The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared — the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents — but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: " A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'”:

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

AP: "In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, [Vice President] Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms." The Guardian story is here.

CNN: "The first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday, triumphant in a storied race that has become a national symbol of resiliency and determination. Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the men's division with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Boston Marathon's Facebook page. With video.

AP: "Although [a] 15-year-old [airplane stowaway] apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.... In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 23

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jon Stewart on the Cliven Bundy story:

... AND on Sean Hannity's support for Bundy:

... AND Hannity is pissed off. Apparently, it upsets him to hear his own blatant hypocrisy ridiculed.

New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes":

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

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Tuesday
Apr152014

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2014

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama's health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said. The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "It might not be time to freak out quite yet: What's being missed here is that the Obama administration will use the new survey questions to collect data for 2013, the year prior to Obamacare's health insurance expansion, a senior administration official says.... 2013 and 2014 -- the year before and after Obamacare's big programs started -- are using the same question set." ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "On Twitter, Kaiser Family Foundation vice president Larry Leavitt praised the new survey and said it won't stand in the way of determining whether Obamacare is working when it comes to the uninsured."

Kyle Cheney & Brett Norman of Politico: "Insurers saw disaster in the fall when Obamacare's rollout flopped and HealthCare.gov was a mess. But a strong March enrollment surge, along with indications that younger and healthier people had begun signing up, has changed their attitude. Around the country, insurers are considering expanding their stake in the Obamacare exchanges next year, bringing their business to more states and counties. Some health plans that skipped the new marketplaces altogether this year are ready to dive in next year." ...

... Paige Cunningham & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Anti-Obamacare Republicans home on recess are coming face to face this week with newly insured constituents. It could be an interesting encounter. No politician wants to sound eager to take government benefits away from voters -- and while public opinion polls show the health care law is still controversial, millions of people are indeed getting assistance. Especially in states where enrollment finished strong, Republicans will need a nuanced message: Even if Obamacare helped you personally, it's still bad for the country as a whole."

Kathleen Belew, in a New York Times op-ed: "In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a nine-page report detailing the threat of domestic terrorism by the white power movement. This short document outlined no specific threats, but rather a set of historical factors that had predicted white-supremacist activity in the past -- like economic pressure, opposition to immigration and gun-control legislation -- and a new factor, the election of a black president. The report

... Peter Bergan & David Sterman of CNN: "... since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11.... Terrorists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology have killed 21 people in the United States since 9/11.... The disparity in media coverage between even failed jihadist terrorist attacks and this latest incident in Kansas is emblematic of a flawed division in the public's mind between killing that is purportedly committed in the name of Allah and killing that is committed for other political ends...." ...

... Steve Yaccino of the New York Times: "State prosecutors on Tuesday charged a 73-year-old white supremacist with murder in the killing of three people outside two Jewish community facilities on Sunday. At a news conference in this Kansas City suburb, the authorities announced one count of capital murder and one count of premeditated first-degree murder had been filed against Frazier Glenn Miller of Aurora, Mo., who has for decades espoused anti-Semitic and racist beliefs."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Michael R. Bloomberg, making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association."

Matt Taibbi: The Bush Justice Department was much tougher on corporate miscreants than the Obama DOJ. The 2008 Wall Street meltdown "was a crisis that was much huger in scope than the S&L crisis or the accounting crisis. I mean, it wiped out 40 percent of the world's wealth, and nobody went to jail, so that we're now in a place where we don't even recognize the importance of keeping up appearances when it comes to making things look equal." This Democracy Now! page has the full transcript, plus video.

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama will announce Wednesday a pair of grant programs designed to bring academic institutions and businesses closer together in preparing the American workforce for jobs that may otherwise go unfilled. The grant programs will total $600 million, money already in the federal budget. The decision to designate the money for these grant programs arose from a review of federal jobs programs by Vice President Biden, who will join Obama ... to make the announcement."

Equal Pay & the Single Girl. Igor Volsky: "In an op-ed published by the Christian Post, Phyllis Schlafly -- the founder of the Eagle Forum -- maintained that increasing the pay gap will help women find suitable husbands.... Schlafly has long been crusader for 'traditional values' within conservative movement and the Republican party, serving as a member of the National GOP Platform Committee as recently as 2012 and as a delegate to the National Convention." Here's Schlafly's op-ed.

Jo Becker in the New York Times Magazine on how President Obama "evolved" to supporting same-sex marriage. And, yeah, thanks, Joe Biden.

Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "Efforts to fix the notorious Heartbleed bug threaten to cause major disruptions to the Internet over the next several weeks as companies scramble to repair encryption systems on hundreds of thousands of Web sites at the same time, security experts say."

Maureen Dowd is worried about Google drones. CW: Her column is silly, but I think her underlying premise might be right.

Eli Lake & Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "The Obama administration is now considering a new policy to share more real-time intelligence with the interim government in Kiev after pressure from some in the U.S. military, Congress and U.S. allies in Ukraine. Over the weekend, CIA Director John Brennan met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema to discuss the formation of new, more secure channels for sharing U.S. intelligence with the country now fighting pro-Russian secessionists in its eastern cities, according to U.S. and Western officials briefed on the meeting."

Be Careful What You Wish For. Mike Eckel of the Christian Science Monitor: Life in Crimea is not so dandy since the Russians took it over.

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Apuzzo & Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times: "The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped...."

** Bailey McBride of the AP: "Cities across Oklahoma are now prohibited from establishing mandatory minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin.... Those against the bill ... say it specifically targets Oklahoma City, where an initiative is underway to establish a citywide minimum wage higher than the current federal minimum wage." ...

... More from Lulu Chang of the National Memo. ...

     ... CW: One of many reminders that the Grand Oligarchs' Party doesn't just have it in for "lazy poor people"; they want to make sure the working poor stay poor. The excuse for this bill: to protect small business owners. Guess what? "The majority of small business owners support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and adjusting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living." More would support it if they understood macroeconomics. Another excuse: "economic homogeneity": how terrible if some cities (where the cost-of-living is likely to be higher than in rural areas) mandated a slightly better wage for the working poor. ...

     ... And finally, from the lips of Fallin: "Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs. Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families." Howevah, as the Economic Policy Report documented, "raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would primarily benefit older workers. 88 percent of workers who would be affected by raising the minimum wage are at least 20 years old, and a third of them are at least 40 years old." So fuck the 88 percent to keep a few middle-class kids from getting extra spending money or putting more change in their college funds.

Congressional Races

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: Kathleen Sebelius is considering a run against Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, an old family friend who done her wrong.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) runs a hard-hitting ad against the Obama administration's energy policy:

Boehner's "Electile Dysfunction." A Tea Party challenger with a sense of humor:

Emily Schultheis of Politico: "Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost to Republican David Jolly in the special election in Florida's 13th District last month, said she will not run again for the seat -- a big blow to Democrats, who now have no obvious contender for the competitive St. Petersburg-area seat."

Unknown Races

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: San Antonio's Castro twins, Julian & Joaquin, are campaigning hard -- for something.

News Ledes

AP: "A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes to re-establish control over restive eastern Ukraine."

AP: "A multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured."

Boston Globe: "A shelter-in-place order on Boylston Street has been lifted and a 25-year-old Boston man is facing charges after police executed a controlled detonation of two suspicious bags left near the Boston Marathon finish line. Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, on the one-year anniversary of last year's Boston Marathon bombings, police said two backpacks had been found in the area and immediately ordered people to evacuate. Authorities said the backpacks were tied to a man who goes by Kayvon Edson. Edson was captured in several videos marching down Boylston Street in a black veil, wearing a backpack, and chanting 'Boston strong.'" ...

     ... UPDATE: "A man who was arrested after suspicious bags were found near the Boston Marathon finish line was arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court. Kevin Edson, 25, of Boston is being charged with possession of a hoax explosive, threatening battery, threats to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, disturbing a public assembly, and disorderly conduct, according to the Boston Police Department. Edson is being held on $100,000 bail and is being sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation, the Associated Press reports."

Monday
Apr142014

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2014

** Tax Day. Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "In recognition of Uncle Sam's payday, it's only proper to take note of some of the most egregious corporate tax loopholes and some unexpected beneficiaries." ...

... Susan Page of USA Today: "The Internal Revenue Service is prepared to rewrite a proposed rule regulating the political activities of non-profit groups to address complaints from the right and left that it goes too far, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Monday. 'In all likelihood we will re-propose a redefined rule and ask for more public comment,' Koskinen told USA TODAY's Capital Download. It's a process he predicts will take 'until the end of the year and beyond' to complete. The proposed regulation of groups known as 501(c)(4)s drew a record 150,000 comments before the deadline in late February." With video. ...

... Benjamin Soskis of the New Yorker on paying taxes v. giving voluntarily. ...

... CW: Let me ask you this: what community-spirited citizen wants to see children go hungry or want for other necessities? My guess: hardly any. So if volunteerism worked to resolve our most pressing social problems, it would end (or nearly end) child poverty in the U.S., right? Certainly we would not have the situation Matt Bruenig outlines in the linked story below. ...

... Writing on the single-mother/child-poverty myth, Matt Bruenig of Demos finds that high rates of child poverty in every family type are U.S. policy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a file on the long, despicable career of Frazier Glenn Miller a/k/a Cross, the Kansas shooter. Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... Tina Moore, et al., of the New York Daily News elaborate. ...

... More on the shooting from Laura Bauer, et al., of the Kansas City Star. ...

... Ian Lovett of the New York Times: "Although the shooting suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller, was a known racist and anti-Semite with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, the victims who were gunned down on Sunday were all Christians, devoted to their families, to their churches and to serving their Kansas City communities." ...

... CW: When he was a student at Duke 33 years ago Robert Satloff interviewed Miller, who was then the head of the North Carolina KKK. The worst part of Satloff's account for me is not Miller, but this:

[After the interview,] we drove straight into town to talk to locals and find out what they thought of the Klan living right next door. Sgt. Randy Cooke of the nearby Benson police department summed up what we heard about Glenn Miller: 'I'd call him the good-neighborly type,' he said.

     ... It's all too easy to dismiss Miller/Cross as some rare, aberrant monster without confronting the truth that millions of Americans view his ilk as "the good-neighborly type."

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post: "The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will immediately cease efforts to collect on taxpayers' debts to the government that are more than 10 years old. The action comes after The Washington Post reported that the government was seizing state and federal tax refunds that were on their way to about 400,000 Americans who had relatives who owed money to Social Security. In many cases, the people whose refunds were intercepted had never heard of any debt, and the debts dated as far back as the middle of the past century."

Greg Sargent: "Jeb Bush's comments about immigration ... have produced a seminal moment in this debate, because they lay bare the fundamental difference between the two parties...: Most Democratic lawmakers want the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country to become a part of American society, while most Republican lawmakers want them to (at best) remain in the shadows of illegality or (at worst) leave." ...

... Nate Silver: "Like Bush, many Republicans are moderate on immigration." Via Paul Waldman.

Philip Bump of the Atlantic: "The Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much Obamacare will cost and increased its estimate of how many people will be covered.... One of the interesting developments in Obamacare enrollment spotted by researchers from RAND is that the number of people covered by employers has increased — the opposite of what was expected to happen.... The CBO also [found that] ... 'the ACA’s overall effect would be to reduce federal deficits.'" ...

... "The Right's New Scam: Feigning Anger on Behalf of People They Encouraged to Skip Obamacare." Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... now that [ACA] enrollment is closed, [Republicans wa]re clamoring to flood the existing insurance markets with high-cost beneficiaries and send premiums skyward. Failing that, they want the people who didn't enroll -- including those who didn't enroll on the advice of ACA opponents -- to be angry at Obamacare for leaving them out in the cold."

CW: Why you should support every Democratic candidate for Senate, even if you think s/he's a jerk: Jonathan Chait: Suppose Republicans do gain control of the Senate, as the odds now suggest. "It may seem implausible that Republicans would simply refuse to allow Obama to appoint any justice [at all].... But such a confrontation is not only a logical outcome but the most logical outcome. Voting to flip the Supreme Court would be, if not a political death warrant for a Republican Senator, then certainly taking one's political life into one's own hands." So Mark Pryor? Yay! Mary Landrieu? You go, girl!

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The United States needs to enact a major climate change law, such as a tax on carbon pollution, by the end of this decade to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, according to the authors of a report released this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But aggressive efforts to tackle climate change have repeatedly collided with political reality in Washington, where some Republicans question the underlying science of global warming and lawmakers' ties to the fossil fuel industry have made them resistant to change. The rise of the Tea Party in recent years has also made a tax increase unlikely." ...

... CW: When they're not killing Americans who need health care or killing people in unnecessary wars, Republicans are killing the whole planet. There is nothing good to say about the GOP. Nothing.

The League of Greedy Bastards. Joe Nocera: "CEO pay goes up, up and away!"

Lucy Nicholson of Reuters: "Google Inc updated its terms of service on Monday, informing users that their incoming and outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software to create targeted ads. The revisions more explicitly spell out the manner in which Google software scans users' emails, both when messages are stored on Google's servers and when they are in transit, a controversial practice that has been at the heart of litigation."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Washington Post won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including the prestigious public-service medal for a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency's massive global surveillance programs. A team of 28 Post journalists, led by reporter Barton Gellman, shared the public-service award with the British-based Guardian newspaper, which also reported extensively about the NSA's secret programs. Gellman and Glenn Greenwald, then the Guardian's lead reporter on the NSA pieces, based their articles on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who has fled to exile in Russia, lending a controversial edge to this year's awards." The AP has the complete list of winners here.

Crazier & Crazier

Everything Is a Conspiracy. Sahil Kapur of Think Progress: "Call them the shoe truthers. Some conservative media figures are openly wondering if Hillary Clinton staged an incident during a speech in Las Vegas on Thursday in which a woman in the audience threw a shoe at her.... The reported thrower, Alison Michelle Ernst, was booked by the authorities. A blog post published Monday at the website of Fox News commentator Bernard Goldberg speculated that Clinton probably 'calculated it beforehand,' as is 'almost always true' with things that happen to her.... Rush Limbaugh entertained the same idea...." ...

... CW: Apparently Hillary also controls the feds, who have brought criminal charges against Ernst (see today's Ledes). That is one powerful woman.

We Block Equal Pay Laws Because We Favor Women's Rights. Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Sunday insisted that even though Republican Senators blocked the Democrats' equal pay bill last week, her party is fighting for women's rights.... 'It is Republicans that have led the fight for women's equality. Go back through history, and look at who was the first woman to ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress, four out of five governors.' ... Blackburn voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009." ...

... As Salvatore Aversa points out here, Blackburn has argued that women don't want equal pay laws. Because freeeedom.

Beyond the Beltway

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Monday addressed the conflict between the federal authorities and anti-government activists over a Nevada cattle rancher's self-proclaimed right to graze his animals.... 'Well, it's not over,' Reid told Las Vegas TV station KRNV. 'We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it's not over.'" ...

... In case you forgot what this was all about, Charles Pierce has a good summary. Here's part of it: "Pretty soon, there was an armed standoff as men with guns assembled around the ranch. The BLM people wisely backed off, and there was a great cock-a-doodle-do'ing all over the right, because Cliven Bundy's inalienable right to get something for nothing from the rest of us had been upheld with Second Amendment enthusiasm. Bear in mind that Bundy's entire position is that he can not pay his bills, and that he can ignore a federal judge, because he feels the federal government is illegitimate." ...

... AND here's more on the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity's support for Bundy's sedition. ...

I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada, I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing. -- Cliven Bundy, said cattle rancher

... Matt Ford of the Atlantic: Bundy & his militia buddies are also violating the Nevada constitution, written before the Bundy family arrived in Nevada, which specifies the people of Nevada owe "paramount allegiance" to the U.S.:

... whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority. -- Article 1, Section 2, Nevada Constitition

... CW: As far as I can tell, there's big contingent of wingers, aided & abetted by the billionaire Kochs & Fox "News" hosts like Sean Hannity, not to mention a few GOP lawmakers, who paradoxically equate "patriotism" with rejecting the very existence of the United States.

Zack Ford of Think Progress: "This weekend, the Nevada Republican Party voted to strip opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion from its party platform. Previously, the platform had included the beliefs that marriage should be 'between a man and a woman' and described the party as pro-life/against abortion, but this year, the both planks were left out entirely. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this was an attempt to make the party more inclusive."

News Ledes

Boston Globe: The Boston Marathon finish line has been evacuated after suspicious packages were discovered. ...

... Washington Post: "Boston and its surroundings braced for an emotional week that begins Tuesday with a large ceremony honoring the victims, first responders, medical personnel and others affected by [last years Boston Marathon bomb] attack. It will be a chance to mourn the dead and remember the bloodshed, but also to proclaim that what is perhaps the world's most famous footrace will continue for a 118th year, and to marvel at the way events have brought this community together."

Los Angeles Times: "President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a drug convict, correcting a mistake that had extended his prison time by more than three years and could not be fixed by the courts."

Even in Canada. AP: "Five people were killed and the son of a police officer is in custody after multiple stabbings at a house party attended by university students near the University of Calgary, the police chief said, calling it the worst mass murder in Calgary's history."

CNN: "A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn't know about it or couldn't get a drone there in time to strike." With video.

Detroit Free Press: "Two members of General Motors' senior leadership team are leaving the company three months after a transition to a new CEO and amid a crisis over the automaker's failure to fix an ignition switch defect."

AP: "Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech at a Las Vegas Strip resort."

New York Times: "After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country." ...

... Washington Post: "... Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Ukraine was descending into civil war." ...

     ... Update: "The Ukrainian government said its forces had repelled an assault by pro-Russian militiamen at a military airfield, hours after announcing the start of a staged counteroffensive Tuesday to reclaim control of the eastern part of the country."

BBC News: "Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must do one year's community service over tax fraud, a Milan court has ruled. He was convicted of tax fraud last year in connection with TV rights purchased by his firm Mediaset in the 1990s. The alternative to community service had been house arrest. It is not yet clear what form his community service will take."

Sunday
Apr132014

The Commentariat -- April 14, 2014

Paul Krugman: "... society is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.... There is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America's return to Gilded Age levels of inequality. So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It;s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that's undermining our economy and our society." P.S. Chris Christie is a jerk.

** Bernie Sanders brings the reality of inequality to the floor of the Senate:

Philip Elliott of the AP: "An overhaul to the nation's broken immigration system remains stalled because 'the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism,' the head of the House committee to elect Democratic lawmakers said Sunday. Rep. Steve Israel's comments are in line with those from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, in which she blamed racial issues for the GOP's failure to act on comprehensive immigration legislation.

Seung Min Kim & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Republicans hope to turn Sylvia Mathews Burwell's nomination to run the Department of Health and Human Services -- announced by President Barack Obama on Friday -- into a proxy war over Obamacare.... [Despite the Senate's unanimous vote for her confirmation as OMB director last year,] the Republican message, according to one senior aide: 'We would argue that there is no person on earth capable of making this horrible law work.'" ...

... Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Outgoing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was 'flat-out wrong' to believe that HealthCare.gov was ready to go on Oct. 1, 2013.... Sebelius did not mince words when describing the pressure of last fall, calling October and November a 'dismal time.'" ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extend health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary."

Anemona Hartocollis of the New York Times: "... New York State, almost from the start, has provided a textbook lesson in how to make the Affordable Care Act work.... New York has signed up more than 900,000 people for commercial or government plans, lured 16 insurance companies onto its exchange, provided subsidies for most customers and reduced premiums across the board.... But New York also took some aggressive and unpopular steps that few other states have taken, by creating a highly centralized system limiting consumer choice, essentially giving insurance seekers little incentive to shop off the exchange. As a result, most New Yorkers who are not insured through an employer are effectively barred from choosing any doctors or hospitals they want."

Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: Virginia "hospitals, the state chamber of commerce and corporate leaders have been calling, writing, visiting and buttonholing, pushing what they call 'the business case' for expanding coverage to thousands of uninsured under the health-care law, with the federal government promising to pay most of the cost." But Republican state legislators -- united behind opposition to ObamaCare -- are unmoved. ...

     ... CW: This would be a good time to highlight a few Virginia tragedies like the horrifying story of the death of Floridian Charlene Dill (see Beutler's piece below). ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic thinks Democrats should exploit this story: "On Wednesday, the Orlando Weekly published the explosive and infuriating story of Charlene Dill, a struggling, 32 year old mother of three who collapsed and died on a stranger's floor late last month. According to Weekly reporter Billy Manes, Dill suffered from a treatable heart condition. She also fell into what policy experts call the Medicaid coverage gap -- a hole the Supreme Court punctured in the health safety net when seven of its justices rendered the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion entirely voluntary." ...

     ... CW: Beutler is right. However, using Dill & similar victims to tell the story of GOP obstructionism, Koch money & Supreme Court stupidity (six other justices voted with Roberts) must be done with exquisite consideration for victims & their families. But the know-nothing public has a crying need to know what state GOP legislators, aided & abetted by the entire anti-Obama coterie, are doing to end and/or ruin the lives of the most vulnerable Americans. The GOP has convinced the voting public that ObamaCare is about expanding bureaucracy, depriving innocent Americans of their wonderful, cheap insurance policies & giving free health insurance to lazy bums of the darker complexions. The public should find out its about negligent homicide on a massive scale.

Chris Wallace is sick of the IRS "scandal". Via Josh Israel of Think Progress:

"Hate of an Ancient Vintage." David Von Drehle of Time on the murders at the Jewish centers in Overland, Kansas. ...

... Chicago Tribune: "The suspect in the Passover Eve killings of three people at two Jewish community centers in the Kansas City area was scheduled to appear in court Monday to face murder charges. Police said it was too early to determine if Sunday's killings were motivated by anti-Semitism, but a leading anti-hate group [the Southern Poverty Law Center] said the suspect was a former senior member of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan movement."

Parade of Horribles. Janet Allon of AlterNet, in Salon, picks the seven worst right-wing moments of last week. It's hard to pick a favorite. ...

... CW: I'd add an 8th: the decision of Miami-Dade County Board of Elections supervisor John Mendez & a deputy county attorney to ban voters from using restrooms at polling places. Patrizia Mazzei of the Miami Herald: "Emails from a deputy elections supervisor and an assistant county attorney say Miami-Dade voters are banned from using restrooms at polling places. But the chief deputy elections supervisor pooh-poohed the notion." (I suspect the pun was intended.) The reputed reason? Some precincts are located in private buildings that have bathrooms that don't meet federal ADA standards. If the disabled can't pee, no one can pee.

Ben Fox of the AP: "... two separate but related events are forcing [the secret Camp 7 of the Guantanamo prison] into the limelight." ...

There's no way to explain the security measures that they use from the perspective of the safety of the guards or the safety of the detainees, beyond that they must be hiding something. -- Suzanne Lachelier, an attorney for Camp 7 inmate Ramzi Binalshibh

Presidential Race

Jill Lepore of the New Yorker reviews Elizabeth Warren's oeuvre, including Warren's new book, an autobiography titled A Fighting Chance, which "only adds to the speculation that Warren is considering challenging [Hillary] Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016. And, even if Warren doesn't run, this book is part of that race." My favorite bit of the review:

In the spring of 2009, after the [bailout oversight] panel [on which Warren sat] issued its third report, critical of the bailout, Larry Summers took Warren out to dinner in Washington and, she recalls, told her that she had a choice to make. She could be an insider or an outsider, but if she was going to be an insider she needed to understand one unbreakable rule about insiders: They don't criticize other insiders.'

... CW: That, people, is how the Very Serious People operate. It is among the reasons our government is so dysfunctional.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "... three Republicans who are considering a run for the White House -- Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor -- pitched their views on Saturday for how conservatives can retake power in Washington.... The event was the Freedom Summit, a gathering of several hundred put together by two of t.he most influential groups on the right, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United. And what unfolded on stage in a conference center next to the regional airport [in Manchester, New Hampshire,] was a display of today's Republican Party in all its dynamism, division and sometimes strange spectacle." ...

I'm beginning to think there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States. When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID and a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorize the airplane -- but if I want to go vote I don't need a thing. -- Mike Huckabee

Mike, we will all be happy when you move to North Korea to soak up all that great freeeedom. -- Constant Weader

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: Rand Paul's advice for Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush: "Voters might get the wrong idea if you don't immediately explain how you'd crack down on that 'act of love.'" (That's Hartmann's interpretation. Close enough.)

News Ledes

New York Times: "In a new sign of desperation, Ukraine’s acting president asked the United Nations on Monday to send peacekeeping troops to the east of the country, where pro-Russia militias have seized government buildings and blocked major highways with seeming impunity. A deadline set by the Ukrainian government for the militants to vacate occupied buildings passed earlier Monday without any signs of an effort to enforce it, while militants, in an apparently coordinated strategy, used the day to seize another police station in an eastern town, then hoist a Russian flag over the building." ...

... Reuters: "U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that Russia's actions in Ukraine were not conducive to a diplomatic solution of the crisis in that country, and the White House warned that Moscow would suffer further costs for its behavior. Obama spoke to Putin at the Russians' request, a senior administration official said, describing the call as 'frank and direct,' a diplomatic construction that usually means tense."

AP: "Megan Huntsman ... told police she either strangled or suffocated [six of her babies] immediately after they were born. She wrapped their bodies in a towel or a shirt, put them in plastic bags and then packed them inside boxes in the garage of her home south of Salt Lake City. What's not clear is why."

Saturday
Apr122014

The Commentariat -- April 13, 2014

** David Sanger of the New York Times: "... President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should -- in most circumstances -- reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday. But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for 'a clear national security or law enforcement need,' the officials said.... The White House has never publicly detailed Mr. Obama's decision, which he made in January.... There is no evidence that the N.S.A. had any role in creating Heartbleed, or even that it made use of it.... But documents released by Edward J. Snowden ... make it clear that two years before Heartbleed became known, the N.S.A. was looking at ways to accomplish exactly what the flaw did by accident."

Oops. Missed This. Jennie Matthew of AFP: "US reporter Glenn Greenwald returned to his homeland Friday for the first time since he helped expose Washington's vast electronic spying network, warning that more revelations are yet to come. Greenwald, who maintains regular contact with fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, flew into New York with filmmaker Laura Poitras to receive a journalism award for their coverage. Greenwald and Poitras had feared they could be detained upon arrival but told reporters at a Manhattan hotel that, while US officials 'deliberately created' a sense of risk, they faced no problem."

Tom Hamburger & Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "... Google -- once a lobbying weakling -- has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence. That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.... Nine years ago, the company opened a one-man lobbying shop, disdainful of the capital's pay-to-play culture. Since then, Google has soared to near the top of the city's lobbying ranks, placing second only to General Electric in corporate lobbying expenditures in 2012 and fifth place in 2013."

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "The countries of the world have dragged their feet so long on global warming that the situation is now critical, experts appointed by the United Nations reported Sunday, and only an intensive worldwide push over the next 15 years can stave off potentially disastrous climatic changes later in the century. It remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found, according to a report unveiled here. But even in parts of the world like Europe that have tried hardest, governments are still a long way from taking the steps that are sufficient to do the job, the experts found."

Breaking! Maureen Dowd has found someone to love: Stephen Colbert. It's uncanny -- not a dollop of snark for Colbert (but plenty for other late-nite comics). ...

... Here's Dowd on the "Colbert Report," ca. 2005:

... Okay, so Ben Collins of Esquire loves Colbert too.

Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "Multiemployer pensions are not only backed by federal insurance, but they also were thought to be even more secure than single-company pensions because when one company in a multiemployer pool failed, the others were required to pick up its 'orphaned' retirees. Today, however, the aging of the work force, the decline of unions, deregulation and two big stock crashes have taken a grievous toll on multiemployer pensions, which cover 10 million Americans. Dozens of multiemployer plans have already failed, and some giant ones are teetering -- including, notably, the Teamsters' Central States pension plan, with more than 400,000 members. In February, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal multiemployer insurer would run out of money in seven years, which would leave retirees in failed plans with nothing."

Harold Meyerson: "... if reciprocal credit is due for the landmark legislation of LBJ's presidency, so reciprocal blame should be placed for the tragedy of Vietnam. It's clear from the tape recordings that Johnson made of his private phone calls 50 years ago this spring that the new president viewed the prospect of going to war in Vietnam with trepidation.... And yet, many of the key players who had been with him on civil rights -- the Republicans, the AFL-CIO and his own advisers -- were urging him to plunge in.... In the end, of course, Johnson took just enough of their counsel to wreak havoc on Vietnam, the United States, his political party and his presidency. The blame is his but, as with the credit, there's plenty left over to go around."

Valerie Miller, et al., of the New York Daily News: The woman who threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton is extremely crazy. CW: But of course the Secret Service let her into a supposedly closed event.

As James Singer the Science Winger pointed out yesterday, the Earth is the center of the universe! Or so say some actual wingnuts who have produced a slick Bible-consistent "documentary" film -- with real scientists! (who are mortified they got suckered into the project). Steve Benen reports.

Sex & the GOP

Scott Keyes, in the Washington Post: "In cooperation with the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, socially conservative politicians have been quietly trying to make it harder for couples to get divorced. In recent years, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced bills imposing longer waiting periods before a divorce is granted, mandating counseling courses or limiting the reasons a couple can formally split. States such as Arizona, Louisiana and Utah have already passed such laws, while others such as Oklahoma and Alabama are moving to do so.... Making divorce less accessible harms women most.... Women today are twice as likely as men to ask for a divorce...." ...

... CW: The SOBs cannot stay out of your bedroom, even if that bedroom is occupied by two people in a miserable marriage. I think the high-minded moral principles behind this latest intrusive movement are (1) to hell with what the wife wants, & (2) married women vote Republican. Also maybe: if a couple is unhappy, they are less likely to have sex with each other, and sex is a dirty, dirty thing.

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

Freeeeedom! Liz Fields of ABC News: "A Nevada cattle rancher appears to have won his week-long battle with the federal government over a controversial cattle roundup that had led to the arrest of several protesters. Cliven Bundy went head to head with the Bureau of Land Management over the removal of hundreds of his cattle from federal land, where the government said they were grazing illegally." ...

... Here's some background from CBS Las Vegas/AP: "A group of Republican Arizona lawmakers are upset with a brewing showdown in Nevada between the federal government and a rancher who claims rights to graze his cattle in a remote area about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.... Federal officials say Bundy has racked up more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees over the years while disregarding several court orders to remove his animals. [Rep. Bob] Thorpe says lawmakers aren't arguing over whether Bundy has broken laws or violated grazing agreements. They're more concerned with what they perceive as government heavy-handedness and how officials are restricting protesters to 'free speech zones' near the closed off federal land."

... AND from CNN:

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Bundy, for his part, claims that 'our Constitution didn't provide for anything like the federal government owning this land.' He's wrong. The Constitution provides that '[t]he Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.'" ...

... Digby weighs in. ...

... CW: As for me, I'm tired of subsidizing the methane-gas producers. Can't the government garnish Bundy's cattle sales?

Katie Fretland of the Guardian: "Oklahoma officials on Friday said the state had obtained manufactured pharmaceuticals from a secret supplier for use in the executions of two men later this month, avoiding concerns over the use of compounded drugs but leaving unanswered questions about how it obtained them."

Re: the discussion in today's & yesterday's Comments:

News Ledes

AP: "A man in his 70s opened fire Sunday outside of a Jewish community center [in Overland Park, Kansas,] and nearby retirement community, killing three people, authorities said."

Extremely Creepy News. ABC News: "A woman has been arrested on six counts of murder after authorities found the bodies of seven infants packed into separate cardboard boxes at a home in Utah, police said. Police arrested Megan Huntsman, 39, of Pleasant Grove, on Saturday following a gruesome discovery at a residence formerly occupied by the woman who they say moved out in 2011."

Washington Post: "Ukrainian authorities launched an 'anti-terrorist' campaign Sunday morning against pro-Russian gunmen who had occupied a police headquarters in a small city in the tense eastern part of the country. Simultaneous assaults on government buildings in several towns in the restive region on Saturday had led officials in Kiev to believe that a coordinated operation directed by Russia was underway." ...

It's professional, it's co-ordinated, there is nothing grass-roots-seeming about it. The forces are doing, in each of the six or seven cities they've been active in, exactly the same thing. Certainly it bears the tell-tale signs of Moscow's involvement. -- Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations

     ... AP Update: "Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia in an eastern city Sunday, according to the interior minister, who said one Ukrainian security officer was killed and five others were wounded." ...

... Reuters: "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Kiev on April 22, to demonstrate high-level U.S. support for Ukraine, the White House said on Saturday after expressing concern about escalating tensions in the eastern part of the country. The White House warned Russia against further military action in Ukraine...."

Guardian: "The war crimes trial of two sons of Libya's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi begins amid tight security in Tripoli on Monday, in a case causing sensation at home and controversy among rights groups. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his younger brother Saadi are accused of orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture and bombardment of civilians during Libya's eight-month civil war in 2011."

AFP: "Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to convene on Sunday in the latest attempt to save teetering peace talks, a Palestinian official told AFP."