Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: On MSNBC, "The governor of Michigan said on Friday that race was not a factor in the state's response to reports of lead in the drinking water in Flint, a poor, majority-black city where the supply has been contaminated for more than a year, even as state officials insisted that it was safe to drink." CW: Well, okay then, that's settled.
Gregory Korte of USA Today: "President Obama promised more help for America's cities Thursday, telling a gathering of mayors at the White House that they're on the front lines of providing services to citizens. Obama promised $80 million in water infrastructure grants to Michigan, the day after returning from a trip to Detroit in which he lamented the water crisis in Flint":
... Lenny Bernstein & Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday ordered the city of Flint and the state of Michigan to treat, test and report on the beleaguered municipality's water supply, in an emergency directive issued because their responses to a lead crisis in the water there 'have been inadequate to protect public health.' EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy also accepted the resignation of Susan Hedman, the agency's top official for the region that includes Flint, where 100,000 people are unable to drink the water that comes into their homes because of elevated levels of lead. President Obama also sharply criticized Michigan officials for failing to respond more quickly to the crisis, saying that 'our children should not have to be worried about the water they're drinking in American cities.'" ...
... Charles Pierce: "We should never forget that the voters of Michigan overturned the expanded emergency-manager law in 2012, only to have a new Republican majority in the state legislature pass another bill slightly adjusting the parameters of the law that was defeated. Would you like a banana with your republic?"
Sara Wire of the Los Angeles Times: "First Lady Michelle Obama urged the nation's mayors Thursday to redouble efforts to ease homelessness among military veterans in a speech that both highlighted progress and underscored the magnitude of the problem. Obama, speaking at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, said it was 'an absolute outrage' that veterans were sleeping on the nation's streets. 'It is a horrifying stain on our nation, particularly when you think about all that these men and women have done for our country,' she said. The first lady lauded the city of Los Angeles for finding homes for more than 5,500 of the 7,000 veterans estimated to be on the streets as of January 2015, and for developing mental health and job placement services to keep them housed."
Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "In a significant victory for President Obama, a federal appeals panel [of the D.C. District] on Thursday rejected an effort by 27 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups to block the administration's signature regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while a lawsuit moves through the courts.... By rejecting the petition on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the court required states to move forward with plans to shut down polluting coal plants and build new wind and solar sources.... The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set June 2 to hear arguments in that case, although it is widely expected to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, most likely in 2017."
Andrew Roth of the Washington Post: "In their first interview since [Washington Post reporter Jason] Rezaian left Iran, his wife [Yeganeh Salehi] and his mother, Mary, described the tortuous end to a saga that began with the journalist's arrest on July 22, 2014, and eventually involved top-level negotiations between Tehran and Washington that produced a deal to free him and three other jailed Iranian Americans."
Robert Bateman of Esquire: What did British Judge Robert Owen mean when he concluded, "Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill [Alexander] Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin"? Bateman translation: "In Britain, 'probably' is nearly the opposite of 'inconclusive.' This statement says the equivalent of, 'You definitely did this, you pissant Putin, but I am too refined to say "definitely" because I want to leave wiggle-room for my country.'"
... ** Paul Krugman: "Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama. (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.)" Read the whole column. It's a reality chek that should be required reading for every liberal who says, "I'll never vote for Hillary Clinton." And it is another reminder of how multi-talented our current president is.
Frank Rich weighs in on Sanders v. Clinton, Palin + Trump, & the all-white Oscars & Chris Rock.
Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "The Republican National Committee has ended a debate partnership with National Review after the venerable conservative magazine devoted its new issue to a 'symposium' of reasons why voters should reject Donald Trump's presidential campaign.... RNC spokesman Sean Spicer Fowler ... added in a comment to Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray that 'a debate moderator can't have a predisposition.' That leaves CNN, Salem Radio, and Telemundo as the co-sponsors of the planned February 25 forum in Houston." CW: Also, too this is the Republican party's official act of contrition & capitulation to its New Leader. ...
... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: The RNC's "Houston debate is now an embarrassment of indecision and thought control. Recall that the RNC earlier this month announced that the original broadcast partner, NBC, had been bounced from the event because of the behavior of moderators from CNBC in a widely panned October debate.... RNC's decision surfaces a deep-set ignorance about the role of National Review."
It's like being shot or poisoned. What does it really matter? -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, on the choice between Trump & Cruz ...
... Ted, Worse Than Trump. Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Republican establishment -- once seen as the force that would destroy Donald Trump's outsider candidacy -- is now learning to live with it, with some elected and unelected leaders saying they see an upside to Trump as the nominee. In the past few days, Trump has received unlikely public praise from GOP luminaries who said they would prefer him to his main rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.... But other Republicans still believe it is impossible to choose between the two, because they believe that either would be a disaster as the nominee -- and that others can eventually rise." ...
... Manu Raju, now of CNN, quotes a number of Republican senators badmouthing Ted. It seems they don't enjoy his fingering them as sleazy operatives in a "corrupt cartel." ...
... Erica Werner of the AP: "Cruz has become such a pariah that one of his colleagues, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, told supporters at a campaign fundraiser for his own re-election that he would vote for liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders for president before Cruz, according to one person who attended the event. Burr did not appear to be joking, said the person, who demanded anonymity to discuss the private gathering. ...
... Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer: "U.S. Sen. Richard Burr on Thursday strongly denied a news report that said he had told people he would vote for Democrat Bernie Sanders over Republican Ted Cruz. Burr's aides asked The Associated Press for a retraction. An AP spokesman said the news agency was sticking by its story." ...
... So why have the GOP party elite picked Trump over Cruz? Digby says it's because they "see [Trump] as a sort of simple clown they'll be able to dominate once he's in office and is dependent upon their superior knowledge and experience. What planet are they on? Do they really look at Trump and see someone who plays well with others? Someone who isn't a stone cold narcissist and megalomaniac who is clueless about everything important to the job he is seeking? Do they think this is all an act?... They hate Ted Cruz for being rude and self-serving more than they are concerned that Trump is promising to turn this country into an authoritarian police state.... Trump has expressed admiration for only two leaders during this campaign: Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un. It's highly unlikely if Trump becomes the most powerful man in the world he'll be humbly asking the House GOP Weenie Caucus to hold his hand and tell him what to do."
... Nick Gass of Politico: "Ted Cruz revealed on Thursday that he is not currently covered by any health insurance.... 'I'll tell you, you know who one of those millions of Americans is who's lost their health care because of Obamacare? That would be me,' Cruz told a Manchester, New Hampshire, audience. 'I don't have health care right now.... So our health care got canceled, we got a notice in the mail, Blue Cross Blue Shield was leaving the market.... I hope by the end of the month we'll have a policy for our family. But our premiums -- we just got a quote, our premiums are going up 50 percent.'... Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas did stop selling some of its individual policies for 2016 but not all of them.... Blue Cross HMO plans ... are still available in Texas on HealthCare.gov, and other insurance companies in the state offer a variety of network types. Also, while premiums did rise across the country this year, they did not spike 50 percent." ...
... CW: Also, too, when an insurance company notifies a customer it will not renew his coverage, it doesn't just cut him off that day. Under the ACA (& most state laws), the insurer must give the policyholder at least 30 days' notice of cancellation. "If your plan is cancelled, you have several options, including a Special Enrollment Period." So what Ted is saying is that he & the wife were too busy promoting Ted to make sure the family had health insurance. Which Is Obama's Fault.
** Nate Silver: "I'm now much less skeptical of Trump's chances of becoming the nominee." His reasons why are interesting (and readable), especially the part about the community dump on Cruz. ...
Teresa Tritch of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump has been making wild-eyed claims about unemployment since at least last June, when Politifact rated his pronouncements as 'False.' But he keeps it up because, obviously, his goal is not to inform. It's to inflame. The facts would not stoke the raw emotions that power Mr. Trump's candidacy, so he uses lies. What he loses in credibility among detractors he gains in popularity among supporters." ...
Okay, one more: "Speaking in Tongues":
Manuel Roig-Franzia & Scott Higman of the Washington Post: When he was 18, Marco Rubio "was arrested ... for being in a crime-plagued public park after closing time, according to police records and an interview with a friend who was cited with Rubio that night. The previously unreported misdemeanor ... eventually was dismissed.... Rubio, who has no history of criminal convictions, has never discussed his arrest publicly, and he did not mention it in his 2012 memoir, 'An American Son.'... 'When he was 18 years old, he violated a municipal code for drinking beer in a park after hours,' [campaign stragegist Todd] Harris said. 'He was never taken into custody, never hired a lawyer and never appeared in court. Why The Washington Post thinks that is a story is beyond me.'" ...
... CW: Harris is mostly right. This is akin to the hundreds of stories and thousands of posts & comments about young Barack Obama's smoking pot. Very few people think this kind of thing is a disqualifier for high (no pun intended) office. There's no particular reason for the MSM not to write it up, though. BTW, I think teenagers' arrest & misdemeanor records should be automatically expunged after a number of years.
Hey, Remember Her? She's Still at It. Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian: "Carly Fiorina has been accused of 'ambushing' a group of children, after she ushered pre-schoolers, who were on a field trip to a botanical garden, into an anti-abortion rally ... at the Greater Des Moines botanical garden. Entering the rally, before a crowd of about 60 people, she directed around 15 young children towards a makeshift stage.... The children's parents had not given Fiorina permission to have their children sit with her -- in front of a huge banner bearing the image of an unborn foetus -- while she talked about harvesting organs from aborted babies.... During the rally an anti-abortion activist, carrying a scale model of four-month-old foetus, joined Fiorina at the front of the room." CW: If those kids had been, say, embryos, Carly would have protected them. But, hey, they're little kids, living kids, so why not push them around & maybe scare the crap out of them?
Reid Wilson of the Morning Consult: "Former State Department official Liz Cheney is likely to launch her bid for Congress within days, several Republicans in Washington and Wyoming tell us, and unlike her short-lived Senate bid two years ago, this time she'll almost certainly begin as the favorite. Cheney will run for an open seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis, the only woman in the House Freedom Caucus. It's also the seat once held by Cheney's father, former Vice President (and House Minority Whip) Dick Cheney." ...
... Via Paul Waldman, who says, "And Liz Cheney, who practically makes her dad Dick look like Daniel Berrigan (ask your parents), is probably going to run for Congress from Wyoming, a state she has visited numerous times."
Beyond the Beltway
Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A white police officer was indicted [in Decatur, Georgia] Thursday on six counts, including felony murder, in the fatal shooting last year of an unarmed black man who was naked and described as acting in an erratic manner. The indictment of Officer Robert Olsen of the DeKalb County Police Department came about two weeks after the district attorney said he would ask a grand jury to pursue criminal charges in the death of Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran."
Sean Murphy of the AP: "A former police officer convicted of raping and sexually victimizing women while on his beat in a low-income Oklahoma City neighborhood was ordered Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison. Jurors had recommended that Daniel Holtzclaw be sentenced to 263 years in prison for preying on women in 2013 and 2014. District Judge Timothy Henderson agreed, said Holtzclaw will serve the terms consecutively and denied his request for an appeal bond.... Defense attorney Scott Adams said Holtzclaw will appeal."
Mike McPhate of the New York Times: "An associate professor at Kent State University in Ohio is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over possible involvement with the Islamic State. The inquiry came to light as federal agents arrived at the campus this week to interview students and professors about Julio Pino, an educator in the history department known for making incendiary remarks on Israel.... In 2011, he shouted 'death to Israel' during a lecture at the university by a former Israeli diplomat." Pino is tenured & will continue to teach. CW: So hate speech is protected at Kent State.
The Washington Post is liveblogging developments related to the winter storm that has hit the Mid-Atlantic region. The Post's stories about the storm are free to nonsubscribers.
(U.K) Independent: "At least 45 refugees travelling from Turkey have drowned after two overcrowded boats sunk off the coast of Greece. The bodies of 34 people, including 11 children, were found near the small Greek island of Kalolimnos where a wooden sailing boat went down. Another eight bodies, including six children and two women, have been recovered after another boat carrying 49 people sank near the island of Farmakonisi, reports BBC."
Guardian: "The number of dead in a school shooting in northern Canada was revised down to four from five, the Canadian police said late Friday, but gave no new details on either the victims or the one male in custody."
Washington Post: "A University of Virginia student honored as an 'intellectual risk-taker' has been arrested in North Korea, its state-run media said Friday, accusing the American of an unspecified 'hostile act' against the state."
Washington Post: "With an epic blizzard virtually certain to pummel the Washington area this weekend, Metro threw up a white flag Thursday, announcing that it will shut down the nation's second-busiest subway and all bus service Saturday and Sunday in a move that apparently is unprecedented in the transit system's 40-year history."
New York Times: "At least 14 civilians were killed and dozens were wounded after Islamist militants struck a popular beachside restaurant Thursday night in Somalia's capital that had become a symbol of the city's struggling renaissance...."