The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists’ expecations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs’ role in the Iraq war. The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for 'unjust enrichment' — or to be specific, $1,345,477.25. Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura’s favor."

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 29

10:10 am ET: White House Agricultural Champions of Change meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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Tuesday
Jul012014

The Commentariat -- July 2, 2014

It's not crazy, it's not socialism. It's not the imperial presidency -- no laws are broken. We're just building roads and bridges like we've been doing for the last, I don't know, 50, 100 years. But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea. I haven't heard a good reason why they haven't acted -- it's not like they've been busy with other stuff. No, seriously. I mean, they're not doing anything. Why don't they do this? -- President Obama, Tuesday, speaking near the (Francis Scott) Key Bridge on the Georgetown waterfront

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama called on congressional Republicans on Tuesday to take quick action to fund infrastructure projects throughout the country, arguing that failing to do so could mean huge layoffs for Americans this year.Stepping up criticism of his opponents on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama poked derisive fun at Republicans as he urged them to join Democrats to pass legislation that would replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to exhaust its resources by August":

Thomas Black and Caelainn Barr of Bloomberg News: "Employment may be headed for a 'breakout year' as companies feel more secure adding to payrolls following several years of demand rising only to stumble on threats from U.S. budget standoffs, a debt-ceiling induced default and a European credit crisis, said Marisa Di Natale, a director at Moody's Analytics. 'It's the first year in several where we haven't had some kind of manufactured fiscal showdown in Washington, which weighs on business confidence and consumer confidence,' Di Natale said." CW: In case you missed the point, here's an independent analyst effectively blaming Republicans for repeatedly tanking the economy. The example President Obama illuminates in his speech embedded above is just one small example of the GOP's wanton willingess to hurt millions of Americans in service of their own agenda & perceived self-interests.

Hillary Owes Boehner a Thank-You Note. Jonathan Chait: "The failure of the House to pass a bill of any kind represents a fascinating case study of a party unable to act on its recognized political self-interest."

** AP: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that its decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the handful of methods the justices considered in their ruling.... Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Inc. and a Pennsylvania furniture maker won their court challenges Monday in which they refused to pay for two emergency contraceptive pills and two intrauterine devices.... Tuesday's orders apply to companies owned by Catholics who oppose all contraception.... The justices also ordered lower courts that ruled in favor of the Obama administration to reconsider those decisions in light of Monday's 5-4 decision." ...

     ... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "That argument you keep hearing from the Right, about how Hobby Lobby still offers 16 kinds of birth control that they don't believe is abortion-y, so quit your bitchin' libs? Yeah, well, the Supreme Court punched a hole in that one." ...

... Abby Haglage of the Daily Beast: "There are at least 80 other companies fighting to be the next Hobby Lobby." CW Note: Haglage wrote this piece before the Five Dancing Supremes took their encore Tuesday, indicating that these companies don't have to sue. They can just move forward with their program to deny whatever type of contraceptive coverage the CorpPerson doesn't "believe in." ...

... Dawn Johnsen, in ScotusBlog, writes a terrific summary of the devastating effect this ruling with have on women. "The typical American woman wishing to have only two children spends thirty years, three-quarters of her reproductive life, seeking to avoid unintended pregnancy. Half of all pregnancies in the United States (more than three million a year) are unintended. More than half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy. Forty percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Three in ten American women will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Reducing unintended pregnancy through the contraceptive coverage guarantee undeniably will reduce the need for abortion." Read the whole post....

     ... CW: The ruling is not so much about abortion as it is about controlling the sex lives of working women. These "good Catholic" justices believe the purpose of sex is procreation, so if (poor) women are going to have sex, they should be having babies, too. It's what God intended. ...

     ... For some reason, the rules don't apply to justices themselves. The five justice have fathered zero, one, two, three & nine children, so I'd guess the wives of at least three of the five used contraceptive drugs or devices at some time in their childbearing years. Of course, they could afford whatever they chose.

... Steve Coll of the New Yorker compares American conservatives' efforts to restrict women's reproductive rights to the Taliban's ban on polio vaccines. "Perhaps the Supreme Court's majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants -- Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other -- as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday's ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women."

... Steve Stromberg of the Washington Post argues that Congress should repeal or revise the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a "law erected very high barriers to the government regulating anything that conflicts with anyone's religious beliefs," & which conservatives on the Supreme Court applied to the Hobby Lobby case. The Post's editors made the same point in Tuesday's paper. CW: Well, yeah. And that's going to happen. In an election year. When Republicans are celebrating the Hobby Lobby decision as a win for "religious freedom." I think even Democrats would vote against gutting a law titled the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," especially one that Congress passed almost unanimously & Bill Clinton signed. ...

... Paul Horwitz, in a New York Times op-ed, elaborates: "... it was easy to lose sight of the fact that [Hobby Lobby] was a statutory case, not a case decided under the First Amendment's protection of freedom of religion." ...

... The New York Times Editors urge the Supreme Court to grant ScotusBlog press credentials, something it has refused to do for spurious reasons. "Professional standards are necessary, but, by any measure, Scotusblog meets them. Its importance is demonstrated by its audience, which is not just top journalists and members of the public. According to the site's internal data, Scotusblog's single biggest user is the Supreme Court itself."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "An independent executive-branch board has concluded that a major National Security Agency surveillance program targeting foreigners overseas is lawful and effective but that certain elements push 'close to the line' of being unconstitutional. The 'unknown and potentially large' collection by the agency of e-mails and phone calls of Americans who communicate with foreign targets is one aspect that raises concerns, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said in a report released online Tuesday night." The Guardian's report, by Spencer Ackerman, is here. The report is here (pdf).

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: Ahmed Abu Khattala, "the militia leader who has been charged in connection with the 2012 killing of the United States ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, has provided American interrogators with 'voluntary statements' that corroborate 'key facts' about the attacks, the Justice Department said in a court document filed Tuesday night." CW: Gee, that happened when he wasn't in solitary confinement an exclusive suite at the Guantanamo Resort? Doesn't seem possible. ...

... Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the suspected ringleaders of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, voiced opposition to the presence of a U.S. facility there in the days before the assault and organized the attacks out of a sense of ideological fervor, according to government prosecutors.... Abu Khattala, who was indicted Saturday on a charge of conspiracy, will appear Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Washington for a detention hearing...." ...

... "The Government's Motion for Pretrial Detention" is here.

Maureen Dowd has a good column on Cheney & Co.

Martin Savidge of CNN: "Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive for five years by militants before his release a month ago, has ventured several times off an Army base in Texas as part of the effort to get him used to everyday life in America, a military spokeswoman said." Via Margaret Hartmann of New York. ...

... Kirk Johnson & Matt Furber of the New York Times profile Beau Bergdahl. OR, what happens when a kid reared on "a conservative theology of biblical inerrancy" is exposed to the world of ideas.

Beyond the Beltway

Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker skims the surface of the Texas Republican party platform. "... if you want a glimpse of what a nontrivial and apparently growing segment of one of America's two great political parties believes in its heart of hearts, and what it says when it is essentially talking to itself," read on.

Brett Barrouquere of the AP: "A federal judge in Kentucky struck down the state's ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, though the ruling was temporarily put on hold and it was not immediately clear when same-sex couples could be issued marriage licenses." ...

... Winger Allahpundit: "The judge is a Bush 41 appointee, nominated to the federal bench by, er, Mitch McConnell."

Right Wing World

In Right Wing World, even gag gifts are evidence that a psychotic Iranian Muslim (Shiite, I presume) Hitlery-y woman is secretly running the U.S.A. (& making white men bow down to her).

News Ledes

New York Times: "The abduction and killing of a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday further poisoned relations between Israelis and Palestinians and prompted international outrage as the police investigated the death as a possible Israeli revenge killing."

Reuters: "U.S. companies hired 281,000 workers in June, marking the biggest monthly increase since November 2012 and well above market expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday. Private job gains in May were 179,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast that the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 200,000 jobs last month."

Ann Coulter gets a break. Elitist frites-eating Belgians knock U.S. out of World Cup competition.

NIMBY. Los Angeles Times: "Amid rising concern over a surge of young immigrants crossing the border illegally, flag-waving protesters blocked three busloads of detainees in Riverside County on Tuesday, preventing them from reaching a Border Patrol processing station in Murrieta[, California].... The incident came one day after [Murietta Mayor Alan] Long urged residents to protest the federal government's decision to move the recent immigrants -- the first of what he said was to be a series of arrivals -- to the facility in his city."

Monday
Jun302014

The Commentariat -- July 1, 2014

A Rotten Day for Poor Working Women *

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "In an opinion filled with strongly implied invitations to file a new case to go even further, the Supreme Court, dividing five to four, ruled on Monday that public employees cannot routinely be required to join labor unions or to support them by paying dues. If state or local government workers who oppose unionism take the hint, this new decision may well spawn new lawsuits that could spell doom for organizing those workers for collective action."

Here's a statement by President Obama's press secretary criticizing the ruling.

Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View: "The unions averted, for now, a far greater disaster: the possibility that the court would reverse its precedent and hold that no public employees at all can be made to contribute to unions' collective-bargaining costs. That result could've broken many public unions. But the sword of Damocles still hangs over them." Feldman has a good, brief explanation of the case that informs Harris: Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. ...

Laurence Tribe in Slate: "... Alito and the conservative majority treated employees who were compelled to pay union fees as if they were being dragooned into involuntary association. This can hardly be described as a natural interpretation of the economic reality, much less the only plausible one.... Most broadly, Harris is the latest chapter in the troubling story of the Roberts court indulging attenuated constitutional arguments against economic regulation.... The Roberts court seems to be forgetting one of the principal lessons of constitutionalism since the New Deal: Economic policy should be made by legislatures, not courts." CW: Yeah, Larry, and what you are forgetting is that Johnnie & His Supremes find the New Deal abhorrent, & they fully intend to overturn it, bit by bit. ...

... Emily Bazelon of Slate: "... for people with disabilities who want to live on their own, and the workers who make that possible, it's a real blow." ...

... New York Times Editors: "... there was no mistaking the ominous antipathy toward collective bargaining and workers' rights behind Justice Samuel Alito Jr.'s majority opinion, which was joined by the four conservative members of the court."


Amy Howe of ScotusBlog explains the Hobby Lobby decision "in plain English.... Today's decision is an unqualified victory for Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and the families that own them. The companies can provide their female employees with health insurance, and that health insurance can include access to some forms of birth control, but they are not required to violate their religious beliefs by subsidizing forms of birth control that they believe would make them complicit in abortions."

Molly Redden in Mother Jones: "Health care experts say [the Obama] administration can cover woman affected by today's ruling similar to how it currently covers women working for nonprofit, religiously affiliated organizations.... Indeed, the five justices who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby made the accommodation a key piece of their decision." ...

     ... CW: That seems fair. We taxpayers pick up the tab for all of the for-profit companies that claim a religious exemption (70 have already challenged the ACA contraceptive mandate). ...

... BUT Lyle Denniston argues that Hobby Lobby didn't solve anything, as companies like Hobby Lobby are unlikely to file the necessary forms that would allow a (federally-subsidized) "middle man" or the federal government to provide contraceptive coverage. CW: Yay! More lawsuits in the service of injustice. ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Battles over health care and religious rights are sure to continue.... About 50 cases involving nonprofit organizations and a similar number involving for-profit companies are pending in federal courts around the country, and many of those plaintiffs intend to push forward with the argument that they should be able to opt out of providing or authorizing coverage that conflicts with their religious beliefs." ...

Wherein the part of Lucy is played by Sam Alito & the part of Charlie Brown by Barack Obama.... CW: Pear points out (as does Denniston) that non-profits have filed suit against accepting the Obama administration's "accommodation" to their religious beliefs. In the most prominent suit, that brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Sisters claim that the accommodation requires them to "... deputize a third party to sin on their behalf." Here is where both Alito & Kennedy are too cute by half. They write that the accommodation for nonprofits would work well for for-profit corporations, too, never acknowledging that the very method they recommend is the subject of several pending lawsuits. (Update: Garrett Epps of the Atlantic: "... at oral argument Hobby Lobby's lawyer had refused to stipulate that his clients would accept it.") In this regard, Alito actually taunts the administration: "'We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies' with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for all purposes," he writes. In other words, we're recommending a way to remedy our ruling today, but we'll find that way unconstitutional next year.

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The White House on Monday afternoon called on Congress to 'take action to solve [the] problem' created by the Supreme Court in its ruling that closely held corporations cannot be forced to comply with the contraception mandate under Obamacare. 'Today's decision jeopardizes the health of women that are employed by these companies,' White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. He added: 'We believe that a company should not be able to assert their views to deny employees federally mandated coverage.'"

I will work with my colleagues and the administration to protect this access, regardless of who signs your paycheck. Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will. -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Birth control costs about $600 a year. That financially impacts women; it prevents them from being able to join the middle class. Let's keep in mind, birth control has affected women economically positively since its creation, and this is going to turn the dial back. -- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Paige Cunningham & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision deepened partisan division in Congress over the government's role in health care with Republicans praising the ruling for protecting religious freedom and Democrats panning it for intruding into women's health care decisions -- and promising legislation to try to restore the coverage." ...

... Karie Glueck of Politico: "Hillary Clinton on Monday called the Supreme Court's ruling in the contraception-related Hobby Lobby case 'deeply disturbing.'" ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "This was a political decision and it is absolutely proper for Democrats to use it as a weapon in the midterm election campaign. Minutes after the court ruled that closely held corporations have religious rights that permit them to deny contraceptive benefits to employees, Democrats made clear that they would use the case to remind women of the personal consequences of this kind of conservative ideology.... The court based its decision not on a Constitutional principle but on an act of Congress, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Acts of Congress can be overturned or changed if the right lawmakers are in place, and Hobby Lobby is a good reminder to voters that important policies are often not in the hands of nine justices, but in their own." ...

... Jeff Toobin: "When it comes to the most fundamental issues before the court, the most important factor is not the legal arguments but the identity of the judges -- and the presidents who appointed them."

... our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. -- Justice Sam Alito, writing for the majority in the Hobby Lobby case. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Basically, [Alito is] making the case that abortion is unique as a religious issue. If you object to anything else on a religious basis, you're probably out of luck. But if you object to abortion on religious grounds, you will be given every possible consideration. Even if your objection is only related to abortion in the most tenuous imaginable way -- as it is here, where IUDs are considered to be abortifacients for highly idiosyncratic doctrinal reasons — it will be treated with the utmost deference. This is not a ruling that upholds religious liberty. It is a ruling that specifically enshrines opposition to abortion as the most important religious liberty in America."

** Ian MillHiser of Think Progress: "For many years, the Supreme Court struck a careful balance between protecting religious liberty and maintaining the rule of law in a pluralistic society.... With Monday's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, however, this careful balance has been upended.... The upshot of Alito's opinion is that, for the first time in American history, people with religious objections to the law will be able to ignore many laws with impunity unless the government's decision to enforce the law overcomes a very high legal bar that few laws survive." ...

... ** Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect: "While the burden of the contraceptive 'mandate' on employers is trivial, the burden the majority's exemption creates on employees is substantial. By holding that the former trumps the latter, the majority goes far beyond what Congress intended in RFRA." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The Supreme Court's deeply dismaying decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case swept aside accepted principles of corporate law and religious liberty to grant owners of closely held, for-profit companies an unprecedented right to impose their religious views on employees." ...

... Dana Milbank highlights the majority's twisted logic in attributing religious beliefs to what Justice Ginberg noted was, in the words of Chief Justice John Marshall (the 4th U.S. chief justice), "an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law." (CW: So much for originalism.) Milbank adds, "There was a certain risk in having Alito deliver the 5-to-4 opinion defending corporate personhood, because his mannerisms are strikingly robotic for a human. Assigned both of Monday's opinions, Alito delivered a 33-minute monologue — his only departure from the text before him was to raise his head mechanically at intervals and glance at a table to his right."

... Digby: "When [the Supremes] go to such lengths to soothe people that they aren't setting a hugely significant precedent that makes little sense, that's what they're doing."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "What other companies can ignore which other laws on what real or dreamed-up religious grounds? That is something the majority decision in Hobby Lobby leaves shockingly undefined. Ginsburg called it 'a decision of startling breadth,' one that could allow for-profit corporations to 'opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.' Alito, in his opinion, denies this; so does Anthony Kennedy, in a concurrence. But neither does so persuasively...."

Sandra Fluke in the Washington Post: "Some imagine closely held corporations as family-run small business. Actually, closely held corporations make up more than 90 percent of the businesses in this country. They employ 52 percent of the labor force, and the 224 largest closely held corporations had combined revenues of $1.6 trillion in 2013. Some of these companies include Dell, Toys 'R' Us, Heinz, Dole Foods, Petco, Stater Bros and yes, even Koch Industries."

Sally Kohn of the Daily Beast: "Reliance on junk science, backwards ideas about religious freedom -- it's all there in the conservative majority's awful Hobby Lobby ruling."

Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude. -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent

... Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast: "... as Justice Ginsberg ... writes, in holding that Hobby Lobby is entitled to its own factual universe, in which contraceptives cause abortion and providing insurance is the same as using it, the Court has opened the door to any number of wild religious claims." ...

... Papists! Charles Pierce: "Right up through the Court's decision today, in practice, the RFRA has been repurposed to establish a privileged position within the law to a certain set of religious beliefs -- those beliefs curiously coinciding with the political movement in which several of the Justices were formed. And, again, it's not like nobody saw this coming, either. In his Memorial And Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, [James] Madison warned against privileging one set of religious beliefs over the other."

Steve M. "The decision just reeks of ignorance, paternalism, contempt, and condescension. And I don't think either conservatives or political insiders quite get that. They can't imagine that this comes off as a double whammy of woman-shaming and cheapness, with bosses in a crappy economy denying female workers one more crumb and saying they're doing it because anyone who wants that crumb is morally contemptible."

Yeah, BUT. Kate Pickert of Time offers "4 reasons the ruling means less than you think." CW: Pickert apparently takes Alito at his word & pays no attention to Ginberg's dissent. Moreover, she seems completely ignorant of Roberts' predilection for dismantling protections for ordinary Americans piecemeal fashion. Otherwise, an insightful post! Update: See also Jeff Toobin post following links re: the Hobby Lobby decision.

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "The obvious solution to this dilemma is to take health insurance away from employers altogether.... But the people and groups who oppose government's providing insurance directly tend to be the same people who object to the contraception mandate. That's not a coincidence. While I don't doubt the religious objections to birth control are sincere, I do think they are masking another belief conservatives bring to this debate: As a general rule, conservatives don't think government should be compelling them to pay for other people's medical expenses."


No, people, #5OldBigots do not run ScotusBlog.

** Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "The Supreme Court concluded its term today with a pair of decisions widely described as 'narrow' -- that is, of limited application except to the parties in the lawsuits. Don't believe it. In fact, the Court's decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn conform to an established pattern for the Roberts Court. It's generally a two-step process: in confronting a politically charged issue, the court first decides a case in a 'narrow' way, but then uses that decision as a precedent to move in a more dramatic, conservative direction in a subsequent case." ...

... Garrett Epps of the Atlantic on "the Supreme Court's cold indifference to America's workers.... Both opinions are like time bombs; they will keep exploding for a number of terms to come. The majority, meanwhile, seems to be having fun."

* Of course not all home healthcare workers are women, but "more than 90 percent ... are women. About 30 percent are black, and 12 percent are Hispanic." Hobby Lobby pays better than companies that require similar work, & workers get Sundays off. Also, they begin every staff meeting with a Christian prayer. AND they play Christian music! Hallelujah! Sam Alito might like cute little puppies, but he has nothing but contempt for poor- & lower-middle-class working women.


Jennifer Epstein
of Politico: "President Barack Obama said Monday that the White House is preparing an executive order banning job discrimination among federal employees on the basis of gender identity. Obama mentioned the planned measure while addressing a White House reception marking LGBT Pride Month. The White House announced earlier this month that the president also intends to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity -- a measure for which LGBT rights groups have long clamored":


Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama announced his intention Monday to nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as he vowed to continue to push to reform the troubled agency":

Tom Cohen & Cassie Spodak of CNN: "It's their fault, President Barack Obama said Monday in blaming Republican inaction on immigration reform for escalating problems including a surge of undocumented children crossing the border from Mexico." CW: An excellent get-off-your-ass speech:

... New York Times Editors: "It says a lot about the state of immigration politics that Republicans instantly rejected Mr. Obama's demand for reform but that many may be only too happy to help him deport more children."

Snowden, Ctd. Ellen Nakashima & Barton Gellman of the Washington Post: "Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information 'concerning' all but four countries, according to top-secret documents. The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries -- Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well."

We Look Beyond the Beltway
For a Little Levity & Good News

Greg Hilburn of the Monroe, Louisiana News Star: "The Kissing Congressman, "Fifth District U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, will seek re-election, reversing course after previously saying he wouldn't be a candidate.McAllister made his official announcement during a news conference Monday.... More than 75 supporters greeted him with enthusiastic applause.... The freshman congressman had previously said he wouldn't seek re-election following a scandal in which a video was published showing the married McAllister kissing a former married staffer, but he soon recanted." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: "Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister has no shortage of problems in his surprise bid for reelection: Party leaders loathe him, aggressive challengers have already stepped up within the GOP and that nickname – 'The Kissing Congressman' -- that won't go away. And then there's the matter of McAllister's debt. The wealthy Louisiana lawmaker who won his seat in a special election last November now starts his comeback bid carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial liabilities on his campaign account. At the end of March -- before the revelation of McAllister's extramarital dalliance with a congressional staffer -- the Republican's campaign reported owing $207,275 to a variety of political consultancies and law firms. His campaign also owed $395,000 to McAllister, who took out a massive personal loan in the midst of his self-funded special election campaign." CW: This guy is so qualified to represent the people.

Sam Hall of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "The chairman of the Mississippi Federation of College Republicans [Evan Alvarez] has resigned his post and 'will be changing my party affiliation to Democrat in the next few days.'" CW: Hall's report makes pretty clear that Alvarez's decision was precipitated by friction with teabaggers in the organization, but Alvarez's statement announcing his resignation, which appears at the end of Hall's report, is well worth a read. He cites multiple examples of what is wrong with the GOP, every one of which most of us would agree with. Democrats aren't going to be turning Mississippi blue anytime soon, but Alvarez's statement shows that Democrats -- or at least "reasonable" Republicans -- have a chance with white Mississippians.

Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel: "A Sanford judge [Monday] put an end to George Zimmerman's libel suit against NBC Universal. Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer is entitled to no money from the media giant. She issued a summary judgment in the network's favor, meaning that unless an appeals court reverses her, the case is now dead." Via Joe Coscarelli of New York.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Paul Mazursky, an innovative director and screenwriter who both satirized and sympathized with America's panorama of social upheavals in the late 1960s and '70s in films that included 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,' 'Blume in Love' and 'An Unmarried Woman,' died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 84.

Guardian: "General Motors's safety crisis over deadly ignition switches has deepened with the recall of 8.23m cars linked by the carmaker to three deaths. The latest recalls, which now total 29m this year, boosted the number of deaths acknowledged by GM to at least 16 in cars with switch-related problems. The automaker said it now knows of 61 crashes tied to faulty ignition switches, although US lawmakers and safety regulators have said they expect the death toll to climb."

Washington Post: "Israeli aircraft pounded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday after vowing to extract a heavy price from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which it accuses of killing three kidnapped Israeli teenagers on the West Bank." ...

... Washington Post: "President Barack Obama is condemning what he calls a 'senseless act of terror against innocent youth' in the Mideast and offering U.S. help to find those who killed three teenagers. Obama is extending condolences to the families of the teens found by the Israeli military on Monday, two weeks after they were allegedly abducted by Hamas militants."

Washington Post: "President Obama has authorized another 200 U.S. troops to secure the American Embassy in Iraq as well as Baghdad's international airport, bringing the total U.S. deployments to Iraq this month to 775."

Reuters: "Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of 'parasites'. Within hours of Poroshenko's early morning announcement, the military went into action against rebel bases and checkpoints in the east which has been in separatist ferment since April."

AP: "Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been detained and was reportedly being questioned by financial investigators Tuesday in a corruption probe that is rattling France's conservative political establishment. A judicial official said Sarkozy was in custody in the Paris suburb of Nanterre." CW: So the French aren't so genteel, after all. We would never have the bad manners to take our criminal ex-presidents & veeps into custody for questioning. Unfortunately.

Sunday
Jun292014

The Commentariat -- June 30, 2014

ScotusBlog will liveblog the Supremes' announcements of decisions this morning. The liveblog will begin at 9:15 am, with the Court airing its rulings beginning at 10 am. The two cases to be announced are Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn. There was some discussion here yesterday about Harris; also, in today's Comments, P.D. Pepe links this New Republic piece on Harris by Taylor Malmsheimer. ...

     ... Update: Both decision by Alito. So there you go. Five-four vote on Harris with the liberals dissenting. The decision & dissent are here. Alito reads summary from the bench.

     ... Update 2: Hobby Lobby: 5-4 ruling. Closely-held corps can't be required to provide contraceptive coverage. "Kennedy's concurring opinion says that the government could pay for the coverage itself, so that women receive it." Three dissents: (1) Ginsburg joined by Sotomayor & partially by Breyer & Kagan, each of whom write separate dissenting opinions who filed together. "Alito reads summary from the bench. "It is extremely likely that the Obama administration will by regulation provide for the government to pay for the coverage. So it is unlikely that there will be a substantial gap in coverage." -- Tom Goldstien of ScotusBlog. "Kennedy's opinion emphasizes that in this particular case, a mechanism for accommodating employers is 'already in place' so that the majority opinion does not require the Govt to create 'a whole new program or burden on the Govt'." -- Kevin Russell of ScotusBlog. Ginsburg is reading from her dissent. The decision & dissents on Hobby Lobby are here. ...

... AP: "The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union's costs of collective bargaining. In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take." ...

... Some Corporations Are People, My Friend. Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "The federal government can't force owners of closely held for-profit companies to provide birth control coverage to female employees if they object to the administration's requirement on religious grounds, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The 5-4 ruling, in one of its most contentious cases of the year, recognizes for the first time the religious rights of corporations." The New York Times report, by Adam Liptak, is here.

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials." ...

... OR, as Mark Thompson of Time puts it, "Obama to Tap Soap Salesman to Clean Up VA."

James Risen of the New York Times: "Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor's operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: 'that he could kill' the government's chief investigator and 'no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,' according to department reports." ...

     ... CW: Another chilling example of how things worked under Bush-Cheney. Even after the Nisour Square shooting, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the Blackwater guards were swell. If you connect the dots, you wonder if they threatened his life, too. The "accidental" assassination of a person supposedly under their protection would be pretty easy to accomplish. And this is rich: Crocker told reporters after the mass murder, "I certainly do wish I'd had the foresight to see that there were things out there that could be corrected." Foresight? His embassy had just aborted a State Department investigation of Blackwater, an investigation in which the preliminary findings were devastating.

Hillary Stout of the New York Times: "A $1 million starting point for each death anchors the formula to pay families of those who died in accidents caused by a defective ignition switch in General Motors cars, under a plan unveiled Monday by a compensation expert hired by the automaker. The plan, announced by the expert, Kenneth R. Feinberg, is broad and inclusive, and seems certain to account for deaths beyond the 13 that G.M. has publicly linked to the defect."

Of Pitchforks & Plutocrats. Nick Hanauer, a self-described .01 percenter, in Politico Magazine: "... I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won't last. If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us."

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: We can't predict GDP growth because ... ObamaCare! CW: Now, finally something for which we can legitimately blame the ACA.

Paul Waldman, in the Washington Post: "The idea that Obama is a tyrant wiping his muddy boots on the Constitution as he goes about his project to destroy the United States used to be the province of spittle-flecked talk radio hosts, right-wing Web sites and those chain e-mails your father-in-law reads while he watches 'Hannity.' But it has now moved to the core of the GOP's case against the president":

This is imperial power. This is George III. -- Karl Rove, on President Obama's use of executive authority, speaking on "Fox 'News' Sunday" ...

Fox 'News,' the place where irony gets no purchase. Rove meant George III of England, of course, but I wonder if FoxBots thought he was referring to Pappy Bush I, Duyba II, and Barack III. And speaking of Georges, if you read Tim Devaney's whole report (linked above), you'll see how Rove & George Will are on exactly the same page: the one about Obama's overreach coming in his adjustments to ObamaCare implementation. Hard to know who put out the memo on this one; chronology doesn't help much since Will often seems to get his "ideas" from his contacts. -- Constant Weader

David of Crooks & Liars: On ABC's "This Week," Katrina Vanden Heuvel tells Bill Kristol he should join the Iraqi army:

... Driftglass: Nonetheless, Kristol will endure. No matter who fires him, there is another major media outlet to hire him.

Rachel Bade of Politico: In back-to-back appearances on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday Darrell Issa (RTP Calif.) & William Taylor, the attorney for former IRS official Lois Lerner, accused each other of being assholes. (Paraphrase.) "Appearing just before Taylor, Issa (R-Calif.) accused Taylor of lying about Lerner not printing out official emails.... 'This is election-year politics; it's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to,' Taylor said...."

Robinson Meyer of the Atlantic reports "Everything We Know About Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment."

Beyond the Beltway

What's the Matter with Kansas? Paul Krugman: Gov. Sam Brownback (RTP) & his wingnut legislature still follow the long- & oft-disproved theory of supply-side economics, brought to them by ALEC & discredited economist Arthur Laffer. "... faith in tax-cut magic isn't about evidence; it's about finding reasons to give powerful interests what they want." ...

... Josh Barro of the New York Times on Kansas's small-business tax exemption. Um, "If you cut taxes, you get less revenue." The exemption has not proved to be a job-creator; Barro gives one example of why not. It does, however, encourage some firms & individuals to change their filing status to make themselves tax-exempt.

New York Times Editors: "Time and again, [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie] has used dubious strategies to avoid raising taxes (sparing him from inevitable criticism by party conservatives).... Such tactics have not helped the state. New Jersey's bond rating took another hit when Mr. Christie, facing a big budget shortfall, rejected the usual remedies -- cutting costs, borrowing money or raising taxes -- and instead cut state contributions to the public employees' pension fund.

News Ledes

How do you say, "Sanctions, Schmanctions" in French? Reuters: "About four hundred Russian sailors arrived in western France on Monday for training on Mistral amphibious assault ships before the first of two is delivered to Moscow by the end of the year. The United States and some European partners have urged Paris to reconsider the 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) sale to Moscow following Russian action in Ukraine, including its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March."

Reuters: "The U.S. Justice Department is expected to announce on Monday a settlement with BNP Paribas involving a record fine of nearly $9 billion over alleged U.S. sanctions violations by France's biggest bank...."

AP: "A Marine who was declared a deserter nearly 10 years ago after disappearing in Iraq and then returning to the U.S. claiming he had been kidnapped, only to disappear again, is back in U.S. custody, officials said Sunday. Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in and was being flown Sunday from an undisclosed location in the Middle East to Norfolk, Va. He is to be moved Monday to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to a spokesman...."

Saturday
Jun282014

The Commentariat -- June 29, 2014

** Joe Stiglitz in the New York Times, on income inequality. This is the best short discourse I've read on how the Republican Tea Party has destroyed "who we are" -- or were -- "as a nation." Also, Tim Geithner is a putz. (Stiglitz never mentions Geithner by name nor does he specifically call out Ronald Reagan & his legacy of unscrupulous wingers & selfish, self-defeating dingbat voters.) Thanks to P.D. Pepe & MAG. ...

... CW: If you want to look for a good example of what Stiglitz is talking about, one that is expected to come with tomorrow's news, Ian Millhiser of Think Progress obliges: "On Monday, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down two cases, Hobby Lobby and a lesser-known case called Harris v. Quinn. Of the two, more is actually at stake in Harris than in Hobby Lobby." If the Harris decision goes against the union, it "could set off a death spiral endangering the unions themselves." ...

     ... There's something else implied in Millhiser's piece: that the right is again using its very effective tactic of filling the air with sound & fury over "values" issues in order to hide its scheme to ruin ordinary Americans in service of the few. There's a reason John Roberts chose to issue these two decisions at the same time and -- unless Anthony Kennedy has developed a sudden fondness for healthcare workers -- Roberts' choice does not bode well for most Americans.

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "President Obama will ask Congress to provide more than $2 billion in new funds to control the surge of illegal Central American migrants at the South Texas border, and to grant broader powers for immigration officials to speed deportations of children caught crossing without their parents, White House officials said on Saturday."

Sari Horwitz, et al., of the Washington Post: "Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected Libyan ringleader of the 2012 terrorist embassy attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, was brought Saturday from a Navy warship to the federal courthouse in the District, where he entered a plea of not guilty to a single conspiracy charge."

Annie Rose-Strasser of Think Progress: "The latest way that Facebook has been peeking into its users' personal lives may be the most surprising yet: Facebook researches have published a scientific paper that reveals the company has been conducting psychological experiments on its users to manipulate their emotions."

Nicole Winfield of TPM: "The Vatican conceded Thursday that most Catholics reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant and officials pledged not to 'close our eyes to anything' when it opens a two-year debate on some of the thorniest issues facing the church. Core church doctrine on the nature of marriage, sexuality, abortion and divorce isn't expected to change as a result of the debate that opens in October." Via Steve Benen.

Emma Margolin of NBC News: "Six months after losing his ordination credentials for presiding over the wedding of his gay son and for leaving open the possibility of performing future same-sex wedding ceremonies, a Pennsylvania pastor has been welcomed back into the United Methodist Church. On Tuesday, a nine-person appeals panel of church officials overturned an earlier decision to defrock Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., who in 2007 married his oldest son, Tim, to another man. The wedding took place in Massachusetts...." Via Benen.

The Gray Lady Don't Shit. Often. Ben Zimmer in Slate: According to Politico's Mike Allen, President Obama & his aides have repeatedly said in off-the-record conversations with reporters that the Obama Doctrine is "Don't do stupid shit." However, the New York Times has bowdlerized the sentence to "Don't do stupid stuff" on four separate occasions, even in articles where the "doctrine" is the point of the story; this despite the fact that the Times in the past has accurately quoted Presidents Nixon & Bush II and others when they used the word "shit." Thanks to Barbarossa for the link. ...

... In a March 2014 New York Times op-ed, which Zimmer links, lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower makes "the case for profanity." Obviously, Sheidlower lost the case. ...

... CW: I think it is fair to euphemize surprise utterances, as in the Wendy Davis example Zimmer cites, but when a public figure purposely uses profane &/or obscene language, there's no reason to, um, mince words. I suppose I wouldn't put "shit" in a headline of a mainstream news outlet. It does really aggravate me when publications print "used a profanity," so I have to go hunting the Internets to find out what the person actually said. ...

     ... "Fuck Yourself." Ten years ago, Helen Dewar & Dana Milbank of the Washington Post -- and their editors & headline writers -- handled this story just right, IMHO. Sheryl Gay Stolberg & the Times, however, completely blew it." Salty language??? Oh, shiver me timbers.

Senate Election

Philip Bump of the Washington Post on why "Chris McDaniel isn't going to win any challenge" to the results of the Mississippi GOP primary runoff.

News Lede

ISIS, We Hardly Knew Ya. Washington Post: "In an audio statement posted on the Internet, the spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria announced the restoration of the 7th-century Islamic caliphate, a long-declared goal of the al-Qaeda renegades who broke with the mainstream organization early this year and have since asserted control over large areas spanning the two countries. The move signifies 'a new era of international jihad,' said the spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who also declared an end to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as the group had called itself."