The Ledes

Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Reuters: "Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday as Houthi rebels battled with his forces on the outskirts of the southern port city."

CBS News: "A National Guardsman arrested for supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, had allegedly planned an attack on a military post in Illinois, the Justice Department said Thursday. Army National Guard Spc. Hasan Edmonds, 22, was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport Wednesday night while he was attempting to fly to Cairo to allegedly join ISIS, the department said in a statement."

 

Guardian: "The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful. The verdict – the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian – is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his 'particularly frank' interventions on public policy."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country. The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "Egypt said Thursday that it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to drive back the Iranian-backed Houthi advance, signaling the growing likelihood of a protracted ground war on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula."

New York Times: "As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a [Germanwings] jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: "The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft, French officials said Thursday, pointing to voice recorder evidence that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming. The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash, which obliterated the Airbus A320 and killed all 150 aboard, into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago." ...

     ... The Guardian's live updates are here.

... Washington Post: "A mother and daughter from Prince William County were among three Americans who perished when an Airbus jet plunged into a frozen ridge in the French Alps this week, officials said Wednesday. Yvonne Selke, a longtime government contractor, and Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University, died Tuesday along with 148 others on the Germanwings flight from Spain to Germany."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

New York Times: "On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant [Beau] Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life."

New York Times: "Rescuers on Wednesday resumed the difficult task of searching for the 150 victims of a deadly plane crash in the French Alps, as France’s interior minister said that terrorism was not at the top of the list of potential causes."

Washington Post: "Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base in a push to overrun the country’s second-largest city. The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear."

Put Some Ketchup on that Velveeta. New York Times: "Kraft Foods and H. J. Heinz, two icons of the American food industry, are merging in a blockbuster deal involving the billionaire Warren E. Buffett and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, creating what will be the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.... Heinz, which is owned by 3G Capital and Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will control 51 percent of the combined company, while Kraft shareholders will own 49 percent."

AP: "Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson. Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items."

CBS New York: "The Connecticut home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been demolished, Newtown officials said Tuesday. The 2-acre lot where the 3,100-square-foot house once stood in a leafy, suburban neighborhood will be left as open space under a plan approved by town officials.... Everything inside the home, including rugs and lighting fixtures, had previously been removed and incinerated so that no remnants were available to become memorabilia."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 26

4:10 pm ET: President Obama speaks about the economy in Birmingham, Alabama

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

"In March 2015, Robert Kenner, the Director of 'Food Inc' and other acclaimed documentaries, will debut his newest, 'Merchants of Doubt'. Based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, the film follows the development of sophisticated methods for distorting science, used by the Tobacco industry to hide the poisonous nature of their products, and adapted by the Fossil Fuel industry to distort the science around climate change":

... Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post discusses the documentary: "... Marc Morano, a professional climate-change denier and founder of the Climate Depot Web site ... is, arguably, the star of Kenner’s film. After a stint in the 1990s reporting for Rush Limbaugh, Morano worked briefly as a flack for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called global warming a 'hoax.' He also plays dirty. In 'Doubt,' Morano recounts with glee how he has published the e-mail addresses of climate scientists, subjecting them to intimidation and flaming attacks from anonymous critics. (Several of the abusive e-mails are read aloud in the film by their recipients...."

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Tuesday
Apr172012

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The Gospel According to Friedman." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times interviews French economists Emmanuel Saez & Thomas Piketty, renowned for their studies of income inequality. “'The United States is getting accustomed to a completely crazy level of inequality,' Mr. Piketty said.... 'People say that reducing inequality is radical. I think that tolerating the level of inequality the United States tolerates is radical.'” They recommend raising taxes on the rich to somewhere around 70 percent.

Spencer Hsu, et al., of the Washington Post: "... the Justice Department’s promise to protect the rights of defendants became in large part an exercise in damage control that left some prisoners locked away or in the dark for years longer than necessary. The Justice Department continues to decline to release the names of defendants in the affected cases." Link to the first part of this series in yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... Spencer Hsu: "Far from infallible, expert comparisons of hair, handwriting, marks made by firearms on bullets, and patterns such as bite marks and shoe and tire prints are in some ways unscientific and subject to human bias, a National Academy of Sciences panel chartered by Congress found. Other techniques, such as in bullet-lead analysis and arson investigation, survived for decades despite poorly regulated practices and a lack of scientific method."

Kevin Drum: "Generally speaking, domestic spending, defense spending, and Social Security are on extremely sustainable paths... We don't have a spending problem in America. We have a healthcare problem. The other three categories of government spending taken together will probably rise by a point or two over the next few decades, but that's not a big deal.... no one serious should spend an awful lot of time talking about 'the deficit' or about 'government spending.' We should be talking about healthcare. Everything else is just a red herring." Drum makes his point with charts. This is the same point I made in my NYTX column yesterday -- only he presents proofs.

They're Jerks, but They're Not Complete Jerks. Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is criticizing the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan for cutting food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor. In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain 'moral criteria' by disproportionately cutting programs that 'serve poor and vulnerable people.' A second letter sent Tuesday to the Ways and Means Committee criticizes a provision that makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit 'one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.'"

Based on an academic study, Ezra Klein explains why Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge works: "Norquist gets politicians to sign the pledge because it makes them more popular in primaries. And then he keeps them from breaking the pledge because breaking a promise makes them less popular with everybody."

Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly, writing of Jason Zengerle's interview of Barney Frank, linked in yesterday's Commentariat: "’m among those who really get upset when people sort of internalize the recent routine use of the filibuster by Republicans to create a de facto 60-vote requirement for doing business in the Senate, as though it came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. It didn’t. It’s a revolutionary development in the empowerment of congressional minorities, of special utility to those who wish to obstruct progress. And it has a huge ripple effect on what happens in the House..., the White House, and the country. We should never get used to it...."

Kathy Finn of Reuters: "More than 20 mobile home manufacturers have agreed to pay $14.8 million to thousands of U.S. hurricane victims who said they were harmed by formaldehyde in the trailers.... The number of claims could range from 10,000 to 20,000...." I don't know what the lawyers' compensation is in this particular case, but attorneys usually take about half the settlement. So divide $7,400,000 by 20,000 claimants and each family could get a whopping $370 to compensate them for their illnesses. Finn writes, "The settlement could affect tens of thousands of people...." Yeah, but it won't affect them much.

The Presidential Race

I believe it’s… Mitt’s time… It’s our turn now. -- Ann Romney, explaining what "entitlement" really means

Elections Matter. Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: "In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer..., Mitt Romney refuses to say whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.... Asked about the law, Romney said he supports equal pay for women and has no plans to change the law, but wouldn’t say if he would have signed it, laying out the odd standard that he won't weigh on 'prior laws.' ... Romney’s suggestion that he won't revisit prior law when it comes to Lilly Ledbetter is unusual, especially considering that he’s had no problem saying that he would have vetoed and will work to repeal plenty of laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law." CW: almost all Republicans voted against the Ledbetter bill.

If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we're done. We'll be a suburb of Indonesia next year. Our president, attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton -- they're criminals, they're criminals.... We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions? -- Ted Nugent ...

... Josh Glasstetter of Right Wing Watch: "Washed up rocker and reality TV star Ted Nugent appeared at the NRA’s national convention in St. Louis. Nugent, a longtime NRA board member and regular presence at conventions, rallied the NRA faithful on Saturday to vote for Mitt Romney":

     ... In this clip, which has some overlap with the first, Nugent compaires President Obama & Democrats to coyotes who must be shot dead:

     ... Seriously, watch the videos. Early last month, Tagg Romney, one of Romney's adult sons, tweeted, "Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today.... How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on team Mitt." ...

... Dan Amira of New York magazine: "A spokesman for the Secret Service tells us, 'We are aware of it, and we'll conduct an appropriate follow up.'" ...

... Kurt Schlosser of NBC News: "Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman, did not condemn Nugent in an email on Tuesday but said Romney wants to promote civility." ...

... CW: Let's see. When a Democrat says, in words taken out of context, "Ann Romney never worked a day in her life," everybody from the President on down does backflips distancing himself from her; the media makes it a huge two-day story. When a Republican threatens the life of the POTUS to the point the Secret Service gets involved, Mitt Romney does not condemn him. And the press, so far, pretty much says "Meh." ...

     ... Update: Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "... while [Hilary] Rosen had no connection to the President whatsoever (and really said nothing wrong), Republican candidate Mitt Romney actively sought the endorsement of serial mouth-bomber Ted Nugent...." ...

... Hypocrisy Watch. When Ann Romney "Didn't Work." Andrew Sabl resurrects a 1994 Boston Globe interview of Ann Romney. Romney told the Globe's Jack Thomas about how she and Mitt "struggled" when they were students. She sez:

We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.

       ... That's funny. It is HORRIBLE when Hilary Rosen says it. But the same expression is an example of family values when Ann Romney says it.

Alex Seitz-Wald: In "a passage from Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case For American Greatness..., he argues that children of 'nonworking parents' will be conditioned to have 'an indolent and unproductive life.'" CW: Here are the standards: rich, white, married mommies do not have to work outside the home because they married wisely & well; their choice of mate sets an example for the kids. Poor women who have no spousal support (much less maids & nannies!) must work outside the home so their kids won't grow up to be indolent & nonproductive like their mothers. It's "we" v. "them"; good v. bad. Willard falsely accuses Obama of class warfare, but hos own double standard betrays his intrinsic belief in a caste system.

Truly Frightened. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "A week after Rick Santorum quit the presidential race, fundraising mailers from him arrived in Iowa mailboxes Monday with a strongly worded warning. 'It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee,' says the letter, signed by Santorum and paid for by his campaign."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Dick Clark, the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime song-and-dance fest, 'American Bandstand,' did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82."

New York Times: "American investigators seeking to get to the bottom of the reported late-night activities of a group of Secret Service agents and military personnel assigned to President Obama’s recent visit to Colombia have begun searching for as many as 21 women who are believed to include prostitutes and to have spent the night with the security officers...." ...

     ... Update: "A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse." ...

     ... The Hill Update: "Three secret service agents allegedly involved in the prostitution scandal in Colombia are leaving the law enforcement agency. One supervisor will retire, another supervisor is being 'removed for cause' and a third uniformed agent will resign." ...

     ... ABC News Update: "The partying U.S. Secret Service agents and officers who allegedly brought prostitutes into their Cartagena, Colombia hotel rooms brought the call girls 'into contact with sensitive security information,' the Chair and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Mark J. Sullivan, the director of the U.S. Secret Service today."

NEW. TPM: Meanwhile, "Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent will meet with the Secret Service Thursday as a followup to his incendiary comments at an NRA convention over the weekend."

Houston Chronicle: "The Obama administration on Friday established a working group to coordinate federal regulation of natural gas production amid industry complaints that an increasing number of government agencies are overseeing the activity. In issuing an executive order creating the interagency task force, President Barack Obama said the group was needed to make sure federal agencies are on the same page as they oversee "the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources."

New York Times: "The Florida judge overseeing the murder case against George Zimmerman stepped aside on Wednesday at the request of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, who had questioned whether her assignment could create a potential conflict of interest." ...

     ... Orlando Sentinel Update: "Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., who's been on the bench 15 years and has a great deal of experience with high-profile murder cases, on Wednesday was assigned the George Zimmerman murder case."

Washington Post: "The senior government executive who organized the lavish Las Vegas conference at the center of a General Services Administration spending scandal took dozens of trips for the agency. The boss's wife accompanied him on some of them -- and taxpayers picked up the tab.... Deborah Neely, 49, does not work for the government, but she used the credentials of a manager on her husband's staff so she could join him at a trade show...."

Los Angeles Times: U.S. troops in Afghanistan posed with dead Afghans suspected of being suicide bombers in 2010. The U.S. Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed the picture to Army officials. Some representatives photos accompany the article. ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The U.S. military once again condemned the actions of some of its troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday after photographs surfaced of smiling soldiers posing with dead insurgents in the latest battlefield scandal."

AP: "North Korea accused the U.S. of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response."

Reader Comments (3)

Marie, every day we are shocked (shocked!) (not really) at the most recent vile thing a Republican has done or said (and for those Republicans reading this, I'm discussing actual actions and words rather than whatever pipe dream of a gun-free America--sounds good to me, you betcha--Wayne LaPierre relates next).

Can we just agree that we expect Republicans to behave like a**holes? Quoting Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, Republicans have earned our "soft bigotry of low expectations."

This is why Democratic budgets are criticized for their numbers but Republican budgets are complete with asterisks. This is why Elliott Spitzer had to resign but David Vitter didn't. This is why the Dixie Chicks expressing opposition to the Iraq War was "treason," while Ted Nugent's murderous fantasies are featured on "Fox and Friends."

Time after time when we hear of some awful thing some politician has done we immediately run that information through our "was it done by a Republican" filter. If so, we consider it business as usual and go on with our day. If not, we get to hear outrage from Fox for the next 40 or so news cycles.

You have to understand. I don't blame the Republicans. It would be like blaming a bear for sh*tting in the woods. It's what they do. No, the culprits here are the people you address every day in NYTX, the supposedly liberal media who like crooked butchers keep their thumbs heavily on the scale with which they assess the weighty matters of the day.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. Yeah, you're right, but I'm pretty darned sick of every Republican candidate -- Mitt Romney did it again just yesterday -- blaming all of their own bad acts on media reports. It's great to be a Republican. No matter what you do, the fault lies not with you but with the media for reporting it. In Right Wing World every factual report that isn't absolutely glowing is an "attack." It is no wonder GOP candidates are so over-the-top; they have inoculated themselves against any responsibility for their actions. Mitt can lie and lie and lie again -- he repeats the same lies even when debunked -- and I'd like to know why Diane Sawyer, who used to work for Nixon, didn't call him on the "92.3% of job losses under Obama were women" lie when he repeated it to her.

As P. D. Pepe pointed out last week, even on NPR reporters misreport on Republicans, and their misreporting works in Republicans' favor. It's almost as if the media don't dare tell the truth because telling the truth might "unfairly" influence an election.

But there's no percentage in bending over backwards for Republicans. No matter what the facts, they're always going to blame the media for anything other than full-throated endorsements. So the media might as well let it all hang out.

April 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

For a really good laugh, read Thomas Friedman's column, One for the Country, wherein he concludes that a terrific thing for America would be to have Michael Bloomberg run for president on a third party ticket.
Friedman fleshes out his germ of an idea, if you can call it that, with elaborate constructs based on faulty premises. It is all smoke and mirrors, not to say delusional. He faults Obama, among other things, for proposing the Buffett rule which isn't a comprehensive solution to raising revenue. No shit, Sherlock. The President has gone on record as wanting a more complete plan which would include letting Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest expire and it has gotten nowhere due to blanket Republican refusal to even consider raising taxes. So the Buffet rule was an attempt to put forth something that maybe they would agree to. And they didn't.
How would Bloomberg help this situation - by waving a magic wand and erasing all the Norquist pledges?
Friedman begins the column by complaining about the infrastructure around union station and the inadequacies of the Acela train (Europe has better fast trains!) as if this is Obama's fault. As if the Democrats didn't try to get an infrastructure package passed through Congress. As if the Republicans and their surrogates weren't on record as doing everything to thwart the President's attempts to turn the economy around and solve our problems from Day One.
The real question is, how much does Thomas Friedman even pay attention to what's going on in American politics.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.
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