on the teevee about the limitations of the Second Amendment. "'Yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed,' he said. 'What they are will depend on what the society understood was reasonable limitation' when the Constitution was written. He cited, for example, a misdemeanor at the time, of carrying a frightening looking weapon such as a 'head ax'." CW: can anybody see anything wrong with limiting Constitutional interpretation to what it meant to wealthy white men 225 years ago? If you can, you're smarter than a Supreme Court justice.

** Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "... a team of genealogists is ... saying that Mr. Obama's mother had, in addition to her European ancestors, at least one African forebear and that the president is most likely descended from one of the first documented African slaves in the United States." CW: The page that has links to the pdfs on Obama's slave ancestor is here; however, when I tried the links, the files did not come up, perhaps because the pages are overloaded. I'll try later.

Presidential Race

Obama wants to take my money and give it to do-nothing animals. -- Republican Matron at a Dick Morris party ...

... This whole idea of American exceptionalism, that we're the greatest, when people don't have health insurance, don't have housing. There are all these people in this country who are just not participating in the American Dream at all.... Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy. At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won't be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a ­Hollande. A Chávez. -- Jeff Greene, crass billionaire Democrat who gets it ...

... Jessica Pressler of New York interviews Jeff Greene at his Hamptons estate.

When Even Politico Gets It. Emily Schultheis of Politico: "At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012.... Perhaps an even bigger complication than the laws themselves is that so much of the voter legislation around the country is in flux, and could still be by Election Day." ...

... AND don't forget about longstanding laws. "A Lifetime Sentence." Washington Post Editors: "... laws in 11 states ... disenfranchise felons.... "About 7.7 percent of the African American voting-age population is disenfranchised, compared with 1.8 percent of the non-African American population. In Virginia, Kentucky and Florida, felon disenfranchisement affects a staggering one in five African Americans. There's no excuse for that."

Beth Fouhy of the AP: "Former President Bill Clinton will have a marquee role in this summer's Democratic National Convention, where he will make a forceful case for President Barack Obama's re-election and his economic vision for the country."

Not Enough Kiss-Ass. Jason Zengerle of New York: "... now that Obamamania has subsided, the president and his fund-raisers are discovering that they're not exempt from the usual rules of what's politely called 'donor maintenance.' Some top-level 2008 backers complain about not being sought out for policy advice. Others carp that they haven't been invited to any state dinners." CW: Just one more argument for campaign finance reform.

They Know They Have to Lie to Win. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post on Romney's newest false ad: "In any case, the Romney campaign clearly ripped these words out of context, leaving them untethered from their original meaning -- in order to score political points in a highly misleading way. Obama was not talking about today's economy, but about different philosophies of taxation."

** Michael Tomasky in Newsweek's cover story on "what's really wrong with Romney. He's kind of lame, and he's really ... annoying. He keeps saying these ... things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately -- with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn't: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker writes a brief review of Romney's visit to Israel, in which he did not, as Andy Borowitz claims, attempt to deposit $10 million at the West Bank. ...

... Foot, Permanently Inserted in Mouth. Aside from declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel & having a top advisor (Dan Senor, a/k/a Mr. Campbell Brown) who told the media that Romney endorsed Israel's unilateral action again Iran (something Romney himself later walked back), there's this. Kasie Hunt & Karin Laub of the AP: "Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who suggested his comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East. His campaign later said his remarks were mischaracterized." CW: This guy cannot even pander without grossly insulting somebody. So far, during his three-country excursion, Romney has said the British people may not be up to snuff & the Palestinians definitely are not. On to Poland! If he doesn't explain why it takes 5 Poles to change a lightbulb, I'm going to be very disappointed. ...

     ... Update: the New York Times has just published a "Caucus" blogpost by Ashley Parker. Lede: "Mitt Romney found himself on the defensive yet again on his overseas trip, this time after offending Palestinian leaders with comments he made at a breakfast fund-raiser here on Monday."

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "In an interview with ABC News' David Muir, Romney was unable to say whether he'd ever paid less than his 2010 rate of 13.9 percent, which is a lower rate than many middle-class Americans pay. However, he assured voters that he hasn't been overpaying his taxes...." The transcript of the interview is here. The bit about the taxes is on page 2, the linked page. Here's the video. The discussion of taxes begins at 2:20 min. in:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sought Sunday to portray the United States and Israel as unified in their support for increasingly tough international sanctions, rather than military measures, against Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon.... Panetta is to arrive in Israel on Tuesday, just days after a visit by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign has tried to suggest that the Obama administration is not sufficiently supportive of Israel."

Raflaca, Doing Her Bit for the 1 Percent. Mary Mycio, in Slate: "The association between horses and wealth was forged millennia ago. In fact, the first people known to celebrate hierarchies of power, whose inequalities of wealth were integral to their society and culture -- the people you could call the first 1 percent -- were the first people to ride horses."

News Ledes

Washington Blade: "The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process. Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank...."

Reuters: "The former graduate student accused of killing 12 people in a shooting spree at a Denver-area movie house was due to make a second court appearance on Monday as prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over a mysterious package sent to his psychiatrist.... Criminal charges against [James] Holmes, who has remained jailed since his arrest, were expected to be formally presented at Monday's hearing." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Colorado prosecutors formally charged James Eagan Holmes on Monday with 142 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosives charges in the shooting rampage at a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater this month."

AP: "Northern India's power grid crashed Monday, halting hundreds of trains, forcing hospitals and airports to use backup generators and leaving 370 million people -- more than the population of the United States and Canada combined -- sweltering in the summer heat."


The Commentariat -- July 29, 2012

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

** Prof. Drew Westen: "If Obama loses the election, here's why." CW: an excellent essay that lays out in one place the foolish mistakes Obama has made during his presidency. And, no, this isn't a case of hindsight being 20-20. Many of us here railed against these very mistakes as Obama was making them. There have been few disappointments in my life greater than watching a man with such potential turn himself into an ordinary pol. We can hope he's learned his lessons, but we have little in the way of assurances.

** Prof. Joe Stiglitz in the Los Angeles Times: "Any solution to today's problems requires addressing the economy's underlying weakness: a deficiency in aggregate demand. Firms won't invest if there is no demand for their products. And one of the key reasons for lack of demand is America's level of inequality -- the highest in the advanced countries." Read the whole essay: it's a straightforward prescription for repairing the economy, writ in very few, but easily understandable, words.

Prof. Richard Muller in a New York Times op-ed: "Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

Andrew Rosenthal really hates it when the White House misleads him, even on a trivial matter. In "The Great Bust Incident: Part II," he writes, "The complaints about Mr. Obama’s decision regarding the bust are without merit. The White House’s handling of the issue was bumbling and amateurish. In other words, business as usual." CW: I'm actually glad to see Rosenthal cares about trivialities.

Presidential Race

Rattling Somebody Else's Saber -- the Bellicose Candidate Abroad. Kasie Hunt of the AP: "Mitt Romney would respect an Israeli decision to make a unilateral military strike against Iran aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear capability, a top foreign policy adviser said Sunday as he outlined the aggressive posture the Republican presidential candidate will take toward Iran in a speech in Israel later in the day." ...

     ... Update: Here's the New York Times report on Romney's speech. Here's a more detailed report from Al Jazeera, along with a 9-minute video of Romney's speech.

... He Can't Handle a Photo-Op. Mitt 'looks forward to chatting" with Bibi about military options against Iran. Who "chats" about military strikes? Oh, somebody who doesn't give a damn about the little people who will inevitably die in any military operation:

Maureen Dowd writes a spot-on takedown of Mitt's Misadventures in Merry Olde England.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "... in a new USA Today-Gallup survey..., respondents gave Romney higher marks on every issue that voters say they care most about this year: the economy, jobs, taxes, the deficit. But President Obama crushed Romney -- 60 percent to 30 percent -- on the question of which of the two was more likeable.... In every election for the past two decades, the candidate viewed as more likable was also the one who won." ...

     ... CW: this is the counter-factual to racism; in the poll results Tumulty linked, dated July 9, the results were 64-26 in favor of Obama over Romney. When 64 percent of respondents say they find Obama more likable than Romney, I think you have to assume that at least 64 percent -- or almost 2/3rds -- of Americans do not hold overtly racist attitudes toward blacks (of course that's not 64 percent of white Americans). In view of what we've witnessed during the GOP primaries, I find that encouraging.

CW: since I don't look at the Huff Post unless someone else directs me there, I missed this piece by Jason Cherkis, which discusses Romney's days as a registered lobbyist for the Salt Lake Olympics Committee. Cherkis recalls some of the highlights of Romney's deals -- reported contemporaneously -- which transferred your tax dollars to SLC wheelers & dealers.

Still, the Salt Lake Olympics were All about Mitt. Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "Romney commissioned five separate official pins bearing his name and likeness, including one that had animals declaring 'Hey Mitt, we love you.' ... 'There have been plenty of big-headed CEOs for Olympic Games, but none has ever had his or her likeness on a pin,' says Ed Hula, a veteran Olympics pin collector told NPR.... Ken Bullock, who served with Romney on the board of the Olympic committee, later told NPR. 'He’s an opportunist. And he took advantage of [the games].'"

Pundits are getting around to what some wise Reality Chex contributors have been saying. Joan Walsh of Salon: could Romney's gaffosis "be more than entitlement and an odd personal style? I've found myself wondering over the course of the campaign whether Romney has some kind of personality disorder, so dissociated does he occasionally seem from the well-worn routines of normal human interaction. Maybe we should be asking to see his medical records and not just his tax returns. I don't mean to be flippant about that or insensitive to any kind of problem he may struggle with. But his struggles are our struggles; he's running to be our president. There is something very odd about Mitt Romney." ...

     ... CW: so maybe withholding the tax records is part of a scheme to distract the media from pressing for the medical records. ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Mitt's insults, mistakes, and blunders abroad aren't gaffes. They actually represent his true worldview. Romney is not the sort of businessman -- his brand of capitalism is not the sort of enterprise -- that requires even the most elementary understanding of diplomacy, courtesy, or sensitivity to other people's values, lives, or perceptions."

Mittness Protection Program. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "... Mitt Romney, who touched down [in Jerusalem] Saturday night..., plans to wrap up his visit to Israel by collecting money from some of his biggest benefactors behind closed doors. Some of Romney's Jewish donors are flying here from the United States..., including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.... The campaign's decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April...." ...

     ... Update: Mitt, Unchained! Jonathan Martin of Politico: "Mitt Romney's campaign has reversed a decision to not allow the media into a fundraiser here Monday morning, bowing to reporters' demand that they be allowed to record the Republican's address to some of his top donors."

Henry Alford of Vanity Fair imitates Mitt & takes an action-packed working vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee, all of which he recounts in a New York Times travel piece. Enjoyable.

Note to Vendors: Demand Cash for Services. David Levinthal & Robin Bravender of Politico: presidential also-rans stiff small businesses that provided services to their campaigns. Oh, whatever happened to financial responsibility?

Right Wing World

This piece by Farhad Manjoo of Slate debunks a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by former WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz -- who claimed Xerox invented the internet and that 'It's an urban legend that the government launched the Internet," -- shows you how far from reality the right will wander -- with a straight face -- to deny the government's role in boosting the economy. ...

     ... CW: how are we to prosper, I wonder, when a significant percentage of our society is growing up in an environment that fosters fantastic, ideological explanations of scientific phenomena & historical events? I await the return of the alchemists. Maybe Dr. Ron Paul, now that he's retiring, will lead them.

The Ultimate Anti-War Ad: Compare the President to a Psychotic Killer. Katy Moeller of the Idaho Statesman: "An electronic board ... in Caldwell, [Idaho,] juxtaposes photos of James Holmes, accused of killing 12 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last week, with President Obama. About Holmes, it says: 'Kills 12 in a movie theater with assault rifle, everyone freaks out.' About Obama: 'Kills thousands with foreign policy, wins Nobel Peace Prize.' What's the point? Obama broke his promise to bring the troops home and many young Americans have died, said Maurice Clements, who is helping keep alive the provocative libertarian tradition of the late Ralph Smeed, whose billboard (now electronic) is a Caldwell landmark."

Local News

Tampa Bay Times columnist Daniel Ruth has a few thoughts on the Florida Republican party, which as far as I can tell is nothing but a Mafia-like gang of sleazy bastards on the take.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that Sarah Palin was not ready to be his successor and that picking her was 'a mistake' that Mitt Romney should seek to avoid in making his choice." With video.

Al Jazeera: "Fierce fighting has erupted in rebel-held districts of Aleppo, a day after opposition forces repulsed an offensive by government troops in Syria's second-largest city, a human rights group said." ...

... Reuters: "Exasperated by the slow progress [of rebellion] in Aleppo, rebels in the countryside said they were finally emboldened to push into the city after an assassination in the capital Damascus of four top government officials, including the defense minister."

Reuters: "A senior Israeli official denied on Sunday a newspaper report that President Barack Obama's national security adviser had briefed Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear program. The Israeli liberal Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying the adviser, Thomas Donilon, had described the plan over dinner with Netanyahu earlier this month. 'Nothing in the article is correct. Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one-on-one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran,' the senior official ... told Reuters."

AFP: "Philippine authorities have arrested a founding member of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group blamed for some of the worst terror attacks in the region, security officials said on Sunday. Ustadz Ahmadsali Asmad Badron, also known as Ammad or Hamad Ustadz Idris, was arrested on Saturday in the remote Tawi-Tawi islands in the southern Philippines."

AP: "Tens of thousands including teachers and parents pushing strollers took to Hong Kong streets Sunday to protest the upcoming introduction of Chinese patriotism classes they fear will lead to brainwashing, the latest sign of growing discomfort over Beijing's influence in the semiautonomous territory."