The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, August 31, 2014.

New York Times: "Israel laid claim on Sunday to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem — a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area — defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called on Ukraine on Sunday to begin talks on “the statehood” of that country’s rebellious southeast, a vague and provocative turn of phrase he used while demanding that the Ukrainian government negotiate directly with pro-Russian separatists."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
September 1

9:30 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at Detroit's Labor Day parade

2:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks a LaborFest 2014

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

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Sunday
Aug242014

The Commentariat -- August 25, 2014

President Obama returned from Martha's Vineyard to Washington Sunday to face multiple crises. ...

... CW: I've been ignoring tiresome complaints that President Obama played golf while Ferguson burned, etc. -- see, for instance, Maureen Dowd's 800-word whine -- but now I'll let Andy Borowitz cover the "issue": "G.O.P. chief Reince Priebus ripped President Obama on Sunday for consuming three meals a day while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. 'With international crises boiling over in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, it's unconscionable that the President is having breakfast, lunch, and dinner,' he said." ...

... AND Bob Cesca is helpful, too: "... in the interest of history and the obvious inability of Republican concern-trolls to actually do the research themselves, I decided to set the way-back machine to the beloved Ronald Reagan presidency. Here's a series of harrowing events from the 1980s, along with the comparatively AWESOME optics from Reagan, the now-sainted chief executive. The photographs are all from the specified dates." In every photo Cesca reproduces, Ronaldus Maximus is vacationing while bad things happen around the world. Shocking! ...

... Steve Benen: "The political world's preoccupation with President Obama's vacation is excessive, but it also obscures a more salient point. Republicans and pundits may be outraged that the president took some time off and played some golf, but Congress is in the middle of a much longer break -- and lawmakers have some work to do. In his latest Sunday-show appearance, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained bitterly about the White House's foreign policy before turning his attention to ISIS.... 'One of the key decisions the president is going to have to make is airpower in Syria.' ... I hate to sound picky, but ... under our system of government, [Congress is] supposed to play a role in these 'key decisions,' too.'" See more on McCain's views, linked below.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The last time the economic policy conference held [In Jackson Hole, Wyoming,] every August devoted its agenda to labor markets, it was 1994 and the Federal Reserve's vice chairman scandalized the audience by suggesting central banks worried too much about reducing inflation and not enough about unemployment. Twenty years later, heresy has become gospel. Leaders of the world's major central banks made clear in speeches at this year's conference, which ended Saturday, that they were focused on raising employment and wages. The pursuit of lower inflation has been replaced by a conviction that inflation is actually too low for the good of the economy."

Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent. The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people's travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology." ...

... CW: Here's a suggestion, people. If you're going to go out & commit a crime, leave your cellphone at home. Otherwise, who cares if Nursultan Nazarbayev (see Way Beyond the Beltway, below) knows where you are?

Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "... an examination of [Medicare's] rating system [for nursing homes] ... has found that ... many ... top-ranked nursing homes have been given a seal of approval that is based on incomplete information and that can seriously mislead consumers, investors and others about conditions at the homes. The Medicare ratings, which have become the gold standard across the industry, are based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify."

Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal interviews Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "The turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., and the controversial stop-and-frisk policy in New York City illustrate a 'real racial problem' in America, one that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have done little to help, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told The National Law Journal. The high court was 'once a leader in the world' in rooting out racial discrimination, the justice said in a wide-ranging interview late Wednesday in her chambers. 'What's amazing is how things have changed.'"

Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "ESPN announced Saturday that it would give its on-air broadcasters, analysts, and personalities the option to avoid saying the name of Washington's professional football team, a day after the Washington Post editorial board joined the list of publications that will no longer print the name and ESPN's Keith Olbermann used his show to call on the network to institute such a policy." CW Note: The Post's newsroom (which includes sports news) will continue to use the term "Redskins.'"

From the Sunday Morning Shows:

Keith Laing of the Hill: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Sunday that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is 'one plane ticket away from U.S. shores.'" CW: This confuses me: I thought the terrorists were coming in via the U.S.-Mexican border. ...

... Talking Points, Delivered. ...

... (1) Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "Speaking on CBS's 'Face the Nation,' [Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)] said James Foley's murder last week 'really brought home this [ISIS] threat.'" (Foley is from New Hampshire.)

... (2) Keith Laing: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday called for President Obama to target leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria after the beheading of an American journalist [James Foley] last week." ...

... (3) Mario Trujillo of the Hill: Sen. John "McCain said the recent beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS will hopefully work as a catalyst for the administration to define a comprehensive strategy in Iraq and other parts of the world. The United States has launched more than 90 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS. 'This is an administration, which the kindest word I can use is "feckless," where they have not outlined a role that the United States has to play. And that is a leadership role,' he said." ...

... AND OMG, Journalism! George Stephanopoulos Fact-Checks Peggy Noonan. Steve Benan calls "The exchange [between Noonan & Stephanopoulos] ... one of my favorite of any Sunday show this year." When Peggy describes Rick Perry's indictment as "local Democratic overreach," George points out that the special prosecutor who brought the case is a Republican, which phases Noonan, but doesn't stop her. Benen: "... the Republican columnist had nine days to get the basic details straight.... Local Democrats had literally nothing to do with the indictment.... Democratic officials in Travis County recused themselves from the case, and the prosecutor in this case, Michael McCrum, worked in the Bush/Quayle administration. What's more, McCrum, who enjoys a solid reputation as a credible attorney, was appointed to oversee this case by a Republican judge." ...

... Update. Jason Easley of PoliticusUSA Charge Chris Jansing with committing more journalism: "Chris Jansing was the fill in moderator on Meet The Press, and without David Gregory or Chuck Todd, Republican talking points about the threat of ISIS to America were strongly challenged." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. Charles Pierce, in a piece linked below, is less kind to Jansing, calling her out for being "remarkably useful" to Rand Paul. (In fairness to Jansing, she is not her own assignment editor.)

Glenn Greenwald doesn't think tech giants like Twitter should censor content because, um, they're really big companies. ....

... Driftglass respectfully disagrees.

Presidential Race

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a 'war hawk' and added that if she decides to run for president in 2016 voters will question whether she wants to bring the U.S. into another war in the Middle East. Paul, himself a potential 2016 candidate, made the comments during an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press." ...

... CW: I think Clinton is ahead in all polls now, but that's probably mostly name recognition. I suspect there's an excellent chance that Paul would beat Clinton in the presidential race. When Frank Rich suggested it nearly a year ago, pundits scoffed. But Americans are at heart a hopeful people, & they want something new in a president. This helps explain Obama's win over Clinton in 2008, & Bill Clinton's win over Pappy Bush in 1992. Yes, Aqua Buddha boy, the self-certified ophthalmologist, former plagiarist & Friend of Racists has some baggage, but Hillary Clinton has more. Besides, most Americans don't know about Li'l Randy's weirdness, & they're familiar with Clinton's history. And Randy's little indiscretions won't matter much. Clinton can't run on "Rand Paul technically kidnapped a woman 30 years ago." ...

... "Rand Paul Offers Free Eye Exam With Deportation." Jonathan Chait posted this piece Friday, but it's worth reading now, for the fun of it. ...

... Charles Pierce zeroes in on Li'l Randy's Guatemalan entourage, which included "ratfker" David Bossie & wonders in virtual print what Paul is doing palling around with ratfkers: "Why, you might almost think that Aqua Buddha is running a scam on everyone, and that he is more than willing to play foul, and to deal double, to get what he wants." ...

... BUT if you really want to know what Rand Paul's immigration policy is, Simon Maloy of Salon can say with certainty that he really doesn't know. Maloy tracks Paul's multiple flipflops & sidesteps (CW: sounds like the makings of a new dance craze -- soon all the cool white tweens will be doing the Randango). "Rand Paul is an exceptionally sensitive political weathervane. Whatever the dominant Republican position is on immigration at any given time, you'll find Rand Paul pushing for it." ...

... AND here's a prime example of Clinton's Total Tone-Deafness. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Hillary Clinton ignored reporters' questions about the racial conflict in Ferguson, Missouri, on Sunday at the end of a book-signing event in Westhampton Beach, a vacation enclave near her rented summer house. Clinton, the potential 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful who has been vacationing in the Hamptons since the first full week of August, has not yet commented on the situation in Ferguson...."

Paul Krugman: "Rick Perry doesn't know the secrets of job creation, or even of regional growth. It would be great to see the real key -- affordable housing -- become a national issue. But I don't think Democrats are willing to nominate Mayor Bill de Blasio for president just yet."

Beyond the Beltway

Sara Burnett of the AP: Michael Brown's funeral is today. "His father, Michael Brown Sr., has asked protesters to take a break Monday and observe a day of silence so the family can grieve." ...

... John Eligon of the New York Times profiles Michael Brown. ...

... Monica Davey & Frances Robles of the New York Times profile Darren Wilson.

... Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post: Eddie Boyd III, one of three black cops on the Ferguson police force, "resigned from St. Louis city police under a cloud of suspicion. Missouri tried to make sure he couldn't walk the beat. But one officer with a history of allegations of hitting children found a willing employer in the Ferguson Police Department." Via Margaret Hartmann of New York. ...

... Ryan Reilly & Ashley Alman of the Huffington Post: "A Ferguson police officer who helped detain a journalist in a McDonald's earlier this month is in the midst of a civil rights lawsuit because he allegedly hog-tied a 12-year-old boy who was checking the mail at the end of his driveway." The incident occurred while Justin Cosma was as officer with the Jefferson County sheriff's office. Shortly after the incident, the Ferguson police department hired him. Also via Hartmann.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Worse than Bush. Robert Mendick of the Telegraph: "Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan's autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime. In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters 'tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress' his country had made. Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action." ...

... Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "Tony Blair is like the love child of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Lanny Davis. Combine neoliberal economic policies, warmongering, and profiting off of advising dictators and you have quite the individual."

News Ledes

AP: "A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday. Separately, Canada said it has yet to send out an untested vaccine that the government is donating."

Washington Post: "After 49 days of war, the armies of Israel and Hamas appear to have run out of new ideas -- but not bombs. They are now slugging it out in a lopsided war of attrition. As rumors fly that another cease-fire could be imminent, Hamas and Israel are groping for a diplomatic solution that could allow both to declare victory -- or in the case of Hamas, at least avoid an obvious loss."

New York Times: "Extremist fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seized a military base in northern Syria on Sunday from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, further solidifying control inside their self-declared Islamic state spanning the Syria-Iraq border."

Washington Post: "Ukraine charged that Russian forces crossed into eastern Ukraine early Monday in military vehicles, including tanks, as Russia vowed to send a second convoy into the country this week to deliver humanitarian aid to areas held by pro-Moscow separatists."

AP: "French President Francois Hollande dissolved the government on Monday after open feuding in his Cabinet over the country's stagnant economy."

Saturday
Aug232014

The Commentariat -- August 24, 2014

Matt Apuzzo & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "Jolted by images of protesters clashing with heavily armed police officers in ]Missouri, President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the government's decade-old strategy of outfitting local police departments with military-grade body armor, mine-resistant trucks, silencers and automatic rifles, senior officials say. The White House-led review will consider whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately, said senior administration and law enforcement officials. The government will also consider whether it is keeping a close enough watch on equipment inventories, and how the weapons and other gear are used." ...

... Alex Kane of AlterNet, in Salon: "... One group of people is decidedly happy about the militarized response in Ferguson: those who work in the weapons industry. The array of police forces -- the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis county and city police and local Ferguson officers -- that descended on the largely black Missouri city have used the products these corporations are selling in abundance.... Many of the corporations' products that are being turned on protesters in Ferguson will be put on display next month -- in Missouri."

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times on voter suppression laws in Arizona & Kansas that have created a two-tiered voting rights regime: voters will be allowed to vote only in federal elections & be disallowed from voting in local elections if they do not provide birth certificates, & in the case of married women who have changed their names, also marriage certificates. The issue will come before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this week; if the states win, then those now eligible to vote in federal elections only will be disenfranchised there, too.

"Blue-State Diaspora." Robert Gebeloff & David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Over the last few decades, residents of many traditionally liberal states have moved to states that were once more conservative. And this pattern has played an important role in helping the Democratic Party win the last two presidential elections and four of the last six. The growth of the Latino population and the social liberalism of the millennial generation may receive more attention, but the growing diaspora of blue-state America matters as well." CW: I would credit this as the Air Conditioning Effect. Thanks to MAG for the link.

AP: "Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. is prepared to help Iraq pursue a federal system that would decentralize power away from Baghdad. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Biden says Iraq is making progress in forming a new government. But he says sectarian divisions are fueling extremist movements like the Islamic State. Biden says federalism is emerging as one approach to Iraq's future. He's alluding to a plan he proposed in 2006 that would see Iraq divided into three semi-independent regions for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds." Vice President Biden's Wash Po op-ed is here.

Armartya Sen in the New Republic on the need for a global plan -- & philosophy -- for energy distribution & power production. CW: Reading this, it was impossible for me not to imagine the Jim Inhofe-Marco Rubio contingent reactions to Sen's analysis & not to realize anew what horribly ignorant, inadequate politicians we elect. And how much that matters.

Alleged Serial Auto Thief Darrell Issa Feigns Concern that Obama Violated the Hatch Act. Lauren French of Politico: "Darrell Issa issued a subpoena for White House documents Friday, throwing more fuel on his summer-long feud with David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Issa ... wants documents on the creation of Simas' office and trips the president took in 2014.... Issa is asking the White House to turn over documents related to Obama's June trip to Minnesota and July trip to Colorado. Both trips were billed as officials trips, even though Obama attended fundraisers for Sen. Mark Udall and other congressional Democrats.... President George W. Bush's White House and previous administrations had a similar office during his tenure, but Obama shut it down during his first term after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that the office misused taxpayer funds and violated the law. Obama administration officials have stressed that the new office run by Simas was restructured to avoid Hatch Act violations. The White House has dismissed Issa's interest in Simas' office as a political stunt."

Beyond the Beltway

James Hohmann of Politico extracts some of the most damaging passages from the Friday-docudump of in the Gov. Scott Walker corruption investigation. CW: Even if what Walker did was not illegal -- and it sounds as if it was -- this tiny peak into the shear tawdriness & greed which is the American Way of Politics will probably disgust you.

Tarini Parti of Politico: "A Florida judge ruled Friday that the state's reconfigured congressional map will take effect for the 2016 elections, a victory for Republicans that allows this year's races to proceed under the existing lines."

Alan Zagier of the AP: "Tensions briefly flared then subsided late Saturday night and early Sunday in Ferguson as nightly protests continued two weeks after a white city police officer fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old. Police reported only a handful of arrests, and traffic flowed freely along the West Florissant Avenue commercial corridor near the suburban St. Louis apartment complex where Ferguson officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown six times in the middle of the street on Aug. 9." ...

... The St. Louis Post-Dispatch report is here. ...

... Chris Campbell & Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Supporters of Darren Wilson ... on Saturday staged a rally outside a St Louis pub.... In Ferguson on Saturday, Ron Johnson, the state highway patrol captain who was brought in after criticism of tactics applied by local police, walked at the front of a march organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Johnson, who is black, and St Louis county police chief Jon Belmar, who is white, helped to carry an NAACP banner."

... Julie Bosman & Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times: "Just after noon on Saturday, Aug. 9, Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer on Canfield Drive. For about four hours, in the unrelenting summer sun, his body remained where he fell.... Local officials say that the image of Mr. Brown's corpse in the open set the scene for what would become a combustible worldwide story of police tactics and race in America, and left some of the officials asking why." ...

... From One Racist Police Force to Another. Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch. That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson." Wilson came from a troubled home & turned to policing for "stability." Last year he divorced his wife. CW: Way, way down in the story is this interesting note: Wilson was moonlighting as a security guard someplace & was supposed to work the night he killed Brown. So on top of whatever other problems Wilson may have had, he also was probably dog-tired from working two jobs.

Witness for the Defense. Laura Vozzella, et al., of the Washington Post: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell claimed in testimony in his corruption trial that he managed the family finances, but his wife Maureen messed everything up. ...

... CW: If Bob was "managing" the finances, he was doing a piss-poor job, making real estate investments the couple could not afford. It actually seems as if Maureen was trying -- in a foolish way -- to get the family out of the financial jam Bob had engineered, & Bob was swooping in to close the deals she was proposing to snake-oil salesman Jonnie Williams. It's pretty hard to believe he had no idea what was going on when he was the chief loan negotiator. It's also pretty hard to imagine he thought Jonnie was making loans & outfitting the family -- including Bob -- in fancy duds for some altruistic motives or out of admiration for Governor Bob. Some men might get away with the naif defense, but the governor of a state -- who also is a lawyer & a former state attorney general -- would be expected to be more savvy than that.

Presidential Race

Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider, republished in the Houston Chronicle: Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "new political action committee unveiled a T-shirt featuring Perry's mug shot. The back of the shirt features the mug shot of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose character Perry has repeatedly tried to attack while making her the poster child of his pushback. The caption under Perry's mug shot says he's 'wanted' for 'securing the border and defeating Democrats.' Lehmberg's side says she's 'wanted' for 'driving while intoxicated and perversion of justice.'"

News Ledes

Guardian: "Libya has lurched ever closer to fragmentation and civil war this weekend after Islamist-led militias seized the airport in the capital, Tripoli, proclaimed their own government, and presented the world with yet another crisis. Operation Dawn, a coalition of Islamist and Misrata forces, captured the airport on Saturday in fierce fighting against pro-government militias after a five-week siege that battered parts of the capital."

New York Times: "Richard Attenborough, who after a distinguished stage and film acting career in Britain reinvented himself to become the internationally admired director of the monumental 'Gandhi' and other films, died on Sunday. He was 90."

Los Angeles Times: "Ninety to 100 homes in Northern California have been red-tagged -- that is, labeled unfit to enter -- after a 6.0 earthquake struck near Napa early Sunday, and there have been more than 50 aftershocks, but a large follow-up earthquake is now unlikely, state officials announced." The San Francisco Chronicle story is here.

New York Times: "An American freelance journalist held captive for nearly two years by Al Qaeda's branch in Syria was freed on Sunday in a handover to United Nations peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. The freelance journalist, Peter Theo Curtis, from Boston, was abducted near the Syria-Turkey border in October 2012. He was held by the Nusra Front, the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which has broken with the even more radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS."

Washington Post: "The British ambassador to the United States said Sunday that authorities are 'close' to identifying the Islamist militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley. Speaking on CNN's 'State of the Union' and NBC's 'Meet the Press,' Ambassador Peter Westmacott said advanced voice-recognition technology is helping authorities identify the man, who spoke with a British accent." ...

     ... Guardian UPDATE: "The US has unequivocally denied paying any money at all to the Syrian extremist group that until Sunday held an American journalist hostage. Whatever prompted Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s chosen affiliate in Syria, to release Peter Theo Curtis, the government of Qatar, increasingly a regional power broker, was involved."

Friday
Aug222014

The Commentariat -- August 23, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser ... to President Obama, vowed Friday that the United States would 'do what is necessary' in Syria to protect American interests and said that direct military action was possible against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS." ...

... Anne Barnard of the New York Times: "The extremist militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have attacked Syrian troops with new ferocity in recent weeks, taking over three northeastern military bases, beheading scores of soldiers and seizing new territory. The jihadist offensive has prompted some panicked supporters of the Syrian government to sharply criticize the leadership, questioning why it appeared to allow ISIS to build a base in the northern Syria province of Raqqa over the last year while claiming the Syrian Army was fighting terrorism."

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post on the logic of not paying ransoms.

Natalia Zinets and Dmitry Madorsky of Reuters: "The United States demanded Moscow remove an aid convoy it sent into rebel-held eastern Ukraine without permission on Friday, accusing Russia of a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of its former Soviet neighbor and threatening more sanctions.... NATO's top military commander said the movement of trucks looked like a disguised attempt to reinforce separatist forces. The Western defense alliance said Russian troops had been firing artillery across the border and within Ukraine in a major escalation of military support for pro-Moscow rebels since mid-August, a defacto charge that Russia was already waging war."

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The Obama administration rolled out a plan on Friday to protect access to copay-free birth control for women in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. A new 'proposed rule' by the Department of Health and Human Services lets female employees of for-profit businesses, like Hobby Lobby, obtain birth control directly from their insurer, at no extra cost, if their boss opts out of covering the service in the company's insurance plan for religious reasons. The move extends an accommodation that already exists for non-profit organizations, which are allowed to refuse to cover for birth control.... The religious owners can pass the cost on to the insurer so that they're no longer complicit in what they view as sin.... In the same announcement, HHS also unveiled an interim rule tweaking the nonprofit accommodation, in an effort to put an end to a separate lawsuit against it. Instead of informing the insurer or third-party administrator directly, the new rule says, an objecting employer will have to notify the government, which will inform the insurer." ...

... digby: "I wonder how they're going to react now. Because we know that this isn't really about them violating their conscience don't we? It's about preventing women from getting birth control. I'm sure they have something else up their sleeves." ...

... Irin Carmon of NBC News: "... it's far from clear that the new accommodations will mollify all of the plaintiffs now that it's clear the end result will be women getting no-cost contraception.... Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown Law School who has written extensively about the contraceptive cases, wrote in July of the letter option, 'I think it is likely that most of those organizations will not be satisfied: They will argue that such a "fix," too, violates their rights under RFRA, because their act of opting out will continue to establish the legal authority for the government to require another party to provide coverage.'" CW: Exactly. The plaintiff's case, in a nutshell: If sinful, libidinous sluts insist on sleeping around, God has the right to make them have babies.

Jim Finkle & Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "A cyber attack at a firm that performs background checks for U.S. government employees compromised data of at least 25,000 workers, including some undercover investigators, and that number could rise, agency officials said on Friday. The breach at Falls Church, Virginia-based US Investigations Services (USIS) exposed highly personal information of workers at the Department of Homeland Security's headquarters as well as its U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection units...."

Nate Raymond & Jonathan Stempel of Reuters: "Goldman Sachs Group Inc has agreed to a settlement worth $1.2 billion to resolve a U.S. regulator's claims the bank sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac faulty mortgage bonds, the regulator announced Friday. Under the settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the conservator for the two government-controlled mortgage finance companies, Goldman Sachs said it agreed to pay $3.15 billion to repurchase mortgage-backed securities from Fannie and Freddie.

Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday issued an apology for cracking two Asian-themed jokes during a speech Thursday night at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. 'My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing,' Reid said in a statement to The Hill." ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Reid has also made a career out of saying such odd things -- so much so that few tend to notice stuff like this. He's like Joe Biden; he's almost built up a gaffe immunity by committing so many small-ish gaffes." Blake has a short list of Harry's Greatest Gaffes.

Washington Post Editors: We will no longer use the term "Redskins" to describe the D.C. football team. ...

... Annys Shin of the Washington Post: "The editorial board is separate from the news-gathering side of the organization, which Executive Editor Martin Baron said will continue to use the team's moniker."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve M. makes a good point: Rand Paul gets good press because the press corps is always "desperate for a Republican to love." (CW: Think of former "maverick" John McCain.) ...

... CW: I'd add this: The press's desperation to find lovable Republicans may be a product of its need to continue writing those formulaic he-said/she-said stories. It's hard, for instance, to write a story about climate change policy when the "she-said" side consists of climate change deniers like Sen. Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist Rubio (R-Fla.). He-said/she-said stories are the practical applications of a theoretical journalistic standard of objectivity. In adhering to this model, the reporter is prohibited from writing, "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said blah-blah. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) retorted blah-blah, which is a laughably ignorant crock."

Beyond the Beltway

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "On a night of sultry heat, about 150 protesters gathered enough steam for one brief but lively march down West Florissant Avenue late Friday. They turned back when police cars blocked the road. No arrests were reported. Until that only march of the night after 10 p.m., protesting had been sporadic, with crowds small all evening. Friday's gathering, nearly two weeks after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, 18, was peaceful. Through the night, the numbers of marchers, police and news reporters was down significantly from the assemblies of the previous nights."

I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I'm also a killer. I've killed a lot. And if I need to, I'll kill a whole bunch more. If you don't want to get killed, don't show up in front of me, it's that simple. I have no problem with it. God did not raise me to be a coward. -- St. Louis County Police Officer Dan Page, in a video of a speech delivered at a 2012 Oath Keepers meeting

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A police officer involved in the protests over Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, has been relieved of his duty after video surfaced of him describing black people as 'little perverts' and Barack Obama as an illegal immigrant. Dan Page -- who was seen live on CNN earlier this week threatening to arrest the network's anchor Don Lemon -- was recorded in April giving a speech in which he railed against Muslims and gay people, saying: 'I'm into diversity -- I kill everybody.'" ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Also Friday, Glendale Police Officer Matthew Pappert was suspended after posting on Facebook that the Ferguson protesters were 'a burden on society and a blight on the community,' according to posts preserved by news and opinion website 'The Daily Caller.' Another post that appears to come from Pappert says the 'protestors should have been put down like rabid dogs the first night.'" The story has more on St. Louis County police officer Dan Page, including comments from Chief Jon Belmar. ...

... CW: With the attitude apparently common among the St. Louis area police cohort, it is hardly any wonder that white policemen shoot & abuse black men & others for specious "reasons." ...

... Tim Bross of Bloomberg News: "The Missouri grand jury that will decide whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown includes nine whites and three blacks, a state court judge said.... The prosecuting attorney has no role in the selection of the jurors, according to Paul Fox, the judicial administrator for St. Louis County, which doesn't include the city of the same name. [Judge Carolyn] Whittington today ordered the release of the current grand jury's makeup. Fox said that the racial breakdown of the grand jury roughly reflects the makeup of the county." ...

... Michael Wines & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "Much remains in dispute about Officer [Darren] Wilson's fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whom he stopped as Mr. Brown was walking home about noon on Aug. 9. But the question of whether Officer Wilson's actions were objectively reasonable will likely be at the crux of that debate." ...

... A Report that Isn't. Jason Sickles of Yahoo! News: "A police report on the death of Michael Brown is missing key information and violates Missouri open records laws, an ACLU attorney told Yahoo News on Friday. The two-page document, which the Ferguson Police Department released only after pressure from journalists and civil liberties advocates, is largely redacted or left blank. The most egregious omissions are the victim's name and a description of the offense -- the fatal shooting of Brown."

From earlier this week:

Matt Zapotsky, et al., of the Washington Post: "A day after portraying his wife, Maureen McDonnell, as the troubled instigator of his entanglements with wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell on Friday said that Williams, too, had led him astray. 'I misjudged Jonnie Williams,' McDonnell (R) testified at his public corruption trial. 'I thought he was a true friend. I had no idea that he would come into federal court and make false statements against me to save himself.' ... In each case, after blaming his wife for initiating such [financial] arrangements [with Williams], McDonnell spent even more time detailing his role in finalizing them." CW: What a weasel. ...

... Gail Collins: "Bob McDonnell has told the jury a lot about his firmness in rejecting some of the goodies that Maureen wanted -- like a designer dress for the inaugural. However, he seems to have been far less resolute when Jonnie Williams was doling out things he liked: a luxury vacation, or the use of a private jet. McDonnell told his sons to give back expensive golf clubs (the sons ignored him), but then he accepted a custom golf bag for himself." CW: And the Rolex!

... BUT maybe Bob's defense should be that all Republican governors are crooks. ...

Illustration by Donkey Hotey.Adam Nagourney & Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin played a greater role than previously known in arranging for wealthy contributors to donate to a powerful conservative organization in his home state as it battled a two-year campaign to recall Mr. Walker and Republican lawmakers, according to court documents released Friday.... The investigation has pulled back the curtain on the ways politicians and their aides seek to get around the welter of state and national campaign finance restrictions to accommodate donors, and it has clouded the White House prospects of Mr. Walker." ...

... Patrick Marley, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Gov. Scott Walker prodded outside groups and individuals to funnel millions of dollars into Wisconsin Club for Growth -- a pro-Walker group directed by his campaign adviser -- during the recall elections in 2011 and 2012, according to court documents unsealed for a short time Friday afternoon. The documents form much of the basis for prosecutors' theory that Walker's campaign and conservative groups illegally cooperated to help him and other Republicans. Walker and the groups deny they broke any laws, noting two judges have sided with them. Among the funds that flowed into the Wisconsin Club for Growth was $700,000 from a company trying to build a massive open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Soon after the 2012 recall and general elections, Walker and Republicans eased environmental regulations, helping the firm." ...

... The documents are here.

Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times: "California lawmakers Friday passed a bill to get police officers who check on troubled individuals to find out whether they own guns, a response to the rampage near UC Santa Barbara last spring that left seven people dead and 13 wounded."

Jonathan Cooper of the AP: "The state of Oregon filed a lawsuit Friday against Oracle America Inc. and several of its executives over the technology company's role in creating the troubled website for the state's online health insurance exchange. The lawsuit ... alleges that Oracle officials lied, breached contracts and engaged in 'a pattern of racketeering activity.' Oracle was the largest technology contractor working on Oregon's health insurance enrollment website, known as Cover Oregon. The public website was never launched, forcing the state to hire hundreds of workers to process paper applications by hand. The website's failure became a political problem to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is running for re-election."

News Ledes

AFP: "Islamist fighters in the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition said on Saturday they have captured Tripoli's battered international airport after many days of clashes with nationalist militiamen."

New York Times: "The huge scale of the fraud [in the Afghan elections] -- involving perhaps more than two million ballots out of roughly eight million reported cast, according to independent international estimates -- has stymied efforts to achieve a democratic transition. Secretary of State John Kerry has intervened twice to keep the campaigns in agreement on a unity government and a complete audit of the vote, but the process has repeatedly broken down in disputes."

Washington Post: "White-tarped trucks from the controversial Russian convoy that provoked a dramatic escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began returning to Russian territory Saturday after delivering supplies to the war-torn city of Luhansk, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in the capital Kiev for a symbolic show of support and behind-the-scenes efforts to ease rising tensions. Russia had sent the aid convoy of over 200 trucks into rebel-held Ukrainian territory Friday without permission.... The maneuver came amid reports from NATO that Ukrainian troops were coming under Russian artillery fire from inside their borders. A top Lithuanian diplomat was also killed in ongoing violence." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: Ukrainian officials said "that Russians had loaded sophisticated military equipment onto the vehicles before they left. Col. Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine's military spokesman, said that trucks that had driven into the territory 'under the guise of humanitarian convoys' had crossed back into Russia on Saturday morning after being packed with Ukrainian-made equipment used to produce an advanced aircraft-tracking system, as well as ammunition for small arms."

Reuters: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an urgent resumption of peace talks on Saturday as violence continued unabated in the Gaza Strip with Israel carrying out air strikes and militants firing rockets. Gaza health officials said five people, including two children, were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in central Gaza. Three more Palestinians were killed in other strikes." ...

... AFP: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday vowed harsh retribution against Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, after a mortar round fired from the Palestinian territory killed an Israeli child." ...

... Democracy Now!: "More than 467 Palestinian children have died since July.... According to the World Health Organization, more than 3,000 children have been injured, of which an estimated 1,000 will suffer from a lifelong disability."

... CW: Res ipsa loquitur.

Thursday
Aug212014

The Commentariat -- August 22, 2014

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that the Islamic State militant organization 'is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen,' and left open the possibility that the United States may strike the group not only in Iraq, but also in Syria. 'They're beyond just a terrorist group,' Hagel said during a news conference at the Pentagon. 'They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded& ... This is beyond anything that we've seen, so we must prepare for everything.'" CW: A chief funding source: countries -- including continental European countries -- willing to pay ransoms for their citizens held captive by ISIS. ...

... Helene Cooper & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria cannot be defeated unless the United States or its allies take on the Sunni militancy in Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday afternoon. 'This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,' the chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said in his most expansive public remarks on the crisis since American airstrikes began in Iraq. ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "... the gruesome execution of an American journalist, James Foley, has drawn an intensely emotional reaction from lawmakers in both parties, with ... some urging Mr. Obama to redouble the fight against [ISIS]. There were signs on Thursday that the Obama administration is weighing that, with the White House and the Pentagon refusing to rule out military action against the group in Syria. But far from satisfying Congress, a wider conflict could put lawmakers, particularly Democrats, in a difficult position, since most deeply oppose any new war in the Middle East." ...

... Steve M.: "The body of James Foley was barely cold when Dick Cheney suited himself up to go on Sean Hannity's Fox show to blame (as he sees it) the real enemy: the Obama administration." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned Thursday that Islamic terrorists might already have crossed the southern border into the United States with the intent of attacking Americans. In a fiery speech delivered before a conservative audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Perry ... said the federal government's failure to secure the southern border has created 'great concern' that militants representing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) might already have arrived from Mexico." CW: Huh. No mention that the U.S.-Canadian border, not to mention the thousands of miles of U.S. seacoast, can be breached easily.

... Martin Matishak of the Hill: "House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on Thursday called for an inquiry into who leaked information about a botched attempt earlier this year to rescue photojournalist James Foley. It was 'unwise' for the White House and the Defense Department to formally acknowledge the operation and 'outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media,' the outgoing lawmaker said in a statement." CW: Yes, Buck, what we seriously need now is another House investigation of the Obama administration. ...

... Christopher Werth of the Los Angeles Times: "The black-hooded executioner who beheaded American journalist James Foley may have left more clues to his identity than he intended, experts said Thursday, beginning with his distinctly British voice, a sonic fingerprint that gives investigators a fighting chance of determining his identity. Scotland Yard, British intelligence and the FBI are all said to be scrambling to figure out the identity of the man who killed Foley...." ...

... Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "An official State Department account tweeted photos Thursday of two members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who were apparently killed in Syria this week. One of the men pictured, Abu Moussa, is an ISIS spokesman who recently told VICE News that the militant group would 'raise the flag of Allah in the White House.'"

Kristina Wong of the Hill: "The Pentagon broke the law when it transferred five Taliban detainees from Guantánamo Bay in exchange for prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to a report from ... the Government Accountability Office. [The GAO] said the Pentagon violated the 2014 Defense Appropriations Act, which requires the Pentagon to give certain congressional committees 30 days advance notice before any detainee transfer from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.... The law also prohibits the Pentagon from using appropriated funds to conduct any detainee transfer, unless the Defense secretary gives the 30 days of advance notice. The Pentagon said it spent $988,400 on the detainee transfer, according to the report."

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Thursday that she will lead a hearing in September looking into the militarization of local police departments, after recent tensions between law enforcement and protesters have rocked her state. The hearing, which will be held by the McCaskill-chaired Financial & Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, follows the Democrat's calls for demilitarization in Ferguson, Missouri."

Michael Corkery & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Bank of America and the Justice Department have a reached a record $16.65 billion settlement, capping the most sweeping federal investigation into the sale of troubled mortgages by a Wall Street bank since the 2008 financial crisis. The landmark settlement, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in Washington on Thursday morning, requires Bank of America to pay a $9.65 billion cash penalty and provide about $7 billion in relief to homeowners and blighted neighborhoods." ...

... The DOJ's statement about the settlement is here. ...

... Michael Corkery & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Documents released as part of the $16.65 billion settlement between Bank of America and the Justice Department read like a highlight reel of the mortgage sins that fed the 2008 financial crisis. As part of the deal, the bank and the Justice Department agreed to a 'statement of facts' that offers a window into some of the darkest corners of the Countrywide and Merrill mortgage machine that was responsible for funneling a stream of troubled loans that helped devastate the global financial system." ...

... BoA's "statement of facts" is here (pdf). ...

... Peter Eavis & Michael Corkery of the New York Times: The $16.65BB settlement the DOJ is touting may turn out to be a lot less than that: BoA is getting credit for mortgages it wrote down years ago. Plus, "The actual pain to the bank could also be significantly reduced by tax deductions.... Shares of Bank of America jumped 4 percent on Thursday, suggesting investors believe that the bank could take the settlement in stride."

Oh, STFU. Paul Krugman: "According to a recent report in The Times..., 'An increasingly vocal minority of Federal Reserve officials want the central bank to retreat more quickly' from its easy-money policies, which they warn run the risk of causing inflation.... That 'vocal minority' has been warning about soaring inflation more or less nonstop for six years. And the persistence of that obsession seems, to me, to be a more interesting and important story than the fact that the usual suspects are saying the usual things.... When economic myths persist, the explanation usually lies in politics -- and, in particular, in class interests. There is not a shred of evidence that cutting tax rates on the wealthy boosts the economy, but there's no mystery about why leading Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan keep claiming that lower taxes on the rich are the secret to growth."

"The Twilight of Antonin Scalia." Garrett Epps of the Atlantic: "Scalia has had nearly 30 years to alter the law, and in many ways, he has succeeded. Yet the pique of confronting error, the pleasure of forecasting doom, has led him over and over into rhetorical excess, until at last his Windsor dissent helped cement one of conservatism's most stinging defeats." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "In an emotional second day of testimony in his federal corruption trial, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell portrayed in searing detail the slow collapse of his marriage.... By the time he had reached the pinnacle of state politics, he and Maureen McDonnell were at emotional sword points, with him avoiding time in his wife's presence and her communicating frequently by yelling, he said. At one point, she threw a $25,000 check at him during an argument over their troubled finances." ...

... Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "On his second day on the witness stand, Bob McDonnell ... deftly oscillated on Thursday between expressing sympathy for his wife, Maureen, and skewering her for poor judgment and emotional volatility, pressing his contention that the estranged couple could not have conspired illegally. Mr. McDonnell walked the jury methodically through their 38-year marriage, portraying the couple as drifting farther and farther apart as he relentlessly marched to higher office, from the Virginia General Assembly to attorney general to governor." ...

... The Washington Post's live updates of today's trial testimony are here. "The former governor said Maureen McDonnell -- without him knowing about it -- initiated the process in early 2012 for Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to loan $50,000 to a real estate company he co-owned with his sister, whose first name is also Maureen. The governor said he first learned that his wife had been having loan discussions with the businessman by way of an e-mail, and it appeared to him a tentative agreement was already in place."

... Gene Robinson: "How far would you go to stay out of jail? Would you publicly humiliate your wife of 38 years, portraying her as some kind of shrieking harridan? Would you put the innermost secrets of your marriage on display, inviting voyeurs to rummage at will? For Robert McDonnell..., the answers appear to be: 'As far as necessary,' 'Hey, why not?' and 'Sounds like a plan.' ... A jury will decide whether McDonnell was an honest public servant. By his own account, he wasn't much of a husband." ...

     ... CW: McDonnell rejected a plea bargain that would have left his wife off the hook & would have required him to cop to one felony count. I suspect he would have got a suspended sentence, or at worst, an ankle bracelet. It's possible he would have gone to jail, but more likely not. So he's trashing his wife for little, if any, gain. He's doing it because he wants to, not because he has to.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "At a press conference shortly after 1 a.m., Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson said there had been seven arrests late Thursday and into early today. Five were for failure to disperse and the other two for minor offenses as well, he said. 'Today we had a good day,' said Johnson, who is in charge of the security forces on patrol in Ferguson." ...

... Joseph Goldstein & Mark Santora of the New York Times: "As tensions on the streets here seemed to ease on Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri National Guard to begin withdrawing from the city." ...

"Anonymous Sources" Disagree. German Lopez of Vox: After an "anonymous source" told Fox "News" & the Washington Post that Officer Darren Wilson had "a fractured eyesocket" as a result of his encounter with Michael Brown -- and x-rays to prove it, another "anonymous source" told CNN that wasn't true & his "x-rays came back negative." He had a swollen face. ...

... These "anonymous sources" apparently think they are far more knowledgeable than the St. Louis county prosecutor. Mark Berman of the Washington Post: St. Louis County Prosecutor's spokesman Ed "Magee said that prosecutors have not received any medical records relating to Wilson so far. ​But he said that since Wilson was taken to the hospital, they assume there are medical records and they just haven't received them yet.... [Prosecutor Robert] McCulloch has been in touch with Wilson's attorney but has not spoken to Wilson himself. Wilson will be given an opportunity to appear before the grand jury, but he cannot be compelled to appear, Magee said." CW: Yeah, well the wheels of justice grind slowly, & sometimes evidence inexplicably gets lost, & hey, we're not going to charge this guy anyway, so what's the rush? ...

... Yishai Schwartz of the New Republic on why "convicting Darren Wilson will be basically impossible": "... in most states today, including Missouri..., as long as there is a modicum of evidence and reasonable plausibility in support of a self-defense claim, a court must accept the claim and acquit the accused." ...

... Robert VerBruggen of Real Clear Politics describes Missouri's lax law on police use of force. (Link fixed.) He includes jury instructions on when an officer is justified in using deadly force. ...

... Paul Cassell in the Washington Post: "... proving a crime in the Brown shooting will require close attention to the details, particularly details about the shooting officer's state of mind. Even if the officer made a mistake in shooting, that will not be enough to support criminal charges so long as his mistake was reasonable -- a determination in which the officer will receive some benefit of the doubt because of the split-second judgments that he had to make. And, of course, if it turns out that Michael Brown was in fact charging directly towards the officer (as recent reports have suggested), the officer's actions will have been justified under state law and no charges should be filed." ...

Steve King Has Black Friends! And by the way, it also should be said that someone like Lacy Clay, who's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus — there is no 'Congressional White Caucus.' It is a self-segregated caucus and it is a caucus that they drive an agenda that's based on race. And they're always looking to place the race card. They're always looking to divide people down that line. And I have friends in that caucus. I get along with them personally, but their agenda is to play the race card. And we have a President who had a perfect opportunity to eliminate a lot of this friction in this country, and instead, he and his attorney general have been in a place where they've created friction rather than eliminated it. -- Rep. Steve King (RTP-Iowa)

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: The home video taken of the killing of Kajieme Powell conflicts with police statements about the circumstances under which police shot Powell dead. "Powell had a knife -- Police Chief Sam Dotson described it as a steak knife. But he was not wielding it in the way officers claimed (or in the way it may have felt to them in the moment). He was not two or three feet away, but perhaps eight or nine. He wasn't charging hard or issuing threats. To the contrary, he was demanding to be shot.... Everything the St. Louis police did in the aftermath suggests they sincerely believe this was a justified, by-the-book killing.... If this is proper protocol, then the protocol is bad." ...

... ** Ezra Klein on the killing of Kajieme Powell: "There is something wrong that the video seems obviously exculpatory to the police and obviously damning to so many who watch it. The dispute over the facts in the Michael Brown case offers the hope that there is a right answer -- that Wilson either did clearly the right thing or clearly the wrong thing. The video of the Powell case delivers a harder reality: what the police believe to be the right thing and what the people they serve believe to be the right thing may be very different."

Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald: "In the first decision on same-sex marriage with statewide impact, a federal judge ruled Thursday that Florida's gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, ordering the state to allow the marriage of same-sex couples and to recognize marriages performed elsewhere.... U.S District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee ... stayed most of the effects of his ruling pending appeal...."

Senate Race

James Hohmann of Politico: "The New Hampshire Senate race is tightening, according to a just-posted WMUR poll that puts Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen up only 2 points, 46-44, over Republican Scott Brown. That's within the margin of error. The same poll last month had Shaheen ahead by 12 points.... The poll found 60 percent of those polled have not definitively decided who they will vote for -- a suggestion that this could be a very fluid race."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Chinese fighter jet flew within 30 feet of a Navy surveillance and reconnaissance plane this week in international airspace just off the Chinese coast, the Pentagon said Friday. The encounter, known as an intercept, 'was very, very close, very dangerous,' said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. The Pentagon filed a diplomatic complaint with the People's Liberation Army on Friday morning, Defense Department officials said. As of Friday afternoon, it had not received a reply."

** New York Times: "Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday. The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence that the Russian military was operating in Ukrainian territory."

Guardian: "Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have launched attacks to recapture two towns in the north from Islamic State (Isis) militants, as Western governments consider how to mount an effective response to the threat posed by the extremist group that has redrawn the border of Iraq and Syria."

New York Times: "The first trucks from a long-stalled Russian convoy said to be carrying humanitarian aid crossed the border into eastern Ukraine on Friday, without the consent of the Ukrainian government and unaccompanied by Red Cross escorts, as had been earlier agreed upon. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a long statement in Moscow saying, in essence, that it had authorized the crossing because it was fed up with stalling by the government in Kiev." ...

... Washington Post: "Ukrainian authorities appeared to be scrambling Friday to decide how to respond to the border incursion. A Ukrainian military spokesman backed away from previous bellicose statements, but state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko told journalists in Kiev, 'We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine,' Reuters news agency reported. He said Ukrainian forces would not use force against the convoy because they want to avoid 'provocations.'"

AP: "Gaza gunmen killed 18 alleged spies for Israel on Friday, including seven who were lined up behind a mosque and shot after midday prayers, in response to Israel's deadly airstrikes against top Hamas military commanders."

Washington Post: "Ever since the retirement of the space shuttle three years ago, American astronauts have had to hitchhike their way to the International Space Station aboard Russian spaceships. It is an increasingly costly arrangement..., made worse by U.S.-Russian tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. But in the coming weeks, NASA is expected to announce its long-awaited solution: a multibillion-dollar contract to build a U.S. spacecraft, which could help reignite a struggling American space program."