The Ledes

Thursday, August 28, 2014.

AFP: "Islamic State jihadists have executed more then 160 fleeing Syrian soldiers, a monitoring group said Thursday, the latest in a string of brutal abuses alarming Western powers who fear a global spread of the terror."

New York Times: "Declaring that Russian troops had crossed into Ukraine, President Petro O. Poroshenko on Thursday canceled a planned visit to Turkey and convened a meeting of the national security council to focus on the 'marked aggravation of the situation' in the southeast of his country.The meeting of the national security council will focus on shaping a response, and Ukraine will also request a meeting of the United Nations Security Council."

Time: "In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, said the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a 'much bigger problem than anyone anticipated.' ... But Frieden says ... Ebola can be stopped.” ...

... New York Times: "As the tally of deaths from the worst known outbreak of the Ebola virus continued its seemingly inexorable rise, the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the epidemic was still accelerating and could afflict more than 20,000 people — almost seven times the current number of reported cases — before it could be brought under control."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "One of the longest-running shows in television history suffered its worst tragedy this week when an audio technician for the reality program 'Cops' was accidentally shot and killed by police while trying to film a robbery in Omaha. Officers thought the suspect was shooting at them. They opened fire, killing the suspect as well as Bryce Dion, 38, a seven-year veteran of the show. When police examined the suspect's weapon, they discovered it was a pistol that fired only pellets." ...

... New York Times: "The Omaha police chief said Wednesday that the fatal shooting of a crew member filming the television show 'Cops' by one of his officers was an 'unfortunate incident' and that it appeared that the three officers involved had acted professionally.

New York Times: "Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in [the] small border town [of Novoazovsk, Ukraine,] but also a wide section of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials described on Wednesday as a stealth invasion. The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk."

Washington Post: "The mother of Steven J. Sotloff, an American journalist who was captured last year by the Islamic State, has made a video plea to the head of the terrorist organization asking for her son’s release. In a video released Wednesday, Shirley Sotloff asks Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to 'please release my child. And as a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.'” Story includes video.

Guardian: "The US has said little about Mount Sinjar since 14 August, when Obama declared the siege broken, but recent satellite imagery and interviews with Yazidis still on the mountain indicate a humanitarian emergency continuing to unfold."

New York Times: "A number of United States banks, including JPMorgan Chase and at least four other firms, were hit by hackers in a series of coordinated attacks this month, according to four people familiar with the investigation, which is incomplete. The hackers infiltrated the networks of the banks, siphoning off gigabytes of data, including account information, in what security experts described as a sophisticated cyberattack."

AP: "Syrian rebels, including fighters from an al-Qaida-linked group, seized control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights on Wednesday after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, activists and rebels said. The capture of the post along Syria's de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic value than strategic, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages that were under siege by government troops."

Washington Post: "An open-ended cease-fire between Hamas and Israel was holding Wednesday after seven weeks of warfare that killed more than 2,200 people."

Washington Post: "Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of stepping up military activity in the annexed territory of Crimea and sending in troops to help separatists near a key seaport in southeastern Ukraine."

New York Times: "Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said on Wednesday that French prosecutors had placed her under formal investigation over a murky business affair that dates to her time as finance minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy."

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
August 28

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

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:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

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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Saturday
Aug162014

The Commentariat -- August 17, 2014

Sebastian Payne of the Washington Post: "Many social conservatives say they feel politically isolated as the country seems to be hurtling to the left, with marijuana now legal in Colorado and gay marriage gaining ground across the nation. They feel out of place in a GOP increasingly dominated by tea party activists and libertarians who prefer to focus on taxes and the role of government and often disagree with social conservatives on drugs or gay rights."

A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don't want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation. -- James Risen, New York Times reporter, who fox six years has been under subpoena to reveal a source ...

... Maureen Dowd: Why is the Obama administration still pursuing Jim Risen?

Beyond the Beltway

Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," featuring Emerson, Lake & Palmer & the Neue Philharmonie Frankfort. Seems appropriate. Thanks to Bonita for sending along the link:

DeNeen Brown, et al., of the Washington Post: "Gun violence, tear gas and armored vehicles marked the first night of a controversial curfew imposed in this St. Louis suburb where the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager has kicked over a caldron of frustration and anger. What some hoped would be an evening of calm was instead one of chaos that ended with a shooting victim, seven arrests and an early morning heavy rain that finally helped clear the streets." ...

     ... St. Louis Dispatch: "Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson said in a briefing just before 3 a.m. that police began using smoke bombs early this morning after learning that men were on the roof of Red's BBQ. Police were going to walk West Florissant Avenue in teams, but that plan changed with the report of men on the roof." ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Julie Bosman & Alan Blinder, is here. ...

... Jerry Markon, et al., of the Washington Post: "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, marking a definitive crackdown by authorities on rioting that has erupted since an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer. Speaking at a tense press conference marked by yelling from members of the public, Nixon, a Democrat, said the curfew would take effect at midnight and run until 5 a.m."

... Brian Beutler: "Ferguson presents an unusually extreme and condensed example of this sort of racial-civic polarization. But you can find expressions of the same basic dynamic -- of white public officials using their power to socially weaken black constituents -- all across the country." Read the whole essay.

Manny Fernandez & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "A defiant Gov. Rick Perry vowed on Saturday to fight his indictment for abuse of power, calling it a 'farce' and a 'political' prosecution. In his first appearance since a grand jury indicted him on two felony counts on Friday for trying to pressure the district attorney here, a Democrat, to step down by threatening to veto state funding for her office, Mr. Perry said, 'I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto.]' He added, 'We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country.'" (See yesterday's Commentariat .) ...

... Rick Perry Is a Ham Sandwich. Jonathan Chait: "I do not have a fancy law degree from Harvard or Yale or, for that matter, anywhere. I am but a humble country blogger. And yet, having read the indictment, legal training of any kind seems unnecessary to grasp its flimsiness.... The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a 'misuse' of power or 'coercion' of one[s opponents." ...

... CW: Again, I'm not sure Chait is right. As he says, governors & presidents are always threatening vetoes of pending legislation they don't like. That's the way the system is supposed to work. But suppose President Obama threatened to veto every bill (as if there were all that many) unless John Boehner resigned his speakership because Obama claimed Boehner was incompetent (& there's ample evidence for that). That seems analogous. It also seems outrageous.

Senate Race

Jack Healy of the New York Times: "Montana's Democrats, scrambling to salvage their political fortunes after plagiarism charges forced Senator John Walsh to end his election bid, chose a high school math teacher and one-term state legislator on Saturday as their nominee for a fiercely contested Senate seat. The nominee, Amanda Curtis, 34, who grew up in a family stalked by poverty and tragedy, cast the stakes of the election in stark economic terms, saying it was about 'millionaires versus the middle class.' As the daughter of a union worker whose family sometimes relied on food stamps to buy groceries, Ms. Curtis said she knew what it meant to worry about bills and the price of gas." ...

... The Missoulian story, by Mike Dennison, is here.

News Ledes

AP: "Ukraine's government said Sunday that separatists shot down a Ukrainian fighter plane after army troops entered deep inside a rebel-controlled city in the east in what could prove a breakthrough development in the four-month long conflict." ...

... Reuters: "Ukrainian rebels are receiving new armoured vehicles and fighters trained in Russia, with which they plan to launch a major counter-offensive against government forces, a separatist leader said in a video released on Saturday. The four-month conflict in eastern Ukraine has reached a critical phase, with Kiev and Western governments watching nervously to see if Russia will intervene in support of the increasingly besieged rebels - an intention Moscow denies."

Reuters: "The Islamic State militant group has executed 700 members of a tribe it has been battling in eastern Syria during the past two weeks, the majority of them civilians, a human rights monitoring group and activists said on Saturday." ...

... Guardian: "Kurdish forces supported by American warplanes have mounted an offensive to retake Iraq's largest dam from jihadi fighters, as reports emerged of another grisly episode of mass slaughter perpetrated by the extremists in a village in northern Iraq." ...

     ... UPDATE: "The US on Sunday launched two waves of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in northern Iraq, in the most extensive American military operations in the country since the withdrawal of ground troops in 2011. The strikes supported an offensive by Kurdish peshmerga fighters which aimed to regain control of the strategically important Mosul dam. Early in the day US aircraft, for the first time including land-based bombers, carried out 14 strikes. Later, US Central Command confirmed further strikes had been carried out by 'fighter and attack aircraft'.... In [a] letter to Congress, [President] Obama said the strikes had been authorised in order to 'recapture the Mosul dam'. He added: 'These military operations will be limited in their scope and duration....'"

AP: "A Palestinian negotiator said Sunday his side is 'less optimistic' about indirect talks with Israel over the Gaza war as a deadline on a temporary cease-fire looms. The Palestinian team reassembled in Cairo on Sunday after members returned from consultations in Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. The Israeli team also returned Sunday to resume the Egyptian-mediated talks. A current five-day cease-fire is due to end late Monday."

Friday
Aug152014

The Commentariat -- August 16, 2014

SNAFU. Reed Abelson & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "The Obama administration's declared war on health care fraud, costing some $600 million a year..., is not close to defeating the fraudsters.... An array of outside contractors used by the government is poorly managed, rife with conflicts of interest and vulnerable to political winds, according to interviews with current and former government officials, contractors and experts inside and outside of the administration. Authority and responsibilities among the contractors are often unclear and in competition with one another. Private companies -- like insurers and technology companies -- have responsibility for enforcement, often with little government oversight."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "Former Vice President Al Gore and business partner Joel Hyatt have filed a lawsuit against Al Jazeera on charges of fraud and material breaches in their acquisition of Current Media.... Gore and Hyatt, the co-founders of Current Media, say that Al Jazeera has unlawfully refused to turn over tens of millions of dollars currently located in an escrow account. That money is owed to Current Media shareholders per the terms of the $500-million merger agreement made in January 2013, the plaintiffs say. The lawsuit was filed Friday morning by David Boies, attorney for Gore and Hyatt, in the Delaware Court of Chancery. (Boies also represented Gore in the 2000 Florida election recount battle against George W. Bush.)

Paul Waldman argues that if Tuck Chodd is going to save "Press the Meat," he'll have to make it as awful as Tim Russert did. Russert, Waldman notes, "was actually terrible at his job. He was obsequious to the people he was supposedly so 'tough' on, forever distracted by the irrelevant, and one of television's foremost blue-collar poseurs. But what is inarguable, however, is that Russert was hugely successful. He gave the Sunday show viewership exactly what they wanted, which was apparently a relentless insiderdom gripped by the conventional Washington wisdom, wrapped in a gossamer-thin veneer of tough-guy truth-seeking." CW: I have no doubt Friar Tuck there is up to the job. Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid or Chris Hayes could never pull off a Little Tim act.

Kristina Wong of the Hill: "The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee intends to review a Pentagon program that transfers surplus military equipment to police agencies, following the use of controversial police tactics in Ferguson, Mo. 'Before the defense authorization bill comes to the Senate floor, we will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended,' Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement Friday." ...

... digby: "I'm hearing some nonsense that only libertarians have been talking about the militarization of the police. I am not a libertarian. I'm a liberal and a civil libertarian which isn't the same thing. And I've been talking about this for a very long time. So have a lot of other liberals." ...

... Beyond the Beltway

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was indicted on two felony counts on Friday by a state grand jury examining his handling of a local district attorney's drunken driving arrest and the state financing for a public corruption unit under the lawyer's control." CW: So that's two Republicans governors under indictment. Do I hear a third, Gov. Christie? ...

... Here's the Dallas Morning News story, by Christy Hoppe. ...

... A copy of the indictment, via the Hill, is here. ...

... It All Started with Potato Juice. Christopher Hooks of the Texas Observer writes a very readable account of the backstory.

... Salvador Rizzo of the Star-Ledger: "New Jersey taxpayers have been billed $6.52 million so far this year by Gov. Chris Christie's private attorneys dealing with the aftermath of the George Washington Bridge scandal, according to invoices released today by acting state Attorney General John Hoffman."

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "Tension between the police and demonstrators infuriated by the shooting death of Michael Brown a week ago was renewed early Saturday, as protesters barricaded a major thoroughfare and police officers in riot gear quickly responded, prompting a standoff. The police, using megaphones, were ordering the demonstrators to abandon their protest. Some demonstrators threw glass bottles toward the authorities, who repeatedly warned that they could make arrests. ...

     ... Koran Addo & Paul Hampel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report the sequence of events, which is pretty telling. The rioting & looting -- which took place in the after midnight, following hours of peaceful demonstration -- would seem to have nothing to do with Michael Brown & everything to do with rowdy boys on a Friday-night binge. Some of the protesters attempted to stop the looting by blocking the store entrances. ...

... CW: For what it's worth, I still think the police are making tactical mistakes. They should not be dressed in riot gear & standing in 18th-century-style military formation; they should not be putting up barricades. They should be in uniform, walking along the perimeters of the protest location, which would put them in front of the stores, thus deterring looting. Oh, and they should call up every black cop in Missouri to do the policing. ...

... Jerry Markon, et al., of the Washington Post: "Ferguson police said Officer Darren Wilson had shot the teen during a confrontation after [a convenience store] robbery. They said a description of [Michael] Brown had been broadcast over police radio identifying him as a robbery suspect and released security camera photos of the robbery, showing someone they identified as Brown towering over and allegedly menacing the store clerk. But as more details emerged later in the day, the connection between the robbery and the shooting ... became more tenuous. Although the simultaneous naming of Brown as a suspect and the video's release had suggested that the officer stopped Brown because of the robbery, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson later appeared to reverse himself, saying at a second news conference that their confrontation 'was not related to the robbery' at all.... Asked why police felt compelled to release the robbery photos if they were unconnected to the shooting, Jackson said it was because the media had asked for them. He then abruptly ended the news conference and was hustled away." ...

... Following are some background stories, more or less in descending chronological order:

... Cavan Sieczkowski of the Huffington Post: "The Ferguson Police Department released a video of a convenience store robbery, following the revelation of the name of the officer who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown.... In a press conference earlier on Friday, Ferguson police released a report naming Brown as the main suspect in a convenience store robbery where a box of Swisher Sweets cigars valued at $48.99 was stolen and a clerk was allegedly shoved.... Video of the incident allegedly showing Brown, which was released to the public, 'had nothing to do with the stop' and was 'unrelated' to [Officer Darren] Wilson's contact with Brown, Jackson said." Report includes the surveillance video. ...

... Later That Same Day. Molly Hennessey-Fiske, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "Police said Friday that the police officer who shot to death an unarmed 18-year-old did not know the man was a robbery suspect and stopped him because he was walking in the street, a revelation that seemed likely to add to public anger over the death of Michael Brown.... [Ferguson Police Chief Thomas] Jackson said Wilson was not aware that Brown was suspected in a robbery before their encounter. He said [the officer, Darren] Wilson, 28, stopped Brown and another man because they were walking in the middle of the street." ...

... Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "News that Michael Brown was wanted as a robbery suspect could put a fresh light on his killing by a Ferguson police officer, a use-of-force expert said Friday.... The circumstances faced by Officer Darren Wilson contained both elements, according to a description Friday by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. He said Wilson was aware there had been a robbery involving cigars but did not realize when he ordered two young men to stop walking in the street that they were suspects. Wilson made the connection when he noticed cigars in Brown's hand, Jackson said." ...

... Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson this morning identified Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager last Saturday. Wilson is a 6-year veteran of the force. He was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting."

Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post: "St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley on Friday said he is leading an effort to remove the county prosecutor [Robert McCulloch] from investigating the Michael Brown case because he thinks the prosecutor's personal experiences and recent statements have tainted his ability to act objectively." ...

... CW: Rachel Maddow had a guest on earlier this week who said that McCulloch's office has few black ADAs. The guest, a black attorney, said she applied for a job in McCulloch's office fresh out of law school; when she was offered the job, the hiring attorney asked if she'd mind hearing fellow attorneys regularly use the "N" word.

... The Ferguson Police Department Has a History. Michael Daly of the Daily Beast: "Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him.... Henry Davis ... was ... arrested for an outstanding warrant that proved to actually be for another man of the same surname, but a different middle name and Social Security number." Read the whole story. CW P.S.: Henry Davis is black. But you knew that. ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico: "Forty-eight media organizations -- ranging from the Associated Press to Fox News to The New Yorker and the National Press Club -- sent a letter to law enforcement authorities in Ferguson, Mo., on Friday to protest the police's treatment of reporters and ask for greater transparency regarding the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American who was shot and killed by police." A copy of the letter is here. Oddly, not a word about the tear-gassing of an Al Jazeera reporter & crew.

Congressional Elections

Cathleen Decker of the Los Angeles Times: "Surmounting yet another voting snafu, Hawaii awarded its Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to appointed incumbent Brian Schatz late Friday, as he defeated Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in an election whose outcome was delayed nearly a week by the impact of Tropical Storm Iselle. A tally of votes released late Friday showed Schatz with 115,401 overall to Hanabusa's 113,632, a difference of less than 1,800 votes or 0.7%."

Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times: "Florida's congressional districts won't change by November and new elections can't be held until next year, the state's top elections officials told a circuit court judge on Friday. Responding to a court order to have a proposal in place by noon today, the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections, in conjunction with the Florida Secretary of State, concluded that the earliest date they could conduct a special election in the 25 counties affected by the new congressional districts would be in March 17, with a general election to follow on May 26." Via Cameron Joseph of the Hill.

Gail Collins reflects on the Alaska GOP primary, where all the candidates eat salmon at least once a week, & Joe Miller, Sarah Palin's fave, charges that millions of Hispanic thugs will take away your Second Amendment rights.

Jay Newton-Small of Time: "Republican State Sen. Joni Ernst, who is running for Senate and served more than 20 years in the military, said Friday that she was sexually harassed in the military and, given her experience, is backing the removal of cases of sexual assault from the military chain of command, a position that puts her at odds with much of the GOP." CW: This is yet another instance where a Republican (and in this case a fringey right-winger) becomes a liberal on an issue where s/he has some real-world experience.

News Ledes

AP: "The European Union offered Friday to take charge of Gaza's border crossings and work to prevent illegal arms flows, insisting on a durable truce and saying a return to the status quo before the latest war 'is not an option.' As EU foreign ministers held an urgent meeting in Brussels about global conflicts, Hamas negotiators met with the Islamic militant group's leadership in Qatar to discuss a proposal for a long-term truce with Israel. An official said the group was inclined to accept the Egyptian-mediated offer."

Guardian: "The US confirmed on Saturday evening that its planes and drones had carried out air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) fighters in the area around Iraq's crucial Mosul dam."

AFP: "Jihadists carried out a 'massacre' in the northern Iraqi village of Kocho, killing dozens of people, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, officials said on Saturday. Jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group are carrying out attacks against minorities in Iraq's Nineveh province, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee.... Harim Kamal Agha, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in Dohuk province, which borders Nineveh, put the death toll at 81 and said the militants had taken women to prisons they control." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The gunmen had surrounded the village for more than a week, refusing to let residents leave and saying they had limited time to save themselves by converting to Islam. When that time ran out, fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria stormed in, killing the men and rounding up the women and children, a survivor and Iraqi officials said Saturday."

Thursday
Aug142014

The Commentariat -- August 15, 2014

... Matt Berman of the National Journal: "President Obama announced 'progress' in the American military's targeted operations in Iraq in a press statement Thursday from Martha's Vineyard, Mass. That said, the United States will continue airstrikes 'to protect our people and facilities in Iraq.' On Wednesday night, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that a humanitarian operation to send in U.S. ground troops to help escort thousands of Yazidi Iraqis off Mount Sinjar was 'far less likely now' because of seemingly successful airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops." ...

... The Guardian story, by Spencer Ackerman, is here. ...

... Rod Nordland of the New York Times: "Yazidi leaders and emergency relief officials on Thursday strongly disputed American claims that the siege of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq had been broken and that the crisis was effectively over, saying that tens of thousands of Yazidis remained on the mountain in desperate conditions."

Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "The FBI unintentionally spied on the communications data of some Americans who were not targets of investigations because of typographical errors, according to a government watchdog."

Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Nearly 70,000 people in the Central Valley's Kern County have gotten health care coverage this year because of Obamacare. But their congressman, new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, faces no danger of those newly insured kicking him out of office for voting dozens of times to repeal the law. It's a sharp disconnect, one that is taking place not just in McCarthy's deep-red Bakersfield district but in many other Republican districts throughout the country ahead of the 2014 midterm elections: Constituents benefiting from Obamacare coverage aren't turning against the politicians who want to repeal it." ...

... CW: I wonder if the reason ACA beneficiaries aren't opposing Congressional Republicans is that they know -- even if they don't much follow the news -- that radical House bills never become law. Or, alternatively, they've heard about the do-nothing Congress. Some may be in tune enough to realize that President Obama would veto any anti-ObamaCare bill that made it through Congress (which it could, with a GOP majority in the Senate). But Obama is a short-timer, & these blase voters (or non-voters) would do well to think of their futures.

Paul Krugman: Europeans listened to deficit hawks -- the "too-muchers" -- & as a result are in a "forever slump."

Beyond the Beltway

CW: Perhaps the optimal response to protests against use of excessive force (in this case, shooting a person to death) is not a massive display of excessive force. ...

... John Schwartz, et al., of the New York Times: "Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, the highway patrol official appointed by the governor to take over the response, immediately signaled a change in approach. Captain Johnson told reporters he had ordered troopers to remove their tear-gas masks, and in the early evening he accompanied several groups of protesters through the streets, clasping hands, listening to stories and marching alongside them. On Thursday night, the armored vehicles and police cars were gone, and the atmosphere was celebratory. A street barricaded on previous nights was filled with slow-moving cars blasting their horns.

Wesley Lowery, et al., of the Washington Post: "... the heavy riot armor, the SWAT trucks with sniper posts and the gas masks were gone from the streets of Ferguson Thursday night, and Johnson marched with the crowd, eliciting cheers from the protesters. Johnson vowed to not blockade the streets, to set up a media staging center, and to ensure that residents' rights to assemble and protest were not infringed upon." ...

... CW: This is pretty interesting, because yesterday afternoon, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson gave a news conference in which he said protesters would be allowed on the sidewalks only, & the streets would be blocked off with cones. (This sounds on the face of it like a plan to pick off protesters who would, quite naturally, step into the street.) Either the state was keeping that jackass out of the loop even yesterday when we were hearing Ferguson authorities were receiving advice from federal & state experts on crowd management, or Jackson was ignoring their advice. ...

... Jack Jenkins of Think Progress: "A group of local clergy and religious faithful took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on Thursday evening, joining a mass of peaceful protestors.... Sporting clerical collars and brandishing signs inscribed with slogans such as 'We are praying with our feet' and &'End police brutality,' pastors and priests filed in with hundreds of other Ferguson residents to decry the killing of Michael Brown." ...

... Top Cop Politicizes Ferguson Demonstrations. Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "The executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police criticized President Obama Thursday for his remarks about law enforcement in Ferguson, Mo. 'I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha's Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation,' director Jim Pasco said in an interview with The Hill.... The officer involved in the Ferguson shooting is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and is being represented by one of its lawyers. His name has not been released to the public." CW: How is criticizing President Obama for calling for "calm & peace" helping the shooter? Partisan remarks like this are intended to fuel the fire, not restore calm & peace. Just fucking stupid. ...

... David Lieb & Jim Salter of the AP: "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the Missouri State Highway Patrol will take over the supervision of security in the St. Louis suburb that's been the scene of violent protests since a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. Nixon made the announcement at a news conference Thursday. Nixon says security will be overseen by Capt. Ron Johnson of the Highway Patrol. Johnson, who is black, said he grew up in the community and 'it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence.'" ...

... The St. Louis Post-Dispatch report is here. The New York Times story is here. ...

... "The Late Show with Jay Nixon." Katie Glueck of Politico: "Sometimes a politician's biggest sin is failing to show up. Gov. Jay Nixon waited five days after a black teen was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, to visit the area.... It doesn't help that Nixon has had a rocky history with the African-American community. The relatively conservative Democrat won 92 percent of the black vote in his 2012 reelection, a state President Barack Obama lost. Still, some black political leaders harbor resentment from the 1990s, when, as state attorney general, Nixon was involved in backing an end to some school desegregation programs."

... Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Eric Holder called on authorities in Ferguson, Mo., to keep the peace 'without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force,' emphasizing in a statement Thursday that things have to change in the city. Holder also announced that Missouri officials had on Thursday accepted an offer of 'technical assistance' from the Justice Department aimed at helping these local authorities improve their response to the crowds in suburban St. Louis." ...

... Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "The American Civil Liberties Union sued St. Louis County and the county police Thursday morning to obtain copies of initial police reports surrounding the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown by Ferguson police.... The ACLU lawsuit says that the incident report is an open record under Missouri law, and that the police department's refusal is either a knowing or purposeful violation of the law." ...

... Richard Leiby & Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "... across the country, experts say, many police forces have yet to adopt some of the most basic techniques to curb the possibility of police brutality and subsequent unrest. These strategies include having police live in the communities where they enforce the law and building connections with the residents." ...

... Brian Beutler: "... it's worth noting that the right began stoking white resentment over Ferguson well before Obama said anything about it." ...

How Steve King (RXenophobe-Iowa) Says the "N" Word in Public: ... they all appear to be of a single, you know, of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that.

CW: Cumbersome, but oh so politically-correct.

... Alexia Campbell of the National Journal on how police in Ferguson are using intimidation, threats of arrest, and claims of impending violence to keep [journalists] away from covering the news.... It was ... the first time I had ever felt afraid of a police officer." CW: Clearly, Campbell is white. ...

... CW: Yesterday, based on a video of the incident, which I posted, I posited that the police appeared to have purposely targeted an Al Jazeera news crew with tear gas, though I acknowledged that since I couldn't see what was going on outside the frame, this might not have been the case. As it turns out, my supposition was correct. John Cassidy of the New Yorker writes that the crew was a mile from the demonstrators, setting up for a stand-up report. The Al Jazeera reporter Ash-Har Quraishi said, "We had been in contact with police officers who were just feet away from us. We had had discussions with them; we understood this was just as far as we could get.... We didn't think there would be any problems here, so we were very surprised. We were very close to where those canisters were shot from. We yelled ... yelling that we were press. But they continued to fire." ...

     ... It seems to me that there were clear political & racial components to the police attacks on prominent citizens. The journalists targeted were "Arabs," a black man (Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post) & a "liberal" (Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post -- he was wearing press credentials). The St. Louis alderman Antonio French is black. I don't know about the ministers the police arrested, but there is about a 50-50 chance they were black. And I doubt they were throwing rocks or lobbing Molotov cocktails. These aren't just Constitutional violations; any idiot, any police officer, can see they are human rights violations. ...

... Jordan Sargent of Gawker: "At the same time that the Ferguson Police Department was terrorizing its own citizens [Wednesday] night, something interesting and important happened on cable news: Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson reiterated to Sean Hannity that Michael Brown struggled with his killer inside the cop's vehicle, while at the same time two new eyewitnesses told CNN that they saw no such thing.... At some point, some people somewhere -- a police department or a district attorney's office or a jury -- will decide who was right, and if we know one truth here it's that history is not on the side of the witnesses." ...

... Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: "... what's really driving the spectacle of militarized local police is that spigot of money that was turned on after Sept. 11, 2001, when a federal government abashed to have missed so many warning signs for those devastating attacks acted as if that massive failure could be washed away by sparing not a cent in preventing the next one. A whole industry has sprung up to capitalize on that spigot -- like the company that's been selling mine-resistant BearCats at $280,000 a pop to 100 towns per year. The flow of funds has become so reliable that the Missouri Office of Homeland Security holds regular workshops to advise local agencies on how to get their hands on the dough.... So we have had the absurd spectacles of $100 million in counter-terrorism funds going to South Dakota (pop. 833,000), a BearCat patrolling a pumpkin festival in New Hampshire, and $90,000 spent on bollards and surveillance at the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres' spring-training facility. And now we have protesters in a St. Louis suburb being confronted with exo-skeletal defenders of the peace who look like they arrived straight from the Maidan or Tahrir Square." ...

... The Libertarian's View. Sen. Rand Paul blames the debacle in Ferguson on Big Government & the "erosion of civil liberties." CW: This time, he might be right. And to his credit, Paul recognizes the underlying racism that motivates the police response (even as he obliquely invokes his Aqua Buddha moment):

Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.... Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

... "It's the Boys, Not Just the Toys." Ed Kilgore: "... let's pay attention to how police are doing their jobs, not just what is in their armories." ...

... Steve M. "Military weaponry makes a bad situation much worse, but the core problem is still police forces that have nothing but contempt for the populations they're supposed to 'protect and serve.' ... If Paul's fellow libertarians get us talking almost exclusively about gear and government, then they'll have successfully diverted the discussion onto their turf, for their ends. We mustn't let that happen." ...

... Benjamin Wallace-Wells of New York: "... over the past two days -- as the police in Ferguson have responded to very angry protests with an alarmingly heavy hand, looking and reacting as if they were not the community's own peace officers but an invading army — something remarkable has happened. The longstanding liberal concerns about police racial hostility has seemed to merge with the longstanding libertarian concerns over police militarization.... Many of the criticisms from the left and the right sound very similar.... It seems possible that the talk about police militarization might function as a convenient rhetorical backdoor, a way for both liberals and conservatives to address the siege mentality that seems to have taken hold in many police departments and the alienation that breeds in communities." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "... demonstrations this week over the shooting of Michael Brown..., and the overwhelming law enforcement response that followed have ... many on the right torn between an impulse to see order restored and concern about whether the crackdown is a symptom of a state run amok." ...

... De Nile Is a River that Runs through the "Heartland." Emily Swanson of the Huffington Post: "Sixty-nine percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents, but only 33 percent of Republicans, said that police in big cities are usually tougher on blacks...." Via Greg Sargent. CW: Let's be clear; the evidence is undeniable that at every step in our criminal justice system -- & as Charles Blow pointed out, even in our school systems -- racial minorities receive unequal, discriminatory treatment. This is not some unquantifiable "impression" upon which people can have differing "opinions"; these are are hard, cold facts. ...

... ** Adam Serwer of msnbc on "the blurred line between law enforcement & combat.... There are those who squawk on television about armed insurrection and tyranny, and those who face the prospect that each day could be the last they will stare down its barrel. Ferguson has reminded us that these are not the same people, and they are not living under the same rules." CW: Serwer does a remarkable job of getting to the heart of the matter. ...

... AND Clickhole holds a "fashion face-off" between the police & the army, a natural reaction "when two of the state's instruments of physical force bust out the exact same look":

Rosalind Helderman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "After nearly three weeks of testimony, federal prosecutors wrapped up their corruption case Thursday against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. The final prosecution witness, FBI Special Agent David Hulser, described phone records, mansion logs and e-mails that prosecutors hope will help convince jurors that the former first couple conspired to seek the largess of Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr."

The Market Basket boycott/strike continues. An amazing phenomenon.

Senate Races

AP: "A Hawaii judge on Thursday upheld the timing of a makeup primary election for more than 8,000 voters on the Big Island despite a last-minute challenge from a Senate candidate who said they should have more time to recover from a tropical storm. Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura ruled that the election should proceed Friday. The ruling rejects a complaint from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is running in a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. Hanabusa says the makeup election doesn't give enough time for voters in two Puna precincts to regain power and road access after the storm hit last week."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Au revoir, Greggers. Dylan Byers of Politico: "David Gregory will leave NBC News after stepping down as moderator of 'Meet the Press,' he announced Thursday.... As previously reported, NBC News has selected chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd to take over for Gregory. Todd's promotion is expected to be announced as early as Thursday evening."

Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn has nabbed the endorsement of former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller (D), a conservative Democrat who's backed more Republicans than members of his own party in recent years." ...

... CW: Not sure how much of a coup that is:

News Ledes

Guardian: British PM "David Cameron is prepared to supply weapons directly to Kurdish forces fighting jihadists from the Islamic State (Isis) in northern Iraq, in a move that risks drawing Britain back indirectly into the country's conflict."

Reuters: "Dozens of heavy Russian military vehicles massed on Friday near the border with Ukraine, while Ukrainian border guards crossed the frontier to inspect a huge Russian aid convoy." ...

... AFP: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine suffered dramatic setbacks Thursday as top military chiefs quit and Ukraine's forces pummelled their strongholds, cutting off a key rebel-held city from the Russian border.... Ukraine's military said it had completely surrounded Lugansk, cutting all links to the border with Russia, which Kiev believes has been supplying the insurgents with weapons."

Wednesday
Aug132014

The Commentariat -- August 14, 2014

Katie Zezima & Loveday Morris of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is considering a range of military options to rescue the thousands of refugees from the minority Yazidi sect trapped atop a mountain in northwestern Iraq, a senior official said Wednesday. The president and his national security team are expected to review those options 'in a matter of days,' said the official, Ben Rhodes, President Obama's deputy national security adviser." ...

... Michael Shear & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "American military advisers landed on Mount Sinjar in Iraq early Wednesday to begin assessing how to organize an evacuation of the thousands of Yazidi refugees under siege from Sunni militants, an American official said. News of the landing, which involved fewer than 20 advisers, came hours after a senior White House official said that the United States would consider using American ground troops to assist in the rescue if recommended by the military team." ...

     ... Update. New lede: "Defense Department officials said late Wednesday that United States airstrikes and Kurdish fighters had broken the Islamic militants' siege of Mount Sinjar, allowing thousands of the Yazidis trapped there to escape. An initial report from about a dozen Marines and Special Operations forces who arrived on Tuesday and spent 24 hours on the northern Iraqi mountain said that 'the situation is much more manageable,' a senior Defense official said in an interview." ...

... Karen DeYoung & Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "A team of about 20 U.S. troops and aid workers who landed Wednesday on Iraq's Mount Sinjar determined that a rescue operation of besieged minorities stranded there is probably unnecessary, the Pentagon said. 'There are far fewer' refugees left at the northern Iraq location, where tens of thousands were said to have been surrounded by Sunni Muslim extremists, and they 'are in better condition than previously believed,' a Pentagon statement said."

** Dana Milbank on the National Republican Congressional Committee's new fake news websites (National Journal story on the sites linked here yesterday, plus commentary by Akhilleus): "The Republican Party has finally admitted what has been fairly obvious for much of the past six years: It produces fake news. This is not an earth-shattering revelation to anybody who has been paying attention, but, still, it's an important step for the party to embrace the phoniness.... Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the select committee on Benghazi, told CNN's Deirdre Walsh last week that, despite what the [Republican-led House] Intelligence Committee found [-- it reportedly exonerates the Obama administration --], 'there is more work to be done and more to be investigated.' Excellent. Maybe he can post his phony accusations on some fake news Web sites."

Matthew Goldstein of the New York Times: "... the recovery in housing is fueling a niche market for newly minted bonds that are backed by the most troubled mortgages of them all: those on homes on the verge of foreclosure. And it is not just vulture hedge funds swooping in to try to profit from the last remnants of the housing crisis. The investors making money off these obscure bonds -- none are rated by a major credit rating agency -- include mutual funds. And one of the biggest sellers of severely delinquent mortgages to investors is a United States government housing agency." HUD is selling FHA mortgages, & "Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage finance firm that operates under government control, also got into the act...."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A State Department official, [John] Tye worked on Internet freedom issues and had top-secret clearance. He knew the Obama administration had also considered a proposal to impose what an internal White House document, obtained by The New York Times, portrayed as 'significant changes' to rules for handling Americans' data the N.S.A. collects from fiber-optic networks abroad. But Mr. Obama said nothing about that in his speech. So in April, as Mr. Tye was leaving the State Department, he filed a whistle-blower complaint arguing that the N.S.A.'s practices abroad violated Americans' Fourth Amendment rights. He also met with staff members for the House and Senate intelligence committees. Last month, he went public with those concerns, which have attracted growing attention."

Katie Zavadski of New York has more on James Bamford's interview of Ed Snowden (CW: which I know I should read, but I just won't): "It seems that Snowden didn't suddenly abscond with the materials available with to him at that moment, but instead gathered them over years, building his private cache -- and presumably, his courage -- for the right moment. With his higher and higher levels of clearance, Snowden had access to increasingly reprehensible plans. Eventually, a program that would effectively grant the NSA access to 'virtually all private communications coming in from overseas to people in the US' tipped him over the edge." Also, "Bamford wonders whether all of the recent revelations about NSA programs really originate with Snowden." Neither Snowden nor Laura Poitras will say.

"How Libertarians Snooked The New York Times Magazine." Jonathan Chait, after poking holes in Robert Draper's New York Times Magazine cover story about a libertarian surge among young people, heard from "Draper and his primary source..., and their replies show that the article's erroneous conclusions turn out to be even worse than I initially described.... Draper's story presents the self-presentation of such figures as Nick Gillespie, Rand Paul, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and other libertarians almost entirely at face value. That's his judgment call to make. But the glue that holds the story together is the factual claim that younger voters lean libertarian. That claim is simply false." Alan Murray of Pew Research backs Chait's analysis: Pew "found little evidence of a surge of libertarian views in the US."

Michael Howard of Esquire: The NRA opposes a proposed Texas ruling [link fixed] that would allow alcoholic beverages at gun shows because they realize "that's too dangerous" it would disallow gun shows in private residences, outlaw live ammo at the shows, force attendees to disable their firearms & cause other assorted "hassles." "It just would have been nice to see that eighth point: 'Also, drunk people with guns is moronic.'" No such luck.

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "Expressing concern over the 'violent turn' of events in this St. Louis suburb, President Obama said on Thursday that he wanted an open and transparent investigation into the shooting death on Saturday of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by the police.... Minutes earlier, Gov. Jay Nixon promised that residents of Ferguson were going to see a different tone in the response by the police after five nights of unrest during which the authorities have used tear gas and rubber bullets to control the crowds. Officials said that Governor Nixon would soon remove the St. Louis County police from handling the protests in Ferguson." ...

... Dave Weigel: Obama dances while Ferguson burns. Jay Nixon cancels fun day at the state fair to visit someplace near Ferguson. ...

... CW: I noticed on a Twitter feed that a tweet claiming (probably accurately) that Jay Nixon received 90 percent of the black vote. ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is calling for the 'demilitarization' of the police in Ferguson, Missouri, deeming the response by law enforcement 'the problem instead of the solution.' McCaskill, who was in Ferguson on Thursday morning meeting with community leaders, said the community needs to do 'better' to respond to the unrest in the St. Louis suburb." ...

... Anna Palmer & Jake Sherman of Politico: Hank Johnson, "a [U.S.] House Democrat from Georgia, plans to introduce the first piece of legislation responding to the shooting in the suburb of St. Louis that would focus on stopping a program providing machine guns and free military equipment to local law enforcement." ...

... Hadas Gold of Politico: Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery slammed MSNBC's Joe Scarborough Thursday morning for suggesting he and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly should have more closely followed police instructions when they were arrested Wednesday night in Ferguson, Mo.:

Well. I would invite Joe Scarborough to come down to Ferguson and get out of 30 Rock where he's sitting sipping his Starbucks smugly. I invite him to come down here and talk to residents of Ferguson where I have been Monday afternoon having tear gas shot at me, rubber bullets shot at me, having mothers, daughter, a 19-year-old boy, crying, running to pull his 21-year-old sister out from a cloud of tear gas thinking she would die. I would invite Joe Scarborough down here to do some reporting on the ground, and then maybe we can have an educated conversation about what's happening down here.

... CW: An individual has claimed, & Daily Kos has posted a tweet, that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has confirmed that state & federal authorities will relieve (& dismiss) the St. Louis County PD presence in Ferguson, Mo. I'm trying to find confirmation, & haven't had any luck, so this may not be true. Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

     ... Update: See link to New York Times report by Julie Bosman above. ....

.. CW: This is such a stereotypical development that it's almost beyond belief:

"Ferguson police chief turns to Hannity to handle his PR." Karoli of Crooks & Liars: "Police Chief Thomas Jackson took a breather from all of his responsibilities in Ferguson to make a brief appearance on Hannity.... If you're trying to bring a sense of calm to the community, Hannity's show is the last place on earth you should want to show your face. If, on the other hand, you're interested in playing your side of the story to a bunch of nasty bigots, Hannity's show is exactly where you'd go":

KSDK records police hitting Al Jazeera news crew with tear gas. CW: It looks to me (& the video could be deceiving) as if the cops' purpose was to shoot tear gas at the crew; that is, the crew weren't incidental victims:

"This isn't Gaza -- it's Ferguson." -- Washington Post front-page headline. AP photo.Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: "Despite its ubiquity across the globe and in United States, tear gas is a chemical agent banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which set forth agreements signed by nearly every nation in the world -- including the United States. The catch, however, is that while it's illegal in war, it's legal in domestic riot control.... Some scientists and international observers contend the tactic of spraying people with tear gas, which commonly uses the chemical agent 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS), can pose serious dangers." ...

... Jim Suhr & Jim Salter of the AP: "Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death turned violent Wednesday night, with some people lobbing Molotov cocktails and other objects at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd." (Emphasis added.) ...

... Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A heavily armed, militarised police force fired teargas and rubber bullets to force hundreds of protesters out of the centre of a small Missouri town on Wednesday, as a crackdown on demonstrations over the killing of an unarmed 18-year-old intensified. Dozens of officers, some carrying assault rifles, advanced with a pair of armoured trucks on the young and predominantly African American crowd in Fergsuon, after two glass bottles were thrown at their lines from a largely peaceful protest against the shooting of Michael Brown, who was black, by an officer from the city's overwhelmingly white police department. For hours, police snipers trained their weapons on demonstrators who protested with their hands up as an emblem of peaceful protest. When events escalated on a fourth night of tension in this city of just 21,000 people, protesters described being subjected to military-style tactics as they fled through gas-filled residential side-streets." (Emphasis added.) ...

... CW: Hard not to notice the difference in emphasis in the two preceding accounts of events. ...

... Wesley Lowery, et al. of the Washington Post: "The [Ferguson, Mo., police] department bears little demographic resemblance to the citizens of this St. Louis suburb, a mostly African American community whose suspicions of the law enforcement agency preceded Saturday afternoon's shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who this week had been headed to technical college. But while the racial disparity between the public here and its protectors has come to define the violent aftermath of Brown's death, the department's problems stretch back years and include questions about its officers' training and racial sensitivity." Read the whole story. ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "St. Louis Alderman Antonio French emerged Thursday morning from a night in jail after his arrest at the Ferguson protests to say that the police officers' 'heavy-handed' approach on the streets is making the situation worse. French said he has no documentation that says why he was arrested, and that he was released about 7 a.m. today without having to post any bail." ...

     ... CW: Oh, look. Alderman French is black. Alleged Crime: Driving While Black. (See St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial, linked below.) ...

... Rachel Maddow spoke to Wesley Lowery, whom police arrested in Ferguson, Mo. Here are some tweets from Lowery, describing his arrest. They released him with no charges. The police also arrested & released the Huff Post's Ryan Reilly. ...

     ... Update. Here's Lowery's account in the Post. ...

... Video of Lowery's arrest. CW: I'm having a really hard time understanding why any police officer would think a reporter can't quietly sit in a McDonald's & write his story. Apparently Ferguson is a First Amendment-free zone:

... Huffington Post: "The Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly and the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery were arrested Wednesday evening while covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer last week.... SWAT officers roughed up the reporters inside a McDonald's, where both journalists were working. Reilly snapped a photo, prompting cops to request his identification." ...

... The Huff Post's Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim writes the site's statement on the arrests. ...

... Here's the statement from Marty Baron, the Post's executive editor, on Lowery's arrest. ...

... Julie Bosman, et al., of the New York Times: "The police chief [of Ferguson, Missouri], Thomas Jackson, said that minutes before the shooting on Saturday, the officer and the young man, Michael Brown, had engaged in a violent confrontation, in which the officer was hit in the face. 'The side of his face is swollen,' Chief Jackson said at a news conference, adding that the officer, who has been put on administrative leave, was treated at a hospital.... The police say Mr. Brown was shot after he assaulted the officer and tried to take his gun -- an account disputed by a witness, a friend of Mr. Brown's who said his hands were raised when the last of several shots were fired." ...

American Scene -- Midwest. AP photo.... Paul Szoldra of Business Insider: "... it's worth discussing the police response to the outrage. In photos taken Monday, we are shown a heavily armed SWAT team. They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each. Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier's if it weren't for their 'Police' patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.... The scene is tense, but the presence of what looks like a military force doesn't seem to be helping. 'Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it,' one police officer was caught on video telling protesters." ...

... Charles Blow: "... the sheer morbid, wrenching rhythm of [the Michael Brown killing & its aftermath] belies a larger phenomenon...: The criminalization of black and brown bodies -- particularly male ones -- from the moment they are first introduced to the institutions and power structures with which they must interact." Blow cites studies that demonstrate how African-American children receive discriminatory treatment from the time they hit kindergarten. The upshot, of course, "A May report by the Brookings Institution found: 'There is nearly a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will be imprisoned by his mid-thirties.'" ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editors: "Last year, for the 11th time in the 14 years that data has been collected, the disparity index that measures potential racial profiling by law enforcement in the state got worse. Black Missourians were 66 percent more likely in 2013 to be stopped by police, and blacks and Hispanics were both more likely to be searched, even though the likelihood of finding contraband was higher among whites.... Nearly every black man in America has a story of being pulled over, stopped or harassed as a young person for doing something that a white teenager would never imagine might end in being on the wrong end of a police officer's gun. Driving While Black. Walking While Black. Wearing a Hoodie While Black."

Theodore Schleifer of the New York Times: "Prosecutors have cast Bob McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia, as a desperate politician who was short of cash and more than willing to promote a donor's product if it meant that he and his wife, Maureen, could live a more lavish life.... Prosecutors said they would rest their case on Thursday, believing they have sufficiently shown that the McDonnells took 'official action' to benefit the donor and businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., and his dietary supplement, Anatabloc, in return for those gifts. On Monday, the defense will begin to call its own witnesses...." ...

... Matt Zapotosky & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "When Robert F. McDonnell took office as Virginia’s 71st governor, he and his wife were mired in nearly $75,000 in credit card debt, records show. That figure soon grew to more than $90,000 -- and came down because of insurance proceeds, a family trust and the generosity of a wealthy Richmond businessman, the records show. On the 13th day of the federal corruption case against McDonnell (R) and his wife, prosecutors presented the evidence about the family finances as a striking wrap-up to their case, as they began working to connect the dots for jurors." ...

... Here are the Washington Post's live updates of the McDonnell trial testimony Wednesday. "Using the particular timing of phone calls, texts and visitors checking in at the governor's mansion, prosecutors are methodically building their case against Robert F. McDonnell, who they accuse of conspiring, along with his wife, to solicit businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr.'s largess." ...

     ... Update: Here are the Post's live updates of the trial for today.

Senate Races

Kurtis Lee of the Los Angeles Times: "U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Hawaii Office of Elections in an effort to push back a scheduled make-up vote later this week that will decide the Democratic primary election between her and appointed incumbent U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. 'As of this filing, voters in the affected area are still without power and local roads remain blocked,' Hanabusa’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in the state's Circuit Court against chief election officer, Scott Nago.... Residents of two Big Island precincts in the Puna area were unable to cast ballots on Saturday because of Tropical Storm Iselle. Initially, state officials had said they would mail ballots to those who had not voted before the storm. However, on Monday, Nago announced voting would be held Friday and storm-ravaged residents could only vote at a local elementary school. Schatz holds a lead of 1,635 votes -- out of 230,000 cast.... About 8,000 voters live in the two precincts, and many either already cast ballots or don't regularly vote." ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Ian Lovett, is here.

Geoff Pender of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "A spokesman says Chris McDaniel on Thursday will file his court challenge of the June 24 GOP primary he lost to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. Thursday is the deadline to file." ...

... CW: I forgot to link this story -- also by Pender -- yesterday, but it kinda makes me think McDaniel doesn't have much of a case, despite his claim that his case is "rock-solid": "As Chris McDaniel's team continues to scour voting records to add to an expected legal challenge of his loss to Thad Cochran, it has listed McDaniel's lead lawyer in the challenge, and his wife, as irregular votes that should be tossed out."

Presidential Race

Li'l Randy and Cousin Alec. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "An Iowa evangelical Christian leader stood on stage and told the 1,200 conservatives in the audience and the dozens of reporters that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul had told him he couldn't be at the event Saturday because of a 'family commitment.' Then the New York Post's 'Page Six' published the news that Paul was in the Hamptons on Saturday with Alec Baldwin. Paul was 'among the intellectual elite' at a fundraiser for a library in East Hampton that Baldwin co-sponsored, the column says.... Aides for Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, told The Des Moines Register this evening that Paul and his wife, Kelley, did indeed have a family commitment. It was in New York, and they took one of their three sons with them. The party with Baldwin was just an extra event...." CW: Yeah, Randy, I'll be you're telling the truth this time. ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos suggests, "The first rule of dodging ultra-religious, ultra-conservative voters is that you can't let them find out you're dodging them." ...

... Alec Baldwin: It wasn't a party; it was a fucking book fair! ...

Scenes from Baldwin's Hamptons Book Fair:

... Rand Paul Does Some Beach Reading. Amanda Gordon of Bloomberg News: "Rand Paul has been reading his first [Nelson] DeMille thriller, one inspired by 'The Great Gatsby,' about a WASP couple's entanglement with the mob on the gilded North Shore of Long Island." ...

... CW: As I've said before, Aqua Buddha Boy is (a) a constant source of amusement, & (b) an inveterate liar. I'm going to miss him when the "ultra-religious, ultra-conservative" Christians throw him to the lions early in official GOP primary season. ...

... MEANWHILE, on a nearby island, another likely presidential contender is signing books. Gail Collins reflects on Hillary Clinton's foreign policy views.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Embattled Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki stepped aside Thursday, ending a tense political standoff and clearing the way for a new prime minister tasked with steering the country out of its security crisis. Maliki appeared on state television flanked by senior members of his party, including rival Haider al-Abadi, who has been appointed to form a new government. Maliki said he would back 'brother' Abadi for the sake of Iraq's unity."

New York Times: "Rob Manfred, a high-ranking executive in Major League Baseball for many years, was chosen Thursday by the league's owners to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner, one of the most powerful positions in sports. Mr. Manfred was confirmed after several ballots by baseball's 30 owners, who convened in a closed-door ballroom in downtown Baltimore."

Washington Post: "On Thursday, [actor-comedian Robin Williams'] wife, Susan Schneider, released a statement that said Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease when he died." The Los Angeles Times story is here.

"Ocean's 11." AP: "A recently fired casino security guard used his knowledge of when and where large sums of money would change hands to help plan and pull off a daring robbery that netted more than $180,000, authorities said Thursday. Eight people were arrested in the July 21 gunpoint robbery of Caesars Atlantic City that touched off a three-state manhunt, New Jersey State Police said. The search ended with a Delaware state trooper being shot; the bulletproof vest he was wearing saved his life."

New York Times: "A Russian aid convoy destined for rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine resumed its disputed southward journey on Thursday, in apparent defiance of demands by the government in Kiev that the shipment be stopped." ...

     ... Guardian UPDATE: "... while the trucks [supposedly carrying humanitarian aid] came to a halt well short of Ukraine's border, a different Russian convoy did make the crossing into Ukrainian territory late on Thursday evening. The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk -- about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine." ...

     ... Los Angeles Times UPDATE: "A Russian convoy carrying aid for civilians trapped in separatist-controlled Luhansk in eastern Ukraine diverted from its agreed route to the Ukrainian border Thursday, drawing warnings from Kiev that it will be blocked 'with all the forces available' unless its cargo is first inspected."

AFP: "Israel secured supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon last month without the approval of the White House or the State Department, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Since officials there were caught off guard as they tried to restrain Israel's campaign in Gaza, the administration of President Barack Obama has tightened controls on arms shipments to Israel, the newspaper said, quoting US and Israeli officials."