The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

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

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

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

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

Go to


Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Commentariat -- Feb. 14, 2013

Arma-fucking-geddon! Hunter of Daily Kos translates the latest Wayne LaPierre rant: "... someday, and real soon now, all of government might collapse, and when that happens all the true patriots are going to have to start shooting people.... When the next hurricane comes and knocks out your electricity, you need to be able to shoot your neighbors. When the government collapses because something-something 'stimulus' and American towns don't have police departments anymore, you need to be able to shoot even more people. And when the Latin American gun cartels turn your neighborhood into a lawless, terrifying hellscape like Phoenix, Arizona, you're going to need to start shooting pretty much everyone." Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

E. J. Dionne: "... the liberated Obama is not some new, leftist tribune. He's the moderately progressive Obama who started running for president before there was a financial crisis or a tea party. In his 2006 book 'The Audacity of Hope,' he proposed to end polarization by organizing a 'broad majority of Americans' who would be 're-engaged in the project of national renewal' and would 'see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others.' On Tuesday night, creating this majority was what he still had in mind."

Steve Benen puts the recent history of jobless claims in chart form, noting that -- with the caveat that weather conditions may be a factor in last week's low claims -- "... the seasonally adjusted 341,000 claims is the second-best total we've seen in the U.S. in the last five years":

James Downie of the Washington Post on why President Obama was right to push for a hike in the minimum wage: "It will help the economy.It will help the economy.... It reduces poverty and inequality.... It reduces in the 'wage gap' for women and minorities.... Indexing the minimum wage is, well, common sense.... It's consistent with American values." ...

     ... CW P.S.: the majority of the public favors the minimum wage hike. ...

     ... EXCEPT Congressional Republicans, who claim -- inaccurately -- that raising the minimum wage will raise unemployment. David Jackson of USA Today: "Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said an increase in the minimum wage will translate into a decrease of jobs. 'When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens?' Boehner said. "'You get less of it. At a time when the American people are still asking the question, where are the jobs?'" ...

     ... Pat Garofalo of Think Progress finds more GOP boneheads blowing smoke on imaginary downsides of paying people closer to a decent wage. Paul Ryan says it's "inflationary." Marco there says history tells us businesses will hire , another in Marco's continuing series, "Fractured History." ...

... Greg Sargent finds plenty of data to show Boehner, et al., are wrong: "The left-leaning Center for American Progress recently surveyed a raft of academic studies on the impact of the minimum wage and found that they showed that minimum wage hikes boost workers' wages but don't materially hike unemployment -- even amid bad economic times." Sargent adds, "... this is a good fight for Democrats to have."

Andrew Sullivan on Marco Rubio's speech, which, he says, "... represents the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary Republicanism. It was a series of Reaganite truisms.... If reciting these platitudes in Spanish is what the GOP thinks will bring it back to anything faintly resembling political or intellectual relevance, they are more deluded than even I imagined." Sullivan calls out a few of Rubio's outright lies, too. ...

... "Marco Rubio [Is] Still Not a Scientist, Man." Jon Chait of New York: "If there's a single line that encapsulates the mindless anti-government doggerel that characterized Marco Rubio's response to the State of the Union address it was his flip dismissal of any government response to climate change, because 'our government can't control the weather.'" ...

... Brian Beutler of TPM: throughout his speech, Rubio expressed "views that have marginalized the GOP over the past four years. But rethinking the agenda that attends to them has turned out to be too tall an order for the GOP. Easier to foist Rubio into the spotlight to propound it more gently than Mitt Romney did, and then hope his youth, ethnicity, and support for immigration reform will be the talismans that reverse the party's hemorrhaging of minority and immigrant voters." ...

... Greg Sargent explains why the GOP's change-nothing strategy makes sense to them. CW: Sargent doesn't put it quite this way, but the plan boils down to this: (1) with Obama out of the picture, black people won't vote, & (2) as long as the GOP keeps obstructing his policy initiatives, they can argue that they his policies haven't worked (because they were never implemented), & they have a (secret) better plan.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) filed a motion Wednesday afternoon to begin the confirmation debate of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, setting up a vote by at least Friday morning that would require 60 votes to cut off a potential filibuster by conservative Republicans.... Reid, in filing the anti-filibuster motion, lamented the unusual step of needing 60 votes to win confirmation of a cabinet-level nominee." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "There are some potentially serious short- and long-term consequences to all of this, which should worry both parties. If Republicans are actually able to derail Hagel with a filibuster, it would shatter tradition and might lead to similar filibusters in the future -- both for Obama's nominees and for nominees of future presidents from both parties. It could also spur Reid to rethink his resistance to major Senate rules changes and to reopen the idea of using the nuclear option. And even if the filibuster is broken, a mostly party-line vote on Hagel's confirmation could set a bad example too.... What happens if party-line votes for Cabinet picks become the norm and, sometime in the not-so-distant future, the White House's party is in the minority in the Senate?" ...

... In a rare move, my Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) calls out Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas) for impugning the motives of Chuck Hagel. Sen. John McCain lends his support to Nelson's remarks:

... Brent Budowski in The Hill: "... the shameful performance by Cruz, who acted like Joe McCarthy in short pants with his insults of war hero Hagel, illustrates why Republicans keep losing elections, why the Republican and Tea Party brands are in such disrepute, and why the so-called Republican reboot (which I have called the Republican retoot) is still not close to credible."

... CW: Ted Cruz's evidence-free charges, as Steve Benen pointed out in a post I linked the other day, are pure McCarthyism. When we have an entire political party that runs fact-free all the time, as we do now, we have to expect that party to institutionalize McCarthyism, as they are doing now -- making accusations, absent facts, & occasionally -- as Cruz did -- making wholly unfounded accusations impugning not just the character but the loyalty of their targets.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Jacob J. Lew, President Obama's nominee for Treasury secretary, faced some fierce questioning on Wednesday from the Senate Finance Committee on his tenure at the bailed-out Citigroup and on an investment based in the Cayman Islands. But the even-tempered, bookish Mr. Lew parried the blows and appeared likely to win the committee's approval and Senate confirmation." ...

... Dana Milbank: party roll reversals emerge at Jack Lew confirmation hearing. "... it's a bit, well, rich that Obama chose as his new Treasury secretary a man who received a big corporate payout for dubious work and who socked away money in the Cayman Islands." CW: in Washington, Hypocrisy is a two-way street.

Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "Despite opposition from nearly all Senate Republicans, President Obama asked the Senate on Wednesday to confirm two Democrats whose recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court last month. The two, Sharon Block, a former labor counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Richard Griffin, former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, have been serving on the board since January 2012, appointed by the president during a Senate break after Republicans blocked their confirmations."

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Outgoing Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue has some parting shots for Congress, the White House and advocates for seniors. They have all 'really walked away from Social Security,' he says, leaving the program 'fraying because of inattention to its problems.' Instead of making the hard choices to fix Social Security's financial problems, policymakers 'use it as a tool of political rhetoric,' Astrue said."

Motoko Rich of the New York Times: "In details that emerged early Thursday, the administration proposed that the federal government work with states to provide preschool for every 4-year-old from low- and moderate-income families. The president's plan also calls for expanding Early Head Start, the federal program designed to prepare children from low-income families for school, to broaden quality childcare for infants and toddlers."

New York Times Editors endorse a no-brainer: judicial review before the U.S. engages in targeted killings.

AND Washington Post Editors are fairly outraged by the fact Cardinal Roger Mahony, who shielded & enabled pedophile priests for decades, remains a powerful member of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. CW Newsflash: I don't think every single cardinal covered up rampant child abuse because not every single cardinal has administrative responsibilities, but it is only somewhat hyperbolic to say that the reason Mahony gets to stay on is that "they all did it." The fact is that Benedict himself, along with dozens of other church high officials, engaged in years of protecting priests & exposing children to abuse. The miscreant cardinals get to vote for the next pope, & one can credibly speculate they hold enough of a majority to choose a man who will protect them.

This poster is the original work of contributor MAG:

News Ledes

Reuters: "Remains recovered from a burned-out California mountain cabin following a standoff between police and a gunman this week have been positively identified as those of [Christopher Dorner,] a fugitive ex-Los Angeles policeman accused of a grudge-fueled killing spree."

AP: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System as the first treatment for an inherited disorder that causes the breakdown of cells in the retina, a membrane inside the eye."

Market Watch: "The number of Americans who applied last week for new jobless benefits fell sharply, though it's unclear whether part of the drop stemmed from the huge snowstorm that battered the Northeast. Applications for initial unemployment benefits sank 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000 in the week ended Feb. 9...."

Washington Post: "Bankrupt American Airlines and its dogged suitor, US Airways, announced a merger Thursday that would create the world's largest air carrier and put 86 percent of domestic air travel in the hands of four big airlines. The merger was approved by the boards of both airlines, ending months of negotiation that began with American giving a frosty response to the initial overture from US Airways."

Live Science: "Climate scientist James Hansen was arrested today outside the White House while protesting the proposed construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.... Some 48 activists, including Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, executive director of the Sierra Club Michael Brune, Bill McKibben, co-founder of the grassroots climate group, and civil rights activist Julian Bond, practiced civil disobedience in front of the White House. They are demanding the president deny the pipeline construction and address the climate crisis."

Reuters: "The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it had again failed to clinch a deal in talks with Iran this week on investigating suspected atom bomb research by the Islamic state. The lack of a breakthrough in Wednesday's meeting in Tehran, though expected by Western diplomats, represented a new setback for international efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iran's disputed nuclear program." ...

... Reuters: "U.N. nuclear inspectors have seen a small number of advanced centrifuges at an uranium enrichment plant where Iran has said it will install and operate them, a diplomatic source said on Thursday. On Wednesday, Iran's atomic energy chief said it had started installing a new generation of machines for refining uranium at the Natanz plant, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a dispute over its nuclear work."

ABC News: "Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic and Paralympic athlete known as the 'blade runner,' was taken into custody in South Africa today and charged with the murder of his girlfriend [Reeva Steenkamp], who was fatally shot at his home."

AP: "Pope Benedict XVI hit his head during his March 2012 trip to Mexico, The Vatican said Thursday, but denied the accident had any 'relevant' role in his resignation. It was the latest revelation of a hidden health issue to emerge from the Holy See since the pope's shock announcement, and adds to questions about the gravity of the pontiff's condition."

NBC News: Karen & Jim Reynolds tell of coming upon suspected multiple murderer Christopher Dorner in their Big Bear cabin. Dorner tied them up & left in their vehicle, but the couple wriggled free & called 911. Video & story. ...

... AP: "... while Christopher Dorner left no doubt he could be unforgivingly violent, when it came to keeping ahead of the law during his deadly rampage, he made one gaffe after another."


State of the Union Address 2013

Full State of the Union Address:

The New York Times' interactive analysis of the President's speech is here. Their live coverage was here. The transcript of the SOTU address is here. ...

... Here's the transcript of the Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) response. Here's the text of whatever it was Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) said.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "In an assertive State of the Union address that fleshed out the populist themes of his inauguration speech, Mr. Obama declared it was 'our generation’s task' to 'reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.'”

** Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "Since much of Obama’s agenda enjoys majority support, the trick for him is in forcing Republicans to act on it.... The dynamic that led to passage of ... three pieces of legislation [in recent weeks] was the same: the Republicans held a politically untenable position on a major issue and were forced to retreat from it after a White House campaign that embarrassed them. That’s the template for passing Obama’s agenda in 2013, and that was the point of his speech Tuesday night."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Obama overshadows the Water Boy."

Greg Sargent: "If Obama’s Inaugural rooted the call for a progressive agenda in the country’s past, today’s speech offered a policy-heavy roadmap for a progressive future."

Ezra Klein: "... [President Obama's] speech was notable for the sweeping nature of the proposed changes. Obama’s agenda hasn’t been this bold since 2009. The difference between 2009 and 2013, of course, is that Democrats no longer control the House of Representatives. Most of these proposals have little chance of becoming law, at least right now."

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "The most important proposal in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address may be one that gets the least attention and, quite possibly, has the least chance of becoming law in the near future: his proposal to create a universal pre-kindergarten program." CW: below is a chart, developed by conservative Nobel-laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, that shows the effective rate of return of investment in various age-specific programs. It's pretty dramatic:

Paul Steinhauser of CNN: in a CNN instapoll conducted with viewers around the country, "Fifty-three percent of speech watchers questioned in the poll had a very positive reaction, with 24% saying they had a somewhat positive response and 22% with a negative response.... According to the ... survey, 71% of speech watchers said the president's policies will move the country in the right direction, with 26% saying Obama's polices will take the nation in the wrong direction." CW: bear in mind that people opposed to Obama are way less likely than are supporters to watch his speech. I don't think these numbers mean much.

New York Times Editors: "... his speech explained to a wide audience what could be achieved if there were even a minimal consensus in Washington. Mr. Obama called for a series of steps that would provide enormous benefit for the middle class and for those hoping to enter it.... But on virtually every one of these issues, Republicans are standing in the way. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the Republicans’ designated responder, wielded the party’s ancient cliché that the president simply wanted more 'big government.' ... His task now is to turn his widespread public support into a wedge to break Washington’s gridlock." ...

... Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times on the Rubio & Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) responses: "Both Mr. Rubio and Mr. Paul laced their remarks with the usual G.O.P. propaganda that Mr. Obama hates jobs, small businessmen and entrepreneurs. Judging from these two speeches, the Republicans don’t intend to respond constructively to Mr. Obama’s call for a new direction in Washington. And they don’t intend to move beyond their failed 1980s-vintage economic policies." Rosenthal notes that Rubio's speech was an example of life imitating satire -- Rubio wrote his response before the President released his speech, much as ...

... Andy Borowitz wrote about Rand Paul's supposed pre-buttal: "In a break with tradition, Tea Party Republicans issued their official rebuttal to tonight’s State of the Union address a full twelve hours before President Obama was scheduled to deliver it.

"Rubio's Drinking Problem." Katie Gleuck of Politico: Twitter exploded during Sen. Marco Rubio’s Republican response to the State of the Union, as the Florida senator appeared a little sweaty and dry-mouthed at mid-speech, taking an awkward swig from a bottle of water that had been placed off-camera":

I needed water, what am I going to do? God has a funny way of reminding us we’re human. -- Marco Rubio, this morning

In fairness to Marco, he is not the only member of Congress who thinks he's a god. He is just one of the few who needs physical reminders. -- Constant Weader

... Not surprisingly, someone already has made a gif of the Big Gulp:

But [President Obama's] favorite attack of all is that those of us who don’t agree with him, that we only care about rich people. Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in. -- Marco Rubio

BUT not for long, if I can help it. Rubio quietly put his West Miami house on the market late last year as rumors swirl in Republican circles that representing Florida in D.C. is not a big enough job for him. According to Miami-Dade County records, Rubio and his wife Janette bought the 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom home in the El Retiro subdivision in December 2005 for $550,000. MLS real estate records now confirm that Rubio put the suburban crib, at 6060 SW 13th St., on the market in November for $675,000. -- Jose Lambiet of the Miami Herald

The Modest Working-Class Pool Area in Marco's Back Yard:

Read more here: quietly put his West Miami house on the market late last year as rumors swirl in Republican circles that representing Florida in D.C. is not a big enough job for him.

According to Miami-Dade County records, Rubio and his wife Janette bought the 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom home in the El Retiro subdivision in December 2005 for $550,000.

MLS real estate records now confirm that Rubio put the suburban crib, at 6060 SW 13th St., on the market in November for $675,000.

Read more here:

Since when is a 'suburban' neighborhood of houses worth more than half-a-million dollars a 'working-class neighborhood'? Apparently 'no car elevator' is Spanish for 'working-class.' -- Constant Weader

** "Putting the Rube in Rubio." Steve Benen: "Watching [the Rubio debacle] unfold over 15 minutes, it was hard not to think that if this guy is the GOP's 'savior,' the party is in deep trouble.... By any sensible measure, Rubio's entire pitch was incoherent gibberish.... [For example,] Rubio celebrates his family's history of dependence on government social programs like student loans and Medicare, while articulating a policy agenda that guts government social programs like student loans and Medicare.... The senator even thinks combating the climate crisis means asking government to 'control the weather,' which is just genuinely dumb." It appears the GOP just handed Romney's stump speech to Rubio & hoped for the best. ...

     ... CW: Benen is being a little unfair. The GOP is obliged to spew "incoherent gibberish" because the "coherent gibberish" the party really favors is anathema to most Americans. So, yeah, they're hoping for the best, the best being they can continue to pull the wool over the eyes of millions of Americans who pay almost no attention to policy issues. To get the American people to even notice Rubio, et al., you'll have to catch Rubio literally in bed with McConnell &/or Boehner, wherein salacious photos of a three-way would have optimal effect. Audio of their pillow talk could be useful, too. Write your own script. ...

... Paul Krugman: "Faced with overwhelming, catastrophic evidence that their faith in unregulated financial markets was wrong, they have responded by rewriting history to defend their prejudices.... Rubio ... and his party are now committed to the belief that their pre-crisis doctrine was perfect, that there are no lessons from the worst financial crisis in three generations except that we should have even less regulation. And given another shot at power, they’ll test that thesis by giving the bankers a chance to do it all over again." CW: Krugman is as unfair as Benen. What choice do Republicans have? They have to ignore facts & rewrite history since the facts don't conform to their unshakeable beliefs & policy preferences.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

President Obama speaks to men in government at the 2013 State of the Union address. Except for the complexion of the President, this photo might as well have been taken in the mid-20th century.

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will challenge a divided Congress on Tuesday night to embrace a second-term agenda that includes new government investments, limits on guns, a revamped immigration system and a plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, White House officials said."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 13, 2013

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. -- Charles Darwin

CW: Greg Sargent, via a tweet from Alex Bolton of The Hill, answers the question I asked yesterday: "Chuck Hagel cleared the Armed Services Committee by a straight party line vote. Next up: A full Senate vote. Republican Senators continue to hint that they will obstruct the nomination, perhaps by 'hold.' So it's good to see Harry Reid announcing that he will not, in fact, honor any Republican holds on Hagel's nomination. Getting tough on GOP obstructionism is long overdue, particularly in the wake of the passage of weak filibuster reform." ...

... Steve Benen calls Sen. Ted Cruz's (RTP-Texas) remarks prior to the Committee vote for Chuck Hagel "an unnerving display of McCarthyism." Right he is:

... MEANWHILE. Dana Bash of CNN: "In personal and biting terms, House Speaker John Boehner argued that President Obama's failure to find agreement with Republicans is a result of his lack of 'courage' and 'guts' to do what it takes." A bit later Boehner said, "I've tried repeatedly to come to agreement with the president. Every time I've gotten burned." CW: now you tell me -- who lacks courage & guts?

Neil Irwin of the Washington Post: "Combined with decent job creation numbers to start the year and other data on business activity, the economy seems to be holding up OK in 2013 despite the [payroll tax rise & the] tax increases implemented as part of a deal to resolve the 'fiscal cliff' at the end of 2012." CW: Irwin's reporting is a good example of carrying the Republican message. He ledes with this clause: "the 2 percentage point increase in payroll taxes that went into effect January 1" & carries through continuing to call them "payroll tax increases." But there was not a 2% increase in payroll taxes; rather, the 2% payroll tax holiday ended and payroll taxes went back to normal. Words matter.

Michael Schmidt & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "President Obama signed an executive order on Tuesday that promotes increased information sharing about cyberthreats between the government and private companies that oversee the country's critical infrastructure, offering a weakened alternative to legislation the administration had hoped Congress would pass last year."

Annie-Rose Strasser & Adam Peck of Think Progress: "The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passed through the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, by a vote of 78 to 22. Of those opposing the legislation, all 22 were Republican men. Every female Senator supported the bill.... Two Senators -- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) -- also offered significant amendments to the VAWA bill. Grassley's amendment stripped all Native American, LGBT, and undocumented victim protections. It was voted down on Thursday of last week. Cornyn's, aimed exclusively on the bill's language relating to tribal lands, failed on Monday.... The version passed by the Senate today will next go to the House for a vote, where it is expected to encounter some difficulties, particularly over the protections of tribal women included in the bill." These smiling SOBs apparently think violence against women is A-OK:

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife (or Significant Other)?

... "Fighting for Florida." Marco Rubio "justifies" his vote against the Violence Against Women Act. Something, something, states' rights, something, Indians! ...

... CW: Rubios's "concerns" about "the conferring of criminal jurisdiction to some Indian tribal governments over all persons in Indian country, including non-Indians," are particularly vacuous. According to the National Task Force to End Sexual & Domestic Violence Against Women, "Section 904 of S.1925 is limited to only crimes of domestic violence or dating violence committed in Indian country where the defendant is a spouse or established intimate partner of a tribal member. It does not permit tribal prosecutions unless the defendant has 'sufficient ties to the Indian tribe,' meaning he/she must either reside in the Indian country of the prosecuting tribe, be employed in the Indian country of the prosecuting tribe, or be the spouse or intimate partner of a member of the prosecuting tribe." So when Marco writes that his vote is a way he is "fighting for Florida," he is fighting for some white guy who live in, say, Everglades, Florida, & is married to a Seminole whom he likes to beat up. Well, that makes all okay, Marco.

Jon Chait of New York continues to get the best of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, but -- remarkably -- Scarborough doesn't know it: "What makes Joe Scarborough such an enjoyable figure is his combination of affability, good intentions, high self-regard, low self-awareness, and total lack of analytical reasoning skills. He is not remotely dislikable. He is Ron Burgundy come to life." [Emphasis added.] ...

... ** James Downie of the Washington Post: "In the runup to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, several pundits have called on the president to focus on reducing the deficit. Early reports, though, indicate the president will talk more about jobs -- a good sign, because highlighting deficit reduction is wrong on both political and policy grounds.... The fact is, though, that not only is our national debt close to stabilized, whether or not the sequester takes effect, but also deficit reduction in the past two years 'would stand far above any other fiscal tightening since World War II.'"

ABC News: "Prominent environmental leaders ... are planning to risk arrest Wednesday at a protest outside the White House. Executive director Michael Brune would be the first Sierra Club leader to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The club's board of directors approved civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history as a way to oppose the pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. Activist Bill McKibben and actress Daryl Hannah also are participating in the protest.

LBJ & Lady Bird Johnson's grandchildren read excerpts from their love letters, which the Johnson Library will release tomorrow in advance of Valentine's Day:

Right Wing World

America's Most Famous Deadbeat Dad, Ctd. Natasha Korecki of the Chicago Sun-Times: "After insisting he wasn't a 'deadbeat dad' throughout his failed campaign for re-election, ex-U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh is still dogged by questions about child support. Walsh, a flame-throwing Tea Party Republican who was trying to land a radio deal and last week announced he was forming a new conservative SuperPAC, filed court papers seeking to end his obligation to pay $2,134 per month in child support.... Both he and his attorney say that since he is no longer employed as a congressman, they want to 'modify' the previous agreement so that he pays 20 percent of his current salary. Walsh is not currently employed and has no salary." [Emphasis added.]

Local News

Republicans Are Still Nasty. Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "Despite having one of the nation's highest jobless rates, North Carolina's government took steps to enact some of most severe [unemployment] benefit cuts in the country. The measure would shrink the maximum period of time someone could receive state jobless benefits to 20 weeks from 26 weeks and reduce the maximum weekly benefit to $350 from $535. The state Senate gave preliminary approval to the proposal on Tuesday, and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has promised to sign it into law, which would take effect July 1.... Unless [the unemployed] collect at least 26 weeks of unemployment checks from the state, they are disqualified from getting jobless benefits from the federal government, which add up to an additional 47 weeks of aid." ...

... John Frank & Renee Elder of the Raleigh News & Observer: "A Republican measure to prevent major components of the federal health care law from taking effect in North Carolina will almost certainly be approved after Gov. Pat McCrory endorsed the effort Tuesday."

Rebekah Dryden of the "Rachel Maddow Show" runs down state actions -- in just the past 24 hours -- intent on limiting women's reproduction rights.

News Ledes

AP: "Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his last public Mass as pontiff, presiding over Ash Wednesday services inside the packed St. Peter's Basilica in Rome."

Reuters: "The United States and the European Union agreed on Wednesday to push for the launch by the end of June of talks to create a free trade alliance that could be a benchmark for global partners to follow. A free trade deal would be the most ambitious ever attempted, encompassing half the world's economic output and a third of global trade flows."

Los Angeles Times: "Charred human remains have been found in the burned cabin where police believe fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner was holed up after trading gunfire with law enforcement, authorities said. If the body is identified to be Dorner's, the standoff would end a weeklong manhunt for the ex-LAPD officer and Navy Reserve lieutenant who is believed to be responsible for a string of revenge-fueled shootings following his firing by the Los Angeles Police Department several years ago. Four people have died, allegedly at Dorner's hands."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 12, 2013

Phil Stewart of Reuters: "The Pentagon announced on Monday it would extend more of the benefits offered to spouses of heterosexual troops to those of gay personnel but acknowledged some key benefits, like housing, would still be off-limits, at least for now. The step ... will affect the day-to-day lives of their spouses in ways big and small -- from allowing them to finally get military I.D. cards to granting hospital visitation rights. But outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a memorandum explaining the move, noted his actions were limited by U.S. law, specifically the Defense of Marriage Act, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court and which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman."

New York Times Editors: "... two senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, say they will place 'holds' on President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon. A hold is a kind of minifilibuster, preventing unanimous consent to take up a bill or nomination, and preventing an up-or-down vote. Using this power for showboating, as Mr. Graham and Mr. Inhofe are doing, shows how easy it has become for senators to put petty personal demands ahead of the country's needs.... This kind of posturing is exactly why holds and filibusters against nominees have to end. Any senator is free to cast a vote for or against a nominee but should not be able to prevent others from doing so." ...

... Manu Raju & Tim Mak of Politico: "Some Senate Republicans are prepared to filibuster Chuck Hagel's nomination to become the next secretary of defense, a rare maneuver to block a Cabinet-level nominee that demonstrates the lingering hostility from GOP senators toward a man who used to serve with them.... Of course, it's still possible that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cut a deal and a Hagel filibuster is avoided -- or that GOP senator[s] backs down from their threats."

... Ramsey Cox of The Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that once work on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is finished the Senate would proceed to a vote on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.... 'Never in history has there been a filibuster on a defense nomination, and I hope that will continue,' Reid said on the floor Monday." CW: so does this mean Reid won't honor any individual holds put on the Hagel vote? I don't know.

Jia Lynn Yang of the Washington Post: "GOP senators plan to ask pointed questions about Jack Lew's work at Citigroup -- and his pay at the bailed-out bank -- when the Treasury nominee appears before a Senate panel for his confirmation hearing Wednesday, officials said Monday.

The White House will broadcast an online enhanced version of the State of the Union. Here's how it will work:

... Meanwhile, Margaret Hartmann of New York Magazine reports that "The House Republican Conference has launched the site so it can post fact-checking information and tweets from prominent Republicans during the speech." The comments to Hartmann's piece are quite good. Isn't "House Republican fact-checker" an oxymoron?

... Jennifer Epstein & Stephanie Gaskill of Politico: "President Barack Obama is expected to announce Tuesday night that he'll withdraw 34,000 more troops from Afghanistan over the coming year, the latest big move in his plan to transfer responsibility for the war to Afghanistan's homegrown soldiers and police." ...

... New York Times Editors: "President Obama ... [must] not forget the most fundamental democratic reform of all: repairing a broken election system that caused hundreds of thousands of people to stand in line for hours to vote last year. It is time to make good on his election-night promise." ...

... CW: here's a guess -- the President will be mentioning election reform in his SOTU address. Susanna Gamboa of the AP: "A delicate centenarian from Florida will sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union, symbolizing the ferocity and determination of a voter and giving testament to problems with America's voting system. Desiline Victor, 102, of Miami, endured a weather-delayed flight to Washington on Monday in order to get to town for President Barack Obama's address. She will be among the guests seated with Mrs. Obama...."

"Hearsay Economics." Paul Krugman: "... where do the reputable people get their [mis]information? Why, it's what they heard somebody in their circle say. It's hearsay economics all the way down.... It may seem hard to believe that this sort of petty small-group sociology exerts a vast influence on actual policy, and that it is actually responsible for millions of lost jobs. But the more I look at it, the more that seems to be right."

Bad Day for Deficit Hawks. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "In recent weeks, the White House has pressed the message that, if policymakers can agree on a strategy for replacing across-the-board spending cuts set to hit next month, Obama will pretty much have achieved what he has called 'our ultimate goal' of halting the rapid rise in government borrowing.... Deficit hawks have reacted with alarm to the administration's position." CW: yeah, they're reacting with alarm because they might lose speakers' fees, etc. ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Eric Cantor, who voted for the sequester in the first place, now says it doesn't make any sense. He says he'd like to replace it, but only with spending cuts that target Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social insurance programs. Cantor says that unless Democrats agree to such cuts, Republicans will move forward with implementing the sequester -- even though doing so will 'hurt a lot of people.' In other words, Eric Cantor has outlined the GOP position on the sequester: hurt a lot of people -- or hurt even more people." ...

... Jon Chait of New York: Wow, Joe Scarborough doesn't understand economics at all." CW: I should add that Mika Brzezinski is a good dancer. Other than that, she is MSNBC's bow to the tradition of always having an on-air dumb blond. ...

... Digby. "The Village has decided that Social Security must be cut. But will it be enough?"

Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "The nuclear test by North Korea on Tuesday, in defiance of warnings by China, leaves the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with a choice: Does he upset North Korea just a bit by agreeing to stepped up United Nations sanctions, or does he rattle the regime by pulling the plug on infusions of Chinese oil and investments that keep North Korea afloat?"

Steve Benen on Ben Smith's claim -- linked in yesterday's Commentariat -- that President Obama is "screwing his base" via ObamaCare: "... the further we get from the needlessly inflammatory, please-Drudge-link-to-me BuzzFeed headline, the less outrageous the Obamacare policy is."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "... when the pope stunned the world on Monday with his resignation announcement, his supporters and detractors alike almost universally hailed the move as a moment of grace, sounding almost relieved to see the end of what has been a very turbulent journey." Goodstein takes a trip down memory lane, pausing on Benedict's greatest hits -- not a pretty review. ...

... Playwright John Patrick Shanley, author of "Doubt," in a New York Times op-ed: "POPE BENEDICT XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He'd been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful resumé, he had no use for women." ...

... Jason Berry in a New York Times op-ed: "Benedict has one last chance to right some of the wrongs of the recent past by forcing out Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals and the man who, more than any other, embodies the misuse of power that has corrupted the church hierarchy. Cardinal Sodano is hardly alone: a long list of leaders betrayed Catholics everywhere with their pathological evasions, sending known sex offenders into treatment centers to avoid the law, then planting them in parishes or hospitals where they found new victims." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "This pope's response [to the challenges the Roman Catholic church faces] was to insist that only uncompromising adherence to past doctrine could preserve the faith. Catholics who seek a different answer will have to hope that a college of cardinals dominated by the pope's appointees will choose a more progressive successor." ...

... CW: There are quite a few prognosticators out there already sussing out the various candidates for the papacy. Predictions being what they are, I'm going with John Oliver's approach:

"The Man Who Killed Osama bin Ladin -- Is Screwed," by Phil Bronstein, published by Esquire, has received a lot of media attention today: the man, who is identified only as "The Shooter,' left the military after 16 years, so is not eligible for a pension. He can't reveal his expertise to potential employers. One point of the story that enraged various commentators: he can't even get health insurance. ...

... This last "travesty" would be a lot more compelling if it were true. Megan McClosky of Stars & Stripes: "Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL, who is identified in the story only as 'the Shooter', is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs." ...

     ... Update: Esquire editors defend Bronstein's piece against McClosky's assertions.

Right Wing World

Tea Party, Debunked. Kevin Grandia of Firedoglake: "Shattering the public perception that the Tea Party is a spontaneous popular citizens movement, a new academic paper provides evidence that an organization founded by David and Charles Koch, attempted to launch the Tea Party movement in 2002. The peer-reviewed study appearing in the academic journal, Tobacco Control ... shows that the group Citizens for a Sound Economy launched a Tea Party movement website,, that went live in 2002. According to the website, who broke this story [Monday], CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers.... David Koch sat on the board of CSE for many years and the group's first president, Richard Fink, went on to become a senior VP at Koch Industries."

American Bridge, a pro-Obama PAC, looks at the State of the GOP Union:

Ted Nugent, the kind of person who passes for a dignitary Republicans see fit to bring to a solemn Constitutional moment.Greg Sargent: "Lots of chatter about the news that GOP Rep. Steve Stockman, who threatened Obama with impeachment over guns, has invited [crazed winger, former rocker] Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address.... 'I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama,' Stockman said in a press release. 'After the Address I'm sure Ted will have plenty to say.' ... The problem isn't so much Ted Nugent as it is the Steve Stockmans of the world telling their constituents that Obama's sensible gun reforms rise to the level of impeachment." ...

... Adam Peck of Think Progress: the Secret Service, which interviewed Nugent after he appeared to threaten the President's life, has "no comment" on his attendance at the SOTU. ...

... Steve Benen: "Republicans find themselves in the awkward position of having two GOP senators delivering post-SOTU speeches, and while they're speaking, a musician/right-wing clown will be hosting a press conference on Capitol Hill, which seems likely to become a distracting spectacle.... As the Stockman/Nugent story reminds us, the problem isn't that Republicans have some 'cranks, haters, and bigots'; the problem is that Republicans are a radicalized party in which 'cranks, haters, and bigots' routinely dominate."

Josh Marshall: new conspiracy theory -- John Brennan is a secrety Muslim.

Local News

Suzi Parker of Reuters: "Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, signed into law on Monday a bill that allows concealed-carry permit holders to take their weapons into churches. The Church Protection Act would allow individual places of worship to decide whether to allow concealed handguns and who could carry them. Churches that take no action will remain off-limits to guns."

Lucy Morgan of the Tampa Bay Times: "After two weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling, former GOP party chairman Jim Greer walked into court Monday morning and pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering charges that could put him behind bars for 3 and 1/2 years. Greer responded 'guilty your honor' to charges he stole and laundered GOP campaign contributions through a company he created, Victory Strategies. He declined to talk with a crowd of reporters as he left the courtroom. The plea, which came moments before jury selection was set to begin, ends the prospects of a two-week trial that promised testimony from former Gov. Charlie Crist and a who's who of Republican politicians." CW: looks as if Greer fell on his sword for somebody.

News Ledes

Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

Here's the Los Angeles Times page with live updates of the Christopher Dorner standoff. It includes video. The New York Times has live video & updates here. MSNBC reports that the cabin Dorner is believed to be in has been "engulfed in flames." The AP is reporting Dorner "never emerged" from the cabin; also, a single shot was heard coming from inside the cabin before flames overtook the cabin. ...

     ... AP Update: "The extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three murders converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin where authorities believe he barricaded himself inside, engaged in a shootout that killed a deputy and then never emerged as the home went up in flames. A single gunshot was heard from within, and a charred body was found inside." ...

     ... OR NOT. Los Angeles Times: "There were conflicting reports about whether a body was located inside the burned-out cabin Tuesday night where Christopher Jordan Dorner was believed to have kept law enforcement authorities at bay. Several sources told The Times and many other news organizations that a body was located in the rubble. But LAPD officials said that the cabin was still too hot to search and no body has been found."

New York Times: "North Korea confirmed on Tuesday that it had conducted its third, long-threatened nuclear test, according to the official KCNA news service, posing a new challenge for the Obama administration in its effort to keep the country from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power." ...

... Reuters: "North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday in defiance of existing U.N. resolutions, drawing condemnation from around the world, including from its only major ally, China, which summoned the North Korean ambassador to protest." ...

... Politico: "President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday that the United States and its allies will take 'swift and credible action' over North Korea's latest nuclear test -- a move he denounced as a 'highly provocative act.' In a written statement issued just before 2 A.M. Eastern Time Tuesday morning, Obama promised that the U.S. will be 'steadfast' in its commitments to allies in the region. However, he was not specific about what steps the U.S. might take against North Korea or to shore up allies."

New York Times: "As it prepares for two sets of negotiations with outsiders on its disputed nuclear program, Iran said on Tuesday that it was converting some of its enriched uranium into reactor fuel, the state news agency IRNA reported, potentially limiting the expansion of stockpiles that the West fears could be used for weapons." ...

... Reuters: "The U.N. nuclear watchdog, [the International Atomic Energy Agency {IAEA},] said on Tuesday it would seek in talks in Iran this week to bridge differences that have prevented it restarting an investigation into the Islamic state's atomic activities. The agency has been trying for more than a year to revive its inquiry into suspected nuclear weapons research by Iran, which denies Western allegations that it is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic bombs."

AP: "The Vatican is acknowledging for the first time that Pope Benedict XVI has had a pacemaker for years and that its battery was replaced a few months ago in secret. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Benedict had the pacemaker installed 'a long time' before he became pope in 2005. He called the latest medical procedure 'routine.'"

ABC News: "President Barack Obama is spending up to $50 million from the Pentagon's budget to assist Chad and France in their efforts to combat militants in Mali< in North Africa. The United States has been supporting the French military's operations in northern Mali by providing refueling services for French forces and airlift support for French and Chadian forces. Obama issued a memorandum to the State and Defense departments Monday advising them of his directive to use the $50 million. The State Department already had notified Congress of Obama's intent to tap Pentagon funds."