The Ledes

Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government. The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister."

New York Times: "NASA’s latest Mars spacecraft, Maven, arrives Sunday evening to study the mystery of what happened to the planet’s air. A 33-minute engine firing, beginning at 9:37 p.m. Eastern time, will put Maven in orbit around the planet. Acknowledgment will reach mission controllers 12 1/2 minutes later, the time it takes for a radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars. NASA’s website will provide a live broadcast beginning at 9:30 p.m."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

The Ledes

Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates’ promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a “comprehensive internal review,” according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."

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 19

10:00 am ET: Annoucement of Department of Defense awards on biofuel production

10:15 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden host a White House event to launch the "It's on Us" campaign

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

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.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

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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