The Ledes

Tuesday, September 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States and five Arab allies launched a wide-ranging air campaign against the Islamic State and at least one other extremist group in Syria for the first time early Tuesday, targeting the groups’ bases, training camps and checkpoints in at least four provinces, according to the United States military and Syrian activists. The intensity of the attacks struck a fierce opening blow against the jihadists of the Islamic State, scattering its forces and damaging the network of facilities it has built in Syria that helped fuel its seizure of a large part of Iraq this year." ...

... AP: "Syria said Tuesday that Washington informed President Bashar Assad's government of imminent U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group, hours before an American-led military coalition pounded the extremists' strongholds across northern and eastern Syria."

New York Times: "The Israeli military said Tuesday morning that it had shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had “infiltrated into Israeli airspace,” the first such incident in at least a quarter of a century."

New York Times: "Israeli forces early Tuesday killed the two men they suspected of abducting and murdering three Israeli teenagers from the occupied West Bank in June, according to a military spokesman, closing a crucial chapter in what became the bloodiest period of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades.Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military said Marwan Qawasmeh, 29, and Amer Abu Aisha, 33, 'came out shooting' around 6 a.m. as troops breached a two-story structure in Hebron where the suspects had been holed up for a week."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 23

12:50 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the U.N. climate summit in New York City

2:00 pm ET: President Obama speaks at a Clinton Global Iniative meeting

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

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CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Tuesday
Apr242012

Neither Snow nor Rain ...

... But Republicans will stay these couriers.

Matt Taibbi is right about this:

... Politics ... plays a huge part in [the financial woes of the U.S. Post Office]. In 2006, in what looks like an attempt to bust the Postal Workers' Union, George Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006....

The transparent purpose of this law, which was pushed heavily by industry lobbyists, was to break a public sector union and privatize the mail industry. Before the 2006 act, the postal service did one thing, did it well, and, minus the need to generate profits and bonuses for executives, did it cheaply. It paid for itself and was not a burden to taxpayers. Post offices also have a huge non-financial impact: In a lot of small towns, the post office is the town....

This is a classic example of private-sector lobbyists using the government to protect its profits and keep prices inflated. Sen. Sanders is pushing a bill that would delay the end of Saturday delivery for two years, and prevent a number of post-office closings, but the writing is on the wall, unless there's a public outcry.

On the other hand, postal workers can be their own worst enemies. I installed my mailbox about ten years ago after some workers ran into my old one. Before installing it, I went to the Post Office to find out the specifications on where to place it. (I would have phoned, but you can't phone the local offices here. Very convenient.) A postal worker told me the distance from the street & the height. The base had to be from 36" to 42" from the ground, he said. I installed it at 38", and over the years it sank about two inches, which is not surprising, considering it was sitting on a bed of Florida sand. That seemed fine with the P.O.D. for a decade.

Shortly after I had my latest eye surgery, I found a notice in my box from the letter carrier telling me I had to raise the box 10 inches. He chose to drop this missive on IRS Day. Perfect!

When I went to the local P.O.D. to ask if I could get a reprieve, the postmistress (what a quaint term!) told me that if I didn't raise the box within a few days, the carrier would stop delivering mail. I took off my shades & showed her my black eyes & said -- truthfully -- that my doctor told me not to do any heavy lifting for a month. She said then I should purchase a box at the P.O.D. or forget about getting mail.

I called my useless Congressman, Connie Mack (CoMa) (RTP-Fla.), to see if he had received other complaints about the P.O.D.'s new requirement. A nice young man told me this was news to him, but he'd take my information. The only info he wanted was my Zip code, not even my name, so obviously, CoMa had no intention of following up with the Post Office. That's constituent service, CoMa-style.

My husband told me there was no way I could lift the box as I had done too good a job cementing it in. Last Friday, the P.O.D. stopped delivering our mail. So I spent a good part of Saturday digging a huge hole around the post & got it loose. Luckily, a neighbor happened by when it came time to lift the box, and he helped me remove the post & reposition it at the new, U.S.P.S.-approved height.

This is obviously a minor matter, but it's a good example of why people hate the gummit. (Yes, I know the U.S.P.S. is not technically the government.) Every contact with a government agency is an encounter with a stone wall. I'm just thankful I didn't have a serious problem, as so many people do when they contact a government representative. If Democrats want to "sell" the government as a positive force in society, they would do well to encourage their employees and representatives to act a little less like autocrats and a little more like the human beings they probably are when they get off work.

Please feel free to share your own run-ins -- postive or negative -- with the government. Change your name if you must!

Reader Comments (1)

It seems as if the postmaster/postmistress sets the tone for the quality of customer awareness and customer service at his/her respective post office. I live in one medium-sized town and never use the post office there because of the rudeness and laziness of the staff. I work in another medium-sized town where the post office is widely known for its courtesy toward its patrons, as well as its willingness to help the old or the confused, as well as ones with other difficulties. I haven't the slightest idea how you can either complain about a postmaster/mistress or have one replaced. The job appears to be a lifetime sinecure. So, Marie, I guess you're stuck with the one you've got, unless, like me, you can go to the adjacent town to do business.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjhand
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