The Ledes

Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

New York Times: "Artur Fischer, a German inventor who registered more than 1,100 patents, including the first synchronized camera flash and an anchor that millions of do-it-yourselfers use to secure screws into walls, died on Jan. 27 at his home in Waldachtal, in southwestern Germany. He was 96."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 9

1:00 pm ET: Senior administration officials discuss the President's FY2017 budget

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Sunday
Apr152012

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2012

My column in today's New York Times examiner is titled "Bill Keller Meets the Imaginary Swing Voter." As we're going to be hearing a lot about swing voters for the next six months, my column may give you a head start in figuring out who they are. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** "Battleground America." Jill Lepore in the New Yorker: "The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.)... Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey..., the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades." No, the conservatives on the Supreme Court really do not understand the Second Amendment, and here's a little-known factoid: Black nationalists started the modern movement promoting "the right to bear arms." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "What’s insidious about Stand Your Ground laws is that in every jurisdiction that has them, these statutes tilt the balance of power in any street encounter in favor of the person who has a gun. That’s what happened in the Martin case. The law provides a perverse incentive for everyone to be armed." On gun control, some of the nation's mayors, including Mike Bloomberg of New York City & Tom Menino of Boston have stood up to the gun lobby while "state legislatures, Congress and the White House by moderates, liberals and many conservatives who ought to know better but are too petrified by the NRA to confront it."

Mike McIntire & Michael Luo of the New York Times: "Although Mr. Obama has made a point of not accepting contributions from registered lobbyists, a review of campaign donations and White House visitor logs shows that special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard. Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits."

Paul Krugman: "... if European leaders really wanted to save the euro they would be looking for an alternative course.... The Continent needs more expansionary monetary policies, in the form of a willingness — an announced willingness — on the part of the European Central Bank to accept somewhat higher inflation; it needs more expansionary fiscal policies.... Even with such policies, the peripheral nations would face years of hard times.... What we’re actually seeing, however, is complete inflexibility." ...

U.S. Economic Problems Solved. Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC, in a Washington Post op-ed: "For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Big banks and hedge funds, among others, have taken this cheap money and invested it in securities with high yields. This type of profit-making, called the 'carry trade,' has been enormously profitable for them. So why not let everyone participate? Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest." Ka-zing. CW: so how is it that Republicans and the Very Serious People, who are so-o-o-o worried about inflation, aren't a bit worried about the Fed's "printing" billions in free money & passing it out on Wall Street?

Tony Karon of Time on another round of talks, scheduled in May, between Iran and Western powers.

Jason Zengerle of New York magazine: nine pages of what Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is retiring from the House this year, thinks about everything.

With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good. -- Michael Fortney, campaign manager for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.). CW: when the Americans are suffering economic hardship, Republicans are so happy they say so. Via Greg Sargent.

The Presidential Race

The Horse Race. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post: "President Obama retains major advantages over ... Mitt Romney ... when it comes to winning the 270 votes he needs for a second term. Not only does Obama have more paths to 270 than Romney, but he has considerable leeway — judging from his 2008 performance — in many of the purest swing states." Cillizza identifies only nine true swing states, & Obama won all of them in 2008.

Game Over. Congress Busts the Etch-a-Sketch. Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Congressional Republicans put Mitt Romney on notice that they are driving the agenda, are not members of his cheerileading squad, & he had better toe their ultra-conservative line.

It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it. -- Ann Romney, on how deeply upset she was by Hilary Rosen's comments. Mr. Romney was apparently pleased with the Rosen's remarks, too.

Evidently Sunday was Chris Wallace day. Here the host of Fox "News"' Sunday show tears into Mitt Romney's claim that 92.3 percent of the people who lost jobs under Obama's watch were women "It is not true," Wallace told Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie; "all of the factcheckers have said it's misleading":

     ... And here is Wallace, according to the Washington Post's somewhat dimwitted conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, "TKO-ing & "shredding" Obama political operative David Axelrod. Um, actually, Axelrod skewered himself AND Obama:

Bretty Smiley of New York Magazine: At a Palm Beach fundraiser, Mitt Romney reveals his bright ideas for eliminating tax loopholes to make up for his proposed cuts in the income tax rates. No more deductions on your second-home mortgages, kids. ...

... Counting Chickens with an Egg Detector. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney is already offering top donors access to a special 'Presidential Inaugural retreat,' planned on the assumption that he will be elected president this November."

Local News

John Frank of the Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observier: "The executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party resigned Sunday as calls for his ouster mounted amid questions regarding a secret agreement to pay a former staffer to keep quiet about sexual harassment allegations. Jay Parmley, who served a year at the helm of the party, denied harassing any employee and blamed right-wing blogs for 'spreading a false and misleading story' about the incident." CW: nice place to hold the party's national convention.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Senate rejected consideration Monday of the 'Buffett rule,' a key election-year Democratic initiative that would impose a minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million per year... Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster..., with the Senate voting 51 to 45 to move ahead. The vote was largely along party lines, although Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voted with Democrats to allow the measure to proceed and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted to block it."

Orlando Sentinel: "George Zimmerman's attorney on Monday asked the judge in the case to step down because of a possible conflict of interest. Attorney Mark O'Mara filed a motion seeking Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler's removal because her husband is the law partner of Mark NeJame, who works for CNN as an analyst on the Zimmerman case."

New York Times: "The New York Times won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, one for its reporting on Africa and another for an investigative series on obscure tax code provisions that allow wealthy corporations and citizens to avoid paying taxes. But the bigger surprise this year came from new media. Two online news outlets, The Huffington Post and Politico, both won their first Pulitzer Prizes, a sign of the changing media landscape." Includes lists of prize winners.

New York Times: "The World Bank on Monday named as its next president Jim Yong Kim, a global health expert and the president of Dartmouth College, in a widely expected appointment that continues the longstanding tradition of an American leading the Washington-based development institution."

AP: "An advance team of U.N. observers was negotiating the ground rules with Syrian authorities Monday for monitoring the country's 5-day-old cease-fire, which appeared to be rapidly unraveling as regime forces pounded the opposition stronghold of Homs with artillery shells and mortars, activists said."

AP: "A brazen, 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital ended early Monday when insurgents who had holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters."

Guardian: "Egypt's presidential election is suddenly a contest of moderates after a decision by the country's supreme election commission to bar 10 candidates from the race, including a controversial Mubarak-era spy chief and a popular Islamic fundamentalist."

AP: "A right-wing fanatic admitted Monday to unleashing a bomb-and-shooting massacre that killed 77 people in Norway but pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, saying he was acting in self-defense."

National Journal: "The Obama campaign and other Democratic organizations raised a combined $53 million in March, according to a campaign video released on Monday."

Space: "NASA mounted space shuttle Discovery on a jumbo jet Sunday (April 15), in preparation for the retired orbiter's delivery to the Smithsonian. The paired air- and spacecraft are expected to depart Florida for Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning (April 17), weather permitting.

Reader Comments (3)

Now that George Zimmerman, who stalked and shot to death a young boy for being black and in, what in Zimmerman's opinion, was the wrong place, has been arrested, we can expect the droolers to be out in force defending the Shoot First and Flash Your NRA Membership Badge Law--oh, oh, sorry, I think that's supposed to be the Stand Your Ground law.

As E.J. Dionne suggests, SYG laws tip the scales (of law AND life) in favor of whoever has the biggest piece. I would extend that even further. Not only does it favor whoever is armed and dangerous (by definition, if you are armed, you are ostensibly ready, willing, and able to take a life; sounds pretty dangerous to me) in any incident, it also strongly encourages that person to shoot first. Do unto them before they do unto you.

Besides, if you kill the other guy, you can claim self defense. In many instances it will be your word against the dead guy. In this case there is a tape of Zimmerman confronting Martin with someone screaming. It's hard to believe that the one with the gun was screaming like that for his life. But in the absence of this tape, Zimmerman's story of being attacked by Martin and being forced to shoot him to death would very likely stand.

So the lesson here is carry heat and shoot first. If this were a logic quiz in game theory, it would be clear that in order to win the game (that is, survive the encounter) the best way to do that is to be well armed (preferably with as many weapons as you can carry since the other player may be equally well armed) and to shoot first since the SYG law allows you to simply claim self defense to escape punishment for what, in many instances, would be considered murder. Logic never lies.

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus. What surprised me about the Lepore report was that the number of gun-owners has declined, tho the number of guns in circulation has increased because if you own one gun, you'll buy another. And another. Evidently what we're becoming with these SYG laws, liberalized carry laws & Second Amendment "rights" is a nation of shooters and targets.

April 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

"I believe very strongly that people on the left are too prone to do things that are emotionally satisfying and not politically useful. I have a rule, and it’s true of Occupy, it’s true of the gay-rights movement: If you care deeply about a cause, and you are engaged in an activity on behalf of that cause that is great fun and makes you feel good and warm and enthusiastic, you’re probably not helping, because you’re out there with your friends, and political work is much tougher and harder. And I think it’s now clear that it is the disciplined political work that we’ve been able to do that’s won us victories. I am going to write about the history of the LGBT movement partly to make the point that, in America at least, this is the way you do progressive causes."

The above from Barney Frank––the interview in New York magazine is well worth the read.

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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