The Wires

White House Live Video
July 3

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today (as of 9:45 am ET).

Public Service Announcement

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."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

Grateful Dead, final concert, at Soldier Field in Chicago. New York Times photo.New York Times: "... the Grateful Dead played their fifth and final 'Fare Thee Well' concert on Sunday night at [Chicago's] Soldier Field, having vowed it would be their last as a group."

New York Times: "On the eve of the most anticipated publishing event in years — the release of Harper Lee’s novel 'Go Set a Watchman' — there is yet another strange twist to the tale of how the book made its way to publication, a development that further clouds the story of serendipitous discovery that generated both excitement and skepticism in February."

Here's a short film by activist Bree Newsome. The film won the best -short-film category at the BET awards (ca. 2010):

Washington Post: "After three years of work by Michelle Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a new look was unveiled [in the State Dining Room] Friday[, June 26,] that will be a design legacy of the Obama years." With slideshow, including former incarnations of the room.

Daniel Bethencourt & Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press: "Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, who visited Detroit last month to create the largest mural of his career, faces felony charges of tagging other properties across the city on his own time." The reporters put the charges in the larger perspective of street art.

David Haglund on "James Salter in the New Yorker."

Twelve beautiful bookshops.

Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto, Portugal.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that [Fox "News" leader Roger] Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion. Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan."

The Waldorf-Hysteria. New York Post: Bride "hysterical," lets out "blood-curdling scream," when Waldorf is forced to cancel her million-dollar reception because drunken relatives of the groom allegedly shot some other guests & Waldorf employees. Here's more of the story. You can the boys out of Brooklyn, but....

Sophia A. McClennen in Salon: The real Jerry Seinfeld has become the TV character Jerry Seinfeld. Without the irony. So not funny.

Washington Post: "... thanks to diligent sleuthing and painstaking restoration by a team of art historians at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the shadowy, richly colored 'Saul and David' is considered a Rembrandt masterpiece once more. It goes on display at the museum this Thursday, the star of a special exhibition entirely devoted to the painting and its tumultuous past."

New York Times: "Since [the] Clinton [Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York,] opened in 1845, dozens of inmates have escaped over, under or through the prison’s thick walls, their exploits detailed in breathless, often sensationalistic, newspaper reports of earlier eras." CW: As if the Times' extensive coverage of last week's escape wasn't sensationalistic. ...

New York Times: The life of a fugitive presents many opportunities to blunder -- and get caught.

Washington Post: "It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags. Working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association, unveiled a new best-size guideline on Tuesday for carry-on bags at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent smaller than the size currently permitted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines."

CW: Okay, I finally found a Daily Mail story I'm willing to link. The hills are alive.

Stephen Colbert, Lyricist:

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Eight-hundred years ago this month, rebellious barons and a despised, cash-strapped king gathered in a verdant riverside meadow 20 miles outside London to seal an agreement that would change the course of history. The words of the Magna Carta have inspired democratic movements the world over and formed a basis for countless constitutions...." But not for Great Britain, which "is one of just three major democracies that lack formal, written constitutions." Some Britons are thinking it's time to fix that.

Washington Post: Actor Jason Alexander reveals why the "Seinfeld" show killed off George Costanza's fiancee Susan.

When a Cop Loves a Cheapskate. Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Last July, NYPD Officer Ymmacula Pierre and her partner found Kenneth Sanden dead after being called to his East Village apartment by a concerned relative. So Pierre allegedly did what any respectable cop would do: pocket the dead man’s Mastercard and use it to buy a diamond ring." Pierre ordered the ring while in her boyfriend's apartment, & that is where the ring was to be shipped. It appears to me that Pierre is (allegedly) a girl who believes in traditional marriage. Very sweet.

Dylan Byers of Politico (June 1): "Jake Tapper will take over as host of CNN's 'State Of The Union' on June 14, he announced Monday.... He replaces Candy Crowley, who served as host of 'SOTU' until late last year. Tapper will also continue to host his 4 p.m. weekday program, 'The Lead.'" ...

Mediaite (May 29): "CNN’s Jake Tapper will no longer moderate a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s upcoming conference in Denver, Colo., to avoid a conflict of interest involving the recent coverage of its parent foundation’s controversies."

 

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appears on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the cover & other photos by Annie Liebovitz. There's a firewalled cover story. ...

... Another reason to admire actor Jessica Lange: she didn't know what "trending on Twitter" meant.

Reuters: "A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died. The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist."

New York Times: "On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, along with the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Slave Wrecks Project, and other partners, will announce in Cape Town that the remnants of the São José [-- which sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 --] have been found, right where the ship went down, in full view of Lion’s Head Mountain. It is the first time, researchers involved in the project say, that the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered."

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

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

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

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

Wednesday
Jan302013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 31, 2013

Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe: "Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has picked William 'Mo' Cowan, his former chief of staff, to serve as the state's interim US senator until the successor to John F. Kerry is chosen by the voters in a June 25 special election." ...

... "The Barney Brush-off." Charles Mahtesian of Politico: the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supported former Rep. Barney Frank for the interim appointment, was not amused by Gov. Patrick's choice. ...

... Martin Finucane of the Boston Globe: "If former US senator Scott Brown decides to run against US Representative Ed Markey in the special election for Senate, the two would be locked in a statistical tie, a new poll finds. The Republican Brown would get 48 percent of the vote, while Markey, a Democrat, would get 45 percent of the vote, if the election were held today, according to the poll released by Public Policy Polling. But the gap between the two fell within the survey's margin of error, plus or minus 3.6 percentage points." ...

... David Uberti of the Boston Globe: "Democrat John Kerry, delivering a long and emotional farewell speech in the Senate Wednesday, warned that political gridlock in Washington threatens America's reputation abroad." ... You can read the text of Kerry's long & emotional speech here. ...

... This could be the best bit:

AND, in other Senate News.... Jonathan Tamari of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez [D] denied allegations reported online that he used prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, issuing a statement Wednesday afternoon after the FBI raided the offices of a friend also tied to the accusations. 'Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false,' said a statement from Menendez's office. The Democrat was forced to respond to the issue after FBI agents raided the offices of a financially troubled West Palm Beach, Fla. eye doctor Tuesday night who has faced accusations involving ties to Menendez." ...

... Here's more from Frances Robles of the New York Times. "... Dr. [Salomon] Melgen, who is best known for his association with Democratic politicians, including Senator Menendez, owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $10 million. The raid came just four days after a conservative Web site alleged that the F.B.I. was looking into accusations that Mr. Menendez and Dr. Melgen frequented under-age prostitutes in the Dominican Republic." ...

... Via Politico, the accusing Website is Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller. CW: with Kerry's resignation, Menendez became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nice to know even though a new kid is heading this important committee, he's one who is experienced in foreign relations. ...

     ... UPDATE. Pete Yost of the AP: "Sen. Robert Menendez's office says he reimbursed a prominent Florida political donor $58,500 on Jan. 4 of this year for the full cost of two of three trips Menendez took on the donor's plane to the Dominican Republic in 2010. Details of Menendez's trips emerged as his office said unsubstantiated allegations that the senator engaged in sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are false."

Gail Collins looks back at Hillary Clinton's career.

Donna Cassata of the AP: Chuck Hagel "is the lone witness at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday that could be crucial in determining whether he will win Senate confirmation to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Obama's second-term national security team. Two former committee chairmen -- Democrat Sam Nunn and Republican John Warner -- will introduce the nominee."

Charles Pierce notes that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is "runnin' a'skeered" on accounta not being quite crazy enough for his witless constituency, & who just got through accusing Hillary Clinton of murder, is "going to get a crack at Chuck Hagel on Thursday, which may bring about the mother of all public tantrums."

Like if you put a speed limit on a highway, pretty soon they're going to take your car away from you. -- David Corn of Mother Jones on the NRA's "slippery slope" argument

Peter Applebome of the New York Times: "In riveting testimony [in Newtown, Connecticut,] repeatedly interrupted by standing ovations, parents, public officials, law enforcement officers and school employees issued a full-throated call on Wednesday night for strengthening the nation's gun laws in the wake of the massacre of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December."

** Dana Milbank: Wayne LaPierre, who portrays himself as a Renaissance man (really, he does!), sure acts like a lying, bullying, violent cartoon villain. ...

... Susan Page of USA Today: "The powerful National Rifle Association will urge lawmakers to vote against mandating universal background checks for gun buyers, NRA President David Keene told USA TODAY on Wednesday. That raises questions about the enactment of many gun-control measures in the wake of last month's shootings in Newtown, Conn." ...

... CW: If you had asked me what headline I had dreamed of seeing coming out of Wednesday's Senate hearings on gun safety, this would be it: "Gabrielle Giffords' husband smacks down Wayne LaPierre." So thank you, Greg Sargent, and thank you, Mark Kelly: "During the hearing, LaPierre repeatedly voiced the talking point that there's no need to expand the background check system because criminals don't cooperate with background checks. Kelly responded: "... My wife would not have been sitting here today if we had stronger background checks." Read the entire response. ...

... Meanwhile, Kelly broke the news to people in the hearing room of a shooting in Phoenix that took place during the hearing. Kelly's remarks are here. Alex Johnson of NBC News has the story: "Three people were shot and wounded Wednesday, one of them with life-threatening injuries, when a gunman opened fire at a Phoenix office complex, authorities said. The two other people had less severe injuries, police said, correcting their earlier report that all three had been critically injured." ...

... "Guns Don't Kill People, Video Games Do." Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "United States Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, mak[es] the case that ... video games are 'a bigger problem than guns' because unlike guns, 'video games affect people.'" Includes video.

... Charles Pierce takes a look at the illogical fears, perceptions & prejudices of American evangelicals, all of which would be mere sociological observations about intellectual pathologies if not for the fact that "We have allowed our politics -- and one of the only two political parties we allow ourselves -- to be hijacked by a kind of religiosity that depends on its adherents being even bigger suckers than the rest of their fellow citizens."

Thomas Edsell, in the New York Times, has a very good piece refuting right-wing "experts"' claims that America's poor are really lucky duckies who are buying a lot of cheap electronics & investing in well-priced cosmetic surgery.

Steve Benen: Congressional Republicans are doubling down on the sequester, insisting it is inevitable. Ferinstance, Paul "Ryan, who used to believe sequestration would 'devastate' the economy, added, '[W]e can't lose those spending cuts.'"

Michael Shear & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "While aides say Mr. Obama is open to some negotiation over the contours of the immigration changes he laid out Tuesday in Las Vegas, senior administration officials are convinced that there is little risk in pushing hard for Mr. Obama's immigration priorities, betting that Republicans will think twice about voting down a bill championed by a president who is highly popular among the very voters they covet. The principles Mr. Obama embraced this week differ in some central ways from the effort under way in the Senate...." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "Until Obama was reelected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. On immigration, at least, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It's wonderful to behold.... By going slightly to the progressive side of the senators, Obama may ease the way for Republicans to strike a deal since they will be able to claim they stayed to the president's right." ...

... Here's the Rachel Maddow segment on how to become a legal immigrant now, to which contributor Diane referred in today's Comments:

Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "Unlike citizens in every other advanced democracy -- and many other developing ones -- Americans don't have a right to vote. Popular perception notwithstanding, the Constitution provides no explicit guarantee of voting rights.... A right-to-vote amendment would raise the standard of constitutional review for voter-identification laws and other measures that deplete the pool of voters."

Ryan Cooper has a terrific piece in the Washington Monthly on Shirley Sherrod who is still working to help poor Georgia farmers. CW: Obama should nominate her for agriculture secretary. Seriously. ...

... Cooper also has a short post contrasting Sherrod with that other person suddenly thrust upon the national stage: Miss Alaska Governor Pageant Winner 2006.

Ramsey Cox of The Hill: "A group of Democratic senators came to the floor Wednesday to urge the passage of a bill that would help women fight for equal pay. Democratic Sens. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.) called for the Senate to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require businesses to show the range of compensation for all positions, allowing women to see if they are on the lower end of the pay scale. Employers would also not be able to retaliate against employees for discussing how much they make with coworkers."

Sam Baker of The Hill: "The Obama administration took new steps Wednesday toward implementing the individual mandate in its signature healthcare law, downplaying the scope of the unpopular provision by stressing rules that allow exemptions from the requirement to purchase insurance."

Right Wing World

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney shoots down latest right-wing conspiracy theory: there in "Rahm Emanuel's Chicago," somebody will be tearing down Ronald Reagan's childhood home -- an apartment building his family lived in for about a year when Reagan was three -- to put up a parking lot ---- for the Obama presidential library. A blogger who runs a blog called "Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home" also wrote that he had local information disputing the conspiracy story. CW: Sorry, sane people, facts are not going to interfere with a good plotline, one I wish were true.

One of [politicians'] favorite ways to increase their power is by creating programs that dispense subsidized government benefits, such as Medicare, Social Security, and outright welfare (Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing, and the like). These programs make people dependent on government. And once people are dependent, they feel they can't afford to have the programs taken away, no matter how inefficient, poorly run, or costly to the rest of society. -- Kenny Cuccinelli, former ward of Kate Madison ...

... Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: Virginia AG & gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli's new book, to be released February 12 & "a must-read for every patriot," according to its Amazon blurb, "uses language akin to Mitt Romney's famous '47 percent' comment."

... ** Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News: "Votes from 'center cities' should be discounted when considering who won a mandate in last November's elections, according to GOP megadonor Foster Friess. Apparently urban votes are insufficiently in tune with the pro free market movement which is sweeping the country and, in his view, handed the GOP a mandate in the 2012 elections even though they took national losses across the board.... When I asked him if he was saying that votes from "center cities" should be discounted, his answer, in full, was: 'Yes.'" ...

... CW: Yes, Foster Aspirins-as-Contraceptives Friess is an idiot, but as Schesinger correctly develops his commentary, Friess is speaking inartfully for the actual views of prominent & ordinary Republicans. They think giving "urban people" 3/5ths of a vote is way too much. All of the voter suppression efforts we've seen/are seeing are not just good for Republicans; they are good for the country. Voter suppression isn't a dirty trick; it's patriotic. "Urban people" should not have the right to vote. See also Jamelle Bouie above.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Former [New York City] Mayor Edward I. Koch, who has been hospitalized since Monday with lung problems, was placed in the intensive care unit on Thursday afternoon, his spokesman said."

AP: "... violent storms raked the Southeast, leaving two people dead before the vast storm front moved on to pummel the East Coast.... Along a path pocked by shattered homes and businesses, the storm unleashed tornadoes and dangerous winds, easily flipping cars and trucks in Georgia. The heavy rains moving across the East Coast also raised flash flood fears and forced water rescues in Virginia and Maryland near the nation's capital. In the Northeast, utilities reported power outages affecting about 74,000 in Connecticut and feared more outages elsewhere as the potent storm races out over the Atlantic. Forecasters said snowfall was possible in varying amounts from the Great Lakes region through the Northeast."

Market Watch: "The number of people who filed new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000 in the week ended Jan. 26, putting them at a one-month high...."

Reuters: "American incomes rose in December by the most in eight years, a positive sign for consumer spending that could help the economy sustain momentum early this year. Personal income for Americans rose 2.6 percent last month, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was the biggest increase since December 2004 and well above analysts' expectations for a 0.8 percent gain."

New York Times: "Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory on Wednesday, American officials reported, saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon."

Reuters: "U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes. A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians...."

Reuters: "French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday backed the idea of sending a United Nations peacekeeping force into Mali, saying France would play a role in any such plan. The U.N. Security Council is to begin discussing the possibility of deploying U.N. troops in the stricken West African nation, envoys said of an idea it had previously been uncomfortable with before France's recent military intervention."

AP: "Police are hunting for an 'armed and dangerous' 70-year-old man suspected in a Phoenix office complex shooting that left one person dead and two wounded. Arthur Douglas Harmon allegedly opened fire at the end of a mediation session Wednesday morning at a three-story office complex in north-central Phoenix, police said."

AP: "A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 5-year-old hostage kept law officers at bay Wednesday in an all-night, all-day standoff that began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. SWAT teams took up positions around the gunman's rural property and police negotiators tried to win the kindergartener's safe release."

Chicago Tribune: "With outrage over Hadiya Pendleton's slaying spreading from City Hall to the White House, the 15-year-old became a symbol Wednesday of escalating violence in Chicago while fueling the national debate over guns and crime. A little more than a week after performing with the King College Prep band in Washington during President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities, Hadiya was fatally shot Tuesday afternoon in a park about a mile north of Obama's Kenwood home. Two other teens were wounded."

Tuesday
Jan292013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 30, 2013

Sequestration Express Expected to Arrive on Schedule. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: Congress is too stubborn to stop the trainwreck they engineered for the purpose of stopping the trainwreck. CW: I cannot understand why the public has a low opinion of Congress.

Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "The Senate confirmed Senator John Kerry as secretary of state on Tuesday, filling a key position on President Obama's retooled national security team. The nomination was approved by a vote of 94 to 3. Only three senators, all Republicans, opposed the nomination: Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma. Mr. Kerry voted present.... Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose last day as secretary of state is Friday, said at a global forum at the Newseum on Tuesday that she expected Mr. Kerry to undertake a new effort to narrow differences between Israel and the Palestinians.... No date has been set for Mr. Kerry's resignation from the Senate. The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, a Democrat, will make an interim appointment to succeed Mr. Kerry...."

Damon Wilson, a "centrist foreign policy wonk" who has worked closely with Chuck Hagel, writes in a Washington Post op-ed that Hagel "has demonstrated acceptance and support for all employees, including LGBT employees." Wilson, who is gay, supports Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Seizing on a groundswell of support for rewriting the nation's immigration laws, President Obama challenged Congress on Tuesday to act swiftly to put 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States on a clear path to citizenship. He also praised a bipartisan group of senators, who proposed their own sweeping immigration overhaul a day earlier, saying their plan was very much in line with his own proposals, and suggested there was a 'genuine desire to get this done soon'":

... The White House lays out the main principles of the President's proposal. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones was kind enough to read both sets of proposals & has a handy guide to four differences between Obama's plan & the one by the Senate Machismo (No-Girls-Allowed) Immigration Amigos Association. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Mr. Obama released his own list of immigration-reform principles separately on Tuesday, and it is far better than the plan put forward by the senators. Besides the forceful language on citizenship, it offers ways to end backlogs in family-sponsored immigration, urges more staffing and improvements in immigration courts and added protections for immigrants who assert their labor rights. It also declares that members of same-sex couples should have the same opportunities to sponsor their partners for visas that others do."

"President Obama announces an additional $155 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by the violence of the Assad regime. This aid from the American people is providing food, clean water, medicine, medical treatment, immunizations for children, clothing, and winter supplies for millions of people in need inside Syria and in neighboring countries":

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s Executive Vice President, plans to rail against universal background checks during his testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "When it comes to the issue of background checks, let's be honest -- background checks will never be 'universal' -- because criminals will never submit to them," he plans to say. LaPierre is one of several speakers set to testify before the Senate in a gun violence hearing on Wednesday, which will also include Mark Kelly, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Baltimore's Chief of Police, and other expert witnesses." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre warned that the N.R.A. would vigorously oppose any legislation that 'limits the sale, purchase, or ownership of politicians.'"

... Monica Davey of the New York Times on how Chicago, with its strict gun laws & high gun violence rate, exemplifies the problems created by weak national gun safety laws & weak prosecution of violators of the laws which do exist. CW: don't let gun advocates tell you that Chicago is "proof" that strict gun laws don't work: "Chicago is not an island,' said David Spielfogel, senior adviser to [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel. 'We're only as strong as the weakest gun law in surrounding states.'" ...

... Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday declined to voice support for Democratic legislation that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips." ...

... Jackie Kucinich of USA Today: "A bipartisan coalition of senators is working on a proposal to strengthen and expand background checks for potential gun purchasers in an attempt to break the partisan gridlock holding up regulations on gun ownership. Members of the group, which includes Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have declined to discuss specifics of the talks or of a potential bill." ...

... CW: is this yet another No-Girls-Allowed Club? If so, it's the 3rd in recent years: the 2011 Gang of Six, the Machismo Amigos Club (see above), & now the Pistol Packers. I'm getting fairly annoyed here.

Paul Krugman on the towering stupidity of Members in Good Standing of the Deficit Closed Feedback Loop: "... at this point, of course, all the Very Serious People have committed their reputations so thoroughly to the official doctrine that they almost literally can't hear any contrary evidence." CW: I don't think I've ever seen a "public intellectual" embarrass himself more than Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations did in his ignorant effort to refute Krugman. ...

... A good summary of the standoff from David Wagner of The Atlantic. ...

... Update: don't miss Krugman's follow-up post. It's 140 characters or fewer.

CW: a novel -- to me -- idea from Matt Yglesias of Salon: while interest rates remain at rock bottom, the federal government should issue perpetual bonds (i.e., they have no redemption date). "The government could borrow money without adding to the national debt. Instead of obsessing over the debt-to-GDP ratio, we could tackle the present-day problem of unemployment and the medium-term barriers to growth." Another advantage Yglesias doesn't mention: they might shut up the deficit scolds -- or at least force them to find a new excuse for cutting the social safety net. ...

... ALSO from Yglesias: "... the payroll tax holiday seems to have done more to goose consumption than workers themselves expected." CW: here's what we learned in school today: lowering taxes on the poor helps the economy. (Lowering taxes on the rich? i.e., trickle-down economics. Not so much.

Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that she is 'not inclined' to run for president in 2016 but left the door open for what is widely considered her likely return to politics after she steps down as secretary of state."

Hillary Clinton got away with murder. -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), on the assassinations in Benghazi

A perfect bookend, Lindsey. As Clinton began her career on the national stage, Republicans accused her of murdering her friend Vince Foster, who committed suicide. Now as she exits, you accuse her of murdering another friend, Chris Stevens. -- Constant Weader

Right Wing World

My, my, it appears young Rubio did indeed stand his ground against the Rolling Pile of Suppository Jelly who prefers to be called Rushbo. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Rubio got some coveted praise from the influential host, who declined to label him a RINO squish for negotiating with Democrats over a new blueprint for a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws that would provide a new path to citizenship for illegal immigrants." CW: could it be that when a handsome young man with presidential plans phones in, the Jelly Roll loses the thrust it has when attacking a female student? And -- in regard to Sandra Fluke -- isn't Rush guilty of verbal rape? Once again, Radio Jelly Man proves bullies are cowards. ...

     ... Update: if you think you might find the Rubio-Rushbo conversation fascinating, here's the transcript according to Rush.

Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: "... in Kentucky, a group styling itself the United Kentucky Tea Party announced that it would to try to unseat Senator Mitch McConnell — the Republican minority leader and architect of the just-say-no approach to President Obama -- in the primary in 2014." ...

... AND, no Sen. McConnell, President Obama is not going to confiscate your guns. Which is a shame.

Rob Boston of AlterNet, in Salon: creative creationists in state legislatures, school distrists & classrooms keep sneaking literal Bible teachings into "science" classes on evolution.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Roman Catholic priest and a former Catholic school teacher were convicted on Wednesday on nine charges relating to the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old boy at different times more than a decade ago. A jury in Common Pleas Court here found the teacher, Bernard Shero, guilty of five charges, including rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse.... The jury also convicted the Rev. Charles Engelhardt on four counts, including indecent assault and endangering the welfare of a child."

New York Times: "Patty Andrews, the last of the Andrews Sisters, the jaunty vocal trio whose immensely popular music became part of the patriotic fabric of World War II America, died on Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94."

Washington Post: "Israeli aircraft struck inside Syria on Wednesday for the first time since 2007, U.S. and Syrian officials said, raising concerns that the Syrian civil war could escalate into a regional conflict. There were conflicting reports about the early-morning attack, and Israeli officials refused to comment on it." ...

... Al Jazeera: "The Syrian army has said that Israeli jets crossed into Syria below the radar level at dawn and hit a military research centre in Jamraya, near Damascus. 'Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defence,' the army's general command said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA on Wednesday evening.... The strike came 'after terrorist groups made several failed attempts in the past months to take control of the site,' the statement added...."

New York Times: "Speaking slowly but with discernible passion, former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011, addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in its first hearing since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last month." ...

... The New York Times is liveblogging the hearings here. Includes NBC News livefeed.

Business Insider: "The economy contracted 0.1 percent in [the 4th quarter 2012] versus economists' consensus expectations of a 1.1 percent expansion. Personal consumption growth came in at 2.2 percent -- slightly higher than consensus estimates of 2.1 percent -- but was driven largely by a 13.9 percent advance in the consumption of durable goods.Government spending was the largest driver of the economic contraction in the fourth quarter, subtracting 1.33 percentage points from Q4 GDP growth and falling 6.6 percent. Federal spending fell 15.0 percent, led by a 22.2 percent drop in defense spending. Federal spending on nondefense items was actually up 1.4 percent. State and local spending fell 0.7 percent." CW: I'm looking forward to seeing what deficit scolds make of this.

AP: "Egypt's liberal opposition leader on Wednesday called for a broad national dialogue with the Islamist government, all political factions and the powerful military, aimed at stopping the country's eruption of political violence that has left 60 dead the past week. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei's appeal appeared to be aimed at responding to a sharp warning by the head of the armed forces a day earlier that Egypt could collapse unless the country's feuding political factions reconcile."

New York Times: "French troops took control overnight of the airport at the last major northern Mali town still in rebel hands, officials said on Wednesday, after Islamist militants abandoned two other principal settlements in the vast, desert region where residents' relief and elation has given way to some measure of reprisal and frustration."

New York Times: South Korea on Wednesday succeeded in thrusting a satellite into orbit for the first time, achieving its ambition of joining an elite club of space technology leaders, seven weeks after the successful launching of a satellite by rival North Korea."

New York Times: "Even before two battery failures led to the grounding of all Boeing 787 jets this month, the lithium-ion batteries used on the aircraft had experienced multiple problems that raised questions about their reliability."

Monday
Jan282013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 29, 2013

Obama 2.0. Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. John Kerry received unanimous approval Tuesday from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state, quickly clearing a key hurdle on his way to become the nation's next chief diplomat. The full Senate is expected to take up Kerry's confirmation later Tuesday." Kerry told the committee he was "beyond words," but of course that wasn't true:

... Kathryn Wolfe & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Ray LaHood announced Tuesday that he will leave his post as secretary of transportation, the latest in a line of Cabinet members to step down following President Barack Obama's reelection. President Obama said 'every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger.'"

David Nakamura & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration has developed its own proposals for immigration reform that are more liberal than a separate bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, people with knowledge of the proposals said. President Obama is expected to provide some details of the White House plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas, where he will call for broad changes to the nation's immigration laws. The speech will kick off a public push by the administration in support of the broadest overhaul of immigration law in nearly three decades." ...

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A bipartisan group of senators unveiled on Monday a set of principles for comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, contingent on first securing the nation's borders. The group hopes to have legislation drafted by March, and a vote before the August recess. Speaker John A. Boehner, whose support will be crucial for shepherding any bill through the Republican-controlled House, did not comment on the principles, but his office offered a brief [meaningless] statement." ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "... the plan ... also contains several tripwires that, if triggered, could destroy the entire effort.... The Gang of Eight's framework isn't all terrible -- it's just unworkable. It places conditions it's unlikely to meet, and then further compounds the problem by putting a veto in the hands of people who are likely to oppose the plan even if those conditions were met." ...

... Kevin Cirilli of Politico: "Rush Limbaugh said Monday that it's up to him and Fox News to stop amnesty for undocumented immigrants.... Limbaugh said on his program that [Sen. Marco] Rubio is scheduled to appear on his radio program Tuesday." Rubio is a member of the bipartisan group of senators who drew up the immigration "principles." CW: let's see if Rubio can stand up to Rushbo.

** Jonathan Chait: "On November 8..., Charles Krauthammer laid out the way forward for" Republicans. They "needed to adopt immigration reform, including amnesty. Otherwise, the party' anti-government bromides offered a perfectly suitable ideological platform.... As the party's response has taken form..., it is following Krauthammer's prescription, almost to the letter. The key figures leading the way are Paul Ryan, the Republicans' de facto leader, and Marco Rubio, perhaps its leading presidential candidate. The two have moved generally in tandem, with Rubio leading the way on immigration, but the whole party apparatus has jolted into action." ...

... CW: so maybe Krauthammer, not Rush, is the actual new leader. We'll see. One thing about the GOP, their actual leaders are more apt to be media stars than politicians because for Republicans, the message is the medium. Their actual programs suck for average Americans, so they are almost wholly dependent upon hucksters to do their bidding. ...

Rachel Maddow interviews Paul Krugman on Republican governance. Thanks to contributor Diane for the heads-up:

The Two Faces of Paul

Look, if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now. That's not the kind of presidency we're dealing with right now. -- Paul Ryan on "Press the Meat," Sunday ...

... Steve Benen: " Perhaps now would be a good time to remind Paul Ryan that Clinton was able to eliminate the deficit, start paying off the national debt, and deliver the largest surpluses in American history after -- wait for it -- raising taxes a whole lot. He raised taxes on the wealthy, the middle class, and the private sector, despite howls from congressional Republicans who said Clinton's economic plan would obviously do lasting damage to the economy and force a deep recession. ... On raising taxes, Clinton was further to the left" than Obama.

I think the sequester is going to happen. We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others -- and they've offered no alternatives. -- Paul Ryan, "Press the Meat" ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "... this is a perfect example of how Paul Ryan likes to straddle the fence. On the one hand, he's trying to sound like Republicans think these spending cuts are a good idea.... On the other hand, he's trying to blame Democrats for the spending cuts. If only Democrats would cut other (nameless, always nameless) things..., then we wouldn't have to embrace these automatic spending cuts." ...

... Lewison again: "... four months ago ... Ryan was making the case during the 2012 vice presidential debate that the sequester's potential spending cuts emboldened the terrorists who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.... now that Ryan once again supports moving forward with those spending cuts, isn't it fair to conclude that Ryan -- by his own logic -- is standing with the terrorists?"

Keynesian economics -- it's pretty clear that doesn't work. -- Paul Ryan, "Press the Meat" ...

... Paul Krugman: "... you know what has actually failed? Ryan's Paulite/Randite monetary economics.... Outside that bubble, a fair number of people have noticed that Keynesian economics has performed spectacularly in the crisis -- it successfully predicted that deficits wouldn't drive up interest rates, that monetary expansion wouldn't be inflationary, that austerity policies in Britain and elsewhere would hit economic growth.... Two years ago Ryan led the charge of Republicans demanding that Ben Bernanke stop his expansionary policies, issuing dire warnings about rising interest rates and soaring inflation.... How have Ryan and those of like mind reacted to the spectacular failure of their doctrine in practice? As far as I can tell, they haven't even acknowledged that they have a problem."

We're not preaching austerity; we're preaching growth & opportunity. -- Paul Ryan, "Press the Meat" ...

... Constant Weader: this is true. Ryan is not preaching austerity; he's writing & passing austerity programs. He is preaching growth & opportunity, but he won't vote for jobs & infrastructure bills. I had to watch a lot of the Ryan interview to get that citation about the failure of Keynesian economics. What was striking was how Ryan was able to distance himself from his own remarks the moment David Gregory played the clips. Ryan's responses: "That was said" (passive voice, as if somebody else had said it & was wrong); "That was taken out of context," etc. The man has zero trouble contradicting himself. He is either absolutely insane or a shameless flim-flam man. He isn't both. Take your pick.

New York Times Editors: "Harry Reid should ... secure Senate passage of the latest version of the Leahy-Crapo bill [which reauthorizes the Violence against Women Act]. That move would help put pressure on Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders in the House to stop playing ideological games and reach agreement with the Senate on extending this lifesaving law."

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "The nation's housing market is surging again after years of historic declines, and the unique forces powering its return could last well into 2013. The number of homes for sale is at its lowest level since before the recession, sparking competition among buyers that has led to 10 straight months of price increases. The volume of activity is the highest since 2007. Builders broke ground in December on the most new housing developments in four years. And interest rates on mortgages are expected to remain near all-time lows through much of the year, galvanizing once-skeptical buyers."..."

... CW: the itty-bitty upswing in the economy is another reason Obama's win over Romney was so important. It isn't just that Romney-Paul would be taking credit for the "confidence" their win inspired in homebuyers; it is that millions would believe them. All sluggishness would be Obama's fault; all green shoots would be Romney's doing.

Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times: Yair "Lapid's stunning success in last week's [Israeli] election, in which his new Yesh Atid became Israel's second largest party, is being viewed by many voters, activists and analysts here as a victory for the secular mainstream in the intensifying identity battle gripping the country."

News Ledes

AP "Parents of children killed in the Newtown school shooting called for better enforcement of gun laws and tougher penalties for violators Monday at a hearing [called by a Connecticut state legislative committee] that revealed the divide in the gun-control debate, with advocates for gun rights shouting at the father of one 6-year-old victim."

New York Times: "Reacting to the growing chaos in several Egyptian cities, including Cairo, [Egypt's] the Army chief of staff warned on Tuesday of the 'collapse of the state' if political forces in the country did not reconcile, reflecting growing impatience with the crisis from Egypt's most powerful institution."

AP: "There was no alarm, no extinguishers, no sprinklers and almost no escape from the nightclub that became a death trap for more than 200 Brazilian college students." CW: so, a brilliant place to stage a pyrotechnics display.

Sunday
Jan272013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 28, 2013

Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" interviews President Obama & Secretary Clinton:

Jessica Pressler of New York magazine interviews Tim Geithner in a downtown Manhattan restaurant. It turns out he did everything right, which simple-minded people just can't understand: "This is a deeply complicated world, in a fog of gray and ambiguity. It's easier for people to absorb the simple narrative of the black and white. And for them the black and white is, 'Those are the people that got us in the mess; you saved them and they paid themselves billions in bonuses, and they should have gone to jail, and they are still walking around.'" Suggested musical accompaniment:

Rick Hertzberg: "... the harmonizing, conciliatory side of the President's political and personal character has been eclipsed, for the moment at least, by the side of him that is at once more insistent and more visionary.... The modern crisis of liberalism began in the nineteen-sixties with the disintegration of New Frontier/Great Society euphoria in the quagmire of Vietnam, continued through the riotous turmoils of the late sixties and seventies, and crested with the Reagan ascendancy of the eighties. Liberal politicians, especially those with Presidential ambitions, assumed a long-lasting defensive crouch."

Bob Woodward in the Washington Post: President Obama & former Sen. Chuck Hagel "share similar views and philosophies as the Obama administration attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world.... [Hagel] privately voiced reservations about Obama's decision in late 2009 to add 51,000 troops to Afghanistan. "The president has not had commander-in-chief control of the Pentagon since Bush senior was president," Hagel said privately in 2011.

Paul Krugman: "... even as Republicans look for a way to sound more sympathetic and less extreme, their actual policies are taking another sharp right turn.... It's important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they're often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "The moment's highest priority should be speeding economic growth and ending the waste, human and economic, left by the Great Recession. But you would never know this because the conversation in our nation's capital is being held hostage by a ludicrous cycle of phony fiscal deadlines driven by a misplaced belief that the only thing we have to fear is the budget deficit." ...

... CW: This post that Dionne linked, by conservative Bruce Bartlett, writing in the Fiscal Times, is pretty informative. For instance, if Krugman, et al., have ever told us about "pure transfer," I skipped that class. Bartlett's overall point: "it is silly to obsess about near-term nominal budget deficits. What matters is the deficit as a share of GDP minus interest spending, which economists call the primary deficit. On that basis, we are much closer to fiscal sustainability than even most economists realize. Relatively small adjustments to the growth path of federal revenues and Medicare would be sufficient to eliminate the primary deficit."

Krugman explains Econ 101 to the Very Stupid People who populate (& host) "Morning Joe":

     ... CW: what Krugman doesn't directly explain to the VSPs -- who are too fucking stupid to get it anyway -- is that the real problem is medical costs, NOT Medicare & Medicaid. If the government cuts healthcare benefits 5 percent or 100 percent, we are all still going to have to pay for medical care. Cutting government health benefits merely transfers (and actually raises) the cost of health care to individuals. The whole panel was talking in circles around one actual problem that we all -- not just the government -- share: (probably) rising healthcare costs. Europeans do a much better job at delivering effective health care than we do; we should STFU about the percentage of those costs the government pays & -- as Krugman did say -- start figuring out better ways to provide health services.

Jared Bernstein has a good post on the right's new "welfare queens" -- all those Americans faking disability to claim SSI disability benefits. T'ain't so. Plus: "... more than 90% of entitlement dollars go to people who are either elderly, disabled, or working. In other words, the makers/takers frame is factually wrong not to mention mean-spirited and divisive." ...

... Oh, and here's a P.S. to which Bernstein links. Kathy Ruffing in Off the Charts: "About 6 percent of the nation's working-age population receive disability payments from Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but some southern and Appalachian states have much higher rates -- over 10 percent." CW: The biggest "fakers" would appear to be your people, Republicans. However, as Ruffing points out, it makes sense that the GOP region has a higher rate of disability: the populace is less educated, so more likely to (a) have jobs that require physical labor and/or (b) are too mentally impaired to adapt to new jobs. ...

... CW: In general, studies have showed conservatives are not as good as liberals at adapting to changed circumstances. Ergo, many conservatives are unable to learn new skills or adapt to new work environments. Ergo, conservatism is a drain on the economy AND on the government. Ergo, conservatives should eschew conservatism. See, liberalism is the economically sensible political theory.

... Krugman concurs with Bernstein: "... right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval -- but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are). And I don't think this is a problem that can be solved with a slight change in the rhetoric."

Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker on women in combat: "Notions of equality aside, the real factor that rendered the 'non-combat' distinction meaningless was the changing nature of the wars.... Who's in greater danger? A male Marine on a foot patrol in Helmand Province, or a female Marine driving a fuel truck on a highway to Kandahar? Technically speaking, the former is a combat job, and the latter is not. But the distinction, in both of our recent wars and in any we are likely to fight in the foreseeable future, is meaningless.... Who's in greater danger? A male Marine on a foot patrol in Helmand Province, or a female Marine driving a fuel truck on a highway to Kandahar? Technically speaking, the former is a combat job, and the latter is not. But the distinction, in both of our recent wars and in any we are likely to fight in the foreseeable future, is meaningless." ...

... BUT, but Dexter, what about "personal hygiene"? --

What I've raised is the issue of mixing the genders in those combat units, where there is no privacy.... Now, as a man who has been there and as a man who has some experience in those kinds of units, I certainly don't want to be in that environment with a female because it's degrading and humiliating enough to do your personal hygiene and the other normal functions among your teammates. -- Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, Ret.

War is hell. Peeing is intolerable. -- Constant Weader

So Gen. Boykin is so fastidious he feels "degraded & humiliated" when using a public urinal in a men's room. Whatever the reason for the general's phobia, it is a personal phobia & should have no bearing on normal people's accommodations to natural bodily functions. ...

... Joanna Walters of the Guardian on women who have been wounded in combat. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

New York Times Editors: President Obama "should have his solicitor general file a brief in the Proposition 8 case being argued before the Supreme Court in March.... For the administration to be missing in action in this showdown risks conveying a message to the justices that it lacks confidence in the constitutional claims for ending gay people's exclusion from marriage or that it believes Americans are not ready for a high court ruling making marriage equality the law of the land -- impressions strikingly contradicted by legal precedent, the lessons of history and by the president's own very powerful words [in his inaugural address]."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A bipartisan group of senators has agreed on a set of principles for a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system, including a pathway to American citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants that would hinge on progress in securing the borders and ensuring that foreigners leave the country when their visas expire.... Their blueprint, set to be unveiled on Monday, will allow them to stake out their position one day before President Obama outlines his immigration proposals in a speech on Tuesday in Las Vegas...." The Washington Post story, by Rosalind Helderman & Sean Sullivan, is here. ...

... Update: the framework, by Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet & Flake is here.

... Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) on Sunday revealed key details about a bipartisan immigration-reform plan, saying the legislation would be comprehensive and would include a pathway to citizenship. Durbin said the group of six senators was working on a comprehensive approach to the issue, as opposed to moving individual elements piecemeal and was optimistic they were close to their goal." ...

... Senator John Build-the-Danged-Fence McCain agrees. Wonders never cease. ...

Right Wing World

... Speaking of Arizona, State Rep. Bob Thorpe (RTP) has introduced an unconstitutional bill requiring all students "to recite an oath supporting the U.S. Constitution" to receive a diploma. Via Igor Volsky of Think Progress. How perfect is that?

News Ledes

Drones R Us. New York Times: "The United States military command in Africa is preparing plans to establish a drone base in northwest Africa to increase unarmed surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region."

The Hill: "In a 62-36 vote, the Senate on Monday approved legislation providing $50.7 billion to help New York, New Jersey and other states hit by Hurricane Sandy. All 36 no votes came from Republicans. GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Dean Heller (Nev.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Shelby (Ala.), David Vitter (La.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) voted yes. The House had already approved the measure, so the Senate action sends the bill to President Obama, who has said he will sign it." ...

... Politico: "President Obama said Monday that while he had hoped it would happen sooner, he commends Congress on passing funding for Hurricane Sandy relief."

Al Jazeera: "Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Egyptian cities of Port Said, Ismailiyah and Suez in defiance of President Mohamed Morsi's declaration of a curfew and a state of emergency after days of deadly unrest. The crowds shouted 'Down down with Mohamed Morsi, down down with the state of emergency,' in Ismailiyah and similar slogans were heard in the other cities along the Suez Canal. Five days of unrest has led to 50 deaths, and police once again clashed with protesters in Suez and downtown Cairo on Monday. At least two people were killed in Monday's clashes in Port Said...."

Guardian: "Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands ... announced her abdication on Monday evening in a sudden move three days before her 75th birthday. After 33 years on the throne following her mother's abdication in 1980, Beatrix said she would relinquish the crown at the end of April, leaving the monarchy to Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander, the oldest of her three sons. The queen went on national television and radio on Monday evening to announce the departure, having recorded the broadcast earlier in the day. The prime minister, Mark Rutte, delivered a statement on television shortly afterwards, with both stressing that the crown prince had been intensively prepared for the role of monarch."

Washington Post: "The Pentagon has approved a major expansion of its cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold to bolster the nation's ability to defend critical computer systems and conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries, according to U.S. officials."

New York Times: "President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency and a curfew in three major cities on Sunday, as escalating violence in the streets threatened his government and Egypt's democracy."

New York Times: "French military officials said on Monday that Malian and French troops took control of access roads and the airport at Timbuktu, the fabled desert oasis and crossroads of ancient caravan routes, after French paratroopers backed by helicopters reinforced soldiers on the ground. The French action, which started Sunday night, was designed to permit Malian forces to advance into the city...." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "French and Malian troops have taken control of the historic Malian city of Timbuktu, after rebel occupiers fled the ancient Sahara trading town and torched several buildings, including a priceless manuscript library. The French-led coalition troops were welcomed by residents of the town, AFP news agency reported with some residents saying that the rebel fighters had left the city several days ago."

... AP: "Islamist extremists torched a library containing historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, the mayor said Monday, as French and Malian forces closed in on Mali's fabled desert city."