The Ledes

Sunday, February 14, 2016.

Weather Channel: "A blast of bitter cold arctic air has brought the coldest temperatures in decades to some Northeast cities Valentine's Day morning."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President spoke from the place where his political career first began in the Illinois State Senate ... [about] the state of American politics":

White House Live Video
February 11

1:00 pm ET: NOBEL Women presents Girls, Gigabytes & Gadgets

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: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

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.'”

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Sunday
Apr222012

The Commentariat -- April 23, 2012

No column from me today in the New York Times eXaminer. But this post by Peter Hart on how the New York Times has again bungled its reporting on the Keystone XL pipeline is short & to-the-point.

** R.I.P. Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune: "To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.... Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion." Thanks to contributor Ken W. for the link.

"The Amnesia Candidacy." Paul Krugman: President Obama could have done a better job on the economy, but the Bush economy was a disaster, and Romney wants to go back to Bush policies. He just hopes the public will forget how bad they were. In a related blogpost, Krugman charts jobs losses under Bush & Obama. The blue columns are Bush job losses:

CW: Apparently I steered you wrong last week when I linked to an op-ed by former FDIC chair Sheila Bair in the Washington Post. Bair mocked the Fed's "gifts" to banks & suggested they offer the same generous "gifts"/loans to the rest of us. But Joe Weisenthal of the Business Insider writes that Bair is perpetuating a myth (and should know better): "In theory, the pro-inflation camp is the populist one, since a policy of inflation means borrowers see their burdens eased, and those with assets see the holdings devalued. But somehow people keep pushing the idea that it's the opposite, and that its the finance world screaming for higher rates, and that everyone else would benefit with tighter policy and more deflation. It's a very odd myth." ...

... How do I know Weisenthal is right & Bair is wrong? Because Krugman says so: "Quantitative easing isn't being imposed on an unwitting populace by financiers and rentiers; it's being undertaken, to the extent that it is, over howls of protest from the financial industry." ...

... On point: Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "... as [Fed Chair Ben] Bernanke prepares to meet the press for the fifth time Wednesday afternoon, after a scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are reasons to doubt that the efforts are increasing public understanding of monetary policy."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "The crumbling of once-great institutions isn't to blame for middle-class decline and anger. Politicians are." CW: This short post on the real causes of problems in Real America is pitch-perfect.

Dahlia Lithwick & Jan Rodak in Slate: "Dodging real-world explanations for the state of the economy and high unemployment, conservatives are now attempting a backdoor campaign to chase women out of the workplace and into their proper roles as homemakers. How else to explain increasing moves toward repealing wage-discrimination laws, rollbacks on mandatory parental leave laws, and making it all-but impossible for poor women who work to choose when to bear children?"

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Medicare is wasting more than $8 billion on an experimental program that rewards providers of mediocre health care and is unlikely to produce useful results, federal investigators say in a new report ... to be issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress." The GAO "urges the Obama administration to cancel the program, which pays bonuses to health insurance companies caring for millions of Medicare beneficiaries. Administration officials, however, defended the project...."

Larry Siems, who edits the Torture Report, in Slate: "I read nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents about America's abuse of prisoners since 2001. Here is what I learned.... Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them. When the men and women they asked to break those laws protested, knowing they could be prosecuted for torture, they pretended to rewrite the law."

CW: This article by Philip Gourevitch for the New Yorker, first published in the magazine last December & made available on line this week, on Nicolas Sarkozy, looks to be interesting, tho I've only just skimmed it. Here's a quote, which is supposed to show how gauche Sarkozy is but which I like:

You've lost a good opportunity to shut up. -- Nicolas Sarkozy to British PM David Cameron, in response to something Camerson said in an E.U. meeting

... Also not yet read, this article by Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker, briefly reviewing a number of recent books about the politics of inequality.

Brendan Sasso of The Hill: "The House is set to vote on a host of cybersecurity bills next week, but the fate of the legislation rests in the Senate. The House is expected to approve the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing data about cyber attacks.... But the White House and Senate Democrats argue CISPA is inadequate." ...

... Scott Lemieux in Salon: "Congress is seriously considering a bill called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Intended to allow information sharing both between corporations and between corporations and the government, it presents serious dangers to individual privacy."

The Presidential Race

** Frank Rich of New York magazine: "If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead.... Whatever else happens in 2012, it will go down as the Year of the Sugar Daddy. Inflamed by Obama-hatred, awash in self-pity, and empowered by myriad indulgent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, an outsize posse of superrich white men will spend whatever it takes to have its way with the body politic and, if victorious, with the country itself."

Alex Pareene plugs his new e-book, The Rude Guide to Mitt. In this excerpt, Pareene writes about Willard's weirdness.

Kasie Hunt of the AP: Mitt Romney wants you to know that his grandfather went broke a few times. CW: which means Mitt knows what it's like to be poor with no prospects.

Right Wing World *

Dashiell Bennett of The Atlantic: Over the past few days, former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has been making comments that represent "a repudiation of what [the Republican party has] become in the last several years. He's basically saying that their best candidates are worthless, the American people don't trust them, and they treat anyone who doesn't toe the party line the same way 'they do in China on party matters.'" ...

... Here's the BuzzFeed article by Zeke Miller, reporting on Huntsman's remarks at the 92nd Street Y.

David Sirota, writing in Salon, finds evidence that younger evangelicals are less committed than their Tea Party elders to anti-Christian, right-wing policies policies.

* Where science is just another cracked pot. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

Orlando Sentinel: "Sanford city commissioners voted 3-2 to reject Police Chief Bill Lee's resignation over the controversial Trayvon Martin investigation."

New York Times: "Wal-Mart's stock fell almost 5 percent on Monday, accounting for about one-fifth of the losses in the Dow Jones industrial average, as investors reacted to a bribery scandal at the retailer's Mexican subsidiary and a report that an internal investigation was quashed at corporate headquarters in Arkansas." ...

... Washington Post: "The Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe of Wal-Mart for allegations of systematic bribery in Mexico, according to three people familiar with the matter."

Washington Post: "Senate Democrats are making plans to force a floor vote on legislation that would invalidate Arizona's controversialimmigration statute if the Supreme Court upholds the law this summer."

ABC News: "Today, during the opening statements of his trial in Greensboro, N.C., two-time presidential candidate John Edwards was accused of using illegal campaign contributions during the 2008 presidential race to cover up his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, a videographer for the campaign." The Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer has a full page of links on the Edwards trial.

Washington Post: "President Obama will issue an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses.... Authoritarian governments, particularly in Syria and Iran, have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent -- by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures."

AP: "George Zimmerman was released around midnight Sunday from a county jail on $150,000 bail as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin."

New York Times: Anders Behring Breivik,"the self-described anti-Islamic militant who has admitted killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting spree last July, told bereaved families on Monday that he had also lost his family and friends as a result of the massacre."

Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for the great link to the Tribune article. I love it.

As I sit here typing and reading with my just-operated-on right eye closed and using my newly improved left eye, thanks to Medicare cataract surgery coverage--I have to comment on the Medicare Advantage link. My state retirement system put us into Aetna Medicare Advantage this year, and so far it is nowhere near as good to work with as our non-HMO coverage was. Plus I suspect they are "using" some of that government windfall to pester us with advice--letters and phone calls to me, for example, informing me about osteoporosis. Wow...I've been on Actonel for several years and just had a nuclear bone scan, but they think "I" might need to be educated on the topic. And after refusing to pay for a recent prescription for Lidoderm, after I fell and hurt my ribs, they sent me a long form I can use to challenge the ruling. By the time that was through, the pain would be long gone. Actually, I paid for it myself.

"Because Paul Krugman says so" is my constant observation as well.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralphonsegaston

Having read Nick Lemann's article in the New Yorker which is worth reading I found the essay in the NYRB (May 10th) by Andrew Hacker much better. Both authors address Charles Murray and Tim Noah, but Hacker is much more thorough and critical of Murray than Lemann and finds Noah's book, "The Great Divergence" a welcome antidote.

Ditto the "because Paul Krugman says so"––––there's something comfortable in that assurance––like a parent who says the same thing to a child who asks why they have to do a certain thing––"because I said so"–––end of conversation.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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