The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "Overwhelmed by thousands of asylum-seekers, Hungarian authorities Tuesday briefly halted rail traffic from their nation’s main train station, the latest blow to borderless movement in Europe.... The asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, hope to make it onward to Germany, which has promised shelter and sustenance for Syrians. By midday in Budapest, the train station had been reopened, but migrants were being kept away, Hungary’s state-owned news agency reported."

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

White House Live Video
September 2

2:45 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks on the importance of helping Americans go to college in Miami, Florida (audio only)

9:50 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Kotzebue School in Alaska

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

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

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

 A few minutes later, she responded with this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday
Aug182015

The Commentariat -- August 19, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "President Obama will travel to New Orleans next week for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina...."

CW: I have been avoiding linking to any stories about Mike Huckabee, because of his remarks comparing the Iran deal to the Holocaust. But to update you a bit, Huckleberry is in Israel, demonstrating anew what an astounding, bigoted ignoramus he is.

*****

Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: "The first prescription drug to enhance women's sexual drive won regulatory approval on Tuesday, clinching a victory for a lobbying campaign that had accused the Food and Drug Administration of gender bias for ignoring the sexual needs of women. The drug -- Addyi from Sprout Pharmaceuticals -- is actually the first drug approved to treat a flagging or absent libido for either sex." CW: Likely Rick Santorum has repaired to the nearest fainting couch.

Missed this item. Coral Davenport of the New York Times (Aug. 17): "The Obama administration on Monday issued a final permit for Shell to start drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. The Interior Department gave conditional approval in May for the company's long-delayed application to drill in the untouched waters of the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. In July, the administration issued a permit that would allow Shell to start drilling at the top of the seabed but would not allow the drill to penetrate into the oil reserves until Shell had quick access to a 'capping stack,' which is used to shut down wells in case of emergency spills." (See also Presidential Race.)

David Larter & Meghann Myers of the Navy Times: "The Navy is planning to open its elite SEAL teams to women who can pass the grueling training regimen, the service's top officer said Tuesday.... The move to integrate the military's most storied commando units comes the day after news broke that two women had passed the Army's arduous Ranger course. Nineteen women began the course, which has about a 45 percent passing rate."

If you think that nice winter coat you give to charity will soon be warming a needy American, think again.

Apparently all this fighting about the unpleasantness of women is causing Brother Ross to flag, too.Dana Milbank is tired of Ross Douthat, who has accused Milbank of having "bloody hands" because of Milbank's support for long-acting, reversible contraceptives: "... in 2009 launched a privately funded Family Planning Initiative that provided 30,000 IUDs and other implants at zero or little cost to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics. The teen birth rate fell 40 percent between 2009 and 2013 -- and the teen abortion rate fell by 35 percent between 2009 and 2012 in the counties where the program was in place." But Douthat & his collaborators "tried to cast doubt" on the experiment, because they "would rather fight about abortion than reduce it."

Presidential Race

Ben Schreckinger of Politico: Bernie Sanders' "campaign is working to whip all those energized supporters into a political machine that can deliver votes and send Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire a message that, in the words of senior adviser Tad Devine, 'there's something big happening across the country and they can be a part of it.' To that end, the campaign is adding data specialists to its staff and more racially diverse faces to its speaking rosters. And it is refining methods of gathering data on attendees and converting them into volunteers." ...

... CW: Just love the way Schreckinger characterizes a Sanders supporter at the top of his story, describing him as a "Sander-ista" who is "bearded [and] ... wore a t-shirt in the style of Shepard Fairey's iconic image of Barack Obama -- emblazoned instead with Sanders' face and the message, 'Hope is nice, but I prefer no bullsh--.'" I guess the women in this photo were not available:

... If 5,000 people showed up at a Sanders rally in formal attire, Politico would find the leftist "Sander-ista" who "obviously hadn't shaved this morning," whose "suit was rumpled" & who "used a profanity to describe Republican candidate Rick Santorum."

... Greg Sargent:"... Sanders' presence may be forcing Clinton to sharpen up her own populist message." Sargent attributes this new Clinton ad to the influence of Sanders & his supporters:

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "In a rare disagreement with President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday came out against drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, one day after the White House granted approval for exploration off the coast of Alaska.... Mrs. Clinton continues to face pressure to take a position on the Keystone pipeline. She has said she will remain silent on the issue until Mr. Obama makes a decision." ...

... Maybe Hillary Really Doesn't Understand All This Technology Stuff. John Wagner & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "... Hillary Rodham Clinton said repeatedly Tuesday that she did not know if her e-mail server, which was turned over to the FBI last week, had been wiped clean of data. In a testy exchange with reporters following a town hall meeting in North Las Vegas, Clinton responded, 'What, like with a cloth or something?' when asked if the server had been wiped. 'I don't know how it works at all,' she added." ...

     ... The reporter asking the questions is Ed Henry of Fox "News."

... Annie Karni of Politico: "As Hillary Clinton faces a new round of questions about her email use as secretary of state, some longtime allies are increasingly worried that she's learned little from past scandals, and is falling back on her tendency to mount a legalistic defense that only encourages perceptions that she has something to hide.... A source with inside knowledge of the Clinton campaign voiced concern that the candidate and her longtime attorney David Kendall are the only ones calling the shots -- and can have a tin ear when it comes to the politics, rather than simply the legal status, of the email saga." ...

... Jeff Toobin: "Hillary Clinton's problem: the government classifies everything.... The relevant agencies are now reviewing the documents in order to determine whether they contain classified information; if they find that to be the case (and they will), Clinton will not have the right to make those documents public; the public will never know whether she was discussing newspaper stories or the identity of covert assets. With many agencies reviewing thousands of documents, this process is guaranteed to take months rather than weeks. Thus, the process — and the attention to the issue -- will drag on."

So Much for Crazy Glue. Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "The battle line runs between the factions in the conservative movement that care about winning, and the ones that specialize in entertainment and charlatanism, with Fox News caught appropriately in the middle.... The left is engaged simultaneously in its own heated factional fight.... Wherever you fall on the question of the Black Lives Matter movement's tactics and goals, or of the way progressives have treated BLM activists, the fact that their disruptions are meant to elevate issues, and that Democrats have responded by accommodating their ideals, is undeniable.The fight among conservatives, by contrast, is marked almost entirely by nastiness and self-interest. The fact that it is over a character like Donald Trump is fitting."

The Conversation: "We'll Build a Wall." Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg: "... Marco Rubio told a conservative audience earlier this year that 'you can't even have a conversation' about legalization or citizenship until the nation's border is secure. Avoiding a real conversation on immigration is exactly what created the opening for Trump, whose new leadership role seems unlikely to go well for the party. Instead, the two sides of the Republican immigration war should confront the issue directly." Wilkinson imagines the conversation. ...

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. -- Fourteen Amendment

Donald Trump, Constitutional Expert. Nick Gass of Politico: "Donald Trump clashed with Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday night over the part of his immigration plan that would take away citizenship from the children who were born in the United States but whose parents came to the country illegally. Under the 14th Amendment, O'Reilly told Trump on 'The O'Reilly Factor,' mass deportations of so-called birthright citizens cannot happen. Trump disagreed, and said that 'many lawyers are saying that's not the way it is in terms of this.'... Trump also said that he would not pursue an amendment to the Constitution to remedy the situation." CW: It's a sad day when Bill O'Reilly is wiser than a leading presidential candidate. ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Shortly after Donald Trump released his immigration policy proposal on Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker assured reporters that he agreed with Trump's opposition to 'birthright citizenship.' The Huffington Post did a quick count and figured that at least five other 2016 Republican candidates did, too." To implement the GOP plan, anti-immigration advocates [CW: Trump's "many lawyers"] would have to "somehow persuade the Supreme Court to overturn the 1898 ruling, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which established how the 14th Amendment would be enforced" or amend the Constitution. "The only thing a politician could promise that would be harder would be, say, promising to build a giant, hundreds-of-miles-long wall and getting another country to pay for it." ...

... Andrew McCarthy of the winger National Review illuminates the Constitutional argument that Trump's "many lawyers" would make. ...

... Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News has more on legal interpretations of the jurisdictional phrase. ...

... "Make American Cruel Again." Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "... together with Trump as its spokesman, the [Trump anti-immigration] plan is poised to move the GOP conversation on immigration from simple restrictionism to something more punitive and cruel."

... Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post: "The longer he floats atop the polls, the more Trump has started to make people [in Mexico City] feel a bit queasy, forcing them to contemplate whether his candidacy is really something they need to worry about. As Trump published his immigration proposals this week, Mexicans expressed growing concern about his bid for the Republican nomination.... The Mexican government has tried mostly to stay above the fray. Over the past few months, Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade and other top officials have gone on record with their displeasure about Trump's comments. But they've also chosen not to engage Trump's near-daily anti-Mexico barrages, in part because the candidate's proposals change so often and also because officials don't expect that he’ll be president."

Jonathan Chait: "[Tuesday], Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have published plans -- really, not so much plans as skeletal descriptions of planlike concepts -- to replace Obamacare.... They will not finance real insurance for the people who have gotten it under Obamacare, nor will they face up to the actual costs they're willing to impose on people. The party is doctrinally opposed to every available method to make insurance available to people who can't afford it. They have spent six years promising to come up with an alternative plan, and they haven't done it, because they can't." CW: Thus, IMO, every "planlike concept" these scoundrels proffer constitutes a Big Fat Lie to the American people. ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "The Walker and Rubio proposals call for a much less regulated insurance market, where the federal government exercises little oversight over the products in the market.... Their plans are also much less concerned about ensuring health care access for the poor. In addition to rolling back Obamacare, both would also reduce future federal spending on state-administered Medicaid programs.... [Walker's plan] would give federal money to old people instead [of poor people].... any of these plans, however meritorious, can only be accomplished through enormous disruption. Millions of people who have obtained insurance through the law's expansion of the Medicaid program would lose it. Millions more would most likely lose the coverage they bought through new insurance marketplaces." CW: Fine as far as it goes. I wish the NYT had Chait's honesty & also remarked that Walker's & Rubio's "plan-like concepts" don't even pay for their crappy "replacements."

Jenna Johnson & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Scott Walker has sought to reassure jittery donors and other supporters this week that he can turn around a swift decline in the polls in Iowa and elsewhere by going on the attack and emphasizing his conservatism on key issues. In a conference call, one-on-one conversations and at a Tuesday lunch, the Wisconsin governor ... told backers that his campaign is shifting to a more aggressive posture and will seek to tap into the anti-establishment fervor fueling the rise of Donald Trump and other outsider candidates.... At the same time, Walker has veered to the right on abortion and other social issues, worrying some top backers."

The Legacy Candidate. Julie Bykowicz of the AP: "About half of the roughly $120 million raised to help [Jeb!] win the Republican presidential nomination comes from donors who previously gave to his brother or father, both former presidents, according to a new analysis of Federal Election Commission records by Crowdpac.com, a nonpartisan political research company.

Beyond the Beltway

Emma Margolin of NBC News: "After he was sued for declaring his gun shop a 'Muslim-free zone' last month, a Florida man [-- Andrew Hallinan, owner of Florida Gun Supply --] has decided to launch an online fundraiser selling artwork that features the Confederate flag to help pay for his legal fees. And the artist? George Zimmerman, the man who was acquitted two years ago in the high-profile shooting death of unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.... Hallinan says that Zimmerman reached out to him because he knew what it felt like to be treated unfairly by the media." CW: Anyone who harbored the notion that Zimmerman was just a murdering asshole & not a racist, murdering asshole should now make a penitential contribution to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Jonathan Katz of the New York Times: "The lawyer for a white Charlotte[, N.C.,] police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter concluded his defense on Tuesday by shifting accusations onto the black former college football player who died in the 2013 shooting, portraying the unarmed victim as a would-be burglar who dared the police to kill him. The officer, Randall Kerrick, faces up to 11 years in prison if he is found guilty of using excessive force in the death of the former football player, Jonathan Ferrell, in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2013."

Russell Contreras of the AP: "A New Mexico judge ruled Tuesday that two police officers must stand trial on murder charges in the on-duty shooting of a homeless man whose killing was caught on video and sparked national outrage while fueling reforms at the Albuquerque Police Department. Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria said after a nearly two-week preliminary hearing that there was probable cause for the murder case against Officer Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy to go to trial."

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "Two former police officers in East Point, Ga., have been charged with felony murder in connection with the 2014 death of a man who was repeatedly shocked with Taser devices while he was handcuffed. The indictment, returned on Monday by a county grand jury here, charged former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart and former Cpl. Howard J. Weems Jr. with seven counts each, including felony murder, aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter, for their alleged roles in the death of Gregory L. Towns Jr., 24.... Mr. Towns was black, as are the former officers."

Neely Tucker of the Washington Post: In Mississippi, white folks are still loving that Confederate flag, including the one that is part of the state flag.

 

News Ledes

New York Times: "Louis Stokes, who as the first African-American congressman from Ohio helped focus federal attention on the nation's poor and led a special House investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died on Tuesday at his home in a Cleveland suburb. He was 90."

New York Times: ISIS jihadists have beheaded 83-year-old Khalid al-Asaad, the retired director of antiquities for Palmyra.

AP: "Germany's Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a third bailout package for Greece despite misgivings by some conservative lawmakers of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic party. Lawmakers voted 454-113 in favor of the deal on Wednesday, with 18 abstentions."

AP: "Police in Thailand released a sketch Wednesday of the man they believe carried out this week's deadly Bangkok bombing, and offered a 1 million baht ($28,000) reward for help leading to his arrest. But apart from a rough portrait, authorities have few solid leads...."

AP: "Longtime Subway pitchman Jared Fogle is expected to plead guilty to child-pornography charges, an Indiana television station reported."

Washington Post: "Chelsea Manning was found guilty Tuesday on four disciplinary charges and given 21 days of recreational restrictions for breaking military prison rules -- keeping expired toothpaste and Vanity Fair's Caitlin Jenner cover, among other things, in her cell, her attorney said." ...

... Guardian: "A petition of more than 100,000 signatures was delivered to the US army liaison office in Congress on Tuesday asking that the charges against Manning be dropped."

Monday
Aug172015

The Commentariat -- August 18, 2015

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In an otherwise minor decision about a municipal sign ordinance, the [Supreme C]ourt in June transformed the First Amendment. Robert Post, the dean of Yale Law School and an authority on free speech, said the decision was so bold and so sweeping that the Supreme Court could not have thought through its consequences. The decision’s logic, he said, endangered all sorts of laws, including ones that regulate misleading advertising and professional malpractice. 'Effectively,' he said, 'this would roll consumer protection back to the 19th century.'... There is little question that the decision, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, marks an important shift toward treating countless laws that regulate speech with exceptional skepticism. Though just two months old, the decision has already required lower courts to strike down laws barring panhandling, automated phone calls and 'ballot selfies.'”

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The Internal Revenue Service said Monday that hackers had gained access to the tax returns of more than 300,000 people, a far higher number than the agency had reported previously. In the coming days, the I.R.S. will send 220,000 letters to taxpayers whose returns were probably viewed by the hackers, the agency said."

Michael Crowley of Politico: "Dozens of arms control and nuclear nonproliferation experts have signed a statement endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, the latest salvo in a lobbying campaign battle ahead of a congressional vote next month on President Barack Obama’s landmark agreement with Tehran. The Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group based in Washington, will release the statement Tuesday morning. It declares the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief 'a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.'” ...

... CW: But, hey, what do "experts" know? ...

... Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks up some excuses to oppose the Iran nuclear deal & writes them down, & the Washington Post prints them out.

Anna Palmer of Politico: Planned Parenthood is fighting back against Stupid Republican Tricks, partially by running ads targeting Republican Sens. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, "Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Rob Portman in Ohio.... This week’s ads follow late-July ads by Planned Parenthood in West Virginia, Indiana and Washington, D.C. targeting key senators whose support for Planned Parenthood was seen as being in jeopardy. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana broke with their Democratic colleagues and voted to defund Planned Parenthood before the August recess."

Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "The Obama administration ... wrote in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst [RTP-Iowa] and Roy Blunt [RTP-Mo.] ... [that] there are no known violations of the country’s fetal tissue laws among government researchers or the companies that supply the tissue." ...

... Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Republican leaders on the House Judiciary Committee are asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) for information on the enforcement of fetal tissue laws, as part of its investigation into Planned Parenthood. Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and subcommittee chairman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) on Monday wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking for the history of the enforcement of two laws banning profiting from fetal tissue sales and another law banning partial birth abortions. The lawmakers are looking for past instances in which violations of those three laws were alleged." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "There's no evidence whatsoever in these videos that Planned Parenthood violated the law ... so these guys are resorting to potential past violations. It's a fishing expedition.... They're treading a very thin line here of completely alienating not just women, but the entire population of patients and the medical community (minus Ben Carson )who are relying on fetal tissue research for critical therapies.... They're now getting into the whole arena of medical research and even of organ donation (and where were they when Dick Cheney was getting a heart?), dragging them further and further away from the political mainstream. All for the votes of religious extremists."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Rank & Yank. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "... however much the most sought-after employers in the country may be changing their official policies — brutal competition remains an inescapable component of workers’ daily lives. In some ways it’s getting worse.... The basic problem is that the rewards for ascending to top jobs at companies like Netflix and Goldman Sachs are not just enormous, they are also substantially greater than at companies in the next tier down.... Grueling competition remains perhaps the defining feature of the upper echelon in today’s white-collar workplace."

Oops! J. K. Trotter of Gawker: "Earlier this year, Gawker Media sued the State Department over its response to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed in 2013, in which we sought emails exchanged between reporters at 33 news outlets and Philippe Reines, the former deputy assistant secretary of state and aggressive defender of Hillary Clinton. Over two years ago, the department claimed that 'no records responsive to your request were located' — a baffling assertion, given Reines’ well-documented correspondence with journalists. Late last week, however, the State Department [said] ... it had located an estimated 17,000 emails responsive to Gawker’s request.... These newly discovered records are from Reines’ government account, and are not related to the 20 boxes of government-business emails stored on his personal account that Reines recently handed over to the government...." ...

... Alex Griswold of Mediaite: "Reines had something of a reputation of sending extremely confrontational emails to reporters telling them to “\'f*ck off,' and Gawker no doubt wanted to mine his emails for more gems. But to their surprise, the State Department responded that they couldn’t find a single email Reinnes had sent to any reporters, even though emails to those outlets were already known to exist. In response, Gawker took the State Department to court. Lo and behold, an August 13 filing by State Department lawyers announced that they had discovered '5.5 gigabytes of data containing 81,159 emails of varying length' written by Reinnes. Approximately 17,855 of those emails were considered to be responsive to the email request originally filed by Gawker." ...

... CW: Maybe Hillary used a personal server so her correspondence wouldn't get lost.

"The Center Cannot Hold." E. J. Dionne turns to Yeats to illuminate today's politics. "The center is under siege all over the democratic world.... In country after country, traditional, broadly based parties and their politicians face scorn.... The decay of middle-ground politics is a problem for both the center-left and the center-right, but it may be a bigger problem for the moderate left whose task, as the late historian Tony Judt put it, has always been to provide 'incremental improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances.'... Political Establishments worthy of the name and middle-ground politicians who care about more than power understand the dangers of a Yeats moment — to social harmony, to tolerance and, if things go really badly, to democracy and freedom.” ...

... CW: Cheerful! We do have quite a few rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Brian Flood of TV Newser: The Huffington Post is sticking to its decision to relegate cover of Donald Trump to its entertainment pages. In response to an inquiry by Flood, the Huff Post's Danny Shea & Ryan Grim wrote, "We’re more committed to the decision than ever. Over the last month, we’ve seen our central argument proven right: that Trump is nothing more than a sideshow and not a legitimate presidential contender with serious policy ideas for moving the country forward." ...

... CW: This is just stupid. None of the GOP candidates has "serious policy ideas for moving the country forward." Is Huff Post going to move its coverage of all the GOP candidates to the entertainment page? By their own standard, they should. The problem there is that most of the candidates aren't entertaining, either. Maybe the Huff Post needs a new page titled something like, "Boring, Ignorant, Reactionary Thugs Politico Covers." BTW, as of now (12:51 am ET), the photo blazoned across the Huff Post's front page is of the big boys' debate, with Trump front & center, the the accompanying article (also linked below) -- which appears under the HuffPost Politics section -- cites, first, "business mogul Donald Trump." The front page has at least four other stories about Trump, which appear in three different sections, none of them Politics.

Presidential Race

Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton told Black Lives Matter activists her priority was to change laws, not hearts, after two confronted her at a campaign event with accusations that she was, in part, personally responsible for the mass incarceration of black Americans, footage released on Monday reveals." MSNBC aired a portion of the tape, which you can see in the video embedded in the Guardian story (begins at the 3:15 min.-mark). ...

... CW: I like the part where Julius Jones, one of the activists, asks Clinton to explain her actual feelings, "not what you're supposed to say." Everybody gets that candidates are pre-progammed phonies. The MSNBC discussion with Melissa Harris-Perry that follows the clip is illuminating. The BlackLivesMatter reps indicate the group will be a lot tougher on Clinton than it's been on Sanders because they hold the Clinton administration responsible for implementing mass-incarceration policies that have devastated the black community. ...

... Paul Waldman: "... in a race where there’s an obvious (if not quite certain) nominee, there will always come a point at which the press will decide that that candidate is spiraling downward, the cloak of inevitability is torn and tattered, the campaign is in crisis, the whispering from party loyalists is growing louder, and the scramble is on to find an alternative before the fall occurs. This is the moment we have come to with Hillary Clinton." It's all pretty much nonsense, promoted by a press corps in search of dramatic stories. ...

... Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda All Over Again. Gene Robinson: "Any public official’s work-related e-mails are the modern equivalent of the letters, memos and diaries that fill the National Archives. They tell our nation’s history and belong to all of us. Even if your name is Clinton, you have no right to unilaterally decide what is included and what is not. So I wish Hillary Clinton would be respectful enough to say, 'I’m sorry. I was wrong.'... If Clinton now has political problems because of the e-mails — or, potentially, even legal trouble — it’s her own doing.” ...

... Mollie Reilly of the Huffington Post: "Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter who famously helped break the news of the Watergate scandal, said Hillary Clinton's private email server reminds him of Richard Nixon's secretly recorded Oval Office conversations. Appearing on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Monday, Woodward compared the controversy over the former secretary of state's emails to Nixon's cover-up of Watergate." ...

... CW: Other things that remind Woodward of Watergate: (1) the actual Watergate complex, (2) Monica Lewinsky, who lived briefly therein, (3) anything that begins with "water," like waterboarding, water crackers & water-on-the-brain, & (4) really anything that begins with the letter "W," including Dubya. Couldn't Congress just pre-impeach Hillary & save us all a lot of time?

That Was Then. I have such great admiration and empathy for Hillary Clinton.... She is obviously incredibly intelligent, focused, tough, determined, empathetic of all the tens of millions of people that she was trying to represent in her quest to become the first woman president of the United States. And as a woman, I take great pride in the fact that Hillary Clinton ran for president. And I also watched with a lot of empathy as I saw how she was scrutinized, characterized, talked about as a woman. -- Carly Fiorina, 2008 ...

... Brad DeLong: Actually, way up until last year, many of today's GOP presidential candidates had really nice things to say about Hillary.

Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "A Good Chunk Of GOP Field Wants To Repeal The 14th Amendment..., which grants everyone born in the United States of America the right of citizenship."

This Time Trump Is Finished for Sure. Jennifer Agiesta of CNN: "Donald Trump has won his party's trust on top issues more than any other Republican presidential candidate, and now stands as the clear leader in the race for the GOP nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.... Trump is the biggest gainer in the poll, up 6 points since July according to the first nationwide CNN/ORC poll since the top candidates debated in Cleveland on Aug. 6…. Trump has also boosted his favorability numbers among Republicans, 58% have a favorable view of Trump now, that figure stood at 50% in the July survey." ...

... Citizen Trump. James McKinley & Andy Newman of the New York Times: Donald Trump spent yesterday as a prospective juror at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. "Calling jury service 'an interesting process,' he spoke as if it were less a legal requirement than a charitable act: 'People are surprised I agreed to do this,' he said. 'I’m not surprised. I think it’s the right thing to do.' He had previously failed to respond to at least five jury summonses, going back to 2006. He never received them, his lawyer said, because they went to the wrong address.... Court officers had told him, he said, that it was the biggest media scrum on the courthouse steps they had seen. 'I love records!' he said."

** The Awesome Truth. Ezra Klein: Here's "what makes a candidate like Trump potentially dangerous [to the GOP establishment]. On immigration, Trump holds a hard-line position that the Republican Party establishment has tried to mute, and so far Republican voters are loving it. On Social Security and Medicare, Trump — who opposes cuts — is closer to Republican voters than the party establishment is. On free trade deals, Trump shares a skepticism held by about half of Republican voters, but that's usually suppressed by the party's powerful business wing. Most candidates who tried to stack this many heterodoxies would be quickly squelched by the party establishment. But Trump isn't beholden to the GOP for money, staff, power, or press attention. That frees him to take positions that Republican voters like but Republican Party elites loathe." ...

This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base. -- George W. Bush, Al Smith dinner, 2000 ...

... ** Paul Krugman: "Ezra is ... a little vague about who he means by the Republican establishment; I argue that we’re really talking at this point about a small group of very wealthy donors.... As the old joke by W indicates, these donors actually constitute a sort of different base. And what we’re seeing here is a stark conflict between the two bases.... Everyone still says that DT can’t win this thing, and they may be right. But who, exactly, is supposed to come out on top and how? The money seems to have lost its knack for hoodwinking the voters." CW: Read Klein and Krugman. They're both right. And I love the part of Krugman's post about Bro! & Jeb! ...

... CW: As I wrote some while back, Trump is staking out a platform that appeals to ordinary GOP voters. The product Trump is selling is Trump. So aligning himself with voters is, obviously, good salesmanship & good politics. It is often horrible policy, of course. ... Will the day come that some of the "party establishment" decides that Trump is the one candidate who could beat Hillary? i wonder how the Grand Old Boys will deal with that. ...

... David Fahrenthold, et al., of the Washington Post: Trump's deportation proposal "would require a massive extension of federal authority into maternity wards and Western Union offices, tracing the parentage of children and money to deny illegal immigrants a comfortable spot in U.S. society.... The American Action Forum, a conservative research organization, estimated that deporting all of the country’s undocumented immigrants would take 20 years and cost between $420 billion and $619 billion. It also found that the move would hurt the economy as workers vanished and would put a vast new strain on the U.S. legal system.... Other strategies laid out by Trump seek to lower legal, as well as illegal, immigration." ...

... Washington Post Editors: Donald Trump's deportation plan is a monumental loser: "What Mr. Trump proposes is nothing less than manufacturing a humanitarian upheaval on a scale rivaling the refugee crisis in Syria." ...

... Since Trump's plan is so stupid. nasty & irresponsible, Scott Walker is taking credit for it. Esther Lee of Think Progress: "... Scott Walker wants credit for fellow contender Donald Trump’s harsh immigration position, saying it’s 'very similar' to the immigration position that Walker supported as Wisconsin governor. 'It’s similar to what I brought up about four or five months ago,' Walker said Monday on Fox News’ 'Fox and Friends' when host Steve Doocy asked whether he supported Trump’s plan. 'Earlier in the year, I was on Fox News Sunday and laid out what I think we should do, which is to secure the border, build the wall, have the technology, have the personnel to make sure it’s safe and secure, enforce the law… and make sure people are here legally. I don’t believe in amnesty.'” ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It would seem that Donald Trump is no longer alone in the GOP presidential field in openly calling for the deportation of all 11 million undocumented people in this country. Scott Walker, who’s gyred and gimbaled on immigration policy for quite some time, is now echoing The Donald in saying they must all be deported before we can even think about letting some of them stay."

I was in Israel earlier this year, they built a 500-mile fence and they have it stacked and it’s lowered terrorist attacks in that region by about 90-plus percent. We need to do the same along our border, -- Scott Walker, Monday

Not too many people visit the West Bank and say, 'You know, I wish America could be more like this.' -- Paul Waldman

Charles Pierce: "... alone among the crowd of candidates, Walker most clearly is running on his record of being a complete prick to the right people – which include teachers and nurses and the people who clean up after Alzheimer's patients in group homes. Running against the right people is a staple of all campaigns, right and left, but it's rarely as clear the raison d'etre of one as it is the raison d'etre of the Walker campaign. It is a toxic combination of belligerence and aggressive victimhood." ...

That's Walker on the left (a position he rarely takes). The other guy in the photo appears to have a full head of hair; he's probably an elite snob who won't stoop to plumb.... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: Scott Walker enjoys fattening food. Because it's manly. Also, Our Man of Science claims that "his bald spot ... is the result of having bumped his head while fixing a sink years ago and not natural aging." CW: That bump on the head may explain a lot about Scottie, but not his bald spot. ...

... Turns out this is not the first time Scottie has told this ridiculous whopper. Also, it's his wife's fault for making him try to fix the plumbing. ...

... This gives me an excuse to repost one of my favorite photos. Equality is fundamental:

Photo by Pete Souza, 2009.

Sen. Marco Rubio claims in a Politico Magazine essay, to have a swell plan to fix ObummerCare. CW: Haven't read a word of it. ...

... So Me-First Scottie today "will become the first top-tier candidate to deliver a detailed blueprint on what would come next," according to Jennifer Haberkorn & Kyle Cheney of Politico, after he voids ObamaCare on Day One or whatever. As governor of Wisconsin, "Walker used the Affordable Care Act to cut approximately 60,000 people from the state’s Medicaid plan, moving them to subsidized private plans offered through the state’s Obamacare exchange instead. He then used the state’s Medicaid savings to add more of the state’s poorest residents to the Medicaid program." CW: Huh? And you thought the ACA was convoluted. Anyhoo, Haberkorn & Cheney seem to be underwhelmed by Marco's effort, or maybe he's lost his "top-tier" status.

... Greg Sargent figures Scottie's big speech -- wherein he will blame Congress (so a few of his rivals) for failing to stand up to ObamaCare &, in general, President Obama. Walker "seems to have decided that Trump’s surge is rooted partly in those voters’ frustration with the failure of GOP leaders to stop Obama."

The War Party. Brian Beutler: Jeb "Bush has now rolled out, and adhered to, a tangle of views that could be mistaken for his brother’s — void the Iran agreement and possibly attack Iran, rescind President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order banning torture, and possibly send thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq—and none of them is even remotely controversial among his co-partisans.... Ripping up the global powers agreement [with Iran] is the predicate for the 'pretty good deal' Republicans have in mind. It’s the whole show."

Steve Benen: "... can we please abandon the myth that [John] Kasich is some kind of 'moderate'? Four years ago, much of the political world agreed that the Republican presidential field looked like crackpots when they said they’d ignore a 10-to-1 budget deal in their favor. Four years later, Kasich is reading from the exact same script.... He doesn’t want to deal with the climate crisis; he opposes marriage equality; he opposes the bipartisan plan on comprehensive immigration reform; and he sees even more tax breaks as the key to economic growth. As a governor, this candidate curtailed voting rights, imposed new restrictions on reproductive rights, and tried to bust labor unions." CW: And crackpot crusade for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Kitty Bennett of the New York Times: "A New York cellphone executive has emerged as a mystery megadonor behind the presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.... But records tie the donation to Ben Nash, the chief executive of PCS Wireless, and a spokesman acknowledged that Mr. Nash was behind the donation."

Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times is baffled as to why Carly Fiorina, who "presided over such a sharp decline in one of America’s great companies," would "promote her business experience on the trail." CW: Fiorina is counting on the ignorance of the GOP voter. Should she become a serious contender for the top job -- which isn't likely -- her opponents will have to tread lightly or be accused of leading yet another battle in the War on Women. (It's okay to attack Hillary Clinton, because she is a certified witch.) ...

... Charles Pierce: "If you don't count Ben Carson, and I don't, the two candidates who have made the greatest strides in the past two months are both people who have bragged about what titans of the American corporate universe they are, as though the American corporate universe hasn't been exposed over the past three decades as a marvelous environment for greed, solipsism, and incompetence; the land of the leveraged buyout, the Cayman bank account, and the credit default swap. When people say that government should run like a business, are they talking about Countrywide? AIG? Lehman Brothers? (Hi, John Kasich!)" ...

... CW: On that Lehman Brothers thing? Also, Hi, Jeb!

This is a little odd. How come Bobby Jindal, whose salary is $130,000/year. has "assets between $3.79 million and $11.3 million"? His wife Supriya runs a children's foundation (that for some reason keeps getting big donations from corporations who have business before the state), but it's not clear how much she contributes financially to the family coffers. (She's a chemical engineer & has worked in the chemical industry in the past. Maybe she still does.) Anyway, the Jindals' financial picture looks awfully good for a young family of five in which one of the spouses has been a career public official & the other heads a foundation which "spends almost all of the money it takes in to buy" stuff for schoolchildren.

Beyond the Beltway

Fracked Lettuce. Clint Rainey of New York: California "Assemblyman Mike Gatto has introduced a bill that would introduce the label, 'Produced using recycled or treated oil-field wastewater.' California's epic drought apparently has hard-up farmers using recycled fracking water for lack of better (i.e., pretty much any other) options...."

Justin Jouvenal & Tom Jackman of the Washington Post: "A former Fairfax County police officer was charged with second-degree murder Monday, nearly two years after he shot and killed an unarmed Springfield[, Virginia,] man as he stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home. The charge against Adam D. Torres in the killing of 46-year-old John Geer, who had a holstered gun at his feet when he was shot, mark the first time in the 75-year history of the Fairfax County police department that an officer will face criminal prosecution in connection with an on-duty shooting."

Michael Rosenwald & John Cox of the Washington Post: "Lenny B. Robinson, a Maryland man better known as the Route 29 Batman, died Sunday night, when a passing motorist struck his "Batmobile," which had broken down near Hagerstown, Maryland. The black Lamborghini slammed into Robinson, who had exited the vehicle to check the engine. Robinson "spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, his brother said, on his ’60s-style Batmobile, a costume that seemed more real than those in the movies, and the trinkets he handed out to children[, often kids in hospitals], always autographed 'Batman.'... He first started wearing the costume because one of his sons, Brandon, was obsessed with the character.... Video of his [2012] encounter in Silver Spring with police, who had stopped him because of a problem with his plates — emblazoned with the Batman symbol — made him an instant Web sensation.”

Sunday
Aug162015

The Commentariat -- August 17, 2015

CW: I've added two news feeds -- the New York Times & Google News-- in the right column & have updated the Reuters feed to make it more readable. The Google feed is on a continuous crawl, but you'll have to refresh Reality Chex to update the other two feeds. (I found the crawl rather distracting, & now that I look at it, I think it may repeat the same crawl until you refresh the page -- not sure.) Together, the feeds should keep you up-to-the-minute on major news.

[Expecting brutal interrogations to extract good intelligence is like] banging a hammer on a radio to get a better signal. It doesn't enhance cognition. It only makes it worse. -- psychiatrist & former CIA officer Andy Morgan ...

** ... Peter Aldhous of BuzzFeed: "... there's little evidence that adversarial interrogations work -- unless your goal is obtaining a high rate of false confessions.... Over the past five years, a small group of researchers has pulled together a body of evidence about what works in getting people to give up their secrets. It has nothing to do with abuse and coercion. Instead, it borrows methods from psychotherapy to get suspects talking and uses the science of how our brains process information to separate truth from lies.... Rather than focusing on stress, the new interrogation research program has concentrated on interviewing techniques that help people remember details about events -- and make it harder for liars to keep their story together." Congress has an opportunity this year to write the well-researched interrogation techniques into the Army Field Manual. But it's Congress.

     ... BTW, Jeb! and other GOP candidates (Trump, Graham, Rubio, Carson) evidently get their policy views from watching teevee shows, because in recent weeks they have assured us that torture works.

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) claim that "At non-designated sites it will take 24 days to get an inspection" is not true. "... that's the maximum, not the minimum.... It's also important to recognize that this provision was intended to strengthen the system of enhanced inspections and limit Iran's ability to hide unauthorized activities." Its purpose is to exact consequences; i.e., sanctions, on Iran & make it tougher for them to hide nuclear activity.

Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker: Hurricane "Katrina didn't usher in a new narrative about race in America as much as it confirmed an old one.... Hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods are natural phenomena; disasters, however, are often the work of humankind." Cobb recounts Herbert Hoover's response to the Great Flood of 1927. ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In Louisiana's Caddo Parish, where Shreveport is the parish seat, a study to be released Monday has found that prosecutors used peremptory challenges three times as often to strike black potential jurors as others during the last decade. That is consistent with patterns researchers found earlier in Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina, where prosecutors struck black jurors at double or triple the rates of others. In Georgia, prosecutors excluded every black prospective juror in a death penalty case against a black defendant, which the Supreme Court has agreed to review this fall."

Garrett Epps of the Atlantic: "... religious freedom is ... not a right to be a county clerk and decide which citizens you will serve and which you won't.... If a person can perform the duties of a job with some adjustment for religious belief, that's an accommodation. If they're not willing to do the job, they have to leave. That's not just a requirement of law; honor requires it as well. Government in particular has an obligation to dismiss any employee who claims a right to discriminate against citizens.... Government serves everyone, and the preferences of its employees aren't relevant in that regard.... Human equality is as important as religious freedom, and any sane discussion has to balance the two."

... ** "Maybe They'll Change the Law." Garrett Epps remembers Julian Bond.

Michael Shear & Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: President Obama "is preparing for his postpresidency with the same fierce discipline and fund-raising ambition that characterized the 2008 campaign that got him to the White House.... The president, first lady and a cadre of top aides [are] map[ping] out a postpresidential infrastructure and endowment they estimate could cost as much as $1 billion."

Amazon a Great Place to Work, Sez Amazon. Nick Gass of Politico: Former White House press secretary, "Jay Carney, [now] Amazon's senior vice president for corporate global affairs, defended the company Monday after a report in The New York Times found the Seattle-based retail giant to have a 'bruising,' uncompromising workplace with a high turnover rate and lofty expectations.... Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also responded to the story in an email, writing to employees that the Times article 'doesn't describe the Amazon I know' and that he would leave a company that treated its employees the way the piece characterized its practices...." ...

... The aptly-named Peter Kafka of re/code republishes Bezos' e-mailed response to "Amazonians." CW: Now let's hear from Justin Dickens.

Republicans More Likely than Democrats to Be in Denial. David Leonhardt of the New York Times: Two professors write that "Among married people between the ages of 20 and 60, 67 percent of Republicans report being 'very happy' with their marriages. Among Democrats, the share was 60, as it is among independents.... That gap shrank [to 3 percent] when the researchers factored in demographic differences between parties. Whites and the religiously observant are both more likely to be Republicans and more likely to report having happy marriages.... Even among people with the same demographic profile, Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say they are happily married." ...

     ... CW: Okay, a misleading headline. I do think, tho, that conservatives are constitutionally less forthcoming & less willing to admit (even to themselves) that all is not well. In addition, they tend to face stronger cultural pressures to maintain a good front. Ergo, a more definitive study would look beyond direct Q&A as the means to determine "happiness" quotients. All this study demonstrates is that Republicans are slightly more likely to report they are in happy marriages, not that their marriages are actually happier than Democrats'.

Presidential Race

Ana Marie Cox interviews Bernie Sanders for the New York Times. ...

... Darren Sands of BuzzFeed: "After protests twice derailed campaign events in recent weeks, the Bernie Sanders campaign has asked to meet with Black Lives Matter activists in Washington. In an email obtained by BuzzFeed News, the campaign's African-American outreach director, Marcus Ferrell, told a group of activists that Sanders wanted a more formal interaction. As a sitting U.S. senator, the meeting could be arranged as a means of 'possibly introducing legislation and making a constitutional change. We would like to know what YOU would like to see happen.'... On Sunday, Sanders told Meet The Press that the message had been sent out without his knowledge by a staffer, that the campaign was reaching out to all kinds of groups, that Black Lives Matter was important, and that he did not think the campaign needed to apologize for the delay in officially reaching out."

Chuck says Bernie was the most popular candidate at the fair:

Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed: "... how Hillary Clinton's campaign tries, fails, and sometimes succeeds to make the candidate available to the people outside the literal human barrier -- reporters, cameras, photoseekers, security agents, and hecklers -- that follows wherever she goes." If you want to talk to Clinton, you have to know somebody who knows somebody ...

... OR you could go to a relatively small-buck Clinton fundraiser on the Vineyard. ...

... Amy Chozick of the New York Times on the same topic: "The challenge for Mrs. Clinton today is that she cannot entirely shed the layers of staff and security -- and the news media mob -- that come with being Hillary Rodham Clinton. It does not help that she is often compared with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was known for his ability to connect with voters, and who has the capacity to upstage the former first lady at joint appearances." Also, too, reporters keep asking about those damned e-mails.

** Paul Krugman: "What's puzzling about the renewed Republican assault on Social Security is that it looks like bad politics as well as bad policy. Americans love Social Security, so why aren't the candidates at least pretending to share that sentiment? The answer, I'd suggest, is that it's all about the big money.... By a very wide margin, ordinary Americans want to see Social Security expanded. But by an even wider margin, Americans in the top 1 percent want to see it cut.... What this means, in turn, is that the eventual Republican nominee -- assuming that it's not Mr. Trump -- will be committed not just to a renewed attack on Social Security but to a broader plutocratic agenda. Whatever the rhetoric, the GOP is on track to nominate someone who has won over the big money by promising government by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent."

CW: I was wrong about who won the most important political debate since Lincoln-Douglas. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "... we can, as objectively as possible, declare a winner: Ben Carson, who saw a five-point jump in the polls -- a 71 percent increase over where he was two weeks ago.... Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) also saw a big jump, rising four points. Carly Fiorina gained three -- impressive because it more than doubled her support. She clearly won the early-bird debate." Both Carson & Cruz spoke at a higher grade-level (8th- & 9th-grade, respectively) than Trump (4th grade) & Kasich (5th). ...

"Aggregating the Wacko Bird Vote." Ed Kilgore: "... 53% of respondents in that Fox News national poll support Trump, Carson, Cruz or Huckabee, which is more than twice the percentage supporting Bush, Walker, Rubio, Kasich or Christie combined. Of the four candidates commanding the majority, I'd have to say that at this point Ted Cruz is the 'moderate.' He's not, after all, threatening to unleash the military on women seeking an abortion like Huck or dismissing international rules against torture as 'political correctness' like Carson or talking about dunning Mexico for building a wall across the southern border after deporting 11 million people like Trump." ...

... CW: Might have something to do with 40 years of touting the edict of Ronaldus Maximus:

Brad Mielke of ABC News: Donald Trump shows up for jury duty in Manhattan.

Loaves & Fishes. Melinda Henneberger of Bloomberg attended a Trump event in Hampton, New Hampshire yesterday: "... very little of what the conservatives in the hall were going wild over could be characterized as conservative, and most of it wasn't political at all.... Sure, there's not a little paternalism in his promises: 'The women haven't been taken care of properly,' he said at the Iowa State Fair. But could it be that Republicans like the prospect of a free lunch as well as the next guy?" CW: Of course. They just want to make sure everybody at the free-lunch table looks just like them. ...

... Maxwell Tani of Business Insider: "Donald Trump went back and forth with NBC host Chuck Todd on Sunday in one of his most combative interviews since announcing his presidential candidacy earlier this summer. In a 37-minute conversation on 'Meet The Press,' Todd pushed Trump on a wide range of issues with which the real-estate magnate would presumably be confronted if he won the presidency in 2016. It forced Trump to be on the defensive on everything from his college record, to outsourcing, to the US role in NATO":

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says that undocumented immigrants 'have to go,' and he has vowed to undo President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The comments underscore how Trump, who has regularly stoked controversy with comments on illegal immigration and border security, is running a very conservative campaign centered on the issues -- and one that puts him to the right of some of his key primary opponents. On Sunday, Trump released a position paper on immigration and border security that called on Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern border of the United States and force the 'mandatory return of all criminal aliens' to their home countries. Trump made his comments during a wide-ranging interview with Chuck Todd airing Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press.'" ...

... Nick Gass: "Donald Trump's immigration plan: mass deportation.... Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an immigration hard-liner with whom Trump consulted on the issue, praised it as 'exactly the plan American needs.'... Meanwhile, Trump's fellow GOP candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed his immigration position in an appearance on CBS' 'Face the Nation' on Sunday. 'Our leading contender, Mr. Trump, is going backward on immigration,' Graham remarked. 'And I think he's going to take all of us with him if we don't watch it.'" ...

     ... CW: In supporting Trump's mass deportation plan, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III said that "a governing elite" has "shunned" "loyal, everyday Americans." Apparently the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee (the committee that incidentally voted against his nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986) does not qualify as a member of the "governing elite." ...

... When a Vanity Candidacy Gets Real. Greg Sargent: "... Donald Trump rolling out a new, and highly specific, immigration plan has been more than a little unsettling: It shows that Trump is now genuinely playing in the GOP primaries to win, and reveals in stark relief how exactly he intends to go about doing that.... One crucial component of his plan is the justification for it. He is absolutely clear in blaming the suffering of American workers on immigration policies."

I watch the shows. -- Donald Trump, explaining how he gets his foreign policy acumen, "the shows" being "Press the Meat," et al.

... I mean, I really see a lot of great – you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals.... Yeah, probably there are two or three. I mean, I like [former UN ambassador John Bolton]. I think he's, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he's talking about. -- Donald Trump, elaborating on his foreign policy views

Let's see. Would you rather have a president who gets his advice from Tuck & the Talking Generals or one who turns to Dubya & the Neocon Band? -- Constant Weader

Alexandra Jaffe of NBC News: "Donald Trump said it would be a 'miracle' if Hillary Clinton is able to continue her run for president in the wake of the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server ...." ...

General Petraeus, his life has been destroyed. And he did 5% of what she did. So assuming she's able to run -- which would be absolutely, to me, a miracle at this point -- I will beat her. -- Donald Trump

John Amato of Crooks & Liars: "Ben Carson joined Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.... His entire appearance was of the head banging, brain cell destroying variety.... Carson believes that if you disagree with his policy positions regarding Israel, you're anti-Semitic." Wallace asked Carson to defend his Jerusalem Post op-ed in which Carson claimed President Obama , during a "diatribe," repeatedly used "coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes." Here's how Carson's defended his claim to Wallace: "I think anything is anti-Semitic that is against the survival of a state that is surrounded by enemies and by people who want to destroy them. And to sort of ignore that and to act like everything is normal there and that these people are paranoid, I think that's anti-Semitic." ...

... Walking It Back. Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed: "Asked by BuzzFeed News whether his comments Sunday morning suggesting that by negotiating the Iran deal, President Obama is anti-Semitic, were really meant to to accuse Obama himself of being anti-Semitic, Carson said no, but, 'The things that were being said that are accusatory -- I have an article coming out tomorrow, you can read all about it.'" CW: What a refreshing approach to mudslinging: (1) sling mud, (2) pretend you didn't know it was mud, (3) put the mud back in the bucket. ...

     ... Anyway, it matters because "Carson was mobbed at the fair.... Carson is, suddenly, a main contender in Iowa, where according to recent polling he's second behind Donald Trump ... -- some people arrived two hours early in the blazing sun to get seats for Carson's speech -- indicated that the enthusiasm is very real, and that Carson is not the only beneficiary of this year's surge of anti-Washington sentiment."

Paul Mulshine of the New Jersey Star Ledger outlines the myriad reasons he thinks Chris Christie should return to his day job. ...

... In another Requiem for a Candidate, Dave Weigel of the Washington Post remembers the "libertarian moment": "One year ago, in a flag-planting cover story for the New York Times magazine, Robert Draper asked whether a 'libertarian moment' had come at last.... The memorable art for the story was a fuzzed-out image of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), patterned after a hardcore show flyer, with a date of 11/8/16. Election Day. The image made sense at the time; increasingly, it looks like a nostalgia piece. This August has tagged Rand Paul's presidential bid as officially 'embattled.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Florida Officials Discover Frivolous Lawsuits Are Expensive. Anna Phillips of the Tampa Bay Times: "After losing its yearslong defense of Florida's same-sex marriage ban, the state is arguing it shouldn't have to pay the full cost of its crusade. Last week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi objected to a motion concerning legal fees from lawyers who represented gay couples seeking to have their marriages recognized in Florida.... Bondi's response came three days after Gov. Rick Scott agreed to pay a Tallahassee lawyer $700,000 in settlement costs for a public records lawsuit."

Katleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press: "While much has been written about the extramarital affair and alleged bizarre cover-up of the relationship between state Reps. Todd Courser [RTP] and Cindy Gamrat [RTP], their work life in Lansing and in their districts also is coming under increased scrutiny.... Even before news of the affair and alleged cover-up surfaced, constituents in their districts ... were unhappy with how the two were performing their jobs back home.... On Saturday, Courser released a 1,900-word, scripture-laden confessional on his Facebook page.... The Republican parties of both Lapeer and Allegan counties are meeting Thursday to take up resolutions calling on the two lawmakers to resign."

CW: With all due respect to native Americans, I'm think that baby-jumping is not the safest rite of passage. Via Driftglass, who expects to see GOP hopefuls adopt the practice in the next debate -- in an effort to clinch the AmerIndian vote, no doubt:

News Ledes

NBC News: "Attorneys for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appealed his conviction and death sentence on Monday, arguing that publicity made it impossible for him to get a fair trial in the city and that capital punishment is unconstitutional."

Bloomberg: "Northwestern University football players cannot form a union, the National Labor Relations Board ruled, overturning a March 2014 decision and ending the players' bid to change the college sports landscape. In its unanimous decision, the labor board skirted the issue of whether the players are employees and left open the door to other college athletes winning the right to unionize."

New York Times: An Indonesian spotter plane on Monday photographed the wreckage of a commercial aircraft that crashed in stormy weather in a remote area of the eastern province of Papua the previous day, probably killing all 54 people aboard, an official said, but search operations were halted because of darkness."

AP: "A bomb exploded at a popular shrine near a key political protest site in central Bangkok on Monday evening, the government said, reportedly killing more than a dozen people and injuring many others."

AP: "A U.S. Army skydiver who had served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan died Sunday from injuries suffered in a midair collision with another jumper during a stunt at the Chicago Air & Water Show, authorities said. Sgt. 1st Class Corey Hood of Cincinnati, Ohio, who had recently turned 32, was pronounced dead Sunday afternoon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said Mario Johnson, a Cook County medical examiner's investigator."

Saturday
Aug152015

The Commentariat -- August 16, 2015

AP: "Julian Bond, a civil rights activist and longtime board chairman of the NAACP, died Saturday night, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was 75. Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Florida after a brief illness, the SPLC said in a statement released Sunday morning." (Link updated.) ...

     ... Update. Mr. Bond's New York Times obituary is here.

Julia Angwin, et al., in the New York Times: "The National Security Agency's ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents [from the Ed Snowden cache] show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as 'highly collaborative,' while another lauded the company's 'extreme willingness to help.'... AT&T's 'corporate relationships provide unique accesses to other telecoms and I.S.P.s,' or Internet service providers, one 2013 N.S.A. document states."

Jodi Kantor & David Streitfeld of the New York Times: Amazon ... "is conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable. The company, founded and still run by Jeff Bezos..., has ... designed what many workers call an intricate machine propelling them to achieve Mr. Bezos' ever-expanding ambitions.... At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another's ideas in meetings, toil long and late..., and held to standards that the company boasts are 'unreasonably high.' The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another's bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others." ...

... CW: How refreshing to know that Bezos is as cruel to white collar personnel as he is to factory workers.

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "On Saturday, Sen. Jeff Flake [Az.], possibly the only Republican in Congress open to supporting the agreement, said he won"t."

Vicki Needham of the Hill: "Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-Ohio) said Friday that he will block a trade nominee's Senate floor vote until the Obama administration makes the text of a sweeping transpacific agreement available to eligible staffers. Brown said he put a hold on the Marisa Lago, whose nomination for deputy U.S. trade representative cleared the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month but awaits a final confirmation vote from the full Senate."

Lawrence Hurley of Reuters: "A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by an Arizona sheriff who argued that President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration were unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a district court judge's finding that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio did not have grounds to sue."

** Esther Allen in the New York Review of Books: "... the United States is already part of Cuba, embargo or no embargo, and has been for a long, long time."

** Margo Kaplan, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Fertility clinics destroy embryos all the time.... The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients reveals an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women's bodies. Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people.... Abortion restrictions use unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for 'irresponsible sex' and remind women of the consequences of being unchaste.... IVF patients make less-attractive targets because we don't challenge the expectation that women want to be mothers. Abortion, on the other hand, thwarts conservative ideals about a woman's proper role as a wife and mother.... Unlike IVF patients, who are primarily wealthy and white, women who have abortions are disproportionately poor and women of color, groups it has always been popular to condemn and regulate."

Kristina Wong of the Hill: "Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday gave a moving tribute to the four Marines and one sailor killed last month in the Chattanooga attack, drawing upon the experience of the loss of his own late son Beau, an Army major. 'I wish I were not here, for I have some sense of how hard it is for you to be here,' Biden said to their families at a memorial service in Chattanooga, Tenn., for the troops."

Ali Breland of Politico: Presidents Barack Obama & Bill Clinton "golfed with [Vernon] Jordan, the financier and lawyer, and Ambassador Ron Kirk at the Farm Neck Golf Club, according to pool reports, playing a leisurely foursome ahead of Saturday night's festivities, which will see the Obamas and the Clintons cross paths at Jordan's 80th birthday celebrations." ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: Presidents Obama & Clinton also had a chance meeting at the golf club on Friday.

Presidential Race

Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: Both Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders "appeared at the [Iowa State F]air.... But only Sanders ... held a formal event. Appearing on the Des Moines Register soapbox, he addressed a crowd of approximately a thousand.... In marked contrast, Clinton spent about an hour walking the fairgrounds, without making a speech.... Both Democratic contenders also had to contend with ... Donald Trump, complete with helicopter, [who] made a campaign appearance. The chopper buzzed over Clinton, who looked up as people shouted 'Trump!' Sanders had to contend with more noise [from Trump's helicopter] as he spoke." ...

... Video of Sanders' speech is here. ...

... Bernie's Challenge. John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... one of the most surprising things about Sanders's rise is how little impact it appears to be having on Clinton's base.... While the former Secretary of State's popularity among the electorate at large has fallen recently, the vast majority of Democrats still think positively of her, surveys suggest.... Sanders will struggle mightily once the first two primaries are out of the way and attention switches to places like South Carolina, Nevada, and the twelve states -- eight of them in the South -- that will vote on 'Super Tuesday,' March 1st.... In trying to move beyond his white liberal base, Sanders faces a huge challenge, but it would be folly to underestimate him." ...

Rachel Bade of Politico: "... Clinton put herself out at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, embracing the masses that engulfed her. The 2016 Democratic contender shook hands and took selfies with total strangers, listened to Iowans' personal stories of struggle and even met a young boy's show cow. She gave people hugs, patted babies on the head, munched on a grease-dripping pork chop and waved to cheering crowds on balconies as they called out her name. It's a world of difference from Clinton's last White House bid, when she was criticized here for seeming too-cool-for-school to mingle with what she now calls 'everyday Americans.'" ...

... Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton hit back at Jeb Bush on Saturday over his accusation that the Obama administration's handling of the withdrawal of 10,000 troops in Iraq had facilitated the rise of the Islamic State now sweeping violently through Syria and Iraq." ...

... John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton picked up an endorsement Friday from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the third union to weigh in on a Democratic primary fight in which labor finds itself divided. The decision by the union, which represents 600,000 members, came just days after National Nurses United, the country's largest nurses union, sided with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)...."

MEANWHILE, Edward-Isaac Dovere, et al., of Politico: "With his blessing, confidants to Vice President Joe Biden have begun strategizing about travel to early primary states and identified potential donors who could bankroll a campaign even as he remains undecided about whether to pull the trigger on a late-entry 2016 run for president. The moves are a sign that after months of speculation, Biden is taking a few significant if small steps toward a presidential campaign, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Biden's strategy, the sources say, would be to focus on South Carolina while almost writing off New Hampshire, where both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have considerable footholds."

David Sanger of the New York Times: "If the diverse group of candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination agree on one thing when describing how they would engage with the world if they made it to the White House, it is this: If only the United States were stronger, and more feared, the country would not feel threatened by the Islamic State, manipulated by Iran or challenged by a rising China.... But after that, finding any consensus on how they would exercise American power differently from President Obama, or a Democratic opponent in 2016, much less how they would define an alternative Republican foreign policy, gets a bit messy."

... Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Billionaire businessman Donald Trump offered kids helicopter rides in a show of wealth as he bragged Saturday that he is willing to spend $1 billion on his presidential campaign. 'I'm turning down so much money,' Trump said at a press conference kicking off his weekend trip to Iowa to visit the State Fair, with his black helicopter emblazoned with 'Trump' and children standing in the background." ...

... Maureen Dowd interviews Donald Trump. ...

... Trump shares his thoughts about his rivals -- Republican & Democratic -- with MoDo.

... Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: Donald "Trump's rise and persistence as a presidential candidate has been credited to name recognition, to voter anger and to a specific contempt for the Republican Party establishment. But he is also the candidate talking most directly about the loss of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries." This makes him attractive to working people, among them some Democrats.

Mahita Gajanon, et al., of the Guardian: "Jeb Bush has come under fire from human rights groups after declining to rule out the US resuming the use of torture if he became president. '[Bush is] wrong, and he's perpetuating a myth that torture works,' aid Sarah Dougherty, a senior fellow at Physicians for Human Rights. 'We have a very large, thoroughly exhaustive research report saying that torture did not work.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors on Friday said former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell should be sent to prison while he pursues a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that his public corruption convictions had 'withstood searching and exhaustive review' and that he no longer deserved bail.... Prosecutors [said] that McDonnell's most significant argument -- that he neither performed nor promised to perform any so-called official acts for [Jonnie] Williams -- had been rejected 19 times and that the Supreme Court was unlikely to agree to review his case."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States said Sunday that it would withdraw two Patriot missile-defense batteries from southern Turkey this fall, a sign that the Pentagon believes the risk of Syrian Army missile attacks has eased since the Patriots were deployed in 2013. Officials said the antimissile systems would be needed elsewhere to defend against threats from Iran and North Korea.... If needed in a crisis, the batteries and their 250 troops could be rushed back to Turkey 'within one week' to fulfill an American and NATO commitment to Turkey's air defenses."

New York Times: "The Obama administration has delivered a warning to Beijing about the presence of Chinese government agents operating secretly in the United States to pressure prominent expatriates -- some wanted in China on charges of corruption -- to return home immediately, according to American officials. The American officials said that Chinese law enforcement agents covertly in this country are part of Beijing's global campaign to hunt down and repatriate Chinese fugitives and, in some cases, recover allegedly ill-gotten gains."

AP: "An Indonesian airliner carrying 54 people went missing Sunday after losing contact with ground control during a short flight in bad weather in the country's mountainous easternmost province of Papua...."

AP: "Authorities pulled more bodies from a massive blast site at China's Tianjin port, pushing the death toll to 112 on Sunday as teams rushed to clear dangerous chemicals and prosecutors prepared an investigation into those responsible for the disaster. More than 700 people were injured and 95 people, including dozens of firefighters, are missing after a fire and rapid succession of blasts late Wednesday hit a warehouse for hazardous chemicals in a mostly industrial area of Tianjin, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Beijing."

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