The President's Weekly Address:
Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House on Friday morning, provoking a sharp rebuke from the Chinese government, which warned that the meeting would severely damage relations between Washington and Beijing But this time, in contrast to previous meetings, the White House seemed unruffled by the diplomatic repercussions of the visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, which comes as the United States is taking a firmer line with China on a range of territorial disputes with its neighbors."
Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who drew fire last spring over the Justice Department's aggressive tactics for secretly obtaining reporters' phone logs and emails as part of leak investigations, on Friday signed new guidelines narrowing the circumstances in which law enforcement officials may obtain journalists' records.The rules, which will be published in the Federal Register next week, carry out a set of changes that Mr. Holder announced last July and described in a six-page report at the time."
Jad Mouawad & Ian Austen of the New York Times: "Responding to concerns about the safety of trains carrying oil around the country, federal regulators on Friday outlined steps to reduce the risk of rail shipments and bolster confidence in the fast-growing industry The Department of Transportation said the major railroads had agreed to eight voluntary measures one month after the secretary of transportation, Anthony R. Foxx, met with railroad executives in response to a series of derailments and explosions involving trains carrying crude oil."
Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama will correct a historical act of discrimination next month when he awards the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest commendation for combat valor, to a group of Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans who were passed over because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds. The unusual presentation will culminate a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress into past discrimination in the ranks and will hold a particular poignancy when conducted by the nation's first African-American president." ...
... "Here is the complete list of the latest Medal of Honor recipients, including 19 Hispanic, Jewish and African American veterans who were overlooked due to their racial or ethnic backgrounds. Biographical information in this [photo] gallery provided by the White House."
Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times: " The secretary of defense announced Friday that he would not reconsider the Medal of Honor nomination of a Marine from San Diego who was killed in Iraq. Secretary Chuck Hagel agreed with his two predecessors that the nomination of Sgt. Rafael Peralta does not meet the 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt' standard required for the nation's highest award for combat bravery. Peralta, an immigrant from Mexico who enlisted the day he received his green card, was killed in November 2004 while Marines were clearing houses in Fallouja of barricaded insurgents." ...
... Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "... new accounts from comrades who fought alongside Peralta that day suggest it may not be true. In interviews, two former Marines who were with Peralta in the house when he was shot said the story was concocted spontaneously in the minutes after he was mortally wounded -- likely because several of the men in the unit feared they might have been the ones who shot him."
Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press: "Citing public statements by Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and other Tennessee politicians, the UAW asked the National Labor Relations Board to set aside the results [of the unionization vote in VW's Chattanooga plant] and conduct a new election. Workers at the 3-year-old factory in Chattanooga voted 712-626 against UAW representation at the plant. 'Senator Corker's conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen Chattanooga,' the union said in a 58-page document filed Friday. 'It is a more than adequate basis for sustaining these objections.' However, Gary Kotz, a partner with the Detroit firm of Butzel Long that often represents companies, said this appeal faces an uphill battle" since the union is not alleging Volkswagen did anything wrong.
Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "The nation was nearly a year into the Great Recession before then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke accepted the magnitude of the country's economic distress. The financial system was rapidly unraveling in September 2008. Investment bank Lehman Brothers had collapsed, and the Fed was rescuing insurance giant AIG from the brink of insolvency with an $85 billion bailout. Wall Street was panicking, with stock markets falling more than 4 percent in a day. More than a million workers had lost their jobs. Even so, Bernanke thought the Fed had probably done enough, according to newly released transcripts. ...
... Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times: "As the world's financial system stood on the verge of collapse in October 2008, Janet L. Yellen was not even a full voting member of the Federal Reserve's policy-making committee, but she was not shy about admonishing her colleagues for not acting faster.... After months in which some members of the Fed committee resisted taking steps to prop up the economy, Ms. Yellen lectured her colleagues: 'Frankly, it is time for all hands on deck when it comes to our policy tools.' New transcripts of the Fed's meeting in 2008, based on recordings made at the time, provide one of the most revealing views to date of Ms. Yellen, who was sworn in earlier this month as chairwoman of the central bank."
AP: "A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against the University of Notre Dame in a case over parts of the federal health care law that forces it to provide health insurance for students and employees that covers contraceptives. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a federal judge's earlier ruling that denied the Roman Catholic school's request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent it from having to comply with the birth control requirement as the university's lawsuit moves forward."
Matthew Perrone of the AP: "The Food and Drug Administration is seeking to revamp its system for regulating hundreds of over-the-counter drugs, saying the decades-old process is not flexible enough to keep pace with modern medical developments."
Tim Egan writes a superb column on the California drought & GOP climate-change deniers. CW: I'm beginning to think those deniers are more insane than stupid, ignorant or just plain mendacious.
Dana Milbank: Arthur Brooks, the head of the right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute, invites the Dalai Lama to a confab & says he's all for "brotherhood & compassion."
Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Seeing an opportunity to distinguish himself from potential 2016 rivals and/or behave like a decent human being, on Thursday evening Senator Rand Paul tweeted that Ted Nugent should apologize for the 'offensive' remarks he made about President Obama. Declaring that you're not cool with people calling the president a 'subhuman mongrel' and 'chimpanzee' shouldn't really count as a bold move, but other Republicans couldn't bring themselves to offer such a strong defense of President Obama." ...
... AND Nugent Himself Is Way Sorry. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "After a little more than 24 hours of controversy, Ted Nugent has apologized to President Obama for his comment that the president is a 'subhuman mongrel.' ... In his apology, Nugent appeared to regret more the fact that his language has been tied to Republican politicians from his state, such as [Texas Attorney General Greg] Abbott, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz.... 'I do apologize ... not necessarily to the President -- but on behalf of much better men than myself,' he said in an interview with conservative radio host Ben Ferguson, who's also a CNN political commentator.... Later on in the interview -- after some people on Twitter argued Nugent's comments weren't a real apology -- Ferguson asked Nugent if he was directly apologizing to the President for the comments. 'Yes,' the subhuman asshole Nugent replied."
Charles Pierce checks out some recent thought bubbles of Pretend-Dems Joe Manchin & Heidi Heitkamp.
Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "As of this Saturday, February 22nd, eight years will have passed since Clarence Thomas last asked a question during a Supreme Court oral argument. His behavior on the bench has gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents."
Frank Rich on the oppressive government of Russia & the oppressive governments of U.S. states that are attempting to pass "religious rights" laws to discriminate against gays.
Beyond the Beltway
Adam Serwer of NBC News: "The Arizona legislature sent a bill to the Gov. Jan Brewer's desk Thursday that would carve a massive hole into state law allowing business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers, employers to deny equal pay to women, or individuals to renege on contract obligations -- as long as they claim to be doing so in the name of religion. Brewer, a Republican who vetoed similar legislation last year, has not said whether she will sign the bill.... The Arizona bill is one of several bills across the country aimed at providing legal protection to those who wish to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As of Friday, however, it's the only one to actually pass, with similar bills in Idaho, Tennessee, and South Dakota being defeated and a bill in Kansas being held up in the state Senate." ...
... Arizona Republic Editors: "We urge the governor to veto this bill as part of her continuing message that Arizona is open for business."
James Kelleher of Reuters: "Same-sex couples in Illinois' Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, can wed immediately and do not have to wait to tie the knot until a new state law legalizing gay marriage takes effect in June, a federal judge ruled on Friday."
Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "Detroit officials Friday laid out a plan for exiting the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history that calls for slashing pensions for non-uniformed retirees by nearly one-third and repaying bondholders just $1 of every $5 owed to them by the city. The proposed plan of adjustment, filed in federal bankruptcy court in Detroit, puts dollar figures on the potential cuts facing parties owed money by Detroit for the first time since the city filed its $18 billion bankruptcy case in July. The plan would also cut pensions for police and firefighters, many of whom do not receive Social Security benefits, by 10 percent. City union leaders and retirees reacted to the plan with alarm...." ...
... Detroit Free Press Editors: "... the ultimate responsibility for making Detroit pensioners whole still rests with [Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder [R]. Snyder has committed to pushing for $350 million from state coffers. But based on Friday's legal filings, it's not enough."
Gail Collins: "Election season in Texas! They're voting right now in the primaries. And I know you are interested because whatever happens in Texas has a way of coming back and biting the rest of the nation.... And on the positive front, experts in Texas say there's absolutely no chance that the guy who legally changed his name to SECEDE is going to win a nomination for governor.
Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times: "State Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted in a sweeping corruption case, accused of taking about $100,000 in bribes. Federal authorities allege that Calderon (D-Montebello) took the bribes from a Long Beach hospital official as well as people connected to what he believed was a Hollywood studio. In fact, the studio was an FBI front and the business associates were FBI agents. Authorities claim Calderon received cash bribes, trips and dinners in exchange for 'official acts.' Calderon, 56, faces 24 counts of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.... Calderon's brother, Thomas, faces changes for fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns. Thomas Calderon is a former assemblyman who most recently served as a consultant for the Central Basin Water District."
Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest Kansas poll finds that Sam Brownback has continued to become even more unpopular in the last year, and that he slightly trails his Democratic opponent [Paul Davis] for reelection. Only 33% of voters in the state approve of the job Brownback is doing, compared to 51% who disapprove."
Presidential Election 2016
Whatever Happened to President Rubio? Jonathan Chait answers: "Everything Rubio touches has turned to shit."
** New York Times: " An opposition unit took control of the presidential palace outside Kiev on Saturday, as leaders in Parliament said Ukraine's president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, had fled the capital a day after a deal was reached aimed at ending the country's spiral of violence. Members of an opposition group from Lviv called the 31st Hundred -- carrying clubs and some of them wearing masks -- were in control of the entryways to the palace Saturday morning. And Vitali Klitschko, one of three opposition leaders who signed the deal to end the violence, said that Mr. Yanukovych had 'left the capital' but his whereabouts were unknown, with members of the opposition speculating that he had gone to Kharkiv, in the northeast part of Ukraine." ...
... Update: "Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph.... It was far from clear that the day's lightning-quick events would be the last act in a struggle that has not just convulsed Ukraine but expanded into an East-West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War." ...
... Los Angeles Times Update: "Ukraine's ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, a bitter foe of the embattled president, was freed from jail Saturday by parliament and rushed to the capital where she addressed more than 30,000 supporters in Independence Square chanting: 'Yulia, Yulia, Yulia!' The charismatic Tymoshenko heaped praise on anti-government protesters who have witnessed Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich leave the capital city in the past day after the parliament voted to remove him for office and call a new presidential election in April. She urged protesters to remain in the square until a new president is elected." ...
... New York Times: Opposition forces storm the presidential palace gates and find inside -- "about a half-dozen large residences of various styles, a private zoo with rare breeds of goats, a coop for pheasants from Asia, a golf course, a garage filled with classic cars and a private restaurant in the form of a pirate ship, with the name 'Galleon' on the stern.... There was no sacking.... Members of the Lviv-based 'hundred,' who had repeatedly confronted Mr. Yanukovych's security forces on the streets, posted guards around his residential compound and prevented looting even as swarms of gawking Kiev residents strolled through its grounds."
Washington Post: "Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán, the man who supplied more illegal drugs to the United States than anyone else on Earth, was captured by Mexican Navy commandos without a shot early Saturday morning in the Pacific coast resort town of Mazatlan, according to U.S. and Mexican authorities." ...
... The Los Angeles Times provides the backstory.
New York Times: "A top United States military commander said Saturday that the U.S. Army is working on starting a formal dialogue and exchange program with the Chinese People's Liberation Army before the end of the year. The commander, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, told reporters at a news conference in Beijing that the program was aimed at expanding cooperation and 'managing differences constructively.'"