The Ledes

Thursday, September 3, 2015.

AFP: "Embattled Guatemalan President Otto Perez announced his resignation Thursday, after a warrant was issued for his arrest for allegedly masterminding a huge fraud scheme."

New York Times: "Five Chinese Navy ships were sailing in international waters of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska on Wednesday, in what Pentagon officials said was the first such foray by Beijing. The move came on the last day of President Obama’s three-day visit to Alaska.... The White House said that the intent of the Chinese operation was unclear, but that the Pentagon had not detected any threatening activities."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
September 3

1:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

7:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden delivers a lecture in Atlanta, Georgia (audio only)

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Making Iced Tea out of Lemons. Not originally intended for publication. A friend of mine had some electrical work done on her house. She told me yesterday she was awaiting the inspector. Today in an e-mail titled "Inspector A Hole," she wrote, "Well, the inspector came early this morning.... He saw the gate closed and left. He did not ring the doorbell."

I wrote back, "I think when he arrived -- even if he didn't tell you what time he was coming -- you were supposed to be standing at the gate smiling, wearing an attractive outfit & holding out a tray of iced tea & cookies for him. A neat 'Welcome, Inspector A. Hole' sign would have been nice, too."

 A few minutes later, she responded with this:

You can't let the bastards get you down. Which helps explain why I so often post links to the most ridiculous inanities & hypocrisies coming out of the mouths of pols & pundits.

New York Times: "Bloomberg News laid off as many as 90 journalists on Tuesday[, Sept. 1,] in its newsrooms in New York, Washington and across the world, part of a plan to refocus the organization’s coverage on business, finance, economics, technology and politics. The rationale for the dismissals was outlined in a lengthy memo to the staff from Bloomberg’s new editor in chief, John Micklethwait."

Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE. -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.

 

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

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Monday
Apr012013

The Commentariat -- April 2, 2013

John Markoff & James Gorman of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday will announce a broad new research initiative, starting with $100 million in 2014, to invent and refine new technologies to understand the human brain."

Chris Hayes launches his MSNBC 8 pm show with a look at the Keystone XL pipeline:

... Charles Pierce: "This is the way we do things in America these days. Everything's working fine, until the catastrophe, which nobody could have foreseen, because everything's working just fine since the previous catastrophe. The pelicans must think we're all crazy."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Unable to meet tight deadlines in the new health care law, the Obama administration is delaying parts of a program intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees -- a major selling point for the health care legislation. The law calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses, starting next year. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan." ...

Richard Kirsch of the Roosevelt Institute, in Salon: "Big flaws in the [Affordable Care Act] will mean that many low-wage workers will be forced to choose between paying huge chunks of their income on premiums or on a penalty that leaves them with no coverage at all.... The news is much worse for family coverage." ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress explains why it's bad news for women that the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Hobby Lobby's case against the Obama administration's requirement that health insurance include contraceptive coverage. ...

... Ed Kilgore: the ACA has myriad problems. "Supporters of Obamacare need to get out of the habit of thinking that Obamacare's a done deal that the president's re-election entrenched beyond serious challenge." ...

... ObamaCare to Turn Violent Criminals Out on the Streets. Well, okay, no, that's just something Ted Cruz said. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "States that expand their Medicaid programs under a provision in the Affordable Care Act will be forced to open their prison doors and allow violent criminals to roam the streets, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed during a radio interview on Monday, insisting that the cost of providing health care to lower-income residents would reduce state funding for priorities like incarceration or education." CW: For Ted Cruz, April Fools' Day never ends.

Jonathan Chait of New York: "I'm an advocate of the theory, first put forward a decade ago by Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, that the electorate is forming a natural Democratic majority.... The picture looks grim for the GOP." CW: let's hope Chait is right.

Andrew Rosenthal: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's relationship with Jonnie Williams, the head of Star Scientific, "is a clear and direct example of the improper use of government money, facilities and power for the personal enrichment of friends. If the speech and the party were not a quid pro quo for the help with the wedding feast, it's hard to imagine what a quid pro quo is. Mr. Williams, it goes without saying, is also a big campaign contributor to Mr. McDonnell."

What's the Matter with Marco? Joan Walsh: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) "wants the stature bump that would come with being key to hammering out a[n immigration reform] deal, but he can't let it come about too quickly, lest he seem to have capitulated to [Sen. Chuck] Schumer [D-N.Y.].... For now, anyway, he's putting the Tea Party over Latinos." ...

... CW: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a weasly waffler who is fond of dancing with Democrats till he brushes them off, & he may do so again. But he is running for re-election in Red State Heaven & he still has a lot more guts than Sen. Marco Slo-Mo Rubio (R-Fla.) on immigration reform -- an issue where even red-state voters would probably cut Marco some slack on accounta his heritage. A person who is demonstrably weaker-willed than Lindsey Graham just might not be of presidential timbre, Marco.

Mark Follman of Mother Jones: "Ever since the massacres in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, it's been repeated like some surreal requiem: The reason mass gun violence keeps happening is because the United States is full of places that ban guns.... Not only is there zero evidence to support [this theory], our in-depth investigation of America's mass shootings indicates they are just plain wrong.... [Also,] if more guns in more places is a solution to the bloodshed, then why did we just witness the worst year for mass shootings in recent history?" ...

... Jon Lender & Jenny Wilson of the Hartford Courant: "With the nation watching, Newtown parents still grieving and gun owners objecting, legislative leaders Monday said they had met the solemn challenge presented by the Sandy Hook school massacre with a bipartisan agreement for the nation's strongest gun control bill. Easy passage of the legislative response to the Dec. 14 killings is expected in House and Senate votes scheduled for Wednesday, leaders of both the Democratic majority and Republican minority said after completing weeks of negotiations on the bill."

David Voreacos of Bloomberg: "Salomon Melgen, the Florida political donor at the center of a criminal probe, said he and Senator Robert Menendez are 'like brothers' who spoke weekly, yet his companies never benefited and he broke no laws." CW: well, okay then, totally believable; that settles that.

Colby Itkowitz of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, Morning Call: "Sen. Bob Casey told The Morning Call on Monday he now supports same-sex marriage. In an interview, the Pennsylvania Democrat said he had decided over time that the Defense of Marriage Act -- the federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman -- should be repealed, and determined that such a belief could not be separate from the overall question of gay marriage." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Dan Amira of New York chronicles Bill O'Reilly's evolution on gay marriage. ...

... Peter Beinert of Newsweek: "O'Reilly is a conservative populist, which is to say, he only champions those conservative viewpoints that he believes enjoy mass appeal." Beinert notes several hot-button issues where O'Reilly has "evolved" along with popular opinion. "If I were a GOP presidential aspirant, I'd watch O'Reilly closely over the next few years, because the Republican candidate who best articulates his brand of conservatism will be the candidate best able to regain the White House in 2016." Oh, you know who hasn't evolved? Why -- serial-husband Rush Limbaugh. ...

... In a letter to the New York Times, law professor & former Reagan solicitor general Charles Fried argues that President Obama should have defended DOMA or hired an outside advocate to do it. This would have eliminated the "standing" question. CW: he has a point.

Obama 2.0. Emily Heil of the Washington Post: "Caroline Kennedy is heading to Tokyo to be the U.S. ambassador." Jason Horowitz of the Post has more.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones: "The Internal Revenue Service is taking a closer look at the finances of some 1,300 nonprofit organizations, including unions, trade associations, and the type of dark-money groups that controversially spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 elections. That includes Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the pro-Obama outfit Priorities USA, all of which keep their donors secret." ...

... Peter Overby of NPR has more.

Andy Revkin of the New York Times: "After nearly half a century of research in planetary and climate science for NASA, James E. Hansen is retiring on Wednesday to pursue his passion for climate activism without the hindrances that come with government employment."

Where's the Beef Stroganoff? Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times public editor, agrees with critics of the obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill: "The emphasis on her domesticity -- and, more important, the obituary's overall framing as a story about gender -- had the effect of undervaluing what really landed Mrs. Brill on the Times obituaries page: her groundbreaking scientific work." The obit department defended the writing. CW: I'll have to admit I am so accustomed to this sexist style of writing -- especially in the Times -- that when I read & linked the obit, I just skipped right over the beef stroganoff & good mother folderol & got to the science stuff. Whatever you think of the NYT, it is still a newspaper largely written by, for and about men. ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker is brutal. P.S. Making beef stroganoff is not rocket science. "It is one notch above macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper, and has much in common with both." ...

... Megan Garber of the Atlantic has a well-nuanced critique: "An obituary that can't easily marry the professional and the personal is symptomatic of a society that has trouble marrying them, too." Also, she introduces what should become a new idiom: "getting stroganoffed."

Congressional Race

Harriet McLeod of the Reuters: "Voters in South Carolina's coastal first congressional district will choose on Tuesday between former Governor Mark Sanford and former Charleston County Council member Curtis Bostic as the Republican nominee for the open seat."

Local News

GOP Outreach, Ctd. Morgan Whitaker of NBC News: "Arkansas Republicans have officially overridden Democratic Governor Mike Beebe's veto of legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. The Arkansas House voted 52-45 to override the veto Monday. Last week, the GOP-led Senate voted 21-12 to override it.... Only a simple majority is needed in each chamber in order to override a veto."

GOP Outreach, Ctd. AND Most Original Argument against Gay Marriage Yet. Tom Kludt of TPM: "Sue Everhart, chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party, told the Marietta Daily Journal ... that once gay nuptials are legally permitted, there will be nothing to stop a straight person from exploiting the system in order to claim marital benefits." ...

... Steve Benen: "If the Georgia GOP chair's argument seems vaguely familiar, there's a reason for that: it was the basis for a 2007 movie called 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.' ... If this is an argument against same-sex marriage, isn't it also an argument against opposite-sex marriage? After all, what's to stop a man and a woman who are friends from pulling the same scam? ... If avoiding fraud is paramount, does the chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party want to prohibit all marriages?"

Jack Norman of the Institute for Wisconsin's Future, in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel op-ed: "... it's totally appropriate to blame the governor's policies for the slumbering condition of Wisconsin's economy.... Wisconsin slump[ed] to 44th among the states in private-sector job growth....[ An] accompanying chart shows the extraordinary picture that Wisconsin's job slump - relative to the national economy - coincides almost exactly with [Gov. Scott] Walker's time in office and deepened just when his policies went into effect.... My colleagues and I ... made exactly that prediction two years ago.... Wisconsin, unfortunately, has become a case study in the failure of austerity economics at the state level." ...

... Mike Ivey of the Madison Capital Times has more.

Just When You Think State Legislators Can't Come up with Any Worse Ideas ... Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville (Tennessee) News-Sentinel: "Legislation to cut welfare benefits of parents with children performing poorly in school has cleared committees of both the [Tennessee] House and Senate after being revised to give the parents several ways to avoid the reductions." ...

Okay, More Worser Ideas. Kate Brumback of the AP: "Backers of a newly adopted ordinance requiring gun ownership in a small north Georgia town acknowledge they were largely seeking to make a point about gun rights. The ordinance in the city of Nelson -- population 1,300 -- was approved Monday night and goes into effect in 10 days. However, it contains no penalties and exempts anyone who objects, convicted felons and those with certain mental and physical disabilities."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to create the first treaty regulating the international arms trade, a landmark decision that imposes new constraints on the sale of conventional arms to governments and armed groups that commit war crimes, genocide and other mass atrocities. The vote was hailed by arms-control advocates and scores of governments, including the United States...."

New York Times: "Confusion, anger and charges of racism played out at the Fulton County Jail [in Atlanta, Georgia] on Tuesday as the players on both sides of the nation's largest school-cheating scandal began the arduous process of jailing 35 educators."

AP: "North Korea said Tuesday it will escalate production of nuclear weapons material, including restarting a long-shuttered plutonium reactor, in what outsiders see as Pyongyang's latest attempt to extract U.S. concessions by raising fears of war."

AP: "Because of a paperwork error, the suspect in last month's killing of Colorado's corrections chief was freed from prison in January -- four years earlier than authorities intended. Judicial officials acknowledged Monday that Evan Spencer Ebel's previous felony conviction had been inaccurately recorded and his release was a mistake."

Reuters: "The euro zone jobless rate was stable at 12.0 percent in February, the European Union statistics office Eurostat said on Tuesday, which could add pressure for an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank."

Sunday
Mar312013

The Commentariat -- April 1, 2013

As contributor MAG pointed out yesterday, Paul Krugman was not impressed with what he called David Stockman's "rant": "It's cranky old man stuff, the kind of thing you get from people who read Investors Business Daily, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and maybe, if they're unusually teched up, get investment advice from Zero Hedge." ...

... In a later post, Krugman adds, "As Mark Thoma points out, the verdict among everyone who knows anything is that Stockman’s piece, mysteriously given star treatment, was pathetic and embarrassing.... This is not a bipartisan problem of runaway deficits! Pre-1980, no problem at all; after 1980, deficits were very much a monopartisan issue until the financial crisis, which was a time when running deficits was appropriate. Anyone who says differently hasn't done his homework." ...

... Thoma gives Stockman 'the wingnut of the day award. ...

... Jared Bernstein: "... like most crazed rants, it's hard to pick out the argument, but I think it's this: for almost a century, economic policy makers have ... um ... made policy, and that's led to cheap money, high indebtedness, crony capitalism, and econo-moral-turpitude.... It's like hearing a crazy person on a street corner ranting against whatever: they invariably stumble on some profound and piercing insights, but it's mostly nonsense, and instinctually, we keep our heads down and move on." ...

... ** Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider: "The piece can truly be characterized as Hard Money Buzzword Bingo, as Stockman tries to get in as many  scare lines as possible.... Probably the most telling and self-contradicting aspect, is the fact that he traces the original sin of the economy back to FDR taking the US off of the gold standard.... The problem is that the last 80 years, since then have represented a marvelous time for economic progress in America (and elsewhere).... Beyond that, the fact that things have gone on for 80 years without the gigantic collapse that Stockman has predicted is a sign that perhaps FDR's move wasn't so horrible." ...

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker does not directly address Stockman, but he does refute Stockman's assertion that the Fed has been profligate in gifting the big banks: "Currently, the big risk isn’t that the Fed will wait too long to raise interest rates; it's that pressure from savers will cause it to raise them prematurely."

<'>In his column today, Krugman writes, California's "problems bear no resemblance to the death-by-liberalism story line the California-bashers keep peddling. California is ... a state where a liberal majority has been effectively hamstrung by a fanatical conservative minority that, thanks to supermajority rules, has been able to block effective policy-making.... The era of hamstrung government seems to be coming to an end.... California's political story — in which a radicalized G.O.P. fell increasingly out of touch with an increasingly diverse and socially liberal electorate, and eventually found itself marginalized -- is arguably playing out with a lag on the national scene too."

** Canadian professor Thomas Homer-Dixon, in a New York Times op-ed: "If President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he'll do Canada a favor.... Tar sands production is one of the world's most environmentally damaging activities.... Also, bitumen is junk energy.... Both the [Canadian] cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science.... [Canada] behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.... Stopping Keystone XL would be a major step toward stopping large-scale environmental destruction, the distortion of Canada's economy and the erosion of its democracy." ...

... Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: "Exxon Mobil said that one of its pipelines leaked 'a few thousand' barrels of Canadian heavy crude oil near Mayflower, Ark., prompting the evacuation of 22 homes and reinforcing concerns many critics have raised about the Keystone XL pipeline that is awaiting State Department approval.... Many critics of the Keystone XL pipeline say that corrosion risks are greater in pipelines carrying low-quality bitumen-laden crude from the oil sands. They have urged President Obama to reject the Keystone XL permit application."

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration has begun to search for a replacement for FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and for the first time one of the leading contenders is a woman. One of several people under consideration, according to current and past administration officials, is Lisa Monaco, who left a senior post at the Justice Department this month to become President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser."

David Sirota in Salon: "... in a coincidental turn of events, the president's visit [to Colorado Wednesday] will occur at the very moment the Colorado Republican Party is making a high-profile effort to derail Democratic legislation that would disarm domestic abusers.... The president is swooping in to the home of Columbine and Aurora to draw national attention to the gun extremism of the Republican Party -- and he will be able to point right to the state capitol where that Republican Party is opposing legislation to simply enforce federal law that is supposed to be protecting women from gun-wielding domestic abusers. Not only that, he will be in the state where Democrats' have most maximized their inherent advantage with women." ...

... Niall Stanage & Amie Parnes of the Hill: "Vice President Biden is calling his former colleagues on Capitol Hill on a near-daily basis as he mounts a full-court press to achieve new gun control measures. Biden has already held private meetings with Republican senators including John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.), according to a senior administration official. The official added that Biden would also be spending considerable time on Capitol Hill in the weeks to come." Via Greg Sargent.

Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: "As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation's illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America's fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare. Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama's healthcare law. In a recent national poll, supporters outnumbered detractors by more than 2 to 1. Latinos also overwhelmingly see guaranteeing healthcare as a core government responsibility, surveys show. Yet congressional Republicans continue to make repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act a top agenda item and have renewed calls for deep cuts in health programs such as Medicaid, which are very popular with Latinos." ...

... AND the GOP has this itty-bitty problem. Jonathan Martin of Politico: "... as some [(Oxymoron Alert!) Republican] party intellectuals openly wonder if the heyday of the religious right has come and gone, social conservatives are responding with ferocity, indicting John McCain and Mitt Romney for their losses and bluntly warning that the GOP will cease to exist if the party abandons those voters who are in the party because of, not despite, its platform on values. If cultural conservatives are headed toward extinction, they are making clear they won't go away without a fight." ...

... MEANWHILE, Greg Sargent reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "has launched online video advertising that hits 17 vulnerable House Republicans over their support for Paul Ryan's 'Robin Hood in reverse' fiscal vision for America":

Michael Catalini of the National Journal: "The efforts to woo a moderate Democrat to defeat [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell are part of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's plans to compete in the most inhospitable territory for Democrats -- for open seats in Georgia, South Dakota, West Virginia, and possibly, even in Kentucky against the powerful and well-funded Senate minority leader. Facing a challenging political landscape in 2014, the party is close to landing credible candidates in all of those states." ...

... Our Political Aristocracy. Beth Reinhart of the National Journal: in other red states, Democrats are relying on the scions of political dynasties -- like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana & Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

** The Evolution of Harry Reid. Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Harry "Reid’s evolution from a proponent of gun rights to the shepherd of legislation that would expand background checks, among other gun control measures, emerges from a complex web of political calculations that have come to define his leadership style over the last decade.... After the Senate returns from its recess next week, it will consider a bill that would expand background checks and increase penalties for so-called straw purchases...."

Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "Since the financial crisis, compensation for the directors of the nation's biggest banks has continued to rise even as the banks themselves, facing difficult markets and regulatory pressures, are reining in bonuses and pay."

Neil Irwin of the Washington Post, in an adaptation of his new book: "... over three days and four nights in May 2010 is essential to understanding the economic predicament in which the world still finds itself. In that moment, the major Western central banks -- and their leaders, Ben S. Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and [Jean-Claude] Trichet of the ECB -- made a series of decisions that created the world economy we inhabit today, and likely far into the future."

Boxers or Briefs? Who Cares? Scalia Doesn't Read Them. Although -- as Ezra Klein points out -- the American Sociological Association presented an amicus brief in the DOMA case which states flat-out, "Whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on a child' wellbeing," Scalia opined -- based on his "feelings," I guess -- during oral argument that "there's considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not." Actually, Nino, there's no disagreement at all.

Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home and throw out the political scripts, because if we truly know what we believe, we don't need professionals to tell us. -- Sarah Palin, at CPAC

Palin's PAC spent $5.1 million in the last election cycle (more than it raised in that time period, raising some questions about Palin's claims of fiscal responsibility). how donors' money was actually doled out: just $298,500 to candidates. The bulk of the rest of it, more than $4.8 million, went to -- you guessed it -- consultants. -- Jon Avlon of the Daily Beast

... CW: I avoided linking to this story this weekend because I don't really care what Cardinal Timothy Dolan has to say about gay relationships, but since most of the press is making a big deal out of it, I guess readers should know that the head of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops says you gay peoples should not be having sex with each other. So cut it out right now. With video. ...

... ALSO, Ross Douthat, the Vatican's Emissary to the New York Times, says you're ruining straight marriage after all: "Since [David] Frum warned [in 1997] that gay marriage could advance only at traditional wedlock's expense, the marriage rate has been falling faster, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has been rising faster, and the substitution of cohabitation for marriage has markedly increased. Underlying these trends is a steady shift in values: Americans are less likely to see children as important to marriage and less likely to see marriage as important to childbearing (the generation gap on gay marriage shows up on unwed parenting as well) than even in the very recent past." CW: Maybe by way of penance you could take Dolan's advice. ...

... The Father (Dolan), the Son (Douthat) & the Holy Spirit (Noonan). Charles Pierce comments on both & throws in Peggy Noonan's random ramblings on the abortion thing. Amen.

Rick Hertzberg has a terrific piece on the word "entitlement(s)." Especially if you're prone to use the term &/or think it "makes sense," read Hertzberg.

Awesome Homemaker Was Pretty Good Rocket Scientist, Too (for a Girl). Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon: "When Yvonne Brill, who died last week at age 88, was remembered in the New York Times over the weekend, the first paragraph of her obituary described her as a woman who 'made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. She was also, according to her son Matthew, "The world's best mom."' It was only in the second graph that the paper of record got around to mentioning that stroganoff champ, husband follower and awesome mom Brill also 'invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.' Oh, that too." (NYT obit, now altered, is linked in March 30 Ledes.)

Right Wing World

Google's War on Easter, Ctd. The Guardian has a funny piece on the right's outrage over Google's honoring Cesar Chavez Day, made all the more hilarious by the screamers' inability to distinguish Cesar Chavez from Hugo Chavez. Also, it's Barack Obama plot. What's funny is not the story -- it's a straight news piece -- but the content. ...

... Eric Dolan of Raw Story names some of the usual freaked-out suspects.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Elwin Wilson, a former supporter of the Ku Klux Klan who made repeated apologies late in life for racist acts he committed decades earlier — including the bloody beating of a civil rights worker who later became a member of Congress [Rep. John Lewis {D-Ga.}] -- died on Thursday at a hospital in South Carolina. He was 76."

New York Times: "The Indian Supreme Court rejected a Swiss drug maker's patent application for a major cancer drug Monday in a landmark ruling that will allow poor patients continued access to many of the world's best drugs, at least for a while. The ruling allows Indian makers of generic drugs to continue making copycat versions of the Novartis drug Gleevec.... The ruling's effect ... will help maintain India's role as the world's most important provider of inexpensive medicines, which is critical in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases."

The New York Times has more on the assassinations of Kaufman County, Texas, district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia McLelland.

Reuters: "President Hamid Karzai held talks with Qatari leaders on Sunday ... on a visit the Kabul government has said would seek to explore the possibility of talks with Taliban insurgents on ending Afghanistan's war."

Reuters: "The condition of South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela has improved further, the government said on Sunday, as the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero spent a fourth day in hospital receiving treatment for pneumonia."

Saturday
Mar302013

The Commentariat -- March 31, 2013

Ashley Parker & Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "The nation’s top business and labor groups have reached an agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said on Saturday. The deal clears the path for broad immigration legislation to be introduced when Congress returns from its two-week recess in mid-April." ...

... Mike Allen of Politico: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued an Easter morning statement saying he is 'encouraged' by progress in talks on immigration reform, but added: 'Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.' The headline of his statement, timed for release just before the Sunday talk shows: "Rubio: No final agreement on immigration legislation yet.'" CW: wherein "premature" means "failed to give me, Marco, a photo-op."

So David Stockman, the boy wonder who brought us "trickle-down economics" & grew up to regret it, has an op-ed in today's New York Times with an extraordinary doom-and-gloom prophecy: within a few years, I predict -- this latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by an egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode, too.... These policies have brought America to an end-stage metastasis." CW: I hope Krugman responds, because otherwise I won't know what to make of Stockman's piece. ...

... Some of Stockman's "villains" and "heroes." ...

... Oh, Stockman has a book on the self-same subject. Marcus Brauchli, a vice president of The Washington Post Co., reviews it in the Post.

Maureen Dowd: "On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts played Karl Rove, musing not about moral imperatives but political momentum.... Congress has passed no federal protections for gays on employment, housing and education. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal to fire someone because of his or her sexual orientation. The F.B.I. says the only uptick in hate crimes involves attacks on gays. Thirty-one states have enacted Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.... The Supreme Court should know that civil rights are not supposed to be determined on the whims of the people."

Jonathan Bernstein argues in Salon that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire now if she wants to be replaced by a liberal. With it likely that Republicans will pick up seats -- if not control -- the Senate in the 2014 election, & "most Republicans will support a filibuster against any [Democratic] Supreme Court nominee." CW: Harry Reid should announce next week that filibustering all judicial nominees is over.

After reading Charlotte & Harriet Childress's WashPo op-ed (linked yesterday) on white male mass murderers, Steve M. of No More Mr. Nice Blog writes, "White suburban males are led to believe that the world is their oyster. Maybe it's falling short of these high cultural expectations that attracts a certain percentage of socially struggling white males to fantasies of violent revenge. They want to kill because they're expected to dominate, and this is the only way they know how."

Kate M. proposes strategic U.S. war plan: "North Korean officers could be easily defeated with a giant magnet." Sorry, Kate, a practical idea, but not enough in it for military contractors.Right Wing War on Easter Outrage. Twitchy (which is a Michelle Malkin production) reports: "While two billion Christians around the world celebrate Easter Sunday on this 31st day of March, Google is using its famous 'Doodle' search logo art to mark the birth of left-wing labor leader Cesar Chavez." AND much of Right Wing World is aghast. CW: because commemorating the life of a real, home-grown defender of the poor is so much worse than celebrating one who is apt to be entirely mythical. Also, the mythical dude just doesn't get enough attention.

Your 2013 Easter Miracle. Lizzy Davies of the Guardian: "The shroud of Turin is to be shown on television for the first time in 40 years on Easter Saturday as a new claim [is made] that the four-metre-long linen cloth dates from ancient times.... As what the Vatican described as his parting gift to the Roman Catholic church before he resigned, Benedict XVI signed off on a special 90-minute broadcast of the shroud that will take place from Turin Cathedral and be introduced in a brief preamble by his successor, Pope Francis.... Giulio Fanti ... [of] Padua University claims tests had shown that the cloth, which bears the image of a man's face and body, dates from between 280BC and 220AD."

Looks lie Pope Francis is planning to undo all of Benedict's "reforms." The AP reports, "Virtually everything he has done since being elected pope, every gesture, every decision, has rankled traditionalists in one way or another." Too bad.

Local News

Happy Easter! Steve Benen: the Kentucky legislature overrode Gov. Steve Beshear's (D) veto of a bill that will allow "Kentuckians with 'sincerely held' religious beliefs to disregard state laws and regulations." What could possibly go wrong?

Rosalind Helderman & Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post have a long report on Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's cozy, symbiotic relationship with a shaky Virginia company that makes some kind of (likely fake) dietary supplement made from tobacco. AND here's a shocking surprise: Kate M.'s ward Little Kenny Cuccinelli is tagging along on the back of the huckster's bandwagon. Politics makes perfectly predictable bedfellows.

GOP Outreach in North Carolina, Part 1. Laura Leslie of WRAL, Raleigh: "Two bills filed by Republican lawmakers seek to cut back early voting and eliminate same-day registration in North Carolina.... Democrats say such bills are intended to make it harder to vote and will disproportionately affect low-income, working and minority voters -- groups that traditionally favor Democrats. The Sunday ban, in particular, would affect popular 'Souls to the Polls' voting drives at African-American churches." ...

... GOP Outreach in North Carolina, Part 2. Michael Biesecker of TPM: "A Confederate battle flag hung inside the old North Carolina State Capitol last week to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War is being taken down after civil rights leaders raised concerns. The decision was announced ... hours after the Associated Press published a story about the flag, which officials said was part of an historical display intended to replicate how the antebellum building appeared in 1863. The flag had been planned to hang in the House chamber until April 2015, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of federal troops in Raleigh.... The decision was a quick about-face for the McCrory [R] administration, which initially defended the display." CW: even in ending it, Gov. Pat McCrory's office made a fake excuse about needing the venue for office space. ...

... CW: to be fair to the Republican National Committee, I don't think they said much about reaching out to blah people.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Paul Williams, a writer and critic who founded the alternative pop music magazine Crawdaddy, one of the first outlets for serious writing about rock music, and whose critical support helped rescue the science fiction author Philip K. Dick from obscurity, died on Wednesday in a nursing residence near his home in Encinitas, Calif. He was 64."

AP: "A Texas prosecutor and his wife were found killed in their house two months after one of his assistants was gunned down near their office.... Investigators found the bodies of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, on Saturday, said Kaufman County sheriff's Lt. Justin Lewis.... Assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a parking lot a block from his office on Jan. 31." ...

... Reuters: investigators are looking into the possibility that the murders of the McLellands & Hasse are tied to the white supremacist killing of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements.

Reuters: "Kenyan police clashed on Sunday with a few dozen protesters angry at a court's confirmation of Uhuru Kenyatta as president-elect, but the unrest was minor compared with the nationwide bloodshed after the last disputed election."

Friday
Mar292013

The Commentariat -- March 30, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Stupid President Tricks. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that President Obama is 'strongly considering' including cuts to social insurance program benefits in his budget. The budget is slated to be released on April 10, the same day Obama is having yet another charm offensive dinner with Senate Republicans." ...

... Digby: "Remember, SS doesn't contribute a dime to the deficit.... Let's be clear: this is deficit reduction on the backs of middle class workers, the elderly, the disabled and Veterans. Oh, and by the way, cutting vital programs in exchange for increasing taxes on the middle class and getting some temporary chump change from millionaires as a cover is not a balanced approach. And for those Democrats like me who backed the health care reform because of the Medicaid expansion, well we really are a bunch of suckers.... If he's looking to cut Medicaid now, I guess we can assume that the only part of that legacy he cares about is the one that benefits the private insurers." ...

... "If Only the Czar Knew." Susie Madrak wants you to call the White House. "The White House switchboard is 202-456-1414, the comments line is 202-456-1111." Read her post, too. ...

... Kevin Freking of the AP: "Veterans groups are rallying to fight any proposal to change disability payments as the federal government attempts to address its long-term debt problem. They say they've sacrificed already. Government benefits are adjusted according to inflation, and President Barack Obama has endorsed using a slightly different measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits. Benefits would still grow but at a slower rate."

President Obama spoke about infrastructure & the economy yesterday:

The New Yorker's Jeffery Toobin & Margaret Talbot talk with Dorothy Wickenden about how the Supreme Court hearings on the gay marriage cases, how the Court might rule, and "what the decisions could mean for marriage equality":

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "... it would seem the conservative members of the court, making a calculation that their chances of winning would not improve with time, were behind the decision to take up the [marriage equality issue]. The aha moment came on Tuesday. After Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that the court should dismiss the case, Justice Antonin Scalia tipped his hand. 'It's too late for that now, isn’t it?' he said, a note of glee in his voice. 'We have crossed that river,' he said. That was a signal that it was a conservative grant." CW: you may have crossed that river, Nino, but it's your River Trebia; i.e., you lose.

Charlotte & Harriet Childress, in a Washington Post op-ed, on white men as mass murderers & enablers of mass murderers. "If life were equitable, white male gun-rights advocates would face some serious questions to assess their degree of credibility and objectivity. We would expect them to explain: What facets of white male culture create so many mass shootings? Why are so many white men and boys producing and entertaining themselves with violent video games and other media? Why do white men buy, sell and manufacture guns for profit; attend gun shows; and demonstrate for unrestricted gun access disproportionately more than people of other ethnicities or races? Why are white male congressmen leading the fight against gun control?" ...

... Dana Milbank: "Obama on guns -- too little, too late."

"GOP's Post-Election Outreach Hits Some Speed-Bumps"

Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition. -- Dr. Ben Carson, the right's favorite black person ever since he verbally attacked President Obama at a prayer breakfast ...

... Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "Students at Johns Hopkins University's medical school are circulating a petition to replace Dr. Benjamin Carson as their commencement speaker after the famed neurosurgeon linked gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity." Read the students' entire letter. ...

... Matt Gertz of Media Matters: "The co-director of Johns Hopkins University's sexuality studies program is speaking out against his colleague Dr. Ben Carson's recent comments comparing supporters of marriage equality to members of NAMBLA and practitioners of bestiality. 'I don't think most people at Hopkins think what he says on this subject matters,' Professor Todd Shepard, co-director of the university's Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, said in a statement to Media Matters. 'They make him look nasty, petty, and ill-informed. It doesn't tell us anything about his amazing abilities as a surgeon. It does remind us, however, that those abilities do not mean we should listen to what he says in any other domain.'"

... Heather of Crooks & Liars: Dr. Carson "made an appearance on Andrea Mitchell's show on MSNBC and did a really lousy job of defending them, claiming that he was 'taken out of context' and wasn't actually trying to equate all of those things." CW: Yo, Dr. Carson -- "taking words out of context" is what Andrew Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod; it is not replaying what you said, which was what you meant.

... David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun: "Carson told the Sun, 'I've caught wind of [the students' petition] and I've sent back a message that this is their graduation, their big day, and if they think me being there is going to be a problem, I am happy to withdraw.'" He also said, "Now perhaps the examples were not the best choice of words, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone." And stuff about the Bible.

Meredith Shiner of Roll Call: "Top Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, are beginning to condemn fellow GOP Rep. Don Young of Alaska for his use of a racial slur to describe Latino workers. Boehner on Friday morning demanded Young apologize for the remarks he made to a local radio station, in which he said that his father 'used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes' on their family ranch. 'Congressman Young's remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,' Boehner said in a statement Friday. 'I don't care why he said it -- there's no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.' Young has not apologized for his remarks. He only clarified to say that he knows 'this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect,' according to KTUU in Alaska." ...

... So then Young said he was sorrier for his "poor choice of words." CW: I'm pretty sure all this will make his a leader of the effort to find a path to citizenship for "whatever you want to call those people." You know, I finally get why certain people refer to minorities & others as "those people." It's because -- unlike Don Young -- they know better than to use the slurs they use in ordinary conversation. ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "Rep. Young’s remarks may have been unintentionally insensitive, but the fact he didn't even know the remark was insensitive itself underscores the problem. If the party were serious about making Latinos feel at home -- and didn't see outreach as mere 'tokenism' -- such outbursts would be far less likely."

More "GOP Minority Outreach." Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "Republicans are continuing their minority outreach efforts this month by introducing a bill outlawing Spanish and other non-English languages from being used in federal documents. Steve King (R-IA), most recently in the headlines after attacking President Obama's young daughters for going on vacation, introduced the English Language Unity Act in the House earlier this month, along with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) in the Senate. As King notes on his website, the bill would require 'all official functions of the United States to be conducted in English.' Federal and state governments print thousands of documents every year, many of which are translated into other languages besides English. One major impact King's bill could have is to stop the decades-long practice of printing non-English ballots in areas where there's a significant non-English language group."

Gail Collins: "It's not often we stop to ask ourselves: 'What's going on with North Dakota?' But I believe this is the moment." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The clear message is the need for a stepped-up effort to hold state officials electorally accountable for policies that harm women in states where right-wing Republicans control the machinery of government."

Right Wing World

** Freeeeedom! Alex Pareene on what "freedom" means to Koch brothers-funded "intellectuals." Because this "study" quantifies what these supposed brainiacs think are the elements of freedom, the results constitute an eye-opener. Their bottom line: North Dakota -- see Gail Collins, NYT editors above -- is the tippy-top most free state, while some blue states like California & New York are virtual prisons. Which I guess means millions of people are masochists for preferring to live in CA & NY over ND -- the choice of about 2.2 percent of Americans.

Local News

Timothy Pratt of the New York Times: "... on Thursday evening, not long after the [Nevada State Legislature voted to expel him, Assemblyman Steven] Brooks was arrested near Barstow, Calif., after throwing metal objects out the window of his car during a high-speed chase, according to the Barstow police. He was being held Friday on $100,000 bail and facing four charges, including resisting an officer with force."

Sex, Sex and Videotape. Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: the clients a prostitution ring in Kennebunkport, Maine, near the Bush family summer home, included a former mayor, a high school hockey coach & a minister. All caught on tape.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits. The system became the industry standard, and it was the achievement President Obama mentioned in 2011 in presenting her with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.... Mrs. Brill ... is believed to have been the only woman in the United States who was actually doing rocket science in the mid-1940s, when she worked on the first designs for an American satellite."

New York Times: "Phil Ramone, a prolific record producer and engineer who worked with some of the biggest stars of the last 50 years, including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Billy Joel and Barbra Streisand, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 79."

Washington Post: "The latest round of threats exchanged by North Korea and the United States is dragging on longer and taking on a more virulent tone than in the past, provoking deep concerns among American officials and their allies." ...

... Reuters Update: "North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a 'state of war' with South Korea, but Seoul and its ally the United States played down the statement as tough talk."

AP: "U.S. special operations forces handed over their base in a strategic district of eastern Afghanistan to local Afghan special forces on Saturday, a senior U.S. commander said. The withdrawal satisfies a demand by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that U.S. forces leave the area after allegations that the Americans' Afghan counterparts committed human rights abuses there on U.S. orders." ...

... Reuters: "A NATO helicopter supporting Afghan security forces killed two children and nine suspected Taliban fighters on Saturday, officials said, a month after President Hamid Karzai forbade troops to call for foreign air support."

The AP has more on the Atlanta school test cheating scandal, linked in yesterday's Ledes.

Reuters: "Former South African President Nelson Mandela is comfortable and able to breathe without problems as he continues to respond to treatment after spending a third night in hospital for a lung infection, President Jacob Zuma's office said on Saturday."