The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday as the government declared three days of official mourning and grappled with the aftermath of an attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban that killed 145 people. The national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country." ...

... The Washington Post profiles "Mullah Radio," the leader of the Taliban attack on schoolchildren & teachers.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 18

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

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

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Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

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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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