The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

New York Times: "The veteran television personality Jane Pauley will replace Charles Osgood as the anchor of the highly rated CBS show 'Sunday Morning.' Mr. Osgood, who is retiring, announced the news on his last show on Sunday. Ms. Pauley’s first day in the role will be Oct. 9, and she will become only the third anchor of the show, which started in 1979." -- CW 

New York Times: "Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But how did our species go on to populate the rest of the globe?.... In a series of extraordinary genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer. In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.... All non-Africans are closely related to one another, geneticists found, and they all branch from a family tree rooted in Africa.... There are also clues that at least some modern humans may have departed Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration." -- CW ...

... CW Note to White Racists: You, too, are black. It's way past time to give up your quest for "racial purity"; it's genetically impossible. This, BTW, is something non-ignoramuses have known for a couple of decades. No wonder you hate science.

 

The Los Angeles Times has extensive coverage of the Emmy Awards here.

The video below will most likely be taken down for copyright infringement, so watch it while you can. It's pretty funny. Here's a WashPo report on Jeb!'s cameo on the opening bit for the Emmy Awards. Also, ABC may put up a video of it here, but they have nothing at all up on the awards ceremony as of 8:30 am ET, Monday, Sept. 19.

Chris Welch of the Verge: "Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work.... Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform's 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages."

You'll want to supersize this one:

 

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unsuccessful in his bid to become Donald Trump's running mate, has reimagined himself as a celebrity, instead. He'll appear this season on "Dancing with the 'Stars,'" competing against other fabulous celebrities like Ryan Lochte, unless Lochte is unavoidably detained in a Brazilian jail. (Here's a link to Perry's veepstakes proffer. Of course Trump ultimately rejected Perry, but promised to make him head of some agency or department Perry probably can't remember.) CW: As always, we concentrate on the serious, important news because politics ain't funny.

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- CW 

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

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Wednesday
Apr302014

The Commentariat -- May 1, 2014

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "With the Republican-led filibuster of a Senate proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 on Wednesday, Democrats moved swiftly to frame the vote as an example of the gulf that exists between the two parties on matters of economic fairness and upward mobility. The question is not just one of money, they said, but of morality. And in doing so the Democrats returned to the themes that were successful for their party and President Obama in 2012 .... Speaking from the White House shortly after the measure was defeated 54 to 42, with 60 votes needed to advance, Mr. Obama admonished Republicans and called on voters to punish them at the polls in November":

... ** Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: Living standards for the poor are better than they were 50 years ago, but the poor have fallen further behind the middle-class & rich. Read the whole article. ...

... O Canada! Ian Austen & David Leonhardt of the New York Times: Middle-class Canadians are better off than middle-class U.S. workers. "... median income in Canada appears to have surpassed median income in the United States. Plus, their health care is cheaper, they're better-educated, they have higher union membership, the rich aren't as rich, & Canadians didn't lose their homes in the global recession [because Canadian regulations don't allow big bankers to run amok]. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Can we just drop the pretense now and admit that one of our two major political parties is perfectly fine with pauperizing the American middle-class in order to 'redistribute' wealth upwards?"

We have to be cognizant of how people hear things. For instance, when I think of 'inner city,' I think of everyone. I don't just think of one race. It doesn't even occur to me that it could come across as a racial statement, but that's not the case, apparently.... What I learned is that there's a whole language and history that people are very sensitive to, understandably so. We just have to better understand. You know, we'll be a little clumsy, but it's with the right intentions behind it. -- Rep. Paul White Bread Ryan (R-Wis.), after meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday

CW Translation: Tetchy, tetchy. Among the many failings of those people, they don't hear right. I'm still the best person ever.

CW Alternate Translation: Damn! Those people are on to me. My staff will have to think of another code phrase for 'lazy black city folk.'

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "By 2020, about 90 percent of American workers who now receive health insurance through their employers will be shifted to government exchanges created by the health law, according to a projection by S&P Capital IQ, a research firm serving the financial industry."

Daily Beast illustration.Jerry Markon, et al., of the Washington Post: "As officials in Oklahoma said they would investigate the botched execution that has drawn worldwide scrutiny, the White House weighed in and said that the execution was not conducted humanely. 'We have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely,' Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday during a briefing. 'And I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.'" ...

... Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "Secret suppliers of drugs, changes in lethal-injection protocol, a cavalier attitude among Oklahoma officials, and a national death-penalty system in crisis preceded Tuesday's failed execution." ...

... ** Andrew Cohen of the Atlantic: "What happened [Tuesday] night was the inevitable result of a breakdown in government in Oklahoma, where frustration at the continuing delay in the resolution of Lockett's case blinded state officials to the basic requirements of due process.... Lockett now is a symbol of feckless judicial review by the federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.... It's on[, among others,] Justice Antonin Scalia, the man of great faith, who just a few months ago, in oral argument in Hall v. Florida, lamented the slow pace of executions in this country and blamed his colleagues for the delay." ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress has more on the history behind current executions. ...

... New York Times Editors: "On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after her employees tortured a man to death, [Oklahoma Gov. Mary] Fallin [R] suddenly showed an interest in execution procedures. She ordered an independent review of the injection protocol, halting further state killings until the investigation is complete. She should have gone much further and followed other governors and legislatures in banning executions, recognizing that the American administration of death does not function. Mr. Lockett's ordeal, along with the botched deaths of other inmates around the country, showed there is no reliable and humane method of execution." ...

... Mike Sacks of the Daily Beast on the Supreme Court & the death penalty. The Court won't eliminate the death penalty, so it's up to voters.

Being a Winger Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry, Ctd. Mark Sherman of the AP: "Supreme Court opinions are rarely susceptible to the kind of fact-checking that reporters usually employ on politics. But Justice Antonin Scalia's hearty dissent in an environmental case this week contained such a glaring error of fact -- misreporting an earlier case in which Scalia himself wrote the majority opinion -- that the justice changed the opinion. The court quietly posted the corrected version on its website without notice."

Monica Davey of the New, York Times: Illinois Democrats propose to spend $100 million to lure President Obama to locate his library in Illinois, claiming the state will recoup the money in increased tourism. Republicans object. ...

     ... CW: I'm with Republicans on this. However, I'll bet they'd be happy to spend $100MM to get a pro ball team to move to Chicago. Or way more. From ESPN Chicago, July 2013: "The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a $500 million renovation plan for the 99-year-old Wrigley Field, including a massive left-field LED scoreboard and a large neon right-field sign."

Gail Collins: $1 million won't buy you much these days. Unless you think Jeb Bush's advice or four Hillary Clinton speeches are practically priceless.

Dave Weigel of Slate unpacks the newest Benghaaazi! "scandal": "... the entire argument is about Rhodes mentioning, hours after the CIA had suggested the Benghazi attack grew out of demonstrations in several countries, that the immediate inspiration for the demonstrations was a video. That's the scandal -- that by giving the video all this credit, the administration was distracting people from the real story that terrorism was surging again. Even though the subsequent 19 months have seen no more attacks on embassies. Even though reporting at the time said the excuse for the protests was said video."

Etiquette Rule: Don't Embarrass the Host. Philip Otterman of the Guardian: "The German government has blocked Edward Snowden from giving personal evidence in front of a parliamentary inquiry into NSA surveillance, it has emerged hours before Angela Merkel travels to Washington for a meeting with Barack Obama. In a letter to members of a parliamentary committee obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung, government officials say a personal invitation for the US whistleblower would 'run counter to the political interests of the Federal Republic', and 'put a grave and permanent strain' on US-German relations.'"

Our American Presidents

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Former President Bill Clinton, who has grown increasingly frustrated that his economic policies are viewed as out-of-step with the current focus on income inequality, on Wednesday delivered his most muscular defense of his economic legacy. The speech reflected a strategic effort by Mr. Clinton and his advisers to reclaim the populist ground now occupied by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other ascendant left-leaning Democrats, and, potentially, to lay out an economic message that could propel his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the White House in 2016."

That "Special Relationship" with Bozo. Nico Hines & Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "In the early1980s, senior members of the British foreign service were appalled by what they saw as the American president's bumbling ignorance and lack of interest in world affairs. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were often portrayed as geo-political soul mates, but government files declassified in London on Wednesday expose a deep British disdain for the president who was described in official papers as homophobic, uninformed, disinterested and, not to put too fine a point on it, 'a Bozo.'"

A'Way Out West

The Nation of Bundyland Is A'Crumblin'. Its once-loyal troops break into civil war. A Daily Kos contributor reports. CW: Funnier if the troops weren't armed & crazy. Via Charles Pierce. ...

... CW: A good deal of attention has been given to the disappeared comma in the Second Amendment. Constitutional scholars instead should devote more thought to the nonstandard spelling & scrivner's error in the Amendment, what with its having been writ by hand before Webster introduced standard American spelling. The ratified version of the Amendment reads,

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

     ... But, with due respect to Justice Scalia (which would be no respect whatsoever), the original intent of the Founders surely was this guarantee:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bare arse shall not be infringed.

     ... I hold this truth to be self-evident. The venerable Founders could not have been stoopid enough to give those crazy high-plains grifters the right to "bear arms" such as muskets. Their skinny white asses, however, are relatively harmless.

A'Way Closer to D.C.

Michelle Cottle of the Daily Beast: Virginia's Republican party primary process is so undemocratic that a voter suppression technique used to select the establishment candidate actually looks like progress.

Not Everything Is Great in Canada

Jenny Yuen, et al., of the Toronto Sun: Toronto "Mayor Rob Ford says he's 'ready to take a break' from the mayoral election campaign to 'go get help.' The decision to immediately step away from the campaign — while staying on the ballot -- came after the Toronto Sun exclusively obtained a new raunchy audio recording of Ford ranting and swearing in an Etobicoke bar. The Globe and Mail also published a report that a new video surfaced of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what has been described as crack-cocaine early Saturday morning."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Th[e] eastern Ukrainian city [of Donetsk] took another step toward mob rule Thursday as pro-Russian separatists stormed the state prosecutor's office and forced dozens of riot police deployed to guard the building into a humiliating surrender. The attackers, who threw stones and wielded sticks, were backed by a crowd of at least 1,000 men and women of all ages. They chanted 'fascists' and 'traitors' at the riot police and waved Russian flags as well as those of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic.... In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin made what appears to be a politically impossible demand: that the Ukrainian government completely withdraw its troops from the southeastern part of the country. He made the comments in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel...."

Reuters: "Two inmates were killed and between 100 and 150 prisoners and guards injured in an apparent gas explosion at a jail in northern Florida late on Wednesday, a county official said. The blast partly leveled the four-story Escambia County Jail's central booking facility, which held roughly 600 inmates, at about 11 p.m., county spokeswoman Kathleen Castro said. No escapees were reported."

New York Times: "Ukraine’s acting president conceded what had long been obvious: The government's police and security officials had lost control in the areas surrounding the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk." ...

... Reuters: "Ukraine said on Thursday it had detained Russia's military attaché to Kiev on suspicion of spying and ordered him to leave, as the ex-Soviet republic wrestles with an armed uprising it says is orchestrated by Moscow." ...

... Bloomberg News: "The International Monetary Fund approved a $17-billion loan to Ukraine with an immediate disbursement of $3.2 billion to help the country pay its debts as separatist unrest threatens to split the nation's east."

... AP: "The International Monetary Fund estimates that Russia's economy has already entered recession as fears of broad economic sanctions weigh on the economy. Russia's economy shrank 0.5 percent in the first quarter of the year compared with the previous three-month period and is expected to continue struggling, said the head of the IMF mission in Russia, Antonio Spilimbergo."

AP: "Police in Northern Ireland arrested Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the Irish Republican Army's 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow."

Tuesday
Apr292014

The Commentariat -- April 30, 2014

Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs. The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "In a major environmental victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate the smog-causing pollution from coal-fired power plants that wafts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The 6-to-2 ruling upholds a centerpiece of what has become a signature of President Obama's environmental agenda: a series of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants.... In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, suggested that the regulation was Marxist and unwieldy." CW: Those two really are just a couple of clowns. ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "After a tangled Supreme Court argument on Monday over the First Amendment rights of public employees, it seemed likely that the justices would render a split decision. The question was whether Edward R. Lane, a former director of a youth program at a public community college in Alabama, could be fired for responding to a subpoena and giving trial testimony in what the state's attorney general told the court on Monday 'was one of the most egregious public corruption situations in Alabama's history.'"

Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "In the Roberts Court, there are no Bundys and Sterlings; the real targets of the conservative majority are those who've spent their lives fighting the Bundys and Sterlings of the world.... [In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action...,] it was as if the Justices in the majority and those in dissent were writing about different countries." ...

... Mark A. Thompson of the American Prospect: "Beginning with the April 22 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States allowing affirmative action's fate to be decided at state ballot boxes, followed 24 hours later by rancher Cliven Bundy's comments on slavery's positive attributes, followed 48 hours later by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's plantation master attitude on display in a recorded telephone conversation attributed to him, this past week has been hell for African Americans. So much for post-racialism." ...

... CW: It pleases me that so many opinionators are linking Roberts, et al., to Bundy & Sterling.

... Lynn Zinser of the New York Times: "Donald Sterling ... was barred from the N.B.A. for life and may be forced to sell the team for making racist remarks, the league commissioner, Adam Silver, announced Tuesday. Silver said that Sterling would be barred from any contact with his team and the league and that he would be fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by the league's constitution." ...

... Travis Waldron: "Racist Donald Sterling is distracting everyone's attention from sexist Donald Sterling." ...

... ** Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post: "Race is, hands down, the most repulsive aspect of the Donald Sterling scandal. But sex is a close second."

Dylan Scott of TPM: "A Democratic congressman from Nevada said in a letter this week that his constituents have reported the armed militia supporting rancher Cliven Bundy have set up checkpoints to verify the residency of anybody passing through. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who represents the area, sent the letter Sunday to Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, asking him to investigate."

Ben Protess & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors are nearing criminal charges against some of the world's biggest banks, according to lawyers briefed on the matter, a development that could produce the first guilty plea from a major bank in more than two decades. In doing so, prosecutors are confronting the popular belief that Wall Street institutions have grown so important to the economy that they cannot be charged. A lack of criminal prosecutions of banks and their leaders fueled a public outcry over the perception that Wall Street giants are 'too big to jail.'... Prosecutors in Washington and New York have met with regulators about how to criminally punish banks without putting them out of business and damaging the economy...."

NEW. Anthony Man of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel: "Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories. What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints." Thanks to Victoria D. for the lead. ...

... Arit John of the Atlantic: "... if Scott wanted to hear how the health care law affects people's lives, he didn't need to look that hard. The left's horror story is still the woman who died uninsured because Florida refused to expand Medicaid." ...

Medical Procedure Cures Brainwashing! I didn't care for Obama. I can’t say nothing bad about him now because it was his plan that probably saved my life. -- Dean Angstadt, Fox "News" victim ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: A confirmed anti-ObamaCare logger & Fox "News" viewer changes his mind after a friend "performed an intervention" to get him to sign up, allowing him to get a lifesaving heart valve replacement.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) said on Tuesday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) had asked him to resign and, according to McAllister, the response was a very clear 'no.' Cantor had asked his fellow congressman to resign after McAllister was caught on tape kissing a staffer who is not his wife."

Michael Paulson of the New York Times: "The major umbrella organization of Jewish groups plans to vote on whether to admit a dovish lobbying organization that has been critical of some Israeli policies. The vote on whether to allow the group, J Street, to join the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations comes at a time when Jewish institutions have been struggling over how much debate over Israel they are willing to tolerate."

MoDo writes another column attacking President Obama. So, back to normal. ...

... AND, speaking of those suffering from obsessive-reflexive antiobamaitis syndrome..., Oren Dorell of USA Today: "Republicans say e-mails released Tuesday on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, include 'the smoking gun' that shows a White House official urged that the assault on the U.S. consulate be blamed on a protest that never happened. The e-mails, obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request, include one in which White House official Ben Rhodes lists 'goals' for then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice to meet in explaining the attack and protests occurring across the Middle East that week to the American public.... The White House said it relied on the best intelligence available at the time, and when better intelligence arrived, the story was clarified."

Congressional Races

Steve M. looks at the Washington Post/ABC News poll, linked yesterday, that looked like bad news for Democrats. What Steve noticed was that Americans prefer Democratic to Republican policies; they just don't like Obama much.

Beyond the Beltway

Laura Vozzella & Pamela Constable of the Washington Post: "Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring thrust himself and his state back into the national spotlight on Tuesday by announcing that some illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children can qualify for in-state tuition under existing law.... The announcement came following a legislative session in which a Republican-dominated House of Delegates firmly rejected a 'Dream Act,' which would have accomplished through statute what Herring did Tuesday with the stroke of a pen."

Bailey McBride & Sean Murphy of the AP: "An Oklahoma inmate whose execution was halted Tuesday because the delivery of a new drug combination was botched died of a heart attack, the head of the state Department of Corrections said. Director Robert Patton said inmate Clayton Lockett died Tuesday after all three drugs were administered. Patton halted Lockett's execution about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered. He said there had been vein failure." ...

... Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: "Tuesday night's botched execution in Oklahoma, which resulted in an inmate's writhing death from a heart attack 43 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection, was just one in a series of bungled execution attempts the past few years. It's prompting calls for a moratorium on capital punishment from death penalty opponents." ...

... More horrifying details from Ben Crair of the New Republic: "In all likelihood, the executioner who inserted Lockett's IV -- and, in Oklahoma, an IV is inserted into both arms -- missed the veins or went right through them." ...

... Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "For years, there's been mounting evidence that lethal injections are being bungled in the hands of non-experts, leading an increasing number of medical professionals to condemn this method of execution as inhumane." ...

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "Disgracefully, this botched execution was entirely predictable.

Yes, Lockett and Warner's crimes were utterly heinous. But so was this state-sponsored killing, perhaps even more so in light of Oklahoma Republicans' bloodthirsty rush to execute Lockett and Warner. We have known for years that the death penalty is 'cruel and unusual punishment.' We know that the drug cocktails used in lethal injections were designed to be 'visually palatable' at the expense of more effectively preventing excruciating pain. We know that the death penalty is frequently administered in a racially biased fashion. And we know that, as reported this week, 'about one in 25 people imprisoned under a death sentence is likely innocent.' It is long past time for the United States to end this barbaric practice.

Patrick Marley, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "In a decision that could have implications nationally and in Wisconsin's November elections, a federal judge on Tuesday struck down the state's voter ID law, saying it violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. The law known as Act 23 had already been blocked by a state judge. For the law to be put back in place, supporters would have to overturn both the state and federal decisions -- a possibility that could prove difficult between now and the Nov. 4 election for governor.... [Judge Lynn] Adelman, a former Democratic state senator known for sponsoring the state's open records law, determined that in practice the law requiring voters to show one of nine types of photo IDs at the polls established an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. It also violated the federal Voting Rights Act because its effects hit Latinos and African-Americans harder than whites, he wrote."

News Lede

Time: "The deadline for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians expired without a deal on Tuesday, with the two sides blaming each other for the lack of a breakthrough in the negotiations brokered by the U.S."

Monday
Apr282014

The Commentariat -- April 29, 2014

Michael Doyle of McClatchy News: "At least 4.1 percent of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, the study's authors note, 'it is all but certain that several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent." ...

... as far as anyone can determine (and many are looking), none of cases included in the .027% error rate for American verdicts involved a capital defendant erroneously executed. -- Justice Antonin Scalia, concurring opinion in Kansas v. Marsh, 2006

Guilty? Innocent? It Doesn't Matter. This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged 'actual innocence' is constitutionally cognizable. -- Justice Scalia, dissent in re Davis, 2009

Another Great Reason to Be an Originalist: Bloodlust. For me, therefore, the constitutionality of the death penalty is not a difficult, soul-wrenching question. It was clearly permitted when the Eighth Amendment was adopted (not merely for murder, by the way, but for all felonies -- including, for example, horse -- thieving, as anyone can verify by watching a western movie). And so it is clearly permitted today. -- Justice Scalia, speaking at a Pew Research Fortum in 2002

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama, stung by criticism of his response to turmoil from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, defended his approach to foreign policy as a slow but steady pursuit of American interests while avoiding military conflict, and he lashed out at those he said reflexively call for the use of force. Standing next to the Philippine president, Benigno S. Aquino III, a visibly frustrated Mr. Obama said on Monday that his critics had failed to learn the lessons of the Iraq war." ...

... The full press conference. Ed Henry of Fox "News" asks his Fox "Newsy" questions beginning at about 30:45 min. in:

CW: I missed the underlying CNN story, by Scott Bronstein & Drew Griffin, on the Phoenix VA, about which Henry asks: "At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources." It is a horrifying story. ...

     ... CW: The main reason I missed this story: CNN -- which uncovered the story -- was the most liberal media outlet to cover it. If liberal media are unwilling to cover stories that disgrace the Obama administration or liberal policies, they are no better than conservative media who cover only stories that reflect badly on President Obama and Democrats. So thanks, Ed Henry. That was one Fox "Newsy" question I appreciate. ...

     ... Josh Hicks of the Washington Post on President Obama's response to Henry's question about the Phoenix VA. ...

... Josh Levs & Elise Labott of CNN: "The United States expanded its sanctions against Russia on Monday, targeting members of President Vladimir Putin's 'inner circle' and technology that could be useful to Russia's military. President Barack Obama said the 'targeted' sanctions are in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine." ...

... Juergen Baetz of the AP: "The European Union on Tuesday released the names of 15 new targets of sanctions because of their roles in the Ukraine crisis. The list includes Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff and first deputy defense minister, and Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun, identified as head of GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. The decision taken by the EU governments' ambassadors in Brussels brings the total number of Russians or pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine targeted by the EU's sanctions to 48." ...

... David Stout of Time: "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel received 'assurance' from his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu, on Monday that the Kremlin would not send troops amassed on its western border with Ukraine, where separatist forces have called for Moscow's assistance."


Jennifer Steinhauer
of the New York Times: "Reacting to a series of highly publicized rapes on college campuses, the White House on Monday released guidelines that increase the pressure on universities to more aggressively combat sexual assaults on campus."

Mr. Kerry Regrets. Brett Logiorato the Business Insider: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement in 'support for Israel' Monday night, after a day of high-profile controversy surrounding his weekend warning that Israel may become an 'apartheid state' if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fall through. 'I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution,' Kerry said in the statement." ...

... Here's Kerry's official statement. ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico: "Secretary of State John Kerry's private remarks to a meeting of influential world leaders last week were allegedly taped by [Josh Rogin,] a reporter from The Daily Beast, a fact that led to a personal apology from Trilateral Commission chairman Joseph S. Nye on Monday." ...

     ... CW: AND kudos this time go to Diplomatic Security, the agents responsible for protecting U.S. State Department personnel. It boggles my mind that American security officers are so inept. How did Rogin slip past these bozos? Was he wearing a Groucho mask, or what? ...

... The Ever-Diplomatic Ted Cruz Is Outraged. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz called for the resignation of Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday afternoon, criticizing Kerry for reportedly telling world leaders that he fears Israel could become an 'apartheid state.'" ...

... Juan Cole: Five ways Kerry understated Israeli apartheid policies. "Israeli society inside 1967 borders is not broadly characterized by Apartheid conditions, though Palestinian-Israelis do labor under legal forms of discrimination.... Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights."

Rod Dreher of the American Conservative (and a super-religious guy): "Man, the 12 minute speech Sarah Palin gave to the NRA convention is awful. It's just witless, red-meat blathering, delivered in that nasal whine of hers that makes it sound like she's chewing wads of tinfoil.... [In] part of a long harangue about lily-livered liberals, delivered in such a way that makes Archie Bunker sound like Cicero, [Palin says,] 'Oh, but you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.' OK, stop. Not only is this woman, putatively a Christian, praising torture, but she is comparing it to a holy sacrament of the Christian faith. It's disgusting -- but even more disgusting, those NRA members, many of whom are no doubt Christians, cheered wildly for her." ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post finds more conservatives who found Palin's speech appalling. He includes Andrew Sullivan, who has derided Palin from the git-go, & who now goes full-Nazi:

It is the kind of statement you might expect from the Khmer Rouge, or from the Chinese Communists who perfected 'stress positions', or from the Nazis, whose Gestapo pioneered 'enhanced interrogation', i.e. brutal torture that would leave no physical traces. Except it's worse than that. Even totalitarian regimes have publicly denied their torture. Their reticence and lies are some small concession of vice to the appearance of virtue. Not Palin -- who wants to celebrate brutal torture as the American way. And then she manages to go one step further. She invokes torture in the context of a Christian sacrament. Not since the Nazis’ Deutsche Christen have we seen something so disgusting and blasphemous in the morphing of Christianity into its polar opposite.

      ... Worse Than Hitler? According to the help, Adolf Hitler was "charming" & Eva Braun was "elegant" & pleasant to the household staff. Not sure if Palin's employees would give her such high marks. ...

... Ms. Palin Does Not Regret. Evan McMurry of Mediaite. Palin stands by her waterboarding-baptism punchline -- and mentions again what a wonderful world it would be if she were "in charge."

... In Search of Palin's Source. Steve M. has a must-read on the history of waterboarding & its relationship to -- baptism. Hey, maybe it turns out Sarah Palin is a serious Christian scholar! Coming upon gems like this is why I loves the Internets.

Charlie Savage & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Edward J. Snowden ... retained a well-known Washington defense lawyer [-- Plato Cacheris --] last summer in hopes of reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors that would allow him to return to the United States and spare him significant prison time."

From Torturer to Suburbanite. Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: A brutal torturer who ran Afghan "intelligence" operations after the US-led invasion of 2001, turns up living in a two-storey pink stucco house in Southern California. The "case touches on critical questions looming over [the US Afghanistan] disengagement. What will happen to thousands of Afghans seeking to accompany the American exodus? And how will U.S.-built institutions in that country -- particularly its intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) -- treat those left behind?"

No Cuffs for the Congressman. Jason Hanna, et al., of CNN: "U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm failed to report more than $1 million in sales and wages at a Manhattan restaurant he once ran, using unreported cash to pay workers 'off the books' to 'evade taxes and keep more money for himself,' a federal prosecutor said. Grimm, R-New York, pleaded not guilty on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn to 20 counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, hiring unauthorized aliens and perjury. A former FBI agent who used to investigate fraud, Grimm wore a dark suit and was not handcuffed during the hearing. He was released on $400,000 bond, secured by his home in Staten Island. As conditions for his release, Grimm, 44, must surrender his guns and passport. He told reporters that he would remain in office while fighting the charges." ...

... Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post summarizes the charges in Grimm's indictment. The indictment, via CBS New York, is here. ...

... Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times adds background.

The Sporting Life

Never Mind. Asawin Suebsaeng & Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones: "Does it really matter whether racist LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a registered Democrat? Or a Republican? Or a member of the Pirate Party of Russia? Well, according to multiple conservative media outlets, yes, it does matter.... The Donald-Sterling-Is-a-Democrat meme ... took hold within right-wing media." (Or, as Akhilleus wrote yesterday, "The Drudge and Breitbart sites haven't stopped digitally quivering all weekend. A racist who isn't one of theirs. Jesus be praised. How the fuck did that happen?") "... here's a news flash for those conservatives eager to bring up the topic: He's a Republican.... [Emphasis mine.] There's little reason to get excited about Sterling's political affiliation. But if you choose to do so, you ought to get it right." ...

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "... whenever a high profile public figure is caught uttering racist comments, or a whenever a sociopath commits mass murder, the entire right wing media machine immediately starts searching through public records to see if that person ever, in his or her entire life, donated to a Democrat or registered as a Democrat in an election. And if they find what they're searching for, they immediately start ranting in unison that the person in question is proof that the 'real racists' or the 'real psycho killers' are actually, yes, liberals.... The point of making Sterling out to be a 'liberal,' of course, is to ... retaliat[e] for their hero Cliven Bundy being exposed as a racist. But anyone with more than two brain cells can see the huge difference in these two cases: the right wing turned out en masse to support Cliven Bundy and praise him as a hero of the conservative movement, while no liberal or" Democrat has uttered a single word of support for Donald Sterling." ...

     ... CW: I think Johnson is wrong here. The NAACP was going to give Sterling a lifetime achievement award. That sounds like quite "a word of support" to me. (Yes, I would consider the NAACP a liberal organization.) ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "... conservatives ... can't acknowledge this larger context of Democratic support for the things that have mostly improved black people;s lives and Republicans' almost total opposition to them since at least the 1980s. To acknowledge all that would be to acknowledge that they've been wrong on one of the most searing issues in American political history. They of course can't do that. So they have to construct this alternative, fantasy narrative.... They can't acknowledge ... the damage that racism has done. So they turn racism into a mere personal attribute, thereby divorcing it from any notion of political power."

It's the Girlfriend's Fault. -- Donald Trump

It's the Girlfriend's Fault. Also "racism'"s fault. And the NSA's. And the media's. -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

It's the Girlfriend's Fault. Also, he still has been the worst owner in the modern history of professional sports. -- Charles Pierce

It's Obama's Fault. This is not news to anybody who has known of this guy. This guy is a big Democrat. The only reason he's in trouble is because he did not give enough money to Obama.... Everybody in the media, from LA to New York, who's acting shocked about this, I'm telling you they've known who this guy is for the longest time. They've known he is a slum lord. They know that he is a racist. They know that he's basically a despicable human being, and now he may be demented. -- Rush Limbaugh

NBA Sterling is a Democrat... — Matt Drudge ...

... CW: I checked Drudge's site Monday evening & was shocked, shocked to discover he hadn't made a correction & issued a profound mea culpa. He just took the story down. Being a winger means never having to say you're sorry. ...

... The Nation republishes part of Dave Zirin's 2010 book on pro-ball owners. In it, he details what a total dirtbag Sterling is.

David Moore of USA Today: "Sponsors are pulling a fast break away from the Los Angeles Clippers and their embattled owner, Donald Sterling. As the condemnation of Sterling and his racially insensitive comments spread Monday, major financial supporters of the NBA franchise announced they were severing ties with the Clippers. In rapid succession, the mass exodus included used car seller CarMax, State Farm Insurance, Kia Motors America, airline Virgin America, P. Diddy's water brand, AQUAHydrate, Red Bull, Yokohama tires and Mercedes-Benz."

Congressional Elections

Dan Balz & Peyton Craighill of the Washington Post: "Democrats face serious obstacles as they look to the November elections, with President Obama's approval rating at a new low and a majority of voters saying they prefer a Congress in Republican hands to check the president's agenda, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Obama's approval rating fell to 41 percent, down from 46 percent through the first three months of the year and the lowest of his presidency in Post-ABC News polls."

Scott Brown Runs on Fauxbamacare. Ezra Klein of Vox: Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass), who is running for a Senate seat representing New Hampshire, "is picking up on a real opportunity.... The polls around Obamacare are frustrating both to the law's principled supporters and its principled opponents. There is, in theory at least, a huge opening for an unprincipled opponent -- someone who opposes 'Obamacare', but supports virtually all of the policies in Obamacare. Someone who supports Fauxbamacare.... The polls are clear. The American people don't want Obamacare. However, they like what's in Obamacare. And they don't like it when Republicans try to get rid of Obamacare. Brown's position shows Republicans a way out: a rebranding of Obamacare, accompanied, perhaps, by some vague tweaks and changes to be named later." ...

     ... CW: Pay attention, Jean Shaheen.

Beyond the Beltway

Josh Sanburn of Time: "The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) announced Monday it would increase the dosage of sedative midazolam from 10 mg to 50 mg while upping the dosage of hydromorphone, which is used to stop one's breathing, from 40 mg to 50 mg. The change follows the January execution of Dennis McGuire, who reportedly made snorting and snoring noises during the 25-minute process."

Sunday
Apr272014

The Commentariat -- April 28, 2014

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "On Sunday, President Obama visited Malaysia to underscore how much has changed in the last 16 years -- not least in this country's attitude toward the United States, which has evolved from deep-seated suspicion to a cautious desire for cooperation. Citing negotiations for a trans-Pacific trade accord, a formal agreement to cooperate in halting the spread of nuclear equipment, and the international search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, Mr. Obama said, 'We're working more closely together than ever before.'" ...

... Emily Rauhala of Time: "On Monday morning, local time, the U.S. and the Philippines signed a 10 year pact that will give U.S. planes, warships and troops more access to the archipelagic nation. The U.S. will not reestablish a permanent base, but will rotate troops through. The deal, officially called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, took eight months of negotiation, and gives some substance to the Obama's administration's 'pivot' to Asia."

Andrew Taylor of the AP: "Congress gets back to work Monday after a two-week vacation, and it's looking like lawmakers will do what they do best: the bare minimum."

A Congressional Perp Surrenders. Paul Kane & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.) surrendered Monday morning to federal authorities in New York as he faces multiple charges connected to a restaurant business he operated before entering Congress in 2011, according to sources familiar with the long-running probe into the lawmaker's finances. Grimm spent much of the weekend hunkered down, bracing for the unveiling of the federal charges, which were due to be disclosed after his surrender. He turned himself in to the FBI at an undisclosed location Monday morning and was taken to Lower Manhattan for processing."

Julie Creswell & Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times: "... in 2012, according to federal data, $4.1 million from Medicare coursed through the office in a modest white house on Ocean Avenue [in Brooklyn]. In all, the practice treated around 1,950 Medicare patients that year. On average, it was paid by Medicare for 94 separate procedures for each one. That works out to about 183,000 treatments a year, 500 a day, 21 an hour. What makes those figures more remarkable, and raises eyebrows among medical experts, is that judging by Medicare billing records, one person did it all. His name is Wael Bakry, and he is not some A-list cardiologist, oncologist or internist. He is a physical therapist.... Physical therapy has become a Medicare gold mine.... Federal authorities say the borough [of Brooklyn] is a national hot spot for Medicare fraud, particularly fraud involving physical therapy."

"Welfare Queens of the Purple Sage." Paul Krugman: "... at the heart of the [Cliven Bundy-BLM] standoff was a perversion of the concept of freedom, which for too much of the right has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for others.... In many cases [the BLM] doesn't even charge enough to cover the costs that these private activities impose. In effect, the government is ... subsidiz[ing] ranchers and mining companies at taxpayers' expense.... Some of the people profiting from implicit taxpayer subsidies manage, all the same, to convince themselves and others that they are rugged individualists. But they're actually welfare queens of the purple sage. And this in turn means that treating Mr. Bundy as some kind of libertarian hero is, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy." Read the whole column.

Guns for the Kiddies. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "The National Rifle Association on Sunday offered young children free membership and the opportunity to win a high-powered rifle or shotgun. A 'Youth Day' at the influential gun lobby group's annual convention in Indianapolis was scheduled to culminate with a prize draw in which participants could take home a WBY-X rifle or shotgun supplied by Weatherby, a major firearms manufacturer and a sponsor of the event. All were also given a free six-month youth membership of the NRA. Media were banned from covering Youth Day." CW: What? The NRA isn't proud of giving guns to children?

Richard Kahlenberg, in the New Republic, reviews Place and Race, by Sheryll Cashin. "The achievement gap by income is twice the gap by race.... Cashin proposes giving a leg-up in college admissions to students of any race who grow up in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and attend high poverty schools." Read the whole review.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: " In a major test of how to interpret the Fourth Amendment in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider two cases about whether the police need warrants to search the cellphones of the people they arrest.... The justices are not always savvy about technology. At last week's argument over whether an Internet streaming service is lawful, Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to think HBO is a broadcast rather than a cable channel."

Reity O'Brien, et al., in the Daily Beast: "Federal judges aren't supposed to hear cases in which they have a financial stake. Dozens do it anyway.... In all, the Center [for Public Integrity] identified 24 cases where judges owned stock in a company with a case before them. In two other instances, the judges had financial ties with law firms working on cases over which they presided."

Missed This. David Streitfeld of the New York Times (April 24): "Four of the largest technology companies tentatively settled on Thursday a class action brought by 64,000 of their engineers, who accused them of agreeing not to solicit one another's employees. The amount of the settlement was not released, but people with knowledge of the deal said it was in the neighborhood of $300 million. The companies, which are some of the world's richest, must think that is a bargain." ...

... Kevin Roose of New York: "... Silicon Valley's top-level executives often behave as a cartel -- displaying more loyalty to each other, across company lines, than to their own employees -- and that Steve Jobs was a particularly feared cartel leader with a retributive streak.... In tech..., collusion was the status quo. As the pretrial documents show, executives at these firms made blanket promises not to recruit each others' employees for years, causing thousands of their workers to lose out on opportunities they might otherwise have had."

E. J. Dionne: "The creativity of the National Rifle Association and other organizations devoted to establishing conditions in which every man, woman and child in our nation will have to be armed is awe-inspiring.... Nowhere else in the world do the laws on firearms become the playthings of politicians and lobbyists intent on manufacturing cultural conflict. Nowhere else do elected officials turn the matter of taking a gun to church into a searing ideological question. But then, guns are not a religion in most countries."

When Dumb & Dumber Are One & the Same

Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists. -- Former half-governor & vice-presidential runner-up Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), speaking at the NRA convention

Do you know why those clownish little Kumbaya-humming fairytale-inhaling liberals want to be tough all of a sudden and control your guns? It's 'cuz guys like Al Franken and Harry Reid, they are not satisfied with just taking your money and your job, your truck and your property and your rights, your healthcare -- they didn't want to just stop at that. -- Palin again

The Sporting Life

Kyle Wagner of Deadspin: "Deadspin has acquired an extended, 15-minute version of the conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano. If the original nine-minute tape acquired by TMZ left any questions about Sterling's opinions regarding minorities, the audio here should remove all doubt that he's a doddering racist with views not too far removed from the plantation."...

... Adolfo Flores & Bettina Boxall of the Los Angeles Times: "An audio recording said to be of Clippers team owner Donald Sterling making racist statements is authentic, and a woman named V. Stiviano did not release it to any news outlets, her attorney said in an e-mail Sunday to the Los Angeles Times. The 15-minute recording is part of a one-hour conversation between Sterling and his client, V. Stiviano, attorney Mac Nehoray said in the e-mail. Nehoray, of the Calabasas-based Nehoray Legal Group, is representing Stiviano in a civil lawsuit brought against her by Sterling's wife, Rochelle." ...

... Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post: Clippers owner Don Sterling's racism has "surely been common knowledge among NBA owners and executives for years, as far back as 1983 when he allegedly called his own players the N-word.... [His racism emerged in] sworn testimony in a 2002 slumlording case against Sterling for discriminating against tenants, not just blacks, but also Hispanics, who he called lazy drunks, and Koreans, who he deemed too powerless to complain, according to statements compiled by Deadspin.com.... That's the only way to eject Sterling from the league: through a backroom deal forged by the owners." ...

... CW: All of which makes me wonder why the NAACP was going to give Sterling a lifetime achievement award. ...

... How the Super-Rich "Pay" for Their Transgressions. Robert Silverman of the Daily Beast: "The NBA will likely suspend L.A. Clippers owner over his racist remarks and 'encourage' him to sell the team -- and it's not inconceivable the sale will earn him a $988 million profit." ...

... John Branch of the New York Times: "In a silent sign of solidarity, [Clippers] players shed their warm-up jackets together before the [playoff] game and placed them in a pile at midcourt, revealing red, long-sleeved team shirts worn inside out to obscure the team's name. And while they wore the Clippers' blue jerseys during the game, each player also wore black socks and black wristbands":

"Northwestern's shame." Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "You can make your voice heard. You can change the world. These are the kinds of opportunities élite universities promise prospective students in their glossy brochures. On Friday, the scholarship players on Northwestern University's football team gathered to do just that, in a historic vote on the question of unionization. Northwestern should have supported these players' right to a fair process just as eagerly as it celebrates their accomplishments on game days. Instead, according to several reports this week, school officials waged an organized campaign with a single goal: to sway the players toward voting no."

Presidential Race

I have a source that told me that if Jeb Bush decides not to run, that Mitt Romney may actually try it again. -- Bob Schieffer of CBS "News"

Ben White & Maggie Haberman of Politico: "The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky would be [Hillary] Clinton, a familiar face on Wall Street following her tenure as a New York senator with relatively moderate views on taxation and financial regulation."

Congressional Elections

Jonathan Chait: "Maybe the election won't be about ObamaCare, after all."

Sasha Issenberg, in the New Republic, thinks he has the formula for Democrats to win midterm elections: "Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments. Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won't show up without a friendly nudge." CW: Kind of a no-brainer.

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama, declaring that Russia was continuing to bully and threaten Ukraine, said [in Manila] on Monday that the United States would impose additional sanctions on Russian individuals and entities, as well as freezing some exports of military technology. The announcement, during a visit by Mr. Obama to the Philippines, was widely expected." ...

... Guardian: "The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, was fighting for his life on Monday after unidentified gunmen shot him in the back as he went for a morning swim. Gennady Kernes, 54, was undergoing emergency surgery in hospital, his office said."

AP: "A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president, including the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, the latest in mass trials that have drawn international condemnation and stunned rights groups. The same judge also upheld the death penalty for 37 of 529 defendants sentenced in a similar case in March, though he commuted the rest to life imprisonment."

Daily Beast: "If there's no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming 'an apartheid state,' Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday. Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term 'apartheid' in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to the Jewish state. Kerry's use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America...."

Reuters: "Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 17 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods, authorities said as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors."

Washington Post: "Frank Phillips, a Knox County[, Tennessee,] Sheriff's officer was fired Sunday night after a series of pictures taken by photographer John Messner were published in the Daily Mail in Britain. They showed an officer identified by the Sheriff's office as Phillips grabbing 21-year-old college student Jarod Dotson around the neck and squeezing until he fell to his knees."