The Ledes

Sunday, April 26, 2015.

New York Times: "A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, killing more than 1,900 people, flattening sections of the city’s historic center, and trapping dozens of sightseers in a 200-foot watchtower that came crashing down into a pile of bricks."

New York Times: "A largely peaceful protest over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody, gave way to scattered scenes of chaos [in Baltimore] on Saturday night, as demonstrators smashed a downtown storefront window, threw rocks and bottles and damaged police cruisers, while officers in riot gear broke up skirmishes and made 12 arrests near Camden Yards. Shortly before 10 p.m., Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake convened a news conference at City Hall, where she appeared with several others — including Mr. Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka; a prominent pastor, Jamal Bryant; and City Councilman Brandon Scott — to appeal for calm. By that time the disturbances had largely settled.

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President lays out why new, high-standards trade agreements are important for our economy, our businesses, our workers, and our values":

The Ledes

Saturday, April 25, 2015.

New York Times: "Pledging to shut down the city, thousands of demonstrators jammed the streets of Baltimore on Saturday to protest the death of a black man who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody." ...

... Baltimore Sun: "A day of peaceful rallies into the death of Freddie Gray turned violent as dark fell over Baltimore with protesters smashing the windows on police cars, blocking traffic near the Inner Harbor and shouting, 'Killers!' at officers dressed in riot gear." ...

     ... The Sun also is loveblogging the demonstrations.

New York Times: "An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu. People in the capital described scenes of panic and collapsed buildings, and the United States Geological Survey predicted severe damage to villages near the quake’s epicenter, about 50 miles from Katmandu." ...

     ... New Lede: "A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, killing more than 1,300 people, flattening sections of the city’s historic center and trapping dozens of sightseers in a 200-foot watchtower that came crashing down into a pile of bricks." ...

... At 9 pm ET, the Washington Post has the death toll at 1,500. By midnight, the Post was reporting 1,800 dead. ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments. ...

... NEW. Washington Post: "An Indian army mountaineering team found 18 bodies on Mount Everest on Saturday, an army spokesman said, after a massive earthquake in Nepal unleashed an avalanche on the world’s tallest mountain at the start of the main climbing season." ...

Katmandu's historic Dharahara Tower, before & after the quake.... NEW. Washington Post: "The devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that violently shook Nepal on Saturday left more than human casualties in its wake. The country also saw a number of its iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites and most popular tourist attractions -- some dating more than 1,700 years -- reduced to piles of rubble."

AP: "The University of Florida suspended one of its fraternities on Friday after allegations that its members hurled drunken insults and spat at a group of disabled military veterans at a Panama City Beach resort."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
April 24

Sorry. This is yesterday's livefeed. Since the White House doesn't date their schedule (despite my repeated requests) I just can't tell. I probably won't have time to republish today's schedule, should the White House ever get around to publishing it.

10:00 am ET: President Obama makes a statement

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

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus (audio only)

2:15 pm ET: President Obama honors the Super Bowl champs

4:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Organizing for Action summit

7:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at an Israel Independence Day ceremony (audio only)

Go to


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:

Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75MM Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a 'flying saucer' was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars."

Guardian: "Comedy Central is standing by its new Daily Show host Trevor Noah, after the 31-year-old South African comedian set to replace Jon Stewart was criticized for a series of controversial jokes he tweeted before his appointment." ...

... Jessica Winter of Salon: "Not since John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate have the vetting capacities of a powerful political force been cast into such doubt." Besides being a misogynist pig & an anti-Semite, Noah isn't even funny."

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

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Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

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-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.


Inauguration -- Part 2

David Jackson of USA Today: "The president and first lady Michelle Obama attended a staff inaugural ball Tuesday, though there are no press pictures of it. The White House permitted only a print pooler -- no photographers, no television cameras -- into the post-inaugural party that featured one of music's great odd couples: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett."

BUT I did find a photo, courtesy of Obama Foodorama. Please note that the First Lady has decided to continue with the nightdress theme I remarked upon below. For the final presidential ball dedicated to her husband, Mrs. Obama has chosen to wear pajama pants. Good night!

The Party's Never Over. The Obamas & Bidens will attend a staff inaugural ball at 9:00 pm Tuesday.

President & Mrs. Obama greet visitors to the White House January 22. Video.

The Obamas & Bidens will attend a prayer service at the National Cathedral at 10:45 Tuesday morning. AP: "President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their families plan to attend a prayer service Tuesday morning at the Washington National Cathedral."

The New York Times' liveblog is here. Washington Post live updates are here. The New York Times' inaugural page is here.

Okay, here's "The Dress." There's no accounting for taste, but I like this one only slightly less than I liked the First Lady's first inaugural gown. I don't blame Mrs. Obama for choosing to wear comfortable dresses (i.e., dresses that look & feel like high-priced nighties) at the end of a long day. But still. BTW, same designer for both nighties -- Jason Wu.

Eric Wilson of the New York Times on Mrs. Obama's inaugural wardrobe. Includes three slide shows.

President & Mrs. Obama walk a portion of the parade route:

President Obama speaks at the inaugural luncheon:

House Speaker John Boehner presents flags that flew over the Capitol today to President Obama & Vice President Biden:

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks at the inaugural luncheon: "If you don't like the food, you can't blame it on one party or the other":

Commenter Diane mentioned the luncheon menu. Here it is. ...

... Also commenter Akhilleus figured that -- contrary to a rumor spread by Andy Borowitz that Fox "News" would be down for routine maintenance today -- Fox "News" would cover the inaugural events to disparage them. Sure enough, they even found fault with the menu (which is all-Americans, BTW): "The menu is an exclusive surf and turf that includes lobster in clam chowder sauce, grilled bison and apple cake with homemade ice cream. The meal's three courses, if you eat the whole thing, clocks in at 3027 calories, minus the booze.... The decadence of the Inaugural Luncheon has raises a few eyebrows." That's right, it's "exclusive" & "decadent." Did I mention that Obama didn't choose the menu and isn't hosting the lunch? As Sen. Chuck Schumer pointed out in his opening remarks at the luncheon, a "bipartisan" committee of Members' spouses chose the menu. Strangely enough, the Fox "News" "report" doesn't mention that.

President Obama signs nominations for Cabinet posts:

Caity Weaver of Gawker: "On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the United States Marine Band stated that Beyoncé 'did not actually sing' live." Weaver runs down the 7 Stages of Star-Spangled Grief.

President Obama's Inaugural Address. "Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of [our founding] words with the realities of our time":

... The full text of the speech is here.

Here's video of the complete inaugural ceremony, courtesy of the White House:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Barack Hussein Obama renewed his oath of office at midday Monday, ceremonially marking the beginning of another four years in the White House and calling for 'fidelity to our founding principles' while also embracing 'new responses to new challenges.'” ...

... David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post reports on the speech.

** James Fallows here and here on the President's inaugural address. "This was the most sustainedly 'progressive' statement Barack Obama has made in his decade on the national stage." Read 'em both, please.

** Adios, Pollyanna. Noam Scheiber of The New Republic: "By choosing to start his second term with a case for liberalism, Obama announced that arguing for his worldview isn’t a separate task from governing. It’s central to governing. And that’s a development you can’t cheer loudly enough."

New York Times Editors: "With this speech, he has made a forceful argument for a progressive agenda that meets the nation’s needs. We hope he has the political will and tactical instincts to carry it out."

Greg Sargent: "Today Obama was effectively declaring victory in the great argument that has consumed us for the last four years. During the campaign Obama argued his vision of a judicious mix of individual and collective responsibility is more in keeping with our national identity than the GOP’s 'you’re on your own' ethic."

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "... by referring to a 'nation of takers' he took aim at ... a lasting redoubt of opposition: the corporate-funded think tanks and publicists who originated the phrase, and the politically suspect research behind it, in the first place."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Having shaken hands with Republican leaders on his way into the Capitol, the President didn’t once appeal to them, or even acknowledge them, during his speech. Instead, he turned Republican constitutional rhetoric on its head, repeatedly invoking the Declaration of Independence to justify tackling inequality and spending tax dollars on collectively provided government programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, interstate highways, and federal investments in research and development."

Richard Stevenson of the New York Times: "Gone were the vision of a new kind of high-minded politics, the constraint of a future re-election campaign and the weight of unrealistic expectations. In their place was an unapologetic argument that modern liberalism was perfectly consistent with the spirit of the founders and a notice that, with no immediate crisis facing the nation, Mr. Obama intended to use the full powers of his office for progressive values."

Charles Pierce: "We will wait and see, of course, what happens once the scaffolding and the bunting come down, bearing in mind always the scriptural caution about faith without works being dead. But, for an afternoon, anyway, a Democratic president reclaimed the language of freedom from those for whom it means merely lower taxes and more guns.... And he refuted, with precision and neatly camouflaged contempt, many of the most destructive ideas that have poisoned out politics for nearly four decades now. He did nothing less than redefine patriotism in a progressive way."

Digby: "If he wants to be in the liberal pantheon beyond the obvious (and very real) accomplishment of becoming the first African American president and some movement on gay rights, the second term will have to be different from the first. From the sound of today's address, it would seem that he wants it to be. And if that's true, progressives have some leverage."

Elections Matter. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. -- President Barack Obama, January 2013

Today, I call upon the Congress to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife. -- President George W. Bush, February 2004

Andy Borowitz: "Congressional Republicans heaped fulsome praise on President Obama’s second Inaugural Address today, saying that it had given them a detailed list of things to thwart over the next four years. 'My big fear was that the speech would be full of vague platitudes that wouldn’t be helpful to us in plotting against him,' said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). 'Once he started offering details of what he actually hoped to accomplish, though, I realized we had hit the mother lode.'”

The wingers hated -- the -- speech! So did Dana Milbank: "What followed was less an inaugural address for the ages than a leftover campaign speech combined with an early draft of the State of the Union address." This is all the evidence you need it was an effective, substantive speech. 

Chief Justice John Roberts swears in President Obama:

Jon Stewart on Obama's flubbing the oath -- again. Also, George Stephanopoulous is an idiot:

     ... "The Daily Show" was excellent last night, including the interview of Justice Sotomayor. Also, What Would MLK Do? Larry Wilmore is pitch-perfect on everybody's convenient embrace of Dr. Martin Luther King. Watch it here.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor swears in Vice President Biden:

I don't usually do prayers, but this one by Myrlie Evers-Williams is a good one:

 The Martyr Sir Nino Scalia. The Unhappiest Man at the Coronation:

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger.Prof. Kevin Walsh : "The hat is a custom-made replica of the hat depicted in Holbein’s famous portrait of St. Thomas More. It was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia. We presented it to him in November 2010 as a memento of his participation in our 27th annual Red Mass and dinner." (Indirectly, via Esther Zuckerman of the Atlantic.) CW: I feel pretty confident Scalia wore a replica of the martyr's hat specifically to symbolize his own martyrdom as Protector of the Original Constitution.


Kate Brumback of the AP: "Commemorative events for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. slid seamlessly into celebrations of the swearing-in Monday of the nation's first black president, with many Americans moved by the reminder of how far the country has come since the 1960s."

Joe Stiglitz
in the New York Times: "... after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven’t done anything about it.... Despite Mr. Obama’s stated commitment to helping all Americans, the recession and the lingering effects of the way it was handled have made matters much, much worse."


Inauguration Day 2013

The Capitol Building this morning. Getty image.C-SPAN will cover inaugural events, beginning at 7:00 am ET. If you must watch it on the Intertoobz, you can supersize the picture.

Here's the New York Times' guide to today's inaugural ceremony.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times has borrowed some of "fascinating facts" about inaugurals from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The comprehensive guide, prepared by the committee, is here (pdf). ...

... Carrie Dann of NBC News has a list of fairly funny &/or macabre stories of past inaugural "festivities." The slideshow of drawings & photos of earlier inaugurations, available on the page, is good, too; nothing funny, though.

I think this Senate site is the official inauguration site. It's not all that helpful. Here's the Washington Post's inauguration page. it's not all that helpful. This page on the inauguration includes the schedule of events.

The Washington Post is liveblogging the inauguration.

The Obamas & Bidens arriving at St. John's Church, across the street from the White House, this morning:

David Nakamura & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: President "Obama, who has confessed to feeling bruised by the partisanship in Washington, aims to use his remarks to underscore the importance of seeking common ground in Washington and encourage Americans to engage in the political process, White House senior adviser David Plouffe said." ...

... A lot of good that will do. There won't be many Republicans listening to any inspirational calls for consensus, Jackie Kucinich of USA Today reported.

Michelle & Barack Obama spoke at an inaugural reception last night:

Brett Zongker of the AP: "Latinos are taking a more prominent role in President Barack Obama's second inauguration, from the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice swearing in the vice president to a star-studded concert celebrating Latino culture. Eva Longoria, a co-chairwoman for Obama's campaign, hosted 'Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center' as a salute to the president Sunday evening ahead of his public swearing-in Monday."

Paul Krugman: "... if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they’ll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction."

The Oath -- a Re-enactment:

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The next legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is moving quickly to the high court, and bringing potent questions about religious freedom, gender equality and corporate 'personhood.' The issue is the health-care law's requirement that employers without a specific exemption must provide workers with insurance plans that cover a full range of birth-control measures and contraceptive drugs. Inclusion of the no-cost contraceptive coverage for female workers has always been a controversial part of the legislation. It has now sparked more than 40 lawsuits around the nation involving more than 110 individuals, colleges, hospitals, church-affiliated nonprofits and private companies."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Senate Democrats will draft a budget blueprint for the first time in four years and use it to fast-track an overhaul of the tax code that is intended to raise significant revenue over the next decade, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York said on Sunday."

Come on Down, Y'all. Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Last week, the day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York approved a broad package of gun-control measures that made New York's tough gun laws even tougher, the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, began running Internet advertisements in Manhattan and Albany asking New York gun owners to consider moving to Texas.... In a speech last year, [Abbott] described his job this way: 'I go to the office. I sue the federal government. And then I go home.' Mr. Abbott has been laying the groundwork and raising millions of dollars for a possible run for governor in 2014, regardless of whether Gov. Rick Perry, his ally and fellow Republican, decides to seek re-election."

Noam Cohen of the New York Times on how M.I.T. caught Aaron Swartz hacking the university's computer system.

Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "In recent weeks, public executions [in Iran] have been stepped up, and in several large cities the police have been rounding up what they call thugs and hooligans." The article describes the public hangings of two young men caught on camera robbing & knifing a man. The victim survived.

January 21 News Ledes

Reuters: "The global jobless queue will stretch to more than 200 million people this year, the International Labour Organization said in its annual report on Tuesday, repeating a warning it has made at the start of each of the last six years. The U.N. jobs watchdog estimates unemployment will rise by 5.1 million this year to more than 202 million, and by another 3 million in 2014, following a rise of 4.2 million in 2012."

AP: "Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files. The confidential records filed in a lawsuit against the archdiocese disclose how the church handled abuse allegations for decades and also reveal dissent from a top Mahony aide who criticized his superiors for covering up allegations of abuse rather than protecting children." ...

     ... Update: New York Times story here. Los Angeles Times story here. Documents, via the L. A. Times, are here.

Washington Post: "Germany's center-left opposition won a wafer-thin victory over Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition in a major state election Sunday, dealing a setback as she seeks a third term at the helm of Europe's biggest economy later this year."

AP: "The hostage-taking at a remote Algerian gas plant was carried out by 30 militants from across the northern swath of Africa and two from Canada, authorities said. The militants, who wore military uniforms and knew the layout, included explosives experts who rigged it with bombs and a leader whose final order was to kill all the captives. The operation also had help with inside knowledge -- a former driver at the plant, Algeria's prime minister said Monday." ...

... New York Times: "The known death toll from the bloody four-day hostage siege in Algeria rose on Monday after Algerian officials said that security forces combing the scene had discovered many more corpses, some badly burned, at a gas-production complex deep in the Sahara."

AP: "Nehemiah Griego, 15, was arrested following ... shootings at the residence in a rural area southwest of downtown Albuquerque, the sheriff's department said. He was charged with two counts of murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in death.... Investigators ... found several guns believed used in the shootings, including one assault rifle...." CW: please, NRA, keep telling us it's a good idea to keep a lot of weapons around the house for "protection."

Reuters: "Bangladesh's war crimes tribunal sentenced a popular Islamic televangelist to death on Monday, the first verdict by the controversial body set up to probe abuses during the country's bloody struggle for independence. Abul Kalam Azad, a former member of Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, was found guilty of torture, rape and genocide during the war for independence from Pakistan in 1971. Police believe he fled to Pakistan last April and he was tried in absentia."

BGR News: "Google (GOOG) chairman Eric Schmidt is back from his adventure in North Korea and he's penned a post on his Google+ page detailing the current state of the country's current technological capabilities and the way it allows citizens to have limited access to the Internet. In short, North Korea isn't anywhere close to matching the technological capabilities of its rival South Korea, and the country is incredibly restrictive of the information it allows its citizens to access."

Repression Aggression. AP: a harsh anti-gay "bill is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and [Russian Orthodox C]hurch see as corrupting Russian youth and by extension contributing to a wave of protest against President Vladimir Putin's rule."


The Commentariat -- Jan. 20, 2013

I think this Senate site is the official inauguration site. It's not all that helpful. Here's the Washington Post's inauguration page. it's not all that helpful. This page on the inauguration includes the schedule of events.

The Washington Post is liveblogging the inauguration.

Brian Knowlton of the New York Times: "President Obama was quietly sworn into office for a second term just before noon in a brief and intimate ceremony, ahead of Monday's far showier public inaugural celebrations. The ceremony satisfied the Constitutional requirement that the president's swearing-in take place by noon on the Jan. 20 after an election.... The chief justice administered the oath faithfully and Mr. Obama repeated it accurately....":

President Obama & Vice President Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery this morning. New York Times photo.Carrie Dann of NBC News: "Joe Biden was sworn in to a second term as the Vice President of the United States on Sunday morning, taking his oath from Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- the first Hispanic in American history to administer an oath of office. Biden personally selected Sotomayor, who is also the fourth woman to administer an oath, to conduct the brief ceremony at the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.":

Jodi Kantor of the New York Times on how Barack & Michelle Obama have changed over the past four years.

Jeff Black of NBC News: "For the first time since Ronald Reagan’s second term, a president will take the oath of office in a private ceremony at the White House.... Obama's swearing-in Sunday will be a brief private affair at noon in the Blue Room of the White House, an ornate oval room often used to receive official guests. Only Obama's immediate family and a few reporters will attend, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. The ceremony will be televised live, and streamed live on the Internet." ...

... Oh, God! The oath, as specified in the Constitution, reads, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." BUT Cathy Grossman of Religion News Service reports, "When President Obama rests his hand on two historic Bibles to take his second-term oath of office Monday (Jan. 21), he'll add a phrase not mentioned in the Constitution: 'So help me God.' ... The first proof [the phrase] was used in a presidential oath of office came with Chester Arthur's inauguration in September 1881. Every president since, including Obama, has followed suit."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: President Obama & Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts -- who will administer the President's oath of office today & tomorrow -- have been at loggerheads since 2005 when Obama not only voted against Roberts' confirmation, he made a Senate floor speech explaining why: "'He has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak,' Mr. Obama said, accusing the nominee of not having done enough to fight race discrimination and what he called the unfair treatment of women in the workplace."

The President & Vice President will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery at 9:00 am today.

Darlene Superville of the AP: "Monday's inaugural may be President Barack Obama's big day, but Martin Luther King Jr. will loom large over the festivities.... The president has said King is one of two people he admires 'more than anybody in American history.' President Abraham Lincoln is the other. In a nod to that admiration, Obama will take his ceremonial oath of office Monday using Bibles owned by both men. Lincoln's Bible, which Obama also used in 2009, will rest on top of King's, which is larger." ...

... Wil Haygood writes on the same theme for the Washington Post.

Jocelyn Noveck of the AP: "... a ballroom full of lucky kids got to rock out with Sasha and Malia Obama at Saturday's Kids' Inaugural Concert, a star-studded event that honors America's military families." Politico has a photo gallery.

Nick Anderson & Annie Gowan of the Washington Post: "President Obama stained a school bookshelf and Vice President Biden helped assemble care packages for troops, joining volunteers in Washington and elsewhere Saturday in a National Day of Service to start the inauguration weekend and commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr." ...

... The Obamas at a National Day of Service event:

The Washington Post has an interactive feature that has details about each president's inauguration ceremony(ies). It includes links to their full inaugural addresses.

Andy Borowitz: "Fox News Channel announced today that it would shut down for what it called 'routine maintenance' Monday morning at 11:30 E.T. Fox News president Roger Ailes explained the timing of the shutdown, which will be the first in the history of the network: 'We wanted to pick a time when we were positive nothing would be happening that our viewers would want to see.'"

Ross Douthat previews President Obama's inaugural address. Not hilarious, but a few high points.

Thom Hartmann
in TruthOut: "The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says 'State' instead of 'Country' (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that ... and we all should be too. In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the 'slave patrols,' and they were regulated by the states." CW: Scalia's claim that the Founders referred to the individual right to own arms is nonsense. Some originalist! And Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to you, Nino. Thanks to Barbarossa for the link. It is appropriate, isn't it, that there is likely tremendous overlap between assault weapons enthusiasts & white racists.

Byron Tau of Politico: "Former President Bill Clinton warned a group of top Democratic donors at a private Saturday meeting not to underestimate the passions that gun control stirs among many Americans. 'Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,' Clinton said."

Will Weissert of the AP: "Gun advocates -- some with rifles slung across shoulders or pistols holstered at the hip -- have rallied peacefully in state capitals nationwide against President Barack Obama's sweeping federal gun-control proposals. Summoned via social media for the 'Guns Across America' event, participants gathered Saturday for protests large and small against stricter limits sought on firearms. Only a few dozen turned out in South Dakota and a few hundred in Boise, Idaho. Some 2,000 turned out in New York and large crowds also rallied in Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington state."

Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker speaks with Jeff Toobin & Jill Lepore re: Roe v. Wade:

... Jill Lepore writes a (very) brief history of abortion rights. CW: One thing I didn't know -- Richard Nixon, on the advice of Pat Buchanan, was the guy who politicized abortion because he thought his taking a stand against abortion would put Ed Muskie -- a Roman Catholic -- between a rock & a hard place. Remind me never to say again that Barack Obama is to the right of Nixon. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

CW: House Republicans have said they would pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling for three months with a requirement that both houses passed a budget in that time. I'm not sure how that will work out. Here's why: for those of you who would like to spend your Sunday studying arcane Congressional parliamentary rules (and who wouldn't?!), reader Chris M. found an explanation in the Economist of why the "Democrat-controlled Senate" hasn't passed a budget in three years. The bottom line: "the Senate could pass a budget resolution, but without the cooperation of the house or 60 votes, that resolution would not take effect; it would be an empty gesture." So the only way the Senate to pass a budget that has any meaning is if Republicans in one house or the other cooperates.

Maureen Dowd: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is really focussed. So he gets stuff done. ...

... Frank Bruni is interested in Andrew Cuomo's marital status -- not married, living with a celebrity cook -- & Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's marital status -- married but separated. So he hopes their marital statuses won't hinder their ability to run for president. ...

... CW: it is apparently quite difficult to be a New York Times political columnists when you don't give a fig about politics. ...

... Nicholas Kristof writes about endocrine disruptors -- which are factors in weight gain. He at least knows what his job is: "Why should an op-ed columnist write about scholarship published in scientific journals? One answer is that obesity is an important national problem...."

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "Richard W. Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas..., laid out a compelling proposal for shrinking financial giants in order to protect taxpayers. He suggested that megabanks be chopped into pieces, so that no one of them could endanger the financial system if it ran into trouble."

** Douglas Dalby of the New York Times: "A well-known Irish Catholic priest plans to defy Vatican authorities on Sunday by breaking his silence about what he says is a campaign against him by the church over his advocacy of more open discussion on church teachings. The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality."

Lolita Baldor of the AP: "Sex ... [is] among the chief reasons that senior military officers are fired. At least 30 percent of military commanders fired over the past eight years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships...." CW: sex is among the chief reasons for everything.

Right Wing World

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "The right-wing group Gun Owners of America has for the past few years been pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that the health care reform law will be used to collect information on gun owners, information that will later be used as part of a gun-confiscation scheme. Speaking with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) echoed that theory, claiming that President Obama's new executive actions have 'language in there talking about doctors being required to report on patients and ask patients if they own guns or not.' He warned that President Obama's 'going to use Obamacare apparently to have doctors informing on their patients to whether or not they have guns' and will put the information into 'government databanks.'"

News Ledes

New York Times: "The outcome of a regional election in the state of Lower Saxony remained a neck-and-neck battle between Chancellor Angela Merkel's party and its main rivals that was too close to call Sunday night, according to projections made hours after the polls closed."

AP: "A teenage boy fatally shot two adults and three children at a home near Albuquerque, authorities said Sunday.... Investigators also were seeking to determine who owned several guns that were found at the home, one of which was a semi-automatic military-style rifle."

AP: "Algerian bomb squads scouring a gas plant where Islamist militants took dozens of foreign workers hostage found 'numerous' new bodies on Sunday as they searched for explosive traps left behind by the attackers, a security official said, a day after a bloody raid ended the four-day siege of the remote desert refinery. The official ... said the bodies were badly disfigured and difficult to identify." ...

... AP: "President Barack Obama said Saturday the U.S. stands ready to provide whatever assistance Algerian officials need in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attack at a natural gas complex in the Sahara." ...

... Reuters: "Three British nationals have been confirmed killed during a hostage crisis at a gas plant in Algeria, and a further three Britons along with a resident of Britain are believed to have died, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday."

AP: "Burned out vehicles and scattered bullets dotted the streets of a central Malian town after radical Islamists retreated following days of French airstrikes, according to video obtained Sunday. The Malian military announced late Saturday that the government was now controlling Diabaly, marking an important accomplishment for the French-led offensive to oust the extremists from northern and central Mali."

Reuters: "More than 10 suspected al Qaeda operatives were killed by an explosion in a house in south Yemen where they were making bombs and at least three others died in a drone strike, tribal and official sources said on Sunday."

Reuters: "The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board ruled out on Sunday excess voltage as the cause of a battery fire on the Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner jet operated by Japan Airlines Co (JAL) at Boston airport this month. Last week, governments across the world grounded the Dreamliner while Boeing halted deliveries after a problem with a lithium-ion battery on a second 787 plane, flown by All Nippon Airways Co (ANA), forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing in western Japan."

Reuters: "Venezuela's government is open to improving troubled ties with Washington and is considering a U.S. proposal for the return of anti-drug agents kicked out of the country eight years ago by President Hugo Chavez, a senior official, [Venezuela's ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) Roy Chaderton,] said."


The Commentariat -- Jan. 19, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer, linked yesterday, is on Paul Krugman's takedown of Tom Friedman.

To find out how you can participate, CLICK ON THE IMAGE.Today is a National Day of Service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Click on the image to get to a site that will help you find a place to serve locally. There's more information at

If you're looking for something patriotic & fun to do on Monday, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees to all national parks across the country on the official holiday commemorating Dr. King's birthday.

How to Nickel-&-Dime a Trillion-Dollar Deal. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government's statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction. The agreement, reached in closed-door negotiations at a party retreat in Williamsburg, Va., was a tactical retreat for House Republicans.... House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint." The Washington Post story, by Rosalind Helderman & Lori Montgomery, is here. ...

... Natalie Jennings of the Washington Post: "The White House is 'encouraged' by House Republicans' decision to hold a vote next week to raise the debt ceiling for three months and wants to see a 'clean debt limit increase,' Obama administration spokesman Jay Carney said Friday." ...

... The Markets Are Encouraged. Rita Nazareth & Sarah Pringle of Bloomberg News: "U.S. stocks rose, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a five year-high, as House Republicans plan to vote next week on a temporary increase in the debt-limit and investors watched corporate earnings." ...

... Darrell Issa, Not So Encouraged. Igor Bobic of TPM: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Friday poured cold water all over the GOP's newly announced plan to raise the debt ceiling. 'That's unconstitutional,' Issa told Roll Call's Jonathan Strong." ...

     ... Update. More Encouraged than He Was an Hour Earlier. Sahil Kapur of TPM: Constitutional scholar & "House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), after initially declaring the GOP's debt limit plan 'unconstitutional,' clarified to TPM late Friday that he 'strongly support[s]' the proposal, which would withhold lawmakers' pay if their chamber does not pass a budget." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the links to this hilarious story. ...

     ... Well, Constitutionality Is Optional. Jonathan Chait: "Also, the part about making Congress go without pay turns out to violate the Constitution ('No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened'). The Constitution used to be a really big theme to the House Republicans, who have been regularly accusing Obama of violating their oddball interpretations of it and even, as recently as last week, reading it aloud on the House floor to demonstrate that they are its sole vigilant guardians, but whatever. The 27th Amendment is obviously not a real part of the Constitution, like the 2nd Amendment or the three-fifths clause." ...

... What's the "Logic" Here? David Firestone of the New York Times: "If forcing the nation into financial chaos is a terrible political option now -- as Republicans have obviously come to recognize -- then it will remain so in 90 days. Following through on this threat will always be impossible, so postponing its use, instead of abandoning it, makes little strategic sense.... Until the Republicans formally reject the use of chaos as a governing technique, it will be hard for Democrats to negotiate seriously with them." ...

... Still Crazy. James Downie of the Washington Post: "... underneath the gestures toward less brinkmanship, Republicans remain committed to the same extreme policies. It would be silly, of course, to expect Republicans to cave to all Democratic demands, but to continue to refuse to raise revenue in any meaningful amount means that any talk of moderation remains just that." ...

... David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "... the momentum of negotiation is now ... with Democrats [who are] now demanding a clean debt ceiling hike with no funny business attached. This would force Boehner to come up with at least a Hastert Rule majority of Republicans for the three-month extension, which will be no easy task with the rabid Tea Party faction demanding immediate default absent spending cuts. After the Plan 'B' fiasco, it's not clear that Boehner could achieve that. The two major concerns at this point are 1) whether Boehner can maintain his leadership position while constantly undercutting the Tea Party crowd; and 2) what sort of concessions Democrats will be tempted to make in order to take the sequester off the table."

... Paul Krugman: "When you're wrong, you're wrong. I thought that by ruling out any way to bypass the debt limit, the White House was setting itself up, at least potentially, for an ignominious cave-in. But it appears that the strategy has worked, and it's the Republicans giving up. I'm happy to concede that the president and team called this one right." CW: I still love the coin. ...

... However, I must concede that Michael Cohen of the Guardian is right: "... while liberals, mostly, have been pushing for Obama to mint a platinum coin, or invoke his executive powers to raise the debt limit, these scenarios would be dreams come true for Republicans: they wouldn't have to vote on the debt limit, and they could launch a political attack on Obama for making a power grab and bypassing Congress." This worked:

Molly Hooper & Russell Berman of The Hill: "Coming off what many viewed as a defeat in the fiscal cliff deal, and with Obama adopting a hardline position on fiscal matters, Republicans have diminished hopes of what they can force Democrats to accept."

Joe Nocera exposes a number of public pension funds which invest in Cerberus, "the fund that bought Bushmaster Firearms, the company that made the assault weapon used by Adam Lanza to massacre 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn., last month. It bought Remington Arms, the maker of the pump-action shotgun that was among the guns James Holmes used to kill 12 people and wound 58 in Aurora, Colo. It bought a handful of other firearms companies, which it then merged into a new parent company, Freedom Group. At which point, Cerberus was the largest manufacturer of guns and ammunition in the country." When he called "these investors to ask their rationale for investing in a fund that financed a gun 'roll-up,' as the Cerberus strategy is called," they came up with a bunch of lame excuses." CW: I was not happy to see that one of the funds that has a chunk o'Cerberus is TIAA-CREF, my husband's major pension fund. ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed finds that the false claim in the extended NRA ad "of armed guards at Obama's school ... came from the Weekly Standard's blog. CW: Are we surprised that the NRA gets is "facts" from right-wing blogs?

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "The Journal News has taken down its controversial gun databases, which carried the names and addresses of gun-permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties. The move represents a reversal of its position that the databases provide a public service, as well as a capitulation to weeks and weeks of negative publicity, threats and pressure from gun owners, lawmakers and media types over the maps."

"Days Before Housing Bust, Fed Doubted Need to Act." Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "... the transcripts of the 2007 [Federal Reserve] meetings, released after a standard five-year delay, provide fresh insight into the decisions made at the outset of its great intervention [in the economy]. They show that [Fed Chair Ben] Bernanke and his colleagues continued to wrestle with misgivings about the need for action, because at the time there was little evidence of a broader economic downturn. Several officials worried that the economy would instead overheat, causing inflation to rise. By December, as the Fed began to act with consistent force, the economy was already in recession." ...

... Neil Irwin of the Washington Post: with a few exceptions, Tim Geithner among them, members of the Fed showed little or no foresight or "understanding the possibility that the entire financial system had become a house of straws built on mortgage securities that were anything but secure...." ...

... CW: the release of the transcripts are really good for Geithner's career prospects. It's almost as if he planned to leave government service just as the meeting minutes became public & showed him to be the sharpest tack in the box. (True, he reportedly wanted to quit his job earlier.) ...

... AND we see here why Wall Street considers Geithner to be "Our Man in Washington": Alister Bull of Reuters "In the summer of 2007, as storm clouds gathered over the world's financial system, then-New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner allegedly informed the Bank of America and other banks about the possibility the U.S. central bank would lower one of its critical interest rates, according to a senior Fed official, [Jeffrey Lacker, head of the Richmond, Virginia, Fed].... Private disclosure of confidential, market-sensitive information by the central bank would be highly unusual, but it was not immediately clear if it would be illegal."

Danielle Douglas of the Washington Post: "Starting next January..., brokers' and loan officers' compensation will no longer be based on the terms of the mortgages they originate, according to new guidelines released Friday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.... In the past eight days, the agency has handed down a series of guidelines that include requiring mortgage servicers to provide struggling homeowners with options to avoid foreclosure and curtailing harmful practices such as interest-only payments.."

Buh-bye.Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "After years of complaints by passengers and members of Congress, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday that it would begin removing the controversial full-body scanners that produce revealing images of airline travelers beginning this summer. The agency said it canceled a contract, originally worth $40 million, with the maker of the scanners, Rapiscan, after the company failed to meet a Congressional deadline for new software that would protect passengers' privacy."

Brian Sonenstein of Firedoglake: "Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who helped expose the Bush administration's torture program, recently plead guilty to sharing the name of a colleague to journalists to use as a source. He is expected to receive a sentence of 30 months in prison. It's a cruel irony that the first agent connected to the CIA torture program to go to prison is the whistleblower who spoke out against the heinous practices of our government."

"The Girl of My Dreams." Gail Collins on the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend thing.

Joshua Prager in Vanity Fair: Norma McCorvey, a/k/a "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade "is a phony." Prager traces the life of McCorvey & provides evidence that she has long been an opportunist. A cynic might conclude that McCorvey converted to the anti-abortion cause because it paid better. Thanks to contributor MAG for the link.

Congressional Race

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert may have 'run for president,' but his sister is actually going to run for Congress. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch's soon-to-be-official campaign has informed South Carolina Democratic Party executive director Amanda Loveday that it will file Tuesday for the special election for appointed Sen. Tim Scott's (R-S.C.) old House seat, Loveday has told the Washington Post."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Stan Musial, one of baseball's greatest hitters and a revered figure in the storied history of the St. Louis Cardinals -- the player they called Stan the Man -- died Saturday. He was 92."

New York Times: "The four-day hostage crisis in the Sahara reached a bloody conclusion on Saturday as the Algerian Army carried out a final assault on the gas field taken over by Islamist militants, killing most of the remaining kidnappers and raising the total of hostages killed to at least 23, Algerian officials said." ...

... AP: "Faced with international outrage over the killing of hostages at a sprawling gas plant in the middle of the Sahara desert, Algeria was under pressure to bring an end to a four-day standoff with Islamist extremists that has killed at least 12 captives and left dozens unaccounted for. The standoff has put the spotlight on militancy plaguing the region and al-Qaida-linked groups roaming remote areas from Mali to Libya, threatening vital infrastructure and energy interests." ...

... Reuters: "Algerian special forces on Saturday found 15 burned bodies at the desert gas plant attacked by al Qaeda-linked fighters, a source familiar with the unfolding hostage crisis there said." ...

... The Guardian has a liveblog here.

AP: Part 2 of "Confessions of Lance," wherein Lance Armstrong says stuff to Oprah Winfrey, who is hoping to get even richer off Lance's saying stuff. ...

... Reuters has "key quotes" from among the stuff Armstrong said.