In anticipation of President Obama's meeting with Pope Francis this Thursday, Jason Horowitz of the New York Times examines Obama's many interactions with the Roman Catholic Church.
David Sanger & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "American officials have long considered Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a security threat, blocking it from business deals in the United States for fear that the company would create 'back doors' in its equipment that could allow the Chinese military or Beijing-backed hackers to steal corporate and government secrets. But even as the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, classified documents [provided by Edward Snowden] show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors -- directly into Huawei's networks."
New York Times Editors: "Hobby Lobby ... and Conestoga Wood Specialties ... are not religious organizations, nor are they affiliated with religious organizations. But the owners say they are victims of an assault on religious liberty because they personally disapprove of certain contraceptives. They are wrong, and the Supreme Court's task is to issue a decisive ruling saying so. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the owners trying to impose their religious beliefs on thousands of employees."
David Morgan of Reuters: "The Obama administration will soon issue new Obamacare guidelines allowing people to enroll in health coverage after a March 31 deadline, but only under certain circumstances, according to sources close to the administration. The sources said the new federal guidelines for consumers in the 36 states served by the federal health insurance marketplace and its website, HealthCare.gov, would allow people to enroll after March 31 if they had tried earlier and were prevented by system problems including technical glitches." ...
... Lisa Zamosky of the Los Angeles Times has tips for last-minute ObamaCare shopping. ...
... ** Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "In the poorest state in the nation, where supper is fried, bars allow smoking, chronic disease is rampant and doctors are hard to come by, Obamacare rolls into town in a lime green bus. It took some real convincing by the Obama administration and a leap of faith by one state Republican official to get one of the nation's largest insurance companies -- Humana -- to set up shop across Mississippi. Virtually no other insurer was willing to do so, discouraged by the acute health needs here and most elected officials' outright hostility to the law. Four months and more than 200 bus stops later, enrollment numbers here remain dismal. Only 9 percent of the state's Obamacare-eligible population have signed up...." ...
... CW: I was about to cite Haberkorn's report as evidence that Politico does have some serious reporters (and it does) when I read this disclaimer at the bottom of the report: "This story was produced with the support of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, a program of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism's California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships." So, if you pay Politico to publish important content, they'll do so.
Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker on President Obama's Supreme Court "farm team": a group of Obama-appointed judges from which he might choose to replace a current justice.
** Gregor Schmitz of Der Spiegel interviews mega-financier George Soros on the future of Europe. The interview, which appears in the New York Review of Books, is excerpted from their upcoming book. ...
Nicole Flatow of Think Progress: "A Buddhist student and his family won a settlement last week against a Louisiana school district where the student's religion was ridiculed in class as 'stupid,' the teacher taught that evolution is 'impossible,' and that the bible is '100 percent true.' The court-approved consent decree prohibits future religious discrimination in a school district that had portraits of Jesus Christ in the halls and a 'lighted, electronic marquee' outside one school that scrolls Bible verses." Via Steve Benen. The underlying report, by Heather Weaver of the ACLU is interesting/disturbing, too.
... George Packer of the New Yorker on Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Rod Nordland of the New York Times: "... about 13 years after the Bamian Buddhas were blasted into rubble [by the Taliban], the world faces a new quandary: whether to leave the gaping gashes in the cliff where the giant statues once stood, to rebuild the Buddhas from what pieces were left, or to make copies of them.... Opinion is passionately split. The major donor countries that would have to finance any restoration say the site should be left as it is, at least for now. The Afghan government wants at least one of the statues rebuilt."
Beyond the Beltway
Paul Egan & Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press: " The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after first signaling it would not intervene in Michigan's gay marriage case until Tuesday, posted a new order late Saturday imposing a stay in the case until Wednesday. That means U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's Friday order declaring unconstitutional Michigan's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is temporarily stayed, and clerks will no longer be able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples before Wednesday at the earliest."
AP: "Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox [D] is resigning from his leadership post and will not run for re-election, he said Saturday, a day after federal and state authorities raided his Statehouse office and home as part of a criminal investigation that they would not detail." ...
... Gregory Smith & Katherine Gregg have the Providence Journal story, with nothing further on the nature of the investigation. They do cite Steven O'Donnell, the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police who said, "'Fox knows what's going on.... He's certainly aware of what happened' Friday and why it happened."
Maureen Dowd interviews California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times: Glenn Champ, "one of four gubernatorial candidates introduced to California Republicans recently, is a registered sex offender who spent more than a decade in state prison, convicted of crimes including voluntary manslaughter and assault with intent to commit rape.... Champ's rap sheet is lengthy. Court records show that in 1992, he pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed firearm. In 1993, he was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to commit rape and as a result was placed on the state's sex-offender registry. In March 1998, he accepted a plea deal on a charge of loitering to solicit a prostitute; later that year, he pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge after hitting a man with his vehicle, for which he was sentenced to 12 years in state prison, according to court records."
Daniel Strauss of TPM (March 20): "North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC) has listed two different colleges as his alma mater. Tillis, who's running in the GOP primary to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), is a graduate of the University of Maryland but he actually went to the independent online school University of Maryland University College. Tillis' LinkedIn page listed the University of Maryland at College Park as where he got a Bachelor of Science Degree in Technology Management, Technology & Project Management. Similarly on Tillis's biography page on his House Speaker website, Tillis listed the University of Maryland as his alma matter and links to College Park's website. But according to officials contacted at both the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Maryland University College, Tillis graduated from the University of Maryland at University College."
John Frank of the Raleigh News & Observer: "A day after questions surfaced about his alma mater, U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis said where he went to college shouldn't matter and dismissed suggestions he misled voters."
CW: Yeah, and I went to Harvard. A/k/a the Harvard Online School of Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning. But I admit I flunked out.
Right Wing World
So, what, it took us what 100 years to find the Titanic? It took us 2,000 years to find Noah’s Ark. Do we ever find Flight 370? -- Fox "News" anchor Bill Hemmer, right there on the teevee during a "news" show
It's impossible to exaggerate how stupid Hemmer's remark is. Steve Benen explains. -- Constant Weader
Washington Post: "With a burst of automatic weapons fire and stun grenades, Russian forces in armored personnel carriers on Saturday broke through the walls of one of the last Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea, then quickly overpowered Ukrainian troops armed only with sticks. The fall of the Belbek air base, along with the loss of a second Ukrainian air base Saturday near the Crimean town of Novofedorivka, removed one of the last barriers to total Russian control of the Crimean Peninsula."
AP: "U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told Chinese professors, students and parents on Sunday that she wouldn't have risen to where she was if her parents hadn't pushed for her to get a good education. Mrs. Obama made her comments before hosting a discussion about education on the third day of a weeklong visit to the country aimed at promoting educational exchanges between the U.S. and China. She also walked a section of the Great Wall with her two daughters."
Guardian: "Images taken by Chinese and French satellites and separate sightings of scattered debris have become the focus of the search in the Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370."